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Episode 23

transformed: Digital Transformation and Measuring Digital Success

Higher Digital has just published the next installment of its new audio interview feature, transformed. Every other week we interview experts on higher education, digital transformation, and the challenges and promises represented by both.

In this episode, Joe Gottlieb invites Wayne Bovier, co-founder and CEO of Higher Digital, to discuss digital transformation, address its many misconceptions, and explain how it can help generate value for higher ed institutions. Throughout their conversation, Joe and Wayne leverage a recent McKinsey article, “How do you measure success in digital? Five metrics for CEOs.”

Joe Gottlieb: (00:02)

Hello and welcome to transformed, a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats, and the new hows in higher ed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, President of Higher Digital, and today I am once again joined by Wayne Bovier co-founder and CEO of Higher Digital. Wayne, welcome to transformed


Wayne Bovier: (00:53)

Thanks, Joe and happy 2022. 


Joe Gottlieb: (00:56)

Yes. Happy new year to you. This is the first one we’ve done in the new year. It’s been a little bit of a slow start, but we’ll pick it up. So in this episode, if you’re game, I’d like to provide our listeners an update on digital transformation practices in higher ed, and I thought we could to catalyze our discussion, I thought we could leverage this great article that we were recently saw by McKinsey about five ways CEOs can measure digital success, right. Very much focused on digital transformation, but there’s some great metrics in there that they’ve identified. I thought we could take that article and really tear it apart as we apply it to the context of higher ed. How does that sound to you? 


Wayne Bovier: (01:40)

Yeah, I love it. I think it sounds good. And, you know, McKinsey’s been on a roll with all these digital transformation articles over the last couple years. But Joe, before we dive in, you know, I’d like to remind the listeners a little bit about what they should be thinking about regarding digital transformation and the value around that in the first place, because I think that context will really kind of shape the conversation that we have today. 


Joe Gottlieb: (02:08)

Awesome. Do it. 


Wayne Bovier: (02:09)

So if you’re good with that, so let me just highlight a couple key things that I think are really critical. You know, the first is the point of a digital transformation is not just to become digital, right. You know, you and I, this is something we’ve been talking about. We’ve been dealing with for quite a while. It is not about moving from paper to digital, right? That is part of digital transformation, but it isn’t just to become digital. It’s really about generating value for the business. And the other way I would look at it is just because of my orientation is it’s really generating value for your end users, right? We’re, you know, delivering higher quality education for faster, cheaper, right, as an example. And another point that I’d like to stress is that, you know, successful transformations start with a CEO. It’s gotta start with the top leadership and, you know, because they’re the only ones that really can reimagine their business in a digital age. 


Wayne Bovier: (03:11)

Right. And if you need to generate new value, you really need your leaders to get their head wrapped around how to reimagine that business. Right. So, you know, just to kind of add a, just a couple more points to this really quickly, digital is not a destination as a highlighted, it’s a permanent state of operating, right? This is continuous, you know, you and I have talked about digital transformation for us and what we’re doing is about a life cycle. You know, product mindset is something that has a beginning and an end, but has multiple iterations in between. Right? So that’s an important part about it. And that leadership really is in particular, the CIO or the CEO and the president need to be the digital guardians of their transformations. And that’s really where a lot of this thing starts to kind of fall down. When we see real problems in institutions, it’s really about, you know, trying to outsource that responsibility from leadership, or insource it to somebody that is a little bit more junior. 


Joe Gottlieb: (04:24)

Wow. You know, I’m glad you’ve helped frame this whole thing that way. Wayne, there’s a reason we love talking about this big, big topic at the highest level because it’s often nuanced and it’s often misinterpreted. And I think there’s a lot of energy that goes into this whole domain, because there’s a lot of money to be made in this whole domain, there’s a lot of dollars chasing the market in digital transformation. And so you see so many value propositions, you see so many claims, there’s so much, there’s so much persuasiveness that is harnessed around these themes because there’s a lot at stake, you know, it’s major markets, right? And so I wanna add to the way you’ve helped frame that a little bit. I see it three ways. We use the term digital age as shorthand to remind everyone that the world has changed, that we really are in a digital age. 


