Is Your School Ready to Take the Lead and Create a System of True Engagement?


The higher education industry has changed and continues to change. For one thing, colleges and universities today have moved from being centers of learning and development to large-scale business enterprises, as Jon McGee writes in his book Breakpoint: The Changing Marketplace for Higher Education. Schools now enroll thousands of students, employ hundreds or even thousands of faculty and staff, and provide an array of services that can equal or exceed those available in small or even medium-size cities. That provides logistical and operational challenges — and, to be sure, opportunities.

But that’s not all: Schools once operated as institutions where you sent students for four years before they entered the working world. Now, however, many students are graduating but are then faced with a crowded and competitive job market where the skills required are more different than ever before. So the responsibilities of faculty and staff to prepare students for life after graduation are greater.

With so much more at stake, it’s no wonder that faculty, staff, students, prospective students, and their parents now expect institutions to do more. They expect schools to know them, to understand them, and to develop a personal relationship with them. Maybe not a person-to-person, face-to-face type of relationship, but an engaged relationship that’s virtual, digital, electronic and informed by data.

This shift in the market, the change of expectations, and the dramatic impact that has forced institutions to reconsider how they manage and engage their population has raised many questions, such as: Can your existing Student Information System (SIS) allow that? Does your school’s current technology solution meet the changing expectations of your various constituencies?

As I see it, colleges and universities have three strategy options:

  1. The Hope Strategy: You do nothing and hope that what you have today will be adequate and other areas of your institution will sufficiently provide satisfaction to your constituents.
  2. The Traditional Strategy: You spend your budget and significant time and resources upgrading the various components of the current system to offer new versions of today’s services.
  3. The Think and Reimagine Strategy: You consider the new expectations of stakeholders and other constituents in terms of what they want and expect, and envision the best methods of bringing advanced systems that can meet and expand as those expectations shift.

No surprise, option three is the preferred option and the one I recommend. It’s the only one that sets your institution up for the future rather than just building on the past and present. If your school is going to start acting more like a business, as Jon McGee describes, you’ll need the tools and systems in place that can deliver the information you need to manage your resources, learn more about your student body, and create a campus that is truly engaged. You need a new system of engagement that will excite all of your constituencies.

With the release of Workday Student, this system now exists. Workday Student sets a new bar for student information systems, and is designed for the evolving needs of higher education institutions. It extends the continuum from education to career, and is built for the way universities and colleges work today and will into the future, helping them embrace new learning models and capture all student accomplishments. It’s the kind of system a forward-thinking institution can use to help students achieve their desired learning objectives, while also enabling faculty and the entire institution to achieve goals related to enrollment, graduation rates, talent and revenue.

In short, this is one of the most exciting announcements for higher education information technology in a long time. I don’t use the term “game changer” lightly, but that’s what this is.

I’ve already seen the power of Workday’s unified system come to life at schools like our client California College of the Arts (CCA), which went live on Workday Student after deploying Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management earlier this year. Having Workday’s full suite of applications up and running will help CCA stay competitive and deliver a better experience for faculty, staff, and students. With new insights provided by the Workday system, I predict it won’t be long before CCA is a campus of true engagement across the board.

This is just the beginning of a new era for higher education technology. Schools can’t and shouldn’t be limited by what others are comfortable with today, and what they’ve always done. We at IBM are pushing and challenging our clients to look beyond just a system exchange or upgrade — to think about and design a new service mechanism that will engage and respond to your industry because technology and its users have changed.

Your constituents expect innovation and engagement from you. If their expectations aren’t being met, they will go elsewhere. Now is the time for a change. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Solutions and Delivery Leader, Education, IBM Workday Consulting Services

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