How Fujitsu and Veritas are using data management to transform the UK higher education sector
Written by Ash Merchant on 26/04/2022
In a digital-first world, data has become one of the most valuable assets an organisation can possess; and this is no different for higher education institutions (HEI).
This is a co-authored blog with Ash Merchant, Education Director at Fujitsu UK & I and Toby Keen, Alliance Sales Manager at Veritas
Unfortunately, HEIs are facing challenges from various angles. While digital transformation demands the introduction of new technologies, students are also calling for HEIs to provide better experiences at lower costs.
Moreover, the 2016 Higher Education and Research Bill (HERA) was not only designed to raise the quality of teaching, but to increase competition within the higher education (HE) sector by making it easier for new institutions – as well as established employers – to gain degree awarding powers. As such, the legislation has placed increased operational pressures on universities.
HEIs are having to ingest, process and safeguard more data now than ever before. Yet, they’re still failing to understand or capitalise on this prized possession.
Because when digitally transforming, data helps inform the choices that lead to better student experiences, making it a key component for HEIs that want to successfully deliver their digital strategy while meeting their other obligations.
To address these challenges and remain competitive, it’s critical that HEIs understand their data and secure it appropriately to ensure it’s correctly aligned with their overall digital strategy.
In this blog, we explore the challenges HEIs are facing and how Fujitsu and its strategic partner – Veritas – are using data to aid the digital transformation of the HE sector, while enabling them to still meet student day-to-day expectations.
Data challenges HEIs must address
There are various data challenges holding back HEIs from achieving successful digital transformation. Below, we highlight five of the most prevalent ones:
Keeping up with the rate of data growth
The HE sector has always been a data-driven sector and the data it holds continues to grow at unprecedented rates.
By 2025, the world will create and replicate 163ZB (zettabyte) of data, which represents a tenfold increase from the amount created in 2016, according to ICD.
However, just under a fifth (19%) of data in UK organisations is classified as useable, business-critical information, according to Veritas’ The UK 2020 Databerg Report Revisited.
Additionally, they found the average proportion of information stored and processed by organisations that can be classified as either dark or ROT (Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial) has dropped only slightly from 29% in 2015 to 28% in 2020. This is despite the proportion of organisations with a strategy for deleting ROT data increasing from 82% in 2015 to 97% in 2020.
While the wealth of knowledge that can be derived from the volume of data can be beneficial to HEIs in delivering stellar experiences to their students, it can also present a significant strain on IT departments that will struggle to cope with the increased data volumes, origins, and formats.
It’s this strain that will have a negative impact on the institution’s ability to adequately capitalise on the valuable information their data contains.
Overcoming legacy architectures and data sharing systems
The ongoing increase in data volume, in addition to the changes in operations inevitably increases the complexities, vulnerabilities and costs of the current legacy systems.
Also, many HEI student and administrative operations, academic departments and research arms tend to work autonomously, resulting in a significant volume of data residing within silos.
A silo-based legacy architecture creates even more complexity as well as significant challenges for data management, as it inhibits efficient decision making, stifles communication and collaboration, as well as decreases the quality and credibility of data (as isolated data can easily become outdated and inaccurate).
It’s critical that HEIs address this issue. And to do this, a complete overhaul of the front and back-end systems as well as the supporting processes and procedures will be essential to effectively drive the digital transformation needed to meet the evolving demands the HE sector is facing.
Ensuring data security
It’s no news that the pandemic has contributed to the rate at which institutions are being hit by cyberattacks.
HEIs have become prime targets for cybercriminals looking to take advantage of security vulnerabilities to gain access to the valuable personal and financial information they hold.
Ransomware attacks increased by 150% in 2020 and the amount paid out by victims of these attacks grew by 300%, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Unfortunately, a lack of adequate security is cited as one of the three most reported gaps in an organisation’s IT strategy that leaves them open to attack, according to Veritas’ Vulnerability Lag report. And institutions would need to spend an average of $2.6 million to close the gaps in their technology strategy within the next 12 months.
If HEIs don’t adequately protect their data, they’re likely to completely lose information and hard-earned intellectual property. This can include critical information such as student, operations and unique data from research and development departments that can’t be found anywhere else.
To overcome this challenge, HEIs must partner with experts who can protect their data so it’s always safe and accessible.
Dependable backup and data recovery systems
Human beings, as well as technology, can be fallible. Data loss can arise from someone accidentally deleting a file, a laptop crashing and wiping important information, a data centre flooding or even a cloud service provider having outages.
According to the Databerg report, data loss (55%) and compliance breaches (54%) are the risk factors that senior IT decision-makers believe IT professionals should be most worried about.
Data isn’t automatically safe just because it’s been saved on the cloud. In fact, it’s the customer’s (in this case, HEIs) responsibility to protect their data.
Cloud providers only offer a platform on which organisations can run their processes, applications and store data. But if anything goes wrong, something breaks, or gets corrupted, the service provider isn’t liable to recover the data.
It’s for these reasons that the ability to recover lost data is an important safeguarding measure for institutions.
People are important
It’s essential to highlight that while improving the operational and technical side of HE data is critical, the people HEIs have in their IT department is equally as important.
Having the right people in IT departments who can design the next generation of data solutions, effectively manage and correctly analyse huge volumes of data, with the vision and drive to lead digital transformation efforts, is essential to pushing higher education organisations into the future.
If data isn’t fully understood or correctly aligned to the HEI’s goals, it won’t deliver any value. Working with Fujitsu and its strategic partners can help HEIs to understand, align and achieve compliance around their data.
Using a Data Driven Transformation Strategy (DDTS)
For many years, Fujitsu has been a trusted provider to the higher education sector. And together with Veritas, can empower institutions of all sizes to understand and manage their data, while helping to accelerate digital transformation to meet the significant data challenges they face.
Fujitsu’s data-driven transformation strategy is underpinned by Veritas technology to enable digital transformation in five steps:
- Creating a baseline: This step is about gathering the initial insights. We’ll discover existing data sets and determine which are useful and which can be archived or destroyed. In this step, we also explore the desired business outcomes that ensure we meet set objectives.
- Defining the future data architecture: Here, it’s all about ascertaining availability. We define the future architecture and logical data models of the organisation.
- Adapting a data protection concept: This is when we offer the protection element of our strategy. We can secure data architecture against loss and crime using software such as NetBackup which offers the capability to protect all data, wherever it is and has a 100% data recovery record.
- Extracting the value out of data: This step is about gathering insights gained from the process. Here, we transform data into valuable information.
- Automating decision making with AI: In this final step, we take the insights we’ve gained to transform information into actions that can be standardised, hence also reducing future costs.
Head of Education at Fujitsu