Thinking About Moving to a New Enterprise System?
Consider These ‘4 Dimensions of Alignment’ First
Do your institution’s enterprise systems enable cross-functionable collaboration and data-informed decision-making supported by an intuitive interface that empowers students and staff to be productive?
Or do they create roadblocks that impede productivity, stymie student success, and cause the kinds of operational inefficiencies they were designed to eliminate?
If the latter rings true, you’re not alone. Over two decades of experience helping colleges and universities evaluate, select, and implement enterprise systems has shown us that even the most successful implementations can become problematic within a few years.
The root cause? Misalignment.
In this article, we’ll explore four dimensions of your organization that must be aligned to get the most value out of your enterprise systems. We’ll also identify key symptoms to help you recognize misalignments occurring at your institution. Understanding your organization’s alignment across these four dimensions is an important first step that can inform the future of your enterprise systems.
Dimension 1: People
Most problems with enterprise systems can be traced back to a lack of communication, collaboration, and training. When individuals become laser focused on their jobs — or departments on their tasks or projects — they forget about the larger organization and the broader impact of their work, which allows silos to form and processes to evolve organically and unsystematically. Soon, shadow databases crop up and manual workarounds become the new norm.
In recent years, we’ve seen this dysfunction exacerbated by staffing shortages caused by the Great Resignation. Many colleges and universities lost decades of irreplaceable institutional knowledge, and with fewer people to shoulder the extra work, the remaining staff were stretched thin. As a result, important quality assurance measures, like systems training and process documentation, fell by the wayside as everyone struggled to stay afloat. Bit by bit, the collective understanding of how to work effectively and collaboratively within the organization eroded.
- Staff don’t know how to use the institution’s enterprise systems to perform their jobs, so they create workarounds and track data in Excel spreadsheets.
- Departments are understaffed, and people perform more than one job.
- There is an overreliance on one person to perform mission-critical tasks, like running payroll or awarding Financial Aid.
- Your institution struggles to recruit and retain the technical expertise needed to effectively maintain and operate your enterprise systems.
Sound like your institution? Start with an Organizational Assessment.
It’s no coincidence that organizational alignment begins with people. If your people are not ready for (and bought into) your enterprise system transformation initiative, it will fail. For this reason, it’s critical to begin by listening to the people who will be impacted by change.
To do this, invite cross-functional stakeholders to participate in listening sessions — candid conversations about what’s working well (and not so well) within your organization and how it should be working.
Empower them to co-create a future vision with you. What would the ideal student experience look like? When considering this question, encourage participants to think about why students choose your institution. How do they expect your institution to meet their needs? And how can they, as stakeholders, support that ideal experience?
By creating a shared vision of the future, it will be easier to see where upskilling, reskilling, and role realignment is needed. And you’ll have the support and buy-in of the people at the heart of the work because they’ll understand the purpose of the changes and their valuable role in the new vision.
Resource: 4 Ingredients for Successful Listening Sessions »
Dimension 2: Processes
With talent in short supply, inefficient processes are more than a burden, they’re an operational weakness that can put your institution at a competitive disadvantage and make it difficult to scale as the organization grows.
Given the level of human intervention required to perform manual processes, they end up distracting staff from strategic work that advances the institution’s mission. Manual processes are easy to spot because they are generally focused on a department — or on the transactions that need to be performed — rather than the people they serve.
Not only do manual and paper-based processes create a poor service experience, but they also make it difficult for institutions to track, analyze, and manage large amounts of data. This can hinder decision-making, create information security risks, and prevent staff and students from accessing information in a timely manner.
- Students or staff are frustrated by a complicated process that should be easy, like applying for admission or paying a bill.
- Course registration requires students to wait in long lines outside the Registrar’s Office.
- Financial aid packaging takes longer at your institution than it does at peer institutions.
- Staff rely on paper forms and manual data entry to support admissions, financial aid, graduation requests, and other vital tasks.
- Email chains are the primary mode for securing approvals from multiple stakeholders.
- Customizations, shadow systems, or in-house developed applications are required to function.
If this sounds like your institution, start with a Process Reimagine & Redesign.
To root out bottlenecks, manual processes, and other inefficiencies, it can be helpful to examine every system-related process and break it down to its core components. It’s important to do this for all processes in each of the following areas:
- Student journey: Review the student’s academic and administrative experience—from first contact through graduation and alumni relations—and evaluate how it aligns with the desired experience.
- Administrative journey: Review the employee’s job-related and administrative journey—including HR, finance, budget management, and payroll—and evaluate how it aligns with the desired experience.
