Putting students at the centre of digital transformation

Putting students at the centre of digital transformation

The road towards digital transformation rarely runs smoothly. While it has been extremely promising to see tertiary education institutions fully investing in digital experience (DX), poorly planned projects can lead to wasted time and budgets that set institutions back even further and burn through precious resources.

Last year alone an estimated $5.5 million USD was wasted on DX projects, resulting in significant changes or an entire restart of the projects. For a sector that is already facing tremendous pressures—from falling enrolment and retention rates to lack of funding—failed IT projects are a luxury that cannot be afforded. We’ve noticed a worrying trend.

Who are your customers?

In most industries, it’s fairly simple to identify who the customer is. Most often, customers are those who are generating revenue for the organisation (whether directly or indirectly). The same is true for tertiary education. An institution's customers are its students. They are the group that buy and consume products and services, otherwise known as the education and experience being offered.

Despite this fact, we’re seeing more institutions prioritising solutions that have almost no impact on the student learner experiences. In many instances, at the crucial discovery phase of a DX project institutions will prioritise updating their CRM or CMS platforms, even though these solutions will only benefit prospective students and possibly alumni—rarely do they have direct benefit for students in their learning phase.

Digital transformation journey infographic

Lagging investment in student learner experiences

Often, the student learner experience is neglected due to a lack of investment. In an attempt to balance DX project costs, the student management system—the core driver behind the student experience—will be ignored while institutions attempt to make legacy monolithic systems (often 10-15 years old) work alongside modern CRM and CMS systems.

Instead of prioritising the delivery of critical student learner information, such as grades, courses and timetables, institutions choose to focus on systems that will improve their recruitment and alumni functions. It’s great for prospective and past students, but it causes minimum improvement for their key customers—student learners.

Furthermore, many consulting companies will engage institutions to look at DX for HR and finance first, which is their area of expertise, and focus resources on these core systems. This focus shifts the conversation even further away from the student learner experience.

By effectively leaving the student management system out of the transformation, institutions are delivering an extremely poor experience to student learners, with monolithic ERP systems that aren’t designed to be as agile and interoperable as modern, leading-edge systems. Worse still, this flawed approach sets up a false expectation for the student who had a positive initial experience during recruitment only to be disappointed by the student experience when they arrive at school.

How Ellucian is breaking the cycle

At Ellucian, we’re turning this model on its head and advocating that institutions do the opposite. Put the student learner firmly at the centre of the experience and ensure that all systems and capabilities are aimed at supporting students first. We’re working closely with highly respected partners such as Accenture and Tata Consulting Services (TCS) to provide institutions with solutions that target student management systems. These are the core tools that will influence how your students feel about their learning experiences—¬¬and determine whether you will lose or retain them as a customer.

Using our capability toolkit, which is based on more than fifty years of experience working with tertiary education clients, Ellucian focuses on mapping institutional strategic goals against business capabilities, informed by recognised industry standards which include CAUDIT, EDUCAUSE and UCISA.

We work closely with IT teams to identify the key points throughout the lifecycle that matter to deliver the most value to students. Once these points have been identified, we can measure and quantify where capabilities are needed, as well as create a roadmap blueprint for future system changes.

Becoming truly student-centric

‘Digital transformation’ is a big phrase. It’s vital that universities don’t get lost in the sea of possibilities and lose sight of who the digital transformation is for. Improving business functions, such as HR and finance, is an important consideration that can bring real efficiencies and measurable ROI on DX investments, but should always be viewed as secondary to serving the needs of your customers.

A true student-centric experience can only be delivered if institutions remember to build with student-centric solutions and engage partners who have the capacity and capability to support the vision of the institution.

Find out more information about how Ellucian can elevate your student experiences today, with our world-class student management systems.

Meet the authors
Ian Armstrong
Ian Armstrong
Strategic Business Development Manager - APAC, Ellucian

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