Decades-old processes, cultures and technologies can weigh down mature organizations on the journey to digitally transform. With centuries behind it, the University of Pisa proves age is just a number. With IT leading the charge, the University adopts digital strategies and new and emerging technologies at a fast pace.
From the outside, the University—dating back to the 14th century—appears frozen in time, still occupying many historic buildings in the old Italian city where notable alumni and faculty, such as Galileo Galilei, studied and taught. On the inside, the University successfully maintains an IT infrastructure and resources that meet the new and ongoing challenges of international education and research.
“The University of Pisa can boast a history that dates back to the 14th century, and since then, it has never stopped reinventing itself.”
Maurizio Davini, University of Pisa CTO
As CTO of one of the world’s oldest universities, Maurizio Davini is responsible for shaping its digital future while preserving its cultural heritage. Hear how this agent of change reinvents a centuries-old organization in the video below.
Modern Solutions for Sustainable Growth
Davini understands firsthand that the way higher education is delivered is changing, and will continue to significantly change in the coming years. Universities have to compete globally for students, academics and funding, and must leverage digital capabilities to stay relevant.
“IT leaders of universities need to be change agents,” he explains. “They have to drive change from the old world of IT to the new world of IT—a new world where universities are enterprise-oriented and customer-centric.”
“Nearly 80 percent of university IT teams will see an increased focus on customer experience over the next twelve months.”
View from the Frontline: University Edition, Service Desk Institute (SDI) and Freshworks
As the University evolves to adapt to these changes, departments multiply, along with technology needs. So Davini’s team modernized data centers with virtualization technology. This allows IT to provide maximum flexibility for the growing student and faculty populations, as well as ensure high reliability and security.
The Promise of New and Emerging Technologies
Davini also looks forward to the emergence of new technologies, which offer opportunities to redefine the university experience:
- Cloud Computing: Cloud transforms the agility of universities so new ideas can be trialed with minimal upfront costs, says Davini.
- Augmented Reality: “We see great promise in augmented reality (AR). It presents many educational opportunities,” he says. “The University has a few museums, and this technology offers lots of possibilities to bring exhibits and artifacts to life in a new way. Where traditional museum spaces can lack interactivity, AR produces a much more dynamic response from people and really draws them in.”
- Big Data: “Big data can help with retention and student success,” he continues.
- Artificial Intelligence: “And artificial intelligence will bring greater levels of individualized learning, where systems respond to the needs of the student,” he adds.
The University of Pisa also incorporates machine learning into research and IT analytics. “We are trying to mix all the new technologies that are coming out to design a future-ready solution for high-performance computing and machine learning,” Davini told Dell EMC. “So we’re trying to take the best from the market to assemble a solution to support our scientific reputation.”
Solving the World’s Big Problems
Unsurprisingly, as someone who is passionate about technology, Davini cannot help but consider technology’s future impact beyond the walls of the University.
“Technology has the potential to solve some of the world’s big problems,” he reflects. “And what is most exciting to me, is that near-future societies will benefit from some of today’s new and emerging technologies and the possibilities they create. They will fast become a reality.”
This article is the latest in the Agents of Change series, a look at how technology leaders in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) challenge the status quo to discover new possibilities for their organizations.