7 key steps universities can consider to ensure successful student services transformation

Budget constraints, changing student expectations and efficiency demands are causing many higher education institutions across Australia to consider new models of operations.

And at the centre of transformation is student services. The past couple of years has many universities focusing on ways to transform their support and student service functions in order to demonstrate accountability, transparency and value in a changing market.

But transformation is no easy journey – it requires a change in culture, processes and technology. What’s more, many universities are still in the early stages of services transformation, and are grappling with how to best select the most appropriate operating model that is best suited to enable them to deliver student centric services.

With this in mind, ahead of Student Services Transformation 2017, we have compiled a list of 7 key steps any organisation should consider to ensure effective and successful student services transformation.  Read on below to learn how some of the leading universities across Australia are approaching student services design and how you learn from their experiences to date.

  1. Establish a clear vision

Before embarking on services transformation it is important to set a clear vision on what you want to achieve. For many universities, existing administrative support services can be disjointed and duplicated. Consider what type of model you can set up where information can be sourced simply, centrally and at different levels of the organisation.

University of Canterbury is achieving this by not only establishing a clear vision for transformation early on, but later supporting this vision with principals of delivery and constant evaluation and feedback from students and staff.

  1. Build and evaluate the business case

As a higher education business leader you understand that a business case draws its strength from having a compelling narrative, responding to key drivers and demonstrating significant value to the entire institute and not just one or two areas of the university.

When building an effective business case for services transformation, you need to be able to define the “as is” environment and the future “to be” to showcase clear objectives to what you want to achieve.

For Monash University, building the case for change through effective stakeholder engagement throughout their Scheduling Services Improvement Initiative has been central to driving enhanced student experience, cost efficiencies and optimised resource utilisation.

  1. Keep the student as the centerpiece of your strategy

As the higher education sector continues to adapt and transform to keep up with student demands, it’s important to become more ‘customer-centric’ and design your services around the student experience.

This can stretch from teaching and learning, to digital touch points to student support services. Western Sydney University is one university who is keeping student needs and wants front of mind when designing services, by placing a big emphasis on integrating digital and new technologies in their strategy.

  1. Embrace new tech

Digital natives are demanding access to services anywhere and at anytime. In the past, University student services models have not been equipped to handle such requirements. What’s more, budget limitation, increased demands and process constraints can make it difficult to decide which direction to take.

Following in the footsteps of La Trobe University, it’s important to consider how new technologies might be able to help you deliver services more efficiently and effectively. For La Trobe, this has involved transitioning their student management function to the cloud in order to move beyond a traditional services model to one that is now equipped to handle customers of the 21st Century.

  1. Keep it simple

Even though most universities can give a long list of their student support services, it doesn’t necessarily mean all the services are actively functioning and benefiting the students effectively.

Remember to design your services in a way that makes it simple and easy for students to engage with you. A great example of this is the Australian National University’s recent transformation using the vision No Additional Resources, No Assistance for IT applications, with a key focus on moving from a reactive to a proactive service delivery model.

  1. Predictive data is your friend

With various student touch points now available throughout many universities, predictive data and effective allocation of resources can be used to transform the student experience.

While it is important to be student centric in the delivery of support services, don’t forget to be aware of the power of capturing student data and using that data as a guideline for connecting support.

Over the past 12 months Swinburne University of Technology has not only been focusing on using student insights to drive service improvements, but also to optimise resource allocation for improved return on investment.

  1. Engage stakeholders throughout the entire journey

A communication plan during a transformation project is crucial. Stakeholders involved, as well as those who will be affected by changes, need to be informed of timing and methodology throughout the entire process.

For Murdoch University, engaging stakeholders throughout the entire transformation journey has made it easier to implement changes, assess progress and evaluate outcomes. What’s more, stakeholders engaged in the process are usually more open and transparent, making it easier to seek input and collaboration from other parties.

Interested in learning more?

Join Murdoch University, Swinburne University, ANU, La Trobe, Monash and the University of Canturbury at Student Services Transformation 2017.

For more information visit http://studentservices.iqpc.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au









How ANU is digitising administrative processes to drive efficiency

Over the past two years, The Australian National University (ANU) has introduced a range of improvement initiatives designed enhance administrative services to better support teaching and research outcomes.

In 2014, ANU began their transformation journey with the roll-out of automated and standardised travel processes across the university. From there, digitalisation of processes became a core focus of their transformation project, and in 2015 Intelledox Digital Transformation Centre was established to improve efficiency and service delivery by digitising processes across functions.

“We started with a list of about 170 key end-to-end processes that were identified by our academics and our administrative communities as being high pain-point processes. Over the last 20 months we have digitised over 22 per cent of those processes,” says Lakshmi West, Director, Intelledox Digital Transformation Centre at ANU.

While the journey to date has not been without challenges, ANU is set to realise some big wins over the next couple years as a direct result of standardisation of processes and improved data quality and reporting.

“In July 2016 we had an independent audit done by a third party management audit team over a six month period to find out what the net benefits of digital transformation can be. The result is we achieve over $6.1 million of net benefit over the next seven years for the work we have done to date,” says Lakshmi.