- Technology maturity: Review IT’s ability to achieve and support the desired future state and learn new processes, procedures, skillsets, and tools.
- Business intelligence: Review the institution’s ability to access and analyze data and present actionable information to help leaders make informed business decisions.
Resource: 7 Probing Questions to Uncover Process Problems »
Dimension 3: Data
As colleges and universities compete for fewer students, a powerful competitive advantage can be gained by effectively leveraging data. Data can tell you a lot about your institution, students, program offerings, and future opportunities, but many colleges and universities struggle to effectively collect, store, and analyze it.
Manual processes and unintegrated technologies can cause data to become siloed — stored in multiple systems and departments, making it difficult for any one person or department to see a comprehensive view of students and their academic progress. Siloed data makes it difficult for faculty and staff to effectively advise and support students. When data exists in multiple places, it can create data integrity issues, which may cause staff to question the accuracy of the reports they rely on to make decisions.
- Your institution doesn’t have one system that serves as the “single source of truth.”
- Data does not flow properly between systems.
- Your institution lacks the resources and technologies needed to manage and analyze data.
- Technology users repurpose fields to capture different data than intended.
- Data governance policies and procedures for collecting, storing, and using data do not exist.
- Students, faculty, and staff don’t trust the data.
- Large amounts of data can’t be analyzed, nor can the results be presented in a meaningful way.
If this sounds like your institution, start with a Data Readiness Assessment.
At CampusWorks, our enterprise solutions experts have a saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, the chances that your new enterprise systems will be effective are only as good as your data is clean. Before you can optimize or modernize your systems, it’s important to evaluate the current state of your legacy data to understand how data is captured, accessed, and utilized across the enterprise and develop a refinement plan to address any issues.
A Data Readiness Assessment can help you gain a clearer understanding of your data environment by answering questions like:
- Where is data stored?
- How is data managed?
- How does data flow through the institution’s processes and systems?
- Is our data accurate and complete?
- Who has access to our data?
- How is data used?
Resource: 7 Steps for Ensuring Data Readiness »
Dimension 4: Technology
Most colleges and universities have invested millions in technology, but few have become truly tech-enabled institutions. Time and again, we’ve seen institutions waste money acquiring multiple software solutions that are designed to solve the same problem. Implementation often happens without proper support from IT, so critical integrations are never configured, and data doesn’t flow properly between systems. This leads to a poor user experience, which generates a flurry of IT support tickets that require IT to focus on troubleshooting and “putting out fires.” When this dynamic persists, technology delivers a low return on investment (ROI) and becomes an obstacle standing between students and their educational goals rather than streamlining the experience to enable their success.
- Your institution has more technology solutions than IT can support.
- Your institution owns several technology solutions that offer overlapping functionality.
- Key integrations do not function properly or were never configured.
- There are no IT governance processes to ensure information technology investments are aligned with an organization’s goals and objectives.
- IT operates in a reactive mode, responding to problems and putting out fires.
- IT maintenance upgrades and security patches are often delayed or overlooked.
- The IT team frequently gets backed up with support tickets.
- Security roles and permissions are not used to limit user access to systems.
- IT documentation is lacking or non-existent.
Sound like your institution? Start with a Technology Assessment »
Conducting a Technology Assessment can provide a holistic view of your current IT environment, the future direction, and the initiatives required to achieve your desired future state. Effective IT is defined by the institutional imperatives it enables, not the technology used to accomplish this. It should support nimble, reliable, and efficient responses to strategic objectives. Given this, it requires the prioritization of initiatives and investments, focused on driving business value while ensuring alignment between IT and the business.
Resource: 9 Questions to Measure IT Maturity »
Get Back to Happy
The decision to optimize or modernize your enterprise systems is about so much more than technology; it’s about learning to work smarter. And that work begins with alignment.
Evaluating the four dimensions alignment — people, processes, data, and technology — can help your institution address some of the deeper issues threatening higher education today. When people and processes are aligned with institutional goals and operating efficiently, higher education becomes more affordable and accessible. When data is accurate and readily available, institutions become more accountable to their students—and regulators—and can spot issues that jeopardize student success before they become major problems. When your enterprise systems are optimized for success, your entire institution is optimized for success.
If you’ve experienced one (or many) of the symptoms above, CampusWorks can help you “Get Back to Happy” by uncovering critical misalignments and mitigating issues early, so they don’t become major disruptions that delay your implementation.
Thinking about moving to a new enterprise system? Not sure where to begin? Start with a Readiness Assessment »