Joe Gottlieb: (05:22)

And so what that means for us is wow, everything is going to benefit from digital to the extent it can. And if you’re not benefiting from digital where you could be or should be, then you’re missing an opportunity now, digital transformation and all the money, all the spend that’s going into it. I’ve always seen it as a bit of a market trigger, right? What’s going on is there’s a lot of change happening. And in every sector, the leaders of those sectors are changing, are taking advantage of digital transformation as a disruptive force that allows markets to be reinvented businesses, to be reimagined, as you said, and if you’re not doing that, chances are your competitor is gonna get there first. Okay. So that’s 0.2 0.2 digital transformation, really a disruptive force. And if you’re not on the balls of your feet participating, there’s a good chance you’re gonna be left behind or find yourself trying to play catch. 


Joe Gottlieb: (06:27)

Then the third point is this will never stop moving, right? It’s not a one and done event. You’re gonna have to build muscle tissue and recurring process and capability to be in this cycle forever more because we are in the digital age, who knows there may be another age that follows it, but this age is going to be super active in everything. We are gonna be that everything we do is going to be trans by this. So we might as well get into the mode of continuous agile transformation. So that would be the fourth point. I’d add, don’t be overwhelmed by the term transformation transformation is meant to indicate this is important. This will turn you into something that’s just substantially better. If you take the opportunity to reimagine what’s possible, but be on it in a way that allows you to make progress, even if it’s baby steps at first so that you can actually insanely and in a sustainable way drive this value. 


Wayne Bovier: (07:32)

Yeah, I think, I think you captured that correctly and there’s, you know, a couple things kind of quickly came to mind, as you were talking, I was just jotting it down, you know, first is change is, you know, learning how to change is a competitive advantage, right? And the world that in the, in, in this, you know, you call it the fourth industrial revolution that we’re in., it is change being good at change, right. Which ultimately leads to the next point that sparked, based upon what you just said, is that this is a journey and that you can’t, you know, and it’s a journey with a lot of unknowns that you might have to take a right here or a left here as you’re going on the journey. And the most important part is to do it. Right. And to learn and to embrace learning that don’t, you know, don’t be paralyzed., as you’re worried about the word transformation, it sounds big. It sounds complicated. You know, that’s where the agile mindset comes into play. Right. You wanna take small steps, you know, you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna drive from New York to CA in a day. Right. You’re gonna go multiple days. Right. You’re gonna go maybe do some, offroading or whatever. Right. You know, so yeah. I think you, you nailed that exactly. Right. 


Joe Gottlieb: (08:52)

Well, as we transition then into using this article as a frame, I love that comment about journey. So I’m gonna steal the transition mic here for one more ad, because we, we do this to each other, but the journey is, you know, be preparing your mindset to enjoy the journey I think is really important because, you’re not gonna get, you’re not gonna drive cross country in a day. You gotta gear up for a cross country trip if you’re gonna make it right. And if you say, you know what, I’m gonna, I’m gonna try to not be in a hurry and I’m gonna try to enjoy the journey itself and not see it as a chore and not sweat over whether I’m gonna be on time. So much more happens on that journey that’s beneficial. And I think that’s the kind of thing people have to get their minds wrapped around. 


Joe Gottlieb: (09:39)

And even if they have urgent deadlines, pushing them to milestones, that’s reality, that’s gonna happen. But if they get a mindset that allows ’em to say, you know what, we’re gonna make some mistakes, but we’re gonna learn. And we’re gonna allow ourselves to enjoy the journey and not just obsess over the outcomes. I think that helps. All right. So five metrics for the digital CEO ways to measure digital value, digital success, they are that according to McKinsey and this latest article, which I, I really like, and I know you do too. First one is return on, on digital investments. Second one is the percentage of annual technology budget spent on bold digital initiatives. Third time to market digital apps. Fourth percentage of leaders, incentives linked to digital and then fifth, top technical talent at promoted and retained. Now I’ll tell you my, when I first read this article, my reaction to these was initially I was feeling like, wow, this is very specific. 


