Higher Education Innovation In Action

Registrars: Consider Adding an Information System Specialist to Your Team

Natalie Spooner, Sales Consultant Feb 20, 2017

When campus technologies change, Registrars are often the first to feel the growing pains. Converting from legacy software takes time, and new tools don’t always do everything you need right out of the box. That’s why it’s helpful to have someone on your staff who can work with your student information system to run ad hoc reports, manage bolt-on solutions, and bridge communication between your department and IT personnel.

Enter the Information System Specialist (also sometimes known as a “Student Information System Specialist” or “Information Systems Technician”). This position is not new, but it is becoming increasingly more important in an era where budgets are shrinking and technology continues to grow at a rapid pace. As a former Registrar, I’d like to share my insights and advice on the particular skills you should look for in an Information System Specialist, in addition to some bigger-picture considerations.

Technical skills. Although the ideal candidate for this position does not need to be a diehard programmer, he or she should at least have a solid aptitude for technology. Some of the “hard skills” for this position include:

  • Expertise in word processing and spreadsheets
  • A working knowledge of database programming
  • Experience running and modifying reports
  • A solid understanding of data analysis (whether from coursework or direct experience)

Soft skills. The so-called “soft skills” for this position are just as important as the hard skills. Analytical and problem-solving skills are desirable, but more than that, this individual should be proactive and be able to work independently to improve technological efficiency within your office.

Think of an Information System Specialist as a liaison between you and the IT department (and in some cases your technology vendors). Be sure to look for excellent written and verbal communication skills, especially an ability to translate technical concepts into plain English. An understanding of both the inner workings of a Registrar’s Office and the IT department would be helpful as well — at the very least a job candidate should demonstrate an ability to adapt quickly to your day-to-day needs and routine.

Additional considerations. Spring is right around the corner, and many institutions are about to start planning for their next fiscal year. If you’re thinking about adding an information system specialist to your staff, consider lobbying for this position to be part of your budget. A dedicated role would be ideal because of the highly specialized work your office performs. However, this is not always possible due to budget constraints, and instead you may have to share the position with IT or enrollment management. You might also consider asking an existing member of your staff to take on this role in addition to his or her other responsibilities.

If you’re a Registrar who has experience working with an Information System Specialist, or if you’re planning to hire one, we’d love to hear from you!