Georgetown Focuses on the Cloud and Collaboration

When Georgetown University embarked on a major IT modernization effort a few years back, a key challenge was ensuring that core business systems and data would be connected in the most efficient way possible—and that people would be able to access information instantly.

“We developed a cloud-first, mobile-first set of collaborative principles that revolve around teaching, learning and research,” explains Judd Nicholson, CIO and vice president for information technology for the school, which is the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university.

The university, which has more than 1,500 faculty and nearly 4,800 undergraduate and graduate students, recognized a need to deliver next-generation digital capabilities. The IT upgrades focused on seamlessly integrating a collection of IT systems, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), finance, human resources (HR), collaborative tools such as email and messaging, and a learning management system.

“It was an aggressive move into the cloud using Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS),” Nicholson explains. “We wanted to improve our capabilities, but also drive down operating expenses.”

After a major foray into the cloud that began in 2012—along with infrastructure upgrades for WiFi and telecommunications systems—the university deployed 200 cloud communications seats from software vendor Dialpad. The telecommunications software introduced an array of new capabilities, along with greater flexibility.

These capabilities include the ability for IT administrators to provision users quickly and efficiently across various campus departments, and the ability for faculty and staff to connect to cloud-based data and collaborate instantly. “The soft phone technology was a key part of the transformation,” Nicholson says.

Integration With a Variety of Applications

The software client is now integrated with a variety of applications, including Blackboard, Salesforce and Workday. Administrators and faculty (the system is not used by students) can use Dialpad on a desktop or laptop computer, or as an app on a smartphone.

The system “delivers an integrated directory, calling and messaging capability through the application,” Nicholson explains. “It allows people to connect in a seamless way without regard to location.”

What’s more, he adds, “It’s possible to set up personal, as well as organizational, profiles so that users can switch between the two and avoid comingling tasks.” The result is an ability to view relevant connection points—including people, files and data—at any given moment.

The system has delivered clear benefits, including far greater flexibility, Nicholson says. About 200 current users can seamlessly switch between voice, chat, messaging and video conferencing on the fly, and can even change devices without missing a beat.

In addition, “People also have the flexibility to use their personal device but handle Georgetown-related tasks and business,” he says. Meanwhile, the university has lowered the cost of supporting desktop sets from as much as $700 per person to about $14 per person.

Nicholson says that the university plans to expand the use of Dialpad to additional users at the main Georgetown campus, as well as at the school’s medical center and law center. So far, administrators and faculty have eagerly adopted the platform and there have been few hitches.

“The communication and collaboration capabilities are facilitating a far more connected campus working environment,” Nicholson reports, “and are allowing people to get things done faster and more efficiently—all while lowering costs.”


Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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