Joe Gottlieb: (10:49)

It gets right to the heart of some pretty serious things to sign up for. And my, my, my overall sense was someone that someone might feel a little bit like this is not them. This is maybe leaning in too far for their comfort level. I actually felt even, I consider myself a, a change activist, but I felt that pull right. That tug, that felt a little bit like this was really ambitious. Did you feel that way at all? Or how, what was your reaction? 


Wayne Bovier: (11:20)

Yeah, no. Well, my initial reaction was of excitement. Anytime you read something where, you know, it may be not, you know, as widely understood or something, but somebody, essentially captures what’s in your head. That to me, you know, so personally I was like, awesome, this is fantastic. We need more voices beyond just us and McKinsey kind of, you know, talking about these things. The others react. The second reaction that I had is like, okay, this is good. This actually starts to put this in context.. You know, give some specific examples on what CEOs should do. There is no doubt that there’s a certain percentage of the audience that’s out there that would’ve read that and said, I’m outta here. I’m retiring. I mean, we’ve seen it. I mean, there are two examples that I, that I’ve, you know, that I’ve had over the last year, you know, won’t name any names, but, you know, there was an engagement we did where we did a benchmarking analysis as part of our (SEA)change blueprint assessment. 


Wayne Bovier: (12:34)

And, you know, it’s all anonymous and we don’t hold anyone responsible per se, but we give the overall health of the institution. We don’t really single any individual out, but one of the outputs of this was essentially what McKinzie is saying. Well, you know, the president of this institution has to step up, has to take over ownership, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, it just so happens that the profile of the, of the, of, of that president was one of very traditional academic, you know you know, you know, in the teaching and learning world, which is hugely valuable, important, but ultimately there was a realization by this president that they’re like, Hey, I didn’t sign up for this. I, I didn’t sign up to transform this institution. I signed up to be the president of a very, you know, highly respected academic institution. So ultimately that led to, you know, a multiple interesting conversations that we were not privy to a part of, but between the board and the pres and that president, and ultimately that, that president decided to resign, because again, this is not what they subscribed to the other is there was an event a couple years ago where we started talking about digital transformation, small event, I would say 150, 200 attendees DS. 


Wayne Bovier: (13:51)

We had like a little tabletop out there talking about higher digital, what we’re doing and why. And within, you know, within that one day we had six different people come up to us and say, oh, digital transformation. Woo. I’m gonna retire before I have to worry about that. Right. So there is no doubt that there’s a lot of angst around this, but I think this list is a good, a good list. Should we, so you want to dive into each one of these? 


Joe Gottlieb: (14:17)

Yeah. Let’s dive into each one. That’s the whole idea. So our goal here is to help our higher education listeners really apply this medicine or this set of recommendations in a form that, that, that, that helps them put them to work within the higher ed content text. Right. And I think part of that job as a telegraph with my initial reaction, I did also come around to the same level of excitement. I think that you had, that’s why we’re doing this topic, but but I, but I think part of what we can help our listeners with is, is some of the specific examples, like you’ve shared and also help them break things down a little bit. Right. So how, how can they make this more approachable in, in their, in their context, in higher ed? And so for that first one, you know, return on digital investments. 


Joe Gottlieb: (15:07)

One of the things that McKenzie points out in the article is just, you know, don’t just look at your specific named digital initiatives, which would be nice to have as you start to embark on this journey, but also be mindful of how you’re mapping your your digital efforts to all of your corporate objectives, right? How can you collectively support your corporate objectives overall as an institution, right? Your, your, your broad organizational goals. And so this is a kind of two different ways to look at at an audit of your, of your effect, effective commitment to, to being in the digital age, right. And, as a leader, owning that and making sure you’re not, you’re not pursuing initiatives that are out of sync with that, and not collectively leveraging that. I think that’s a really important shift for leadership mindsets. And as you said, the need to own this, what do you think? 


Wayne Bovier: (16:10)

Yeah, I know, I think I, I think that’s, that’s exactly right. You know you know, we are actively helping, you know, the, the, the, there’s such a decentralized challenge for higher education, right. And that is where really where the crux of our focus on a lot of our engagements is really helping leaders., both, you know, academic and non-academic leaders, it leaders, and, you know boards really align what they’re doing between strategy and what’s getting executed on. Right. And, and, this is, you know, this is something that we’re gonna be continuing to kind of accelerate our thinking on and and, and, and capabilities on. But, you know, one of the things that really jumps out to me on the return on digital investments that I think can happen, you know, even in a decentralized reality is is, you know, start to measure adoption. 