So what strategies are Lakshmi and her team using to ensure successful process improvement throughout the university? And, more importantly, what steps are they taking to engage academics and stakeholders in the journey to ensure ROI?

Ahead of Higher Education Services Transformation 2016, Lakshmi shares how ANU built the business case for transformation, the core tools they are using to roll-out digital process improvements function by function and the key lessons other universities can learn from their journey to date.

Proof of concept: justifying the case for transformation

“ANU’s transformation journey began in 2014 when we were given a donation from two alumni who own a company called Intelledox, which provided us with software and perpetual licensing that allows data integration.

To prove that the technology and transformation would work at the University, in 2014 I project managed a small team of people to digitise, streamline and automate the travel approval process across the University. At the time, we had over 10 independent paper based forms and there was no standardised process.

We used Intelledox to roll-out digital transformation of travel approval and it was a major transformation –  not only  did we streamline and simplify the process, we  also standardised it. We also integrated this process within the Finance system, the HR system, DFAT, Electronic Records Management and the data warehouse.

This initial project changed practices. For example, administrators used to make travel arrangements on behalf of academics. We made the strategic decision that academics were to become responsible for their own travel, so the administrator was removed from the process.

The automated travel process was a proof of concept to demonstrate we could successfully digitally transform a process at the University. The aim was to show the academic community and the ANU at large that by accepting the donation from Intelledox, transformation would actually work in practice and not only in theory.

We have had many failed IT business transformation projects at ANU in the past. Even travel had two failed attempts before we picked it up. It was therefore important we could show digital transformation could work to gain the trust of the university community.

Based on feedback and research from administrative services surveys, travel approval was the most bureaucratic  process and a big pain point for academics. Since the project went in 2014, we have had about 30,000 travel approvals that have been initiated through this new digitally transformed process.

Off the success of that project, we created the Intelledox Digital Transformation Centre in 2015 with the aim to digitalise approximately 170 key end-to-end processes that were identified as pain-points by our academics and administrative community.

It has been a rapid journey starting the Centre. We started with travel, but we have since expanded our scope. Our approach was to transform function by function. For example, transform HR and find out as much as we could in a six to nine month block of transforming their processes and rolling-out those c hanges. The next step was then moving into the student space and making changes in a six to nine month block as well.”

Read the remaining case study here to further learn about how ANU is:

  • Rolling-out digital process improvements function by function
  • Engaging academics and end-users to ensure successful transformation
  • Learning from past mistakes to drive successful organisational-wide transformation

Download Case Study


If you found this blog post interesting, you might also like to check out the Higher Education Services Transformation Agenda here

For more information visit www.highered-servicestransformation.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

How Federation University is transforming and innovating IT to deliver digital services

As the move towards digital becomes a priority for most universities, the role and function of the IT department in enabling and supporting digital transformation has become increasingly important.

Traditionally, IT in higher education has been more of a follower, rather than a pioneer or leader. But the move to digital is disrupting this role, placing increasing emphasis on IT departments to innovate and adapt to deliver new learning outcomes.

Federation University has responded to this challenge by implementing a 100-day IT transformation plan, which involves evolving and transforming their existing IT structure and services to cater for digital.

“The 100 day IT transformation plan looks at everything from environments to architecture, people and culture, to systems and infrastructure. The aim is to become a provider of services for our institution, with is very different to traditional IT service methodology, models and approach,” says Andrew Tully, Executive Director, Information Technology & Business Solution at Federation University.

Andrew and his team are currently in the process of executing the plan, which was rolled-out in July 2014, and has a projected outcome of an 85.5 per cent transformation of the entire IT structure at Federation University.

According to Andrew, the key success factor of the transformation is going beyond technology to offer a responsive IT service.

“We’ve created a business partnership team and identified three main areas within the institution where IT can become a provider of services, including digital learning and technology, corporate and operational services and research solutions.

Through this business partnership focus we’re revising our entire service catalogue to ensure we are providing the appropriate services needed by each of the core areas or departments across the university,” he explains.

One way Andrew’s team is achieving wider-business engagement is through the establishment of monthly working groups and steering committees, to engage with business and functional owners to identify specific needs and issues.

“We are going deeper into the organisation to assess the pros and cons and understand business needs so we can service them in a more end-to-end service-centric approach,” he says.

But the journey towards IT transformation has not been without challenges. Moving towards a centralised IT structure and system has brought about a number of cultural and organisational issues.

To overcome these challenges, Andrew says there are four key areas which are fundamental to the success of IT transformation, which he shares below:

  1. Fostering a culture of change towards digital

“We’ve changed the identity of IT within our business – it’s a fresh, new start. Change, in any form, can bring with it uncertainty or resistance. So we’ve really had to focus on changing individual attitudes within our IT team.

The way I’ve done that is by using the power of personality and innovative thinking to bring my staff along the journey of digital transformation. I’ve gone back to the basics and asked: what do we do? why are we here? what are we focused on?

It’s about showing them the opportunities we have from going from a reactive IT team to a proactive team, and the steps needed to achieve this.

