The idea of “It takes a village” isn’t just an antiquated colloquialism. It’s something that can be applied to many of life’s challenges: parenting, sports, education, business. In the workplace, I consider it a hallmark of innovation and creativity.
Kuali recently hosted a webinar on the benefits of collaborating inside the Kuali Community, an active group of educators and Kuali users who offer support and problem-solving for each other. In this panel discussion, we heard from experts at the University of Waterloo, Texas State University, University of California Monterey Bay, and others on how vendor/institution collaboration can enhance student, faculty, and researcher experiences.
Here are my five takeaways from the conversation:
- Approach Collaboration with Openness
In order to achieve true collaboration, everyone needs to be on board. Collaboration requires back-and-forth discussion, a give-and-take from everyone involved.
“Yes, we have our best practices, but we may not have thought creatively as to how that might work. So we have to be flexible in how we change things to meet that as well,” said Christine Limesand, Assistant Director of Sponsored Programs at California State University, Monterey Bay.
Being open to new interpretations and additional ideas will make your collaboration efforts successful and help the end result be the best it can be.
- Coordinate internally
It’s important to make sure your internal team is on the same page. Collaboration between your institution and a vendor can get stuck quickly if there are too many ideas all at once.
“We try to work out [our processes] internally before we go to Kuali so we’re not coming at [them] with 10 different ideas, but we’re actually coming with what we think might work the best for all of us,” Christine Limesand, Assistant Director of Sponsored Programs at California State University, Monterey Bay
- Collaboration benefits faculty and students
When we are working on a problem, it’s important to keep in mind who will be affected by the outcome. While collaborating, we get a lot of different perspectives that will influence the solution. For example, when looking at ways to improve curriculum management, its important to the keep in mind the student experience is affected along with the more obvious part of administrators and faculty.
“When we talk about the student experience, one of the major [student] stressors are just getting the classes that they need,” said Liz Christianson, Director of Business Development for Kuali Build. “If we’re trying to engage in the student experience, one of the things we want to do is reduce those beginning-of-the-semester stressors like not getting into the right classes because of a curriculum mishap on the administration side.”
Understanding the big picture through collaboration with many different perspectives ensures that our solutions take into consideration every level and every interaction.
- Every Voice Matters
That brings us to my next takeaway. While some might think that technical people are the only ones necessary to interact with software vendors, this is not the case. If non-technical people will be using the software (Spoiler alert: They will), then their voice and perspective is vital to the process. The vendor will greatly benefit from seeing non-technical people using the tools and getting their feedback on what they liked and what they had trouble with.
Again, including everyone from the ground up will help make your collaboration with vendors successful and the most beneficial.
- Building momentum
While extra meetings and additional phone calls can seem like a burden, true collaboration actually builds momentum and gets you to a better, more effective solution than without it.
“A lot of software companies struggle with this. But one thing that Kuali understands is that collaboration builds momentum. It makes us faster. It makes us iterative,” said Gary Wilkerson, Design Manager at Kuali.
Because collaboration brings in different voices and a culture of flexibility and openness, the process has the ability to fill in knowledge gaps between the institution and the vendor, and even between departments on either side. When vendors can hear directly from users on how they’d like to use the software, what their struggles are, and how that benefits others is so helpful, not only for a single institution, but for the industry as a whole.
Collaboration is a wonderful way for vendor software companies to truly understand their clients’ issues, and for institutions to see the innovative possibilities open to them. Through collaborative relationships, truly great solutions can be discovered.