Wayne Bovier: (17:12)

Right? So you think about all, all the, the reasons why you’re launching a particular or replacing a system, really has to do with making things more efficient and effective. Well, you can measure that that’s adoption are people actually using using this. And, you know, if, if you don’t, if you can entertain this, let me go on a little tangent here for a second. That just, that just occurred to me, you know, the return part and the return challenge of institutions is, is really limited by this project mindset, right? This project mindset limits the return measurement, right? Because if you’re, if you deal with these software implementations in a project mindset, what I mean by that is there’s always a beginning and an end, and it usually is measured in months, maybe weeks. Right? And so the reality is most of these systems last potentially decades, right? 


Wayne Bovier: (18:11)

And there’s a long tail on this. And so really measuring the return or measuring the ongoing return, the adoption are, are we, are we accomplishing are we accomplishing what we need to in, in all the years that it’s in production? The flip side of it is also true, right? Which is, you know, the return on digital investments. Some at some point, these digital investments actually actually have a net negative return and they should be end of life. Right. And most institutions we work with really don’t have a way to deal with the end of lifting a particular product. And, and so that’s another part of this equation. So, you know, bringing this back to the CEO, you know, or the president or the board, you know, they really need to be active in measuring the adoption, promoting it and measuring it as, as, you know, as, as time goes on, like this should be a consistent monthly dashboard, benchmark that they see. 


Joe Gottlieb: (19:15)

Yeah. I think that’s a great thing to single out. And, and so this is the part of IT projects or technology projects, which are so often left out, right? We, we have a, we have a project mindset, we have a build it and ship it mindset versus a, a mindset to make sure that we’re not done until we have satisfied customers achieving business value and helping us to evolve the system to, to deliver more business value and that so different than, okay, we finally, we got some code finished, we’re gonna ship it. We’re not gonna pay attention to adoption. We’re gonna move on to the next project. Because we’re so overwhelmed by all our projects. And we’re just gonna keep shipbuilding and shipping. And that’s the way we’re gonna measure our capability. That’s just, it’s, it’s busted. Right. And what you wind up with is yes, you ship a lot of stuff perhaps, but you wind up having this accumulative, this cumulation in your portfolio of stuff, that’s not being used or it’s being used begrudgingly and, and it’s not delivering the right results. 


Joe Gottlieb: (20:21)

And there’s lots of work arounds, right. And on and on. And so if you measure adoption, when you get it right, you’ll reinforce behaviors that led to getting it right when you get it wrong. And you’re committed to continuing to measure adoption, you’ll make adjustments. And then if you stay agile, right, you’ll be able to do it, do this in a more iterative fashion. And then what all that’s gonna translate to is every system you deliver in that fashion, you’re gonna get not only better ROI overall, you’re gonna have a longer lifetime of positive ROI. And you’re gonna know, as you alluded to earlier, Wayne, when your incremental annual return on investment on a system is no longer positive. And that’s the, and when you’re getting close to that threshold of going negative, you can see it cuz you’re measuring. If you’re doing good measurement and you’ll know, you’ll have a retirement roadmap, which things are we gonna take out and are we already planning the replacement system with our stakeholders, that we’re gonna be very careful about curating adoption for, right. So this is a, it’s a big thing to commit to, but it’s what you would normally do if you’re doing things right. If you, if you took technology out of this and you thought the way, the way you approach a new course program, how are we gonna get this right? Are we measuring our success? Are we, are we doing it right? You’re gonna make those commitments, right? 


