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Meeting in the Middle: 2 Ways to Align Goals Before Implementation

April 12, 2018
If there’s one thing that kills morale, kills passion and kills productivity within a company [or university], it’s process.
Jeff Boss

Higher ed institutions are made up of colleges and departments, majors and minors, undergrad and graduate degrees, courses, and certificates. Ideally, those groups would communicate and coordinate together seamlessly – but we don’t live in a fairytale. At some level in a university’s hierarchy, those groups stop communicating with each other.

At a once-decentralized institution like the University of Utah, communication ended at the college level. There were 18 colleges using different processes. In the case of curriculum and catalog management, lack of communication between colleges led to misused resources and redundancy, not to mention difficulty publishing a course catalog. Enforcing policies and standardizing practices was almost impossible.

As the U of U administrators collaborated to solve their process problems, best practices naturally arose. The following 2 suggestions are just some of the enlightening tips that Lyndi Duff, Director of Curriculum Management & Technology at the University of Utah, shared with the Kuali Days audience in 2017. As you and your institution move closer to implementing new technology, use the following tips to align your goals and smooth transitions.

Analyze the Process

Before deciding what kind of technology you need, analyze the processes you are using. Without analyzing these processes now, it will be difficult to determine where you want to be in the future. At a decentralized institution, you will need to hold process meetings and answer the following questions. The answers to the questions will inform software requirements and help to simplify the RFP process and future transitions.

Which Processes Are Working Well?
First, find out which processes are functioning smoothly within each department. Those may be processes you want to keep and/or scale across departments.

Which Processes Need To Be Consolidated?
Second, look at processes you can consolidate. For example, perhaps the scholarship application form could be streamlined. Bring together the best forms with the fewest hiccups and consolidate them. Perhaps you might even find form configuration patterns from these existing forms.

Which Processes Could We Improve? And How?
Third, brainstorm ways to improve processes that don’t work. For example, perhaps none of the colleges at your institution have a great petition process. Brainstorm with a group of administrators that interact with this process. Maybe digitizing the workflow would help. Or perhaps a simple fix like adding a section for notes would suffice.

After you clarify which processes to keep and which to cut, evaluate the technology you are already using. If there are applications you want to keep, any new technology will have to integrate well with what you have.

Invite Stakeholders

An equally important part of refining workflow is inviting the right voices to the conversation. The right voices will help your institution come to the best conclusions. Lyndi Duff suggests that you invite a broad group of stakeholders to weigh in on processes. A diverse group will contribute to a smooth user adoption and transition period.

Jodi McKeeman, Business Analyst and Project Manager for the University of Washington Student Program, agrees with Duff. While implementing a SaaS product on her campus, she gathered faculty and staff from each of her school’s 3 campuses. She met with this committee monthly to get their input and ask for solutions to serious roadblocks.

"We identified individuals that would provide [an adequate] level of cross-representation and invited them to serve on an advisory committee."
- Jodi McKeeman

Two particularly important key stakeholder groups are faculty and administrators. An institution must have positive and productive faculty-administration relations to see and sustain high performance, whatever the performance indicators. Without the input of faculty, administrators could make decisions that inhibit learning and teaching.

Stakeholders to consider: Faculty, Registrar Office, IT Department, Students, Student Advisors, Local Community

Analyzing your processes will help you and your fellow administrators see which features you need in new technology. Bringing the right individuals to discuss this topic will make all the difference in the adoption and transition phase. Getting their buy-in first will smooth the rest of the process. By following these 2 tips, you can accurately refine workflow and unite administrators and faculty to propel your university forward, rather than dragging it down in morale-draining processes.

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