Thursday, 5 May 2011

Disruptive trends

The second session yesterday morning at the Gartner HE conference had a great title: Enabling and disrupting macroforces affecting the expanding education ecosystem.

Basically we were looking at trends affecting education, started with an interesting comparison, showing that there are few new ideas, just new circumstances.  The Rhind Papyrus dates from 1600 BC, and contains geometrical and arithmetical formulae in what seems to be some sort of reference or revision document. It would have sold for about the price of a small goat.  Now we have iPhone revision apps containing very similar information, retailing at about 1/400th of a small goat. But given that an iPhone cost about 1.5 times the cost of a small goat, perhaps a different ROI calculation is needed!

A number of different macroforces were examined including changes in demand for education, especially globally.  There’s also the move to decrease public funding, and involvement of other suppliers in education provision. Education is continuing its transformation into a business with all the cultural and managerial impact that has.

Interestingly, the speaker suggested that the Green movement has lost momentum, and green IT is now more about cost savings than being green. I’m not sure whether I agree. There is uncertainty about the infrastructure, and whether it is sufficient for future developments. It is already difficult to build data centres in London because the power grid can't take it, and in India there are more people with access to mobiles than toilets. Green issues are not in the top 10 of CIO business priorities according to Gartner, although it does appear at number 9 in the UCISA Top Concerns survey as something likely to increase in priority.

In terms of the economy, Cost control is the word of the day (has it ever been any different?), and we need to understand the cost of our services.

Technology changes include the death of distance, or the huge increase in connectivity, coupled with consumerisation of IT. Facebook has 0.66billion users – that makes it the third largest country in the world behind India and China!

Some interesting heat maps about what our current priorities are – in a recent CIO survey the top strategy in every country surveyed was developing or managing a flexible infrastructure.  Technology, governance and cost all featured high.  There was little focus on the business, or customer facing services.

One of the other trends we looked at was outsourcing, especially the possibilities of outsourcing parts of the infrastructure. Interestingly Education is bottom of list in terms of percentage of outsourcing compared to other sectors.

In one of the later sessions as a group we had to list what we thought were the most disruptive trends affecting us, and then vote on the top, in the three different areas of technology, business and society. In summary:

In technology
Consumerisation and mobility came out top

In society:
Employability, and changing modes of learning eg lifelong and workplace learning won

In business:
Funding and Internationalisation were the most popular.

There are many ways of analyzing these trends and the affect they might have on our business, and Gartner provides tools such as the technology radar screen and the hype cycles. But, all trends need to be analysed from a business perspective, not a technology one.

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