How to bring innovation to every level of higher ed operations | Unit4
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How to bring innovation to every level of higher ed operations

from  April 28, 2022 | 4 min read

Like every sector, higher education institutions face massive disruptions. The global pandemic certainly plays a tremendous part, as does digital transformation and the worsening talent crisis. Falling student enrolments also add to the mix. As a result, higher ed institutions face an inflection point: They must adapt to these changes to survive. But how?

In our recent report with Higher Ed Dive, we determined that the best way institutions could be resilient in the face of ongoing disruptions was to upgrade their approach to technology, data, and operations. But ultimately, as organizations consider how they will achieve long-term success, the answer comes down to people.

In our webinar covering the findings of the report, we explored the disruptions facing the sector, how they’ll affect institutional success, and how encouraging a culture of innovation with an aligned tech ecosystem can help higher education institutions survive.

Let’s take a look at the top lessons from the session:

Democratizing operational innovation

Institutions must ensure that people throughout the administration are empowered to do their work and given the skills and tools to automate rote tasks, freeing them to address more mission-focused work. This shift to democratizing operational innovation driven by business functions instead of by IT or leadership can be challenging, but it is needed to achieve institutional flexibility, resilience, and, ultimately, success.

The advantages of democratizing innovation through enterprise technology upgrades that put your people in the driver’s seat include better rates of adoption and faster time to value with new implementations, helping people configure more efficient business processes, reducing departmental silos to allow a holistic perspective, and increasing security and transparency.

Plan for disruption

When looking at the massive disruptions higher ed faces, it’s important to look beyond the current pandemic related issues and realize that there will always be disruptive factors, such as new viruses or cybersecurity issues that higher ed institutions will need to adjust to. Even before the pandemic, 9/11 highlighted the need for disaster planning. In the back office, for example, the importance of securing data when the power is out or when there are hurricanes or a ransomware attack.

Data-privacy issues have always been important but are even more at the forefront. Many institutions function with old legacy systems and use patches to upgrade systems. Now is the time for them to reinvent their current systems for modern-day needs.

Elevate the ‘back office’

A big part of a school’s success is the back office because it will affect the student and staff experience. The roles of HR and Finance have been elevated into critical functions to help institutions run more successfully. If these back office voices continue to be heard, institutions will evolve and transform rather than go back to a pre-pandemic state.

Create a culture of innovation

Encouraging a culture of innovation and providing an aligned technology ecosystem will help higher ed survive. The best way institutions can be resilient in the face of ongoing disruptions is to upgrade their approach to technology, data, and operations, and ultimately, long-term success relies on an organization’s people. Upgrading technology, data, and operations isn’t just about changing processes. It’s changing people, it’s changing the culture of the organization, and it’s about getting the communication right too.

So, how can higher education organizations start to begin the process?

Gather and trust the feedback from the back-office teams

Start by getting feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Trust the back office people who work with these systems day in and day out. Getting their input is essential and trusting them to try out new processes is a big factor in that and will help to build the new culture. As well as talking with the people who will use the technology, don’t be afraid to talk to suppliers to find out possibilities.

Start any new initiatives with sample-size tests

Anytime you roll out anything new, start with sample-size tests before rolling anything across the institution. Administrators and leaders can encourage innovation by asking the people doing the work for innovative ideas. Make the request for innovation a part of your regular meetings with teams. Ask them what could be done better or differently and what kind of professional development do they need? Find the balance between not pushing too hard but still creating a culture of innovation and openness. 

Assess available technology

Find the one that works for the whole institution, not just individual departments. Look at the leading higher ed organizations to see their transformative capabilities and what technology they use, and then assess what your organization really needs.

Have a top-down approach to be strategic

Most change implementations don’t work because of a lack of vision, drive, and adoption across the organization. It needs to be driven top-down because it is a fundamental way to change how you do your business.

Single view provides agility

By democratizing technology, institutions gain business agility, which empowers key business users to drive the business changes they want to bring into their organization and leave them with the skills to change business processes and workflows. It brings the ability to do things dynamically without waiting for IT or a consulting firm to do things for you.

Having that flexibility and business agility lets you reshape, plan, and rapidly change when major disruptions hit because you’ve got the technology and tools in place to survive.

Want to learn more?

Watch the full webinar here

Make the best use of precious academic and faculty time and maximize funding to allow them more time to concentrate on the needs of students. Labor-intensive legacy systems and manual processes no longer fit requirements so don’t let them hold you back! Give your people the time, visibility, and control they need to make a difference and build success—check out our Higher Education ERP systems and software here.