Wayne Bovier: (21:41)

Yeah. That’s exactly right. And, and, and let me just add in one, one other key point, I think adoption is all about change management, right? It is, it is. It is when, when you’re, you’re launching a new solution, right. A new system, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s an internal solution software system or an external one, right. There’s always change, navigation changes, graphics change. Right. And too often these, a lot of these projects that that fail really, really has to center around the fact that not enough money and time was spent on understanding the necessary change, the human change that needs to happen and allocate enough training resources, time to give people that to be able to say, okay, I’m now I’m comfortable with this. Without that inertia is gonna pull you back, Hey, I’m comfortable doing this. It can’t be hard for people to imagine, Hey, something that takes me a week now can actually take me an hour. Yes. So, 


Joe Gottlieb: (22:57)

So usability testing, measuring the training required, actually measuring, okay, how hard is it to train a user on this? Right. If it’s really hard, then design prep isn’t great. You wanna improve the design, but staying in that flow and paying attention and, and continuously improving is really key. All right, let’s move on to the second one. The second one of course is the percentage of annual technology budget spent on bold techno, bold digital initiatives. So I just see this one coming, right. This is a, you know, what Mo how much money are we spending now? This is a, this is not just Mon how much money we’re spending on technology, which I know you and I can talk about some of the, the pros and cons of fixating on that. But this is what part of your technology budget is spent on bold digital initiatives. And I’ll contrast that with versus just supporting your legacy systems, just, you know, keeping the lights on, right. The stuff that everyone has to come to expect, this is net new digital value. This is net new business value, right. Bold digital initiatives. So that’s a, a, it’s an interesting metric, don’t you think? 


Wayne Bovier: (24:06)

Yeah, absolutely., you know, the we, we, we’re very deeply involved in, in a lot of these budgets you know, debates about what it should be. And obviously there’s a, a range of unhealthy, you know, you, there is such a thing as you, you, you spend too low you’re, you’re really you know, incurring a lot of technical debt., if you spend too much you get really pretty sloppy., and yeah, actually that also incurs a lot of technical debt. And so there’s a, there’s a generally healthy medium, but money doesn’t mean everything. Right., but, but you know, this, this idea, and we talked about in order to spend money on a bold digital initiative, you really have to take leadership, go back to leadership and, and re-imagining your business. Hmm. Right. You know, in today’s world you know, higher education is totally being disrupted. 


Wayne Bovier: (25:05)

Just like every industry, you know, some industry’s a little bit farther along like retail., you know, I remember back in the day, it wasn’t that long ago when people were like, well, no, one’s gonna buy a clothing online. They want to go into the store and feel it and try it on. Well, that’s not true. Right., and so education’s gonna go through the same thing. So understanding how to really, truly reimagine your business and then be bold, and then be bold in not just a project, but be bold in not only what you invest in, but also how you learn what changes you need to make understand that this is not, you know, the, the end, the end of life of this is could be years out, right. So what are you gonna do in between? How are you gonna manage it? How are you gonna support it? How’s it gonna change? How are you gonna learn as you go through this? Right. So I think it’s an important one that ties closely to the first point. 


Joe Gottlieb: (26:03)

Yeah. I think that we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t allow a pride to qualify for bold if it were kind of just a very technology centric leap, right. Without any attachment to value. And frankly, a lot of stakeholders that had something is in their domain to really gain from this. Right. So if you’re not advancing the student experience in a bold way, if you’re not figuring out how to help your, you know, your A and R department really cope with all the, the, the, the volume of transactions that they’re dealing with every day and the complexity of those transactions, right? Your different terms and your registration periods and all the, all the different, you know, student programs and how they’re, how they’re coping with the scheduling exercises, right? Like I, if you’re not taking this thing way forward, that’s what we mean by bold. Right. And so I think what’s good about this metric is it really is forcing an organization to think what portion of our technology is strategic, not just maintenance and tactical, right. That’s, what’s what bold is gonna be about. And you’re right. It’s about leadership. It’s about stakeholder involvement. That’s, what’s gonna qualify. And, and 


Wayne Bovier: (27:18)

A lot of times what we’re, what I’m seeing is that this does really require a special surge of investment. Right., because of what you just said, that, you know, there is some special case that it’s, it’s hard to go through your traditional budgeting decision making process and have a bold initiative be part of that, right. That there, it needs to be really dealt with as a special pro over time. And so that’s, you know, the boards tend to get involved. There’s special funding that goes, you know, that that institutions may need to go through as part of all that. 


