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Does your higher education institution have the time you need to focus on strategy?

from  October 1, 2021 | 3 min read

The reality is that today, most higher education institutions don't have the time they'd like to focus on strategy. A recent study found that 81% of them don't do as much strategic planning as they'd like. But why?

Are higher education institutions hitting an admin wall?

For a large proportion of these institutions, there's a significant but clear obstacle to strategic planning. Admin.

What do we mean by admin, and why is it such an obstacle? Admin can take many forms, but usually we’re talking about those necessary tasks that take time, but don't have direct value or benefit. Usually, this is things like absence and expense entry, procurement requisitioning, funds checking, waiting for approval requests that might be lost in busy inboxes, and so on.

These kinds of tasks are what keep your institution running and your teams connected. But, and it's a big but, they are not as directly valuable as other more strategic or academic driven work that your students and community experience.

The actual costs of unchecked admin

The question is, why, if they are so necessary, are we talking about them as if they’re a problem? 

The problem isn't the tasks themselves or what they do; it's their exponential growth over the years. Unchecked and unmanaged, many higher education institutions have become buried under the sheer volume of admin tasks they manage – either out of habit (to work around inflexible processes) or necessity. 

These can come from a varied combination of changing regulatory requirements, student expectations, outdated process, and digitization. But regardless of their origin, they all have the same effect of causing you to lose sight of objectives by standing in the way of work that matters, negatively impacting what you and your people can achieve.

What's more, the sheer volume of admin tasks most institutions now manage daily has continued to grow at a pace as new technologies and regulatory requirements arise. And this only swallows more and more of your team's valuable and limited time until eventually many of your people are doing more admin than work.

How do institutions conquer admin to become more agile and resilient?

For success in the modern workplace, a higher education institution must rely on two things: technology and people. According to Higher Ed Dive’s Industry Outlook Report, Higher Ed’s Resilient Future

Institutions need technology that captures the right information at the right time and gets it to people willing to use it to further the institutional mission.

But the study also identifies the final crucial piece of this puzzle to make institutions more agile and resilient. In addition to their tech and people, in order to have a real impact, the institutions' people need to be able to use that tech to make decisions based on accessible, trustworthy data and actionable insights.

The exciting news is many institutions have realized there's a historical disconnect between the technology they use and their people. With tools selected in the past for the tasks they did, and not the people they supported. Leading to the rise in tech that did a job by adding more jobs elsewhere to link that up with other tech or processes. 

Thankfully, institutions now realize the value of technology comes from its connectivity, flexibility and usability, rather than simply its capabilities. Meaning that higher education is progressing its journey to transformation. According to the Higher Ed Dive report, it has become clear that for most institutions: 

[T]he best investment institutions can make is in upgrading their approach to technology, data and operations to ensure they can be resilient in the face of ongoing uncertainty.

So tech's the answer, not the problem, isn't it?

Interestingly, despite being one of the most significant contributors to the rise in the admin tasks stopping your people from making smarter decisions or taking more decisive actions, tech (or the right tech, at least) is how you will overcome this admin obstacle.

[D]ata has taken a new place of importance in that process, allowing institutions that operationalize their financial planning and analysis data to create real-life contingency and forecasting plans based on holistic institutional data.

With the right solution that automates admin, unifies data, connects people and departments, and empowers decision-making, institutions can achieve more. This technology will help institutions bring the proliferation of admin under control. But more importantly, it will also boost people’s work experience, and thus the strategic work they deliver, across your institution. 

The end result? With the right structure in place, higher education institutions can meet challenges head-on and turn them into opportunities.