What Digital Transformation Means for Higher Education in 2019

January 4, 2019 Teresa Traub

Is “Digital Transformation” a buzzword?

Is it a technology? A mindset? A set of tools? A process? 

“Digital transformation” is the buzzword floating around business today. It has many definitions and means different things to different people. Despite the lack of consensus about its meaning, digital transformation isn’t going anywhere - it’s here to stay and is already impacting a lot of industries, including Higher Education. 

Why digital transformation for Higher Education? 

Students are coming to higher education institutions with expectations for certain types of experiences from their daily lives. They expect these institutions to understand them, guide them, connect them to the right people, and consistently delight them. 

Meeting (and even exceeding) these expectations directly impact the student experience and ultimately, the higher education institution’s bottom line. 

Digital transformation permeates all aspects of Higher Education, including:

  • External constituents - (students, alumni) to the internal constituents (faculty, staff, administration)
  • Learning - digital content, personalized learning, interactive classrooms, instructional design
  • Engagement - academic support and delivery 
  • Staffing models that support interactions
  • Digital learning - instruction, assessment learning materials, personalized learning
  • Tutoring – Chatbots
  • Student Services – advising support, student assessment, outreach/alert, registration, and recruitment 
  • Expanding the classroom – 24/7 access, anywhere, on any device (mobile ready)
  • Increased accessibility – providing higher education opportunities to those who lack them

What digital transformation really means for Higher Education

Digital transformation is more than just an idea. It’s having the capability to do things differently and the intelligence and ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace to address the changing needs and expectations of internal and external constituents. 

Why is digital transformation difficult for Higher Ed?

A female college student with a blue book bag walking on university grounds seeking seamless experiences as a result of digital transformation

  • Many higher education organizations are stuck in decentralized, traditional siloed systems and departments. 
  • Breaking down the silo mentality isn’t easy. Bringing people together and fostering collaboration is key, but it isn’t easy. 
  • Change comes with anxiety. Employees in higher education (just like in any other organization) are used to doing their work in a particular way.
  • Decision-making is usually slower in hierarchically structured organizations.
  • Lack of technical maturity and technology readiness in users.

How digital transformation works for Higher Education (and what it requires):

  • Gaining executive buy-in 
  • Laying the groundwork - having a solid foundation before you can take full advantage of digital transformation
  • Understanding the overall internal and external constituent experience - where it currently is and where you want it to be - and creating a roadmap to get there

How to get started: 

Start with an overall strategy, but don’t do this in isolation. Don’t leave the strategic decisions to one department only, try to encourage and nurture a culture of collaboration. You can start with a small group for a launching point, but move towards incorporating all groups as part of the rollout. 

Strategy also includes data strategy. When data is harnessed it can be a game-changer that can help you realize the full impact of your digital transformation.

To integrate data into strategy, you should:

  • Know where your data is coming from
  • Know what data is collected 
  • Know what data you are tracking and why
  • Know what you’re trying to measure and how to filter too much data
  • Have data governance in place to meet compliance regulations

Don't underestimate the need for change management - when done correctly, it will result in culture change. However, it’s important to make sure you have the right skill sets and that digital transformation is a journey with many steps. 

Digital transformation will enable Higher Education to:

  • Build highly matrixed organizations that interact across lines, business models, and support models.
  • Harness the power of the data leading to predictive and proactive actions across all aspects of a university.

What digital transformation leaders care about...
In a recent survey conducted by Navitas Ventures, University leaders cited the following expectations of their digital transformations. Improving the student experience and meeting changing students needs were the top two outcomes of effective delivery.1

Evolving for the future

Higher Education Digital Transformation connects graduating alumni to the future of the academic institution

A digital platform that empowers collaboration between business and IT isn't enough for a full digital transformation - you need a new strategy designed around digital to enable your business to work smarter, faster and at scale and innovate new products and services. 

That’s why Higher Education organizations need to think beyond research and basic educational services, they need to expand and shift their perspective to align with those of their constituents. Evolving to a constituent-centric mindset is essential to staying relevant and competitive and laying the foundation for future growth. 

Next Steps
As a global leader in Higher Education digital transformation strategy, Appirio can help you at every step of the way - from identifying ways to drive positive results; to providing a custom-tailored Salesforce implementation roadmap, we’re here to make sure you seamlessly get from point A to point B. 

Visit the Appirio Nonprofit and Higher Education Hub to learn more about the latest developments and trends in this exciting space.


Don't forget to connect with us on social! 


1 https://www.navitasventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/HE-Digital-Transformation-_Navitas_Ventures_-EN.pdf

About the Author

Teresa Traub

Teresa (Tere) Traub joined Appirio after 20+ years of building and scaling global businesses. In her most recent role, she helped the University of Texas System develop an educational marketplace on the Salesforce platform. Before that, she managed B2B and International Outreach and Admissions groups and was also part of the EdTech Innovation Group at Kaplan University.

Follow on Linkedin More Content by Teresa Traub
Previous Article
How Retail Will Change in 2019 and Beyond
How Retail Will Change in 2019 and Beyond

Next Article
3 of the Oldest and Most Iconic Retailers in New York
3 of the Oldest and Most Iconic Retailers in New York