Joe Gottlieb: (27:53)

And that reminds me, and another thing in the article that we, we, we often agree with, I know, and that is start with a, a domain that is going to work is gonna fit, right. So don’t just try to do this across the board with everything all at once., you’ll fail at that because this is hard. This is new. You can’t reimagine your entire business, right? And make progress. It just, it’s just not gonna work. So find a domain to start with and get started with the good portion of that domain, select that domain based upon perhaps, you know, you wanna stack the debt for success. Do we have a, we have an area that is probably more needy or more receptive to change or both, right. Or has some budget flexibility this time around, or there’s a lot of different criteria here, but sort of stack the deck for success and start an area where you think you can get some things rolling and it’s gonna have a nice business value impact. 


Joe Gottlieb: (28:51)

Right. And then on the basis of that success, a few things happen, right? Not only will you develop some muscle tissue that you can reapply to other domains, you will start to generate some peer pressure . And so the domains that don’t get it to go first, maybe they were relieved at first, but ultimately as your institution is transformed, they’re gonna feel left out. They’re gonna wanna be part of the action. They’re gonna want some of that juice flowing their way. Right. And that’s that once that starts to happen, you know, you’ve got some good rhythm and some success going, or that to me, is leadership in the digital age, 


Wayne Bovier: (29:28)

Spoken like a true parent of three, three boys. So that that uses peer pressure to, to get, you know, to get, get them, to do what you want. I love it. 


Joe Gottlieb: (29:38)

Everything I’ve accomplished as a parent probably involves some peer pressure. either at me, at me or on them. So, all right. That brings us to the next one, time to market digital apps. This one I think is laser focused on a typical pain point, right? How quickly can we get an app, the new form factor of digital value out the door? Oh, this one’s ripe with with work, man, what do you think? I, 


Wayne Bovier: (30:05)

I, I love, I love this one, you know, because this is, you know, this is all, I think this is almost on, you know, time to market, get it out quickly is on almost every list out there. Right. And and you know what this means for me, right. Can imagine that, when people read it, at least read the headline, there’s a lot of different interpretations for that, because, you know, that’s one of the biggest challenges that, you know, in higher education today that it faces is like, oh, we can’t get that. We can’t get the project done. It takes too long, it’s over budget too much time. And it really comes down to how you are, your methodology of how you work. Right. And to me, this really encapsulates an agile mindset and and really embracing, kind of something that higher ed is, is generally not good at right. 


Wayne Bovier: (30:59)

They’re great at teaching, they’re terrible at learning. And this is really about learning, right? Get something that’s minimal, right. That we know will satisfy the basic core, needs, whatever problem we’re trying to solve and get it out there in a format that we know makes sense for the end user and then engage with the end user to see, oh, that button makes sense. Did that feature make sense? What’s missing. And ultimately it turns into a cycle then of a back and forth where you’re iterating and inherently what will happen, cause we’ve seen it time and time and time again is that you will get faster and faster and faster. And you know, the execution of, of, of, you know, the technical execution of, of of these apps, getting these apps that that’s not really the hard part that action can get done pretty quickly. It’s all the decision making, the prioritization, the communication you know, the understanding, all of those things are really what, what slows an organization down from getting, getting applications to the market and then learning quickly from it. 


Joe Gottlieb: (32:11)

Yeah. I like that point of emphasis, right? It’s get out of your own way to get started and start iterating with features that are coming through these digital apps. And just like we talked about adoption, right? Where I think a lot of our comments there, our examples were more sort of back office, a little less front office, but in this case, these apps it really is your, your gateway to the student and their ability to become more effective as students in your institution’s complete student experience. Now, one of the things that is often a challenging factor in time to market for apps and, and the need to be ITER is where do you start and how do you, how do you get enough capability in your, in your MVP, your minimum viable product to compel an adoption event, will this, will my customer download this app and use it right now? 


Joe Gottlieb: (33:15)

It turns out that in higher ed, we’ve got a bit of a captive customer audience here, right? So we can afford to make this the way that the student does X or Y as part of their one aspect or another, the student experience an example would be if they need to provide evidence of prerequisite for something that hasn’t been in their record and they’re they’re, or maybe they’re appealing a prerequisite challenge. Let’s just say you could direct people to a webpage students to the webpage, and you could say, Hey, you can do this on, on the app. Or you can do this on this brand new app, which we embedded just for this purpose to get you started. They’re like, oh, really? What are they thinking? But okay, if I have to choose between the two, I’m gonna use the app well, before you know it, you’ve got adoption. And on the basis of that, and a little bit of adoption, you can start to expand your platform and start delivering other features. I used a pretty, maybe even silly, very laser shot for example, but the point is this, you can lean on your captive customer, I E your student audience a little bit to get started. And then from, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re learning from what they give you and, and you’re, and you’re reflecting on that experience and delivering features iteratively, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get rhythm. You’re gonna get momentum. 


