Creating an agile and responsive service culture for improved student experience at CQUniversity

Significant forces of change are reshaping the higher education sector across Australia. Funding limitations, the rise of digital and evolving student demands has seen student services transformation become a key way for universities to meet these challenges head on.

For Central Queensland University (CQUniversity), the transformation of their student services function has been crucial to not only improving student experience, but also driving efficiency across the organisation.

With 26 delivery sites across five states in Australia, CQUniversity’s end goal is to provide personable, flexible and effective support services for over 35,000 students.

For the past three years the university has also been focusing on how to ensure a centralised provision of services and accessible specialist support located across various campuses.

But the journey has not been without its challenges. With support service models across universities normally weighed down by hierarchy, inefficiency and a culture that resists change; CQUniversity has worked hard to create an environment that supports transformation and rolled out new platforms to engage students.

Ahead of Student Services Transformation 2017, Chris Veraa, Director of Student Experience at CQUniversity, shares insight into the steps his team has taken to establish a streamlined professional services structure that meets varying student demands across multiple campuses and the lessons learned from their transformation journey to date.

The vision: centralising student services to improve the overall student experience

“Our transformation journey began in 2014 when we began re-amalgamating the private arm of our university, merging with a formerly government-run TAFE provider and expanding the number of campuses within our existing footprint and also in other parts of the country.

There was a triple-down growth from a logistical perspective and as part of this journey it was important to ensure that our student services functions were responsive to student needs in the midst of these changes.

As part of bringing these different arms together, we had three very different cultures coming together under one umbrella: the university, the private arm of the university and the TAFE. With these three different cultures came three different approaches to student experience and ways of doing business. So the main goal during the initial stage was to unify the wider team into a streamlined and consistent function on a national basis. Our aim was to take the best out of each of the former cultures and create something new that all staff could really get behind.

During the merger, I had a very strong philosophy that the services provided to each student – whether they were a TAFE student, a university student or a research student – would be the same. To achieve this we had to do a stocktake of what services were offered across our newly amalgamated workforce and plug the gaps to ensure all staff were able to be responsive to all students.”

Rolling-out a multi-channel strategy to provide accessible and flexible services

“As part of our services transformation we employed a multi-channel strategy to ensure we could engage with students everywhere. We have campuses in five states and by the same token, about 50 per cent of our students are studying by distance or online. This means we need to be responsive at a campus level, but we also need to have centralised communication channels that students can access from anywhere around the country.

Our multi-channel strategy includes front-of-house staff at student welcome centres at each of our campuses. Students can utilise these services for enrolment or admission enquiries, or they can use those staff as a triage for other services.

Secondary to that, we also have a contact centre which operates at one of our sites but is basically a phone and email enquiry service for students in all parts of the country and even more globally.

We also have a student communications team which deals with inbound and outbound communication and engagement. This function is tailored strictly to the needs of students and ensures that students are aware of all the information they need. This team also receives enquiries via email and social media and is responsible for our student-facing social media presence as well.

In addition to the mainstream social media channels, we also have a university-specific social media channel called UCROO. We adopted this platform early on and we have found really great traction because it is only available to students and staff, so all the discussion platforms directly related to university. It also means we can replicate the on-campus experience for students who don’t study on-campus. It also provides a platform for on-campus and off-campus students to interact with each other and share useful information.

We’re also trying to continually improve how we manage enquiries and provide student services. We are exploring things like live chat where we can talk to multiple students directly. We also have a strong provision of online video conference platforms to provide student assistance to those that might not be on-campus, which seem to work well in the majority of cases.”

Bringing stakeholders together to ensure effective transformation

“During any transformation, it is important to put yourself into the shoes of your internal stakeholders and understand what is driving them. For example, for me, I am driven by improving services for students and ensuring a great customer experience. But this may not be the same driver for other stakeholders. It is good to take on their perspective and understand what they want to achieve out of a situation so you have some ammunition in terms of how you best can work together.

If you can take on the other stakeholder’s perspective and also try to give them insight into your perspective you can find middle ground and it is easy to understand how you can influence each other’s KPIs.”

Overcoming challenges along the way

“The transition to running a dual-sector university student services department, compared to a strictly higher education-focused department was a challenge. There are clear administrative differences between the TAFE sector and the higher education sector which we have had to overcome. We have also had to rapidly multi-skill staff who may have come from a strictly TAFE background or a university background.

We put all staff in the mix together and they have had to learn each other’s skill-sets quite rapidly in order to carry out the requirements of a diverse student services portfolio.

Another challenge, which is more relevant to the VET sector, is the provision of government subsidies to students. There has been a range of bureaucratic processes imposed upon providers which have made processes in some ways slower and less efficient. While there is not much we can do about these changes, we have found new ways of accommodating it to make other processes more efficient.

