CIOs at Universities and K-12 schools understand the importance and urgency of digital transformation. There’s tremendous opportunity to radically improve the student experience within the institution.
There’s a lot of confusion on what exactly digital transformation means when it comes to education.
What is digital transformation?
Digital Transformation (DX) is the novel use of digital technology to solve traditional problems. It helps organizations leverage technology and data to improve business outcomes. Yet, it’s not a single specific project or technology. It’s not really about modernizing your old-line business systems or slapping a mobile UI onto legacy applications.
Digital transformation is the process of infusing “digital” into your organization’s people, processes, and mindset so you can rapidly address customer pain points. And, that starts with your core operations.
What are the business imperatives?
In every industry, digital transformation is about improving business performance. Education is no different. The business drivers are familiar:
- Improving the customer experience: For educational institutions, the “customers” are the students. Improving the student experience means providing online learning options, recruiting students digitally e.g. on social media, allowing them to register and apply for financial aid online. It means online tools for faculty to monitor student progress or facilitating online courses.
- Increasing business agility: Agility is the ability to respond rapidly to changes in business conditions and to take advantage of new opportunities by rolling out new products and solutions in a timely manner. Like everything else, education is changing rapidly. Institutions cannot stay siloed continuing to operate as they always have. They must facilitate communication and collaboration to rapidly implement new solutions when the opportunity arises.
- Reducing waste and increasing operational efficiency: Administrative costs have increased dramatically in education, especially Higher Ed. Often, the result is faculty and staff bogged down in administrative paperwork instead of focusing on students. It’s also a major contributor to education costs spiraling out of control, especially in the United States.
Don’t forget the gold in your operations
Digital transformation undoubtedly has massive potential but it can be overwhelming. There’s no reason to boil the oceans and it’s, in fact, wise to start with something small – typically in your core operations.
Saving time is a powerful business outcome
Far too frequently, at colleges and schools, where the emphasis is on students, digital transformation translates into initiatives like augmented reality, gamification, redesigned learning spaces etc.
These are all valuable initiatives but,
the most important factor in student learning is time – their own as well as that of the faculty and staff.
If you can use digital technologies to free up some of their time so they have more of it to focus on education, that’s a hugely positive business outcome.
Working with dozens of institutions – Higher Ed as well as K-12 – I’ve found that there’s massive potential for efficiency gains in their routine, day-to-day operations. It’s amazing to see how much time teachers, staff, and students spend on basic paperwork and on chasing down approvals.
There’s real gold to be found in your back office. After all, your routine operations consist of things that faculty, staff, administrators and students do every single day. Boring old things like time off request forms, myriad student-related transactions, onboarding new hires and approving purchases. Digitally transforming these everyday tasks will literally change what people do every day.
What are the barriers in a typical school or college?
- Lack of leadership: Don’t make it the CIO’s job. Of course, CIOs play a critical part, but ideally top institutional leaders must drive digital transformation efforts. Core processes and initiatives span multiple functional areas, and it’s not easy to get people to accept change. Only leadership can rally everyone behind the cause.
- Talent: Scarcity of resources in areas like cloud, security and UX is the #1 challenge faced by all businesses and educational institutions are no exception. Often, they have to deal with the reputation of being digital laggards.
- Inertia: People are resistant to change and like to keep things the way they’ve been for years. They’re afraid of failing to learn new skills and processes. Again, leadership is crucial in explaining the benefits and inspiring people to get behind digital initiatives.
- Legacy systems: Like many businesses, educational institutions often have decades old SIS and ERP systems that hold mission-critical data. Connecting modern, digital applications to these systems can often be a major roadblock.
- Money: Institutions, particularly public schools and colleges are often facing significant budget cuts and are strapped for resources.
How should you automate your operations?
There’s no question that schools need to invest in automation. Unaffordable tuitions, soaring administrative costs and squeezed budgets are creating tremendous pressure on schools to reduce operational expenses.
The good news is that relatively mundane actions like automating day-to-day processes pay huge dividends. They improve the student experience, reduce costs, free up faculty and student time and increase agility.
Here are five things to consider:
- Write down what you plan to stop doing in 2020. In order to do more, sometimes you have to first do fewer things. Unless, of course, your budgets are increasing 20-30% each year. What manual tasks can you eliminate outright, outsource or automate in 2019 so employees aren’t wasting their time in 2020? Read more: How to focus your team on productive tasks.
- Invest in new, visual solutions. Talent is indeed scarce but new technology is here to help. Modern, drag-and-drop software is available at affordable cost and you don’t need expert programmers. Anyone can create forms, routing and business rules to automate business processes.
- Embrace mobile in the cloud. Smartphones are ubiquitous. Students, in particular, have grown up doing everything on their mobile devices. Automated processes delivered in the cloud facilitate mobility, 24×7 access, speed and security. Cloud vendors invest far more in scalability, security and uptime than the average institution. Make sure you seriously consider cloud-based solutions that work on mobile devices. View Infographic: The Path to Successful Mobile Apps.
- Don’t forget people. Involve your people from the beginning. When people have had the chance to impact a solution, they’re naturally more invested in it. Solicit regular feedback and make sure you go back and actually implement it. Nothing’s more frustrating than to get a project 90% right only to find that people abandon it because you overlooked a couple of things.
- Do not wait: Whatever else you do, you cannot afford to wait. There’s simply no reason to delay. Educational institutions are hardly immune to being Amazon-ed. Given the increasing importance of stretching every budget $ to the max, operational excellence must be at the top of your digital transformation initiatives.
How frevvo can help
At frevvo, we’ve worked with dozens of Higher Ed and K-12 institutions to help them get started with digital transformation by automating everyday business processes.
Case Study 1: University of Saint Francis
USF serves a diverse body of students, faculty, and staff. Yet, hundreds of their routine, everyday forms and processes
such as internship requests, business office tasks, housing incidents etc. were paper- or email-based. As they embarked upon their digital transformation initiatives, they decided to convert these forms and processes into electronic versions.
Using frevvo’s visual, drag-and-drop designers, they’ve now converted hundreds of forms into electronic versions that work on students’ mobile devices, integrate with their Jenzabar Student Information System and with their SharePoint content management system, and route work electronically.
The result is less paperwork and more education.
Case Study 2: La Cité College
La Cité wanted to improve service to students and faculty who were wasting time entering data manually into paper or PDF forms.
Like USF, they serve a diverse clientele including faculty, administrators, and a large student body. They understand that:
Their future success lies in their ability to deliver exceptional services to students and faculty.
La Cité’s students preferred to use their mobile devices like young people everywhere. Using frevvo, they’ve converted their paper and PDF forms including things like registration forms into electronic versions that work on mobile devices.
In addition, the forms and processes are integrated with their Oracle database, DocuShare document management system and salesforce.com CRM system saving data entry, error correction etc.
Ultimately, the result is less paperwork and more education.
Digital transformation in education has very little to do with technology and everything to do with leadership. It starts with the board of trustees understanding the urgency and opportunity of digital transformation and making it a priority in the institution.
Automation is at the core of digital transformation. It streamlines your operations and, crucially, frees up student and faculty time so they can invest it in what matters most – learning and teaching.
At frevvo, we’ve already helped dozens of customers just like you get started with digital transformation by automating their everyday tasks. Our easy-to-use, visual tools make it easy and anyone can do it without programming knowledge.
There’s no reason to wait – get started today by signing up for a free 30-day trial.