Dealing with change and the implications of change is a complex situation for most institutions, especially when they need to maintain business-as-usual systems and services in parallel to developing new solutions to streamline processes, deliver efficiencies and improve services. Now, more than ever, universities and colleges need to look at how they introduce new infrastructure, systems and frameworks and establish new services, but to effectively do this, it is critical that institutions build secure strong foundations for the future as they adapt and move forward.
Having a sound, but flexible base will help institutions adapt quickly to new challenges, delivery models and technologies and will allow them to operate in environments where system interoperability and hybrid infrastructures are the norm. The sector continues to face many challenges with increasing national and international competition, uncertainties over Brexit and changing funding models. The uncertainty and pressures of competition result in a need to deliver efficiencies through streamlining processes, through automation and self service, and through utilising technology more effectively.
Following the introduction of £9,000 student fees, many institutions invested heavily in new buildings but more recently the focus of many initiatives to improve the student experience has shifted from the physical estate to the virtual. In some institutions this has translated into developing new and exciting apps to deliver personalised and location-aware services. Others have considered the way they use their student records system and have sought to re-implement such systems to move away from maintaining the student record to a more customer-focused approach to managing the student lifecycle and so develop applicant-to-alumni solutions.
The data landscape is evolving
The data landscape is also evolving. Institutions need to prepare for more regular external reporting which will bring with it the need to ensure that the data are accurate far earlier in the academic year. The Government is placing increased emphasis on using data for quality benchmarks. Increased competition results in greater uncertainty and so the need to model scenarios to understand the potential impact of changes, be they higher (or lower) student numbers, or new government policy. Institutions are recognising the value and power of data, looking to improve their learner analytics functions to go beyond merely identifying students at risk of dropping out, and using data from across the institution to ensure more effective use of the estate.
Successful change requires collaboration between a wide range of professional disciplines and departments. Project offices, business change departments and those responsible for institutions’ corporate systems will need to build effective relationships with their peers across their institutions in order to help drive forward change. However, that change can only be delivered if there are strong, reliable systems underpinning the business operations – solid foundations on which to build. Building foundations for the future is the third time UCISA’s Corporate Information Systems and Project and Change Management Groups have joined forces to explore the issues around delivering effective change and showcase best practice in the sector. The conference, which is taking place in Glasgow on 21–23 November, will look at the trends shaping the sector and will provide practical takeaways and guidance. The ever popular Institutional Showcase sessions will highlight examples of change initiatives whilst the accompanying exhibition will allow vendors to demonstrate how their solutions can meet the challenges institutions face in delivering change whilst maintaining stability.
We look forward to an interesting three days, to lively debate, discussion and plenty of sharing of expertise.