IT Forum Perspectives

How our diagnostic helps you prioritize your IT capabilities


Every CIO we’ve spoken to about their institution has communicated the complexity—and often chaos—that comes with running a high performing IT organization in higher education. CIOs are uniquely positioned at the crux of university operations, responsible for a range of functions from the minutia of residence hall wireless uptime to the high-profile reports for the institution’s governing board.

This breadth of responsibility drives complexity, and CIOs often search for an effective structure to analyze their department; not because they are at a loss for sources of information, but because the benchmarks and surveys that exist typically lack context. We created the IT Functional Diagnostic to serve as a light-weight survey tool that could provide a structure to improve functional analysis, indicate priorities, and strengthen intra-departmental alignment.

To date, we’ve had over 75 institutions from 28 states and provinces across North America complete the Functional Diagnostic. Each of those institutions has received a custom report that provides a new perspective on their own IT organization, and the aggregate data has helped us gain a picture of the broader higher education IT landscape.

Read our previous blog post to learn more about the early findings from the diagnostic

The graph below shows IT capabilities plotted, with importance on the Y axis and maturity on the X axis. The capabilities above the dotted line received a higher importance score than maturity score. These results illustrate the need for prioritization; when everything feels important, nothing is truly prioritized. Determining IT’s focus is crucial for supporting the institution on mission-critical items.

Capabilities Plotted by Aggregate Average Importance and Maturity Scores

Select Capabilities Shown (n=77)

To better identify priorities, we created gap scores using the averages from the aggregate data. We calculated the gap score by subtracting the importance score from the maturity score of each capability. Positive gaps indicate strengths and negative gaps areas for improvement. On 23 of 29 capabilities, maturity values were lower than importance values, resulting in negative gap scores. As expected, systems and applications maintenance and enhancement has the highest positive gap score, meaning that on average most institutions excel at this capability relative to its importance on campus. Conversely, both data governance and decision support have the largest negative gap scores. These are the areas CIOs deem as important, but currently immature—areas to focus resources in order to build internal capabilities.

Top and Bottom Five Capabilities Ranked from Positive Gap to Negative Gap

Knowing what to prioritize is only half the battle. Executing on plans requires an IT organization to align behind key priorities, but often we don’t actually know if IT staff and senior leaders share the same perceptions of the department’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Extending the Functional Diagnostic to campus leaders and senior IT staff can help gather perspectives from the entire IT organization and its stakeholders. The graph below is an example of how EAB uses standard deviation scores to surface areas where variance exists in perspectives on a given IT capability. The results help identify the capabilities that might be worth discussing as a group to align IT’s priorities.

Distribution of Maturity Ratings for IT Cost Transparency

Alpha University Respondents (n=10)

The IT Functional Diagnostic can help CIOs view the higher education IT landscape from a new perspective and equip them to plot a course forward for their organization. The reports we provide identify specific priorities and isolate areas where intra-institutional alignment can be bolstered.

Gain insight into your IT performance gaps and maturity levels

IT Forum members can complete our Functional Diagnostic to receive a custom, institution-specific benchmarks report. To learn more about having your senior leadership and IT staff participate, please email your dedicated advisor.

Take the diagnostic


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