Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

by Keith Fowlkes, Vice President, Technology Contracts E&I Cooperative Services
Co-founder and Executive Director, The HESS Consortium

We have all been there! With the constant crush of projects, budgets, staffing issues and, well, life in general, the path of least resistance in our technology operations is inevitable. We have established vendors who we do business with on a regular basis for everything from network security to paper shredding. There is just not enough time in the day to make sure you are getting the best price, every time.

Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

In my work with higher education technology leaders across the country this year, it seems that there are several recurring subjects of concern. Given that much of my focus is on ERP and cloud-based systems, CIOs, CTOs, and directors of technology share their concerns about a few central items that are clearly forming their opinions, their planning directions, and their buying decisions in the ERP/SIS and cloud-systems markets.

Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

Why Resellers are the Answer for Technology Procurement


With today’s tight educational budgets and the ever-increasing needs for technology, support operations professionals are caught between a rock and a hard place. How can support staff keep up with the demands of their campus while controlling costs?

Fewer original equipment manufacturer (OEM) options and the struggle to meet customer demands in a high turnover environment means education continues to be squeezed for higher revenues. So, the question is: why should campuses take a closer look at moving to a reseller model for technology procurement?

I recently read a great article by David Raths in Campus Technology titled: 7 Tips for Getting Started with VR/AR, which discusses virtual and augmented reality research being conducted by a new organization called VRFirst. As I read through David’s comments on higher education’s involvement in the testing and use of VR/AR technologies, I began wondering how this could eventually affect enterprise technology infrastructures, technology organizational structures, and—ultimately—the future of higher education.

Today, We Learn in a Physical Environment
Technology infrastructure as we know it today in our colleges and universities is mostly hardware-based, physically located on-campus. Network switches, wireless access points, and datacenters are all part of today’s campus reality. Computers are supported with wireless network access, and high-end needs for computational supercomputing will eventually—if not already—be remotely provided by a handful of R1 and R2 institutions.

As a veteran technology leader in higher education, I could not begin to count the hours that I have spent either on the phone or in person with hardware and software suppliers negotiating (occasionally begging) for better prices for hardware and software. Every higher educational institution that I have served over the past 26 years has had some initiative to cut costs and improve efficiency. Over the past 5 years though, it has been much like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip, trying different approaches to providing services. Over the past 3 years in our work building a consortium of private colleges and universities (the Higher Education Systems and Services Consortium- HESS) and now leading the technology contracts category for E&I Cooperative Services, I have realized that it is not always WHAT we are buying but HOW higher educational technology organizations are buying that is the core challenge.

A brief overview of Learning Management Systems (LMS) concepts for preparation on E&I’s upcoming LMS contract offering in under 6 minutes. Copyright 2018 E&I Cooperative Services, Inc. (length: 6:45)

Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

As I write this, I’m on a plane headed to Philadelphia for EDUCAUSE 2017, as many others are also. For higher education technology geeks like myself, it is like Christmas in October! Don’t judge me...

First and foremost, I’m looking forward to seeing my close friends in technology leadership from across the country and sharing the work we have been doing with E&I Cooperative Services and the HESS Consortium. I am also looking forward to seeing some new technologies for colleges and universities and learning about how they fit into the fabric of higher education today.

That is a hard thing to assess these days, how new technologies fit and how they can be adopted into technology operations as well as academic instruction. What are the next steps in higher education and technology? Of course, my thinking this is centered primarily on hopes of seeing real and meaningful innovation from the operational and administrative software and systems solution providers on this trip.

Author: 
Keith Fowlkes

I was recently asked to answer a question for the ages!!  THE QUESTION WAS:  With the exit of Ellucian's CEO, what would you do next if you were in charge of Ellucian? It seems like it might be difficult for the company to gain new customers, so what could they do to turn the tide?

Coming from a former higher education CIO perspective, I believe that Ellucian is in the same situation as many of its competitors.  Ellucian management has to look at the changing landscape of higher education and adjust its goals and objectives. The U.S. ERP market in higher education is saturated.  That means that the only way that ERP companies can grow is through sales of new products and services and to convert other companies’ customers to theirs.  Ellucian has been losing some of its market share in both their Banner and Colleague products to newcomers to the market... but all is not lost.

So… to finally answer the question.

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