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Aging technology can and will hold your education institution back

At one point or the other, we have all held on to devices, gadgets, and software that were probably aging or even obsolete but still slightly functional. This situation also applies to the corporate world. Several organisations and companies are still running on dated technologies and inefficient legacy systems, and the education sector is no exception.  

Meanwhile, the technology that powers your education institution is crucial to its success. But what happens when the technology you use becomes outdated? No matter how long you’ve had your IT systems in place and how much they cost to install, there comes a time when they can no longer serve your needs. And that point, it is time for an upgrade or replacement. In this article, we will explore the costs of holding on to dated technologies, possible reasons why some education institutions continue to rely on them, and how to kickstart the upgrade or replacement process. 

Why fix what isn’t broken? 

Since the system still serves you well, you might wonder why replace it and have to deal with all the hassles associated with doing so. And you’re right! You could continue using your existing system as it is, but do you know that upgrading or replacing your aging or dated legacy technology offers numerous benefits? 

According to a case study published by IDC Custom Solutions in December 2021, almost all higher education institutions in the UK have made enormous investments in technology in recent times to digitally transform how their lecturers educate, students learn, and administrators run their schools. Of course, they would not have all taken this step without valid reasons. Let’s explore how your aging technology might be holding you back and why you should fix it.   

Low productivity 

Legacy systems and aging technologies run slower and take longer to execute tasks. They are also more susceptible to frequent and lengthy downtimes, spur employee burnout, and more, leading to low productivity and consequently, low revenue. A 2016 survey found that US businesses lose up to $1.8 trillion annually to low productivity stemming from dated technology and repetitive tasks which could easily be automated.  

For instance, higher institutions that use smart admission management systems enjoy better productivity and student enrollment rates compared to their counterparts running on antiquated systems. Consider the DreamApply admission management system which boosts student admissions administrators’ productivity by 40%. From high level productivity to personalised student services, the benefits of new and upgraded technologies are limitless. 

Higher security risks 

Contrary to what you might think, education institutions are highly susceptible to cyberattacks. Especially now, with the shift to virtual or hybrid learning modes, there has been a steep increase in cyber threats on education institutions. What could education institutions possibly lose from cyberattacks? According to sysGroup, data loss is the top concern for 82% of schools regarding cybercrime, followed by 47% concerned with the remediation expenses and 37% the reputational harm. And yes, cybercriminals do attack schools. In 2016, the University of Calgary had to pay a demanded $20,000 following a ransomware attack. Unfortunately, several of such cases go unreported.  

Cybersecurity specialists are always quick to point out that no software can ever be a hundred percent risk-free. However, dated technologies and aging systems bear much more risks than new and improved technologies. New technology providers tackle security vulnerability issues by providing security updates regularly. However, since most legacy systems and aging technologies are no longer supported by the developers, security fixes are not available for them. Furthermore, unlike new technologies, they provide no data recovery option in critical situations.  

High cost of running 

Outdated systems and legacy technologies can be expensive to run and maintain. According to a 2019 article, ten of the US government’s legacy systems cost about $337 million to operate and maintain annually. It’s like the cost of maintaining a very old house or constantly repairing an old vehicle. At the end of the day, it’s quite a lot when you calculate the total sum spent on maintenance within a short period. The same applies to education institutions’ legacy and aging systems. Most of them have been in use for no less than a decade. They are expensive to run and just as complex to handle. Moreover, when you consider the cost of employee time spent working on these systems rather than doing something more productive, you realise that even much more resources are being wasted.  

Also, getting support can be expensive and even difficult to access. Legacy systems often require specialists who aren’t available anymore. In higher education institutions of all sizes across the country, there are usually only very few people with extensive knowledge or expertise in the maintenance and use of older technology. This lack of internal experts makes many schools rely heavily on outside vendors (often different from the original developers) for support. However, these companies often don’t have a deep understanding either—meaning you could end up paying an outside company for support that can only provide basic assistance at best or none at all. 

Limited functionality 

Legacy systems and aging programmes are often limited in their functionality and unable to support new technologies such as cloud computing or even other smart IT such as automation, machine learning, chatbots, and predictive analytics, which are incredibly useful for student recruitment. Particularly, such systems are often unable to integrate with newer systems, which is crucial in this everything-digital era.  

Also, they are almost impossible to upgrade, so any new features or applications must be built from scratch. This means that you have to devote your resources to a platform that doesn’t serve the needs of the modern world, essentially leaving the door open for other education institutions to gain an advantage over you. On the other hand, new technologies come with the latest features designed to meet the demands of these times. And at the same time, they are inherently scalable and flexible to meet institutions’ ever-growing and ever-changing needs.  

Why education institutions continue to hold to aging systems 

Often, education institutions will choose to cling to the familiar rather than embrace the infinite possibilities available with new technology. Well, their reasons for this are not always unfounded.  

1. Due to the complex system structure 

Almost every educational institution has a core administrative system that they depend on. This system they use for managing numerous school operations such as admissions, student management, budgeting, and fundraising. In most cases, especially if the institutions have been in existence for decades, these systems are outdated. The systems have been so deeply embedded in and integrated with the institutions that their upgrades or replacement could rock the education institutions to their foundation.  

2. System replacement sounds like expensive 

Most education institutions know when a system upgrade or replacement is needed, but they also know it probably won’t come cheap. Because these systems have been in use for quite a long term and have been deeply integrated with the institutions, they consider it might be expensive to replace. As university and college managements decide to replace a legacy or aging system, they also have to consider the unavoidable costs. They think that investing in IT infrastructure replacement will leave fewer resources for the institution’s other finance-related needs.  

3. Scepticism about new technologies 

Particularly at larger institutions, the decision to replace dated technologies can be a largely political and complicated one. Several of the top-level administrators and board members hold valid scepticism about new technologies. If a huge part of the school’s budget is to go into replacing the existing IT infrastructure, they need the assurance that the investment would be worth it. Again, understandably, they worry about the risks involved.  

Will the new technology deliver on the promise of better service and efficient solutions? Also, if the solutions are to be provided by an emerging Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider, will the provider be around long enough to continue supporting the systems in the long run?’ they often wonder. Moreover, it is a different situation, wondering whether the educators and the administrative staff would readily accept the new systems or even be willing to switch and learn how to use them.   

The first step in the systems replacement process 

The first step in any technology replacement or upgrade is to do an IT audit. You need to know what you have before replacing or upgrading it. The challenges of redesigning, replacing or upgrading legacy systems go beyond the user experience or functionality. So, you should carefully weigh the benefits of migrating to a new system or redesigning the existing one and introducing new features before opting for one.  

Also, because technology changes rapidly and there are so many options, it’s important to take stock of what your current systems do for you before committing yourself to what might not be right for your needs. Ultimately, it’s about preserving what works and letting go of what’s not. Thankfully, the latest technologies are modular, offering you the opportunity to integrate them with your existing systems while choosing just what you need. 

Conclusion 

Replacing or upgrading aging technologies and legacy systems can be a time-consuming process and while there might be some resistance to this idea due to budget constraints or skepticism about new technologies, doing so offers incredible benefits to your institution. If you want to know how DreamApply can help you with admissions solutions, decreasing up to 60% of your administrative workload and increasing up to 100% international applicant numbers, reach out to us. 

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