An ongoing challenge has also been student perception versus reality. Students come into university with expectations of what it is going to be like, which does involve expectations around customer service. Students do hold universities to the same customer services standards that they would a bank or retail outlet. They don’t necessarily understand what has to happen behind the scenes to enroll students or process ID cards etc.

It is not our job to tell them how hard it is, it is our job to ensure the process is as efficient as possible and ensure they have a relatively seamless experience. Increasingly students also understand they have a lot of choice and options when it comes to universities.  As a result, we have to understand that the way things have always occurred within universities may not be matching the expectations of the millennial consumer. We have to try and meet in the middle to ensure we are providing a level of service that is on par with the service they would receive anywhere else.”

If you’re interested in learning more, you can join Chris at the Student Services Transformation Summit taking place in 2 weeks time at the Bayview Eden in Melbourne. 

For more information Download the Brochure here or call +61 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

Download Brochure

Studentservicesss

 

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

DOWNLOAD BROCHURE

Studentservicesss

 

 

 

 

 

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

anuss

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

10 things to consider when launching shared services in higher education

At University Transformation 2015 day one, there was a lot of discussion in the room about best practice in shared services. In the final session of the day, attendees were asked to brainstorm key strategies that resonated with them when it came to planning or implementing shared services.

They were asked by conference chair Joanne Austin, Faculty General Manager Business and Law at Swinburne University: what do you have to think about when launching shared services? What are the major pain points, and, how do you overcome them?

Below is a summary of the discussion, highlighting 10 key things to consider when launching shared services in higher education:

1. Culture and people

University transformation involves moving people from different functions into a new service or team. And the reality is, there are some people who will come into a shared service and it won’t be right from them. It’s important to be clear from the very beginning to define shared services and how people can fit into it. It is equally important to give people the opportunity to move on if they don’t fit – one bad apple can spoil the barrel.

2. Avoid the ‘big bang’ approach

Transformation is not a quick-fix journey. It can seem like a reasonable option to take a ‘big bang’ approach to transformation, but change needs to be incremental and happen over time for it to be most effective. Make sure you road map what you want to achieve out of your transformation before you begin.

3. Break down silos

Transformation, in any sector, requires change. For the higher education sector, this involves moving people from different functions or faculties into on centralised service. This means it is important to look at processes and functions end-to-end. Do not change processes within departments – best practice would be to talk to people who are on the ground, listen to what your people are saying and make the change from the ground up.

4. Be agile

If a new process is not working, move on. Give it a chance, try to be innovative but be prepared to move on quickly if it fails. Listen, learn and adapt.

5. Change leadership

Without effective leadership, it is hard to determine a future view of what an shared service should be. Transformation requires a change leader who knows the vision and has the skills to move things fast, but at an incremental level. The world around us is evolving and organisations have to move quickly to keep up. If you have the right leadership, it will help with moving ahead with your shared service or vision. It will also make it easier to communicate that vision throughout the organisation.

6. Bring people along with you

Bring people along with you – talk to people, find out their ideas. Bring your people along the journey: work together with them to avoid an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. Emails or town hall meetings are not enough. Talk to people and find out what they know.

7. Measure as you go

Some of the changes getting made during transformation are done with the absence of data – which makes it hard to know: is the change for the better? Sometimes you have the feel for it, but sometimes you don’t. Where possible, collate and collect data as you go to track your progress. This will also make the second phase of your journey a lot easier. Monitor everything as you go along and shift things when they are not working.

8. Understand the business at all its different levels

Transformation requires a consideration at how the business functions at all levels. Sometimes, one function might think they do know the business at different levels and will try to impose their own ideas on how things should be run – but this will not work. You need to understand change and how the business works from a holistic business level.

9. Scalability

Consider the impact of scalability – can you scale up your shared service? Consider that as you go. Plan for the future.

10. Location

Where are you going to locate your staff? Do you locate them in a central area? Or where the client is? Be smart in your provision for shared services so internal customers can find what they need easily.

If you found this post interesting, check out SSON’s upcoming Planning and Launching for Shared Services Conference, taking place in Sydney, in February 2016.

For more information click here or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

Moving Finance up the value curve at Monash University

In 2009, Monash set out on a transformation journey to improve the delivery of financial services to the organisation with three objectives in mind:

  1. To improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of finance services
  2. Achieve operational cost savings across the organization
  3. Enhance financial governance, business intelligence, compliance and risk management.

Since embarking on their transformation journey, Monash has realised some impressive results – including a 20 per cent reduction in costs across the business and an improving internal customer satisfaction by 25 per cent.

Ahead of University Transformation 2015, Nicole Tournier, Director of Finance Strategy at Monash University shares the core strategies her team is using to improve operational efficiencies through transformation, and the key lessons learnt along the journey so far.

To learn more about Monash University’s business transformation journey, download the full case study Driving business efficiencies through finance transformation at Monash University here.

For more information about University Transformation 2015, download the brochure here or visit www.universitytransformation.com.au