Another challenge we’ve faced is the fact our existing IT services model was very narrowly focused – it was a decentralised model, which resulted in different service approaches and conflicting interests across teams and departments.

Our journey towards centralising IT has involved significant engagement with all the senior leadership of the university – this involved consulting, understanding, listening and amending our plan based on feedback.

It really has come back to embracing the concept of change, in order to foster a culture of digital innovation.”

  1. Taking students along the journey

“Improving student experience and learning outcomes is one of the major drivers of digital transformation. I actually went out and met with the student council and engaged with them personally to bring them along the transformation journey.

We asked them to map out their student experience from a technology perspective. We then asked them to tell us where they encountered challenges, difficulties, frustration and also what the positive elements were. From this feedback, we pinpointed their pain points and have identified over 116 potential initiatives to improve student experience through technology.

We’ve labeled this a ’120 day plan’ (because it took us 120 days to put together), which includes initiatives that are tiny micro-initiatives which can remediate a problem within a day, and then other significant initiatives which will take 3 – 6 months to solve.

We’ve broken down each of these initiatives based on criteria such as; are we going to make an investment to fix this, grow our student base, to retain our student base, to save on costs, to optimise or mitigate institutional risk?

Based on those criteria we have then prioritised 116 pieces of work and are looking at addressing the areas which have the maximum benefits for as little effort as possible. We’re then going back to the business and saying ‘you require investments to transform the experience and these are the initiatives we are going to drive to achieve this.’

It’s about saying to the business: please support us to kick off these initiatives on the understanding that we have a new organisational structure for IT that is adaptive and no longer reactive, but proactive.”

To read the other two steps Andrew and his team are taking as part of their digital transformation strategy, download the full eBook Higher Education Digital Transformation Roadmap; Trends Challenges and Opportunities in 2015.

The eBook also features case studies from the University of Melbourne, Curtin University and Monash University, and the strategies each are using to integrate digital throughout their IT and business models.

The core elements of Monash University’s Digital Transformation Strategy

The emergence of the new tech-savvy student has changed the game for the higher education sector in Australia. The rise of mobile, online and personal devices has shifted student learning expectations, who now expect anytime, anywhere customised learning supported by new tech.

With digital disruption here to stay, universities must adapt and innovate or risk rapid loss of market share. And while most universities recognise moving towards a digital approach is the way forward, it also brings with it significant IT and organisational challenges.

Ahead of Higher Education Digital Transformation 2015, Richard Palmer, Director of ICT Coordination at Monash University explores the the fundamental elements of Monash’s  approach to digital transformation, and how they are positioning and integrating IT into their wider business in order to improve productivity and learning outcomes.

Below is an extract from the article. To read the full article Three core elements of Monash University’s digital transformation strategy click here


As students increasingly turn to new channels such as Facebook, Twitter or other online platforms to communicate and seek information, it seems like logical for universities to integrate these platforms into their wider IT strategy.

But Richard says it’s actually quite dangerous to think about things like Facebook as belonging to the university’s IT strategy, as they are part of the students’ world, not the university’s. Even marketing needs to respect social media as common ground, rather than a university-owned medium, like the website.

Another core challenge for IT is to provide the right platforms to support multi-device learning across the university.

“Our students often bring three or four devices onto campus and the predominance of them are small format – a tablet, a phone and a notebook is  common for students these days. So making sure that everything that we put online is able to seamlessly work across all formats is important,” he says.

Despite the rapid up-take of personal devices amongst students, Monash has leveraged existing technology to reach students on these new platforms, rather than integrate new technology simply for the sake of it.

“We’ve generally avoided iOS and Android apps and stayed with pure HTML5 wherever we can as a basic strategy. While we’ve got a few specifically targeted apps, our platform independent strategy is playing out pretty well. We’re already seeing a change in the most predominant smartphone platform and expect the churn to continue,” Richard explains.

And this ‘less is more’ approach has had big benefits when it comes to cloud integration.

“Integration between systems is critical.  We’re finding that the tools we use for in-house integration aren’t always the right ones for integrating with the cloud, so we’re moving to a much lighter weight and more tactical approach to integration,” Richard says.

Taking on cloud services has posed other challenges.

“We now have a lot more vendors that are critical to our daily operations, not just third level support of systems and infrastructure. We have put a lot of focus on maturing our vendor management processes.

In the last twelve months we have taken two major steps, last year we extended our IT Service Management (ITIL) processes to include vendors at the contractual and operating process level. We’ve had to move away from the IT team knowing every intricate detail of what’s going on and trust our vendors to deliver their part of the overall picture.

Currently we’re working on a Master Service Integration layer to help orchestrate and manage everything. We simply didn’t have enough operational visibility of what was happening across our own space plus our vendors and, because of this, we were less able to take advantage of a key benefit of the cloud – the ability to move workload to the best price-performance location at will,” Richard says.

Read further how Monash is revising all student interaction and directly aligning IT to the overall business model in the full article here

Richard Palmer is presenting at Higher Education Digital Transformation 2015. For more information call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au