September 19, 2017
Redesigning higher ed—more than a system change
By: Ryan Gaetz

In my conversations with senior education leaders, they recognize the need to make significant changes to their operations, processes and services to support an improved student experience. Something more than system change is needed. But the key questions become: what and how?

The primary challenge education institutions face is that, while the technology evolutions of the last couple of decades have supported enterprise-wide growth, evolving the back office and achieving considerable efficiency gains, those opportunities have largely played out. Now, many institutions find themselves needing to deal more effectively with student, faculty, and staff interactions, as well as data and analytics. They need to become data-driven and digitally enabled to provide the integrated and relevant services that students expect. Achieving those aims requires more than just new technology.

Before thinking about the specific technology platforms that they’ll need (e.g. cloud) and how they will go about implementing them, they will need to reorient their decision-making. Rather than technology dictating the campus experience, it becomes the enabler of a re-imagined experience. That’s not always an easy message for a university to absorb and embrace. It means the buyers of technology are changing too. In contrast to the last couple of decades, IT procurement is no longer the sole preserve of the CIO. Instead, for example, the CFO and the CHRO are looking to lead the discussions about the technology they want. The conversation is no longer focused on what can you do for me, but rather how are you going to get on board with what I’m doing.

I work with a client who has three accredited campuses worldwide, is faced not only with an aging workforce unwilling to retool, but younger employees see their future not tethered to a single enterprise, but to an industry making a difference for a future generation. How do we leverage technology to harness that ambition?

Education clients are now looking at fundamental business transformation rather than system upgrades or developments. This is about rethinking processes, redesigning what they’re doing and challenging the organization as whole to reimagine how they will serve their students, faculty, and staff for the next generation. And that is a seismic shift in thinking: a real departure into totally new ground. It’s challenging, of course. But it’s also exciting.

The opportunity I see? To challenge conventional and historical thinking to help organizations understand exactly what they are buying in the "new age."

In my next blog, I’ll be exploring some of the key questions that institutions need to start asking as they prepare for true business transformation. I’d welcome your thoughts and invite you to share your challenges and experiences on your transformation journey so far.

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