Strategic phases of evolution

Universities need to have a long-range view and continuous transformation strategy to be well positioned for the future. Change is rapid and hard to envision, says Darren Tse, country director (UK & Europe) for the Russell Partnership

When it comes to the on-campus experience, there is an accelerating rate of change in expectations. The customer of the future is what each institution needs to be thinking about when it comes to long-range planning. Commonly, a horizon of 10 years is used with forecasts built upon knowing the unknown. These are driven through a currently understood reality; the challenge lies within any number of unknown future variables. Decisions are made with limited information on the future. The challenge emerging is the rapidity of change.

Flexibility is vital in understanding how services need to evolve. A first-year undergrad at the conclusion of a 10-year plan implemented today is presently eight. A decade of evolution in technology and society will move at an exponential pace. It would require nothing short of a crystal ball to anticipate needs in 2031. Success will be present for those who view their environments with agile creativity while building infrastructure and a supply chain that can cope.

Consider the creation of sequential plans continually folding into one another. Some advocate the creation of a ‘three by four’ where three successive four-year plans are constructed with distinct objectives. The long-range view looks at adaptation or expansion of infrastructure that enables future capabilities. Mid-range plans expand capability and contemplate central systems that integrate business units. Immediate stages focus on leveraging these capabilities to deliver against customer demands, enabled through the right mix of backbone elements being in place.

Developing plans in this manner requires a purely strategic perspective. As outcomes materialise the commercial reality may shift. The benefit of the strategic view is that ultimately, while perhaps entering an uncomfortable unknown, the right decisions can be made to best serve the user with a financial outcome that is positioned to bring sustainable, aligned success.


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