Wayne Bovier: (34:31)

Yeah. And, and, and there’s a point of a clarification, and it just occurred to me as, as you were speaking, you’re exactly right on that, you know, for the listeners out there that are, you know, in traditional higher education institutions, you know, it may sound like we’re talking about custom software, but it, it very much applies to off the shelf software that you would license and you would go through the same mechanisms of what we’re just talking about. So it’s not, Hey, we don’t do any IT software development. We really rely on our software vendors to do that. This still applies, you know, a lot of these software packages have lots of features and they happen., they get delivered over time. You don’t need it to use all of them all at once., and, and in many cases, if you try to use ’em all at once, that will, you know, lengthen your implementation time, so on and so forth. So when we talk about B AP when we talk about this stuff, it also applies to even if you have like one person in your IT department it applies to off the shelf commercial software packages that you wanna release into your, into your, your organization. 


Joe Gottlieb: (35:38)

Great clarification. In fact, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll double down on that. That should be the primary mode of delivery. Right? And so let me use terms that help reinforce that, right? So literally the best practice that I’ve observed is you’re buying system X from vendor Y and let’s say they have a hundred units of value in the feature set of that offering. And you focus on 10 of them that you’re gonna configure as your first rollout, working with that vendor to make sure that you understand how to do that configuration, thinking about your student context for how they’re gonna experience this feature, maybe connecting it, other systems that you have that are gonna be pertinent to that system, as you deploy it, that might have, you know, data links or the like, you know, just, just doing that all package based, all configuration oriented, that’s the best practice. But even then, like you said, it is the process of prioritizing. It is the process of figuring out from the people that are stakeholders serving these students, what is gonna be valuable to the student to make their experience better? What is gonna save us some of the manual effort we’re tracking down in the back office behind this and supporting the student, et cetera, that, 


Wayne Bovier: (36:47)

That’s right. And as a specific example, and a good segue into the next bullet, right, is, you know, specifically thinking about an E R P right. Typically, and this is something that we working really hard with, you know, most of the E R P vendors, as well as the institutions that are adopting this stuff is instead of doing HR, finance, and student all at once, all at the same time, you know, including financial aid and stuff, break it out, right. Start with the easiest, you know, department that is more willing to take a chance. Right., and and, and, and, and break, break out a, a major system into subsystems and launch the subsystems and learn, learn from that, which ultimately goes into the, if you don’t mind, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll highlight the fourth point which percentage, McKinzie highlights the, you, you should give a percentage of the leaders incentives linked to the digital outcomes. 


Wayne Bovier: (37:47)

So I, I, so I’m gonna, I’m gonna, highlight something that was relatively newsworthy in the last day or two. It came out that Ohio state has pulled the plug on its SSIS implementation and the, you know, the experts in the article, you know, estimate that this is gonna cost tens of millions of dollars, by the way, for the record. I think it’s, they’re underestimating it because there’s a long tail to this and a, and, you know, opportunity, that they can’t, it’s almost impossible to measure. And so when you think about breaking a big E R P implementation into segments that you incentivize cross coordination behavior and outcomes too often, if you only worry about your silo, you’re not really care about the success of another department. And so, you know, this is one of these areas that, you know, incentives drive behavior. So be very careful what you’re incentivizing and really understand the consequences of unintended consequences that may come about. But, you know, really linking the big, you know, really linking kind of the incentives for your leaders. My guess is Ohio state. No one, no one there, other than maybe having an image problem didn’t really suffer any financial will impact in terms of their salary or lack of bonus because of this failure, 


Joe Gottlieb: (39:20)

Or it could be maybe, you know, scapegoated onto it because they hadn’t gone to the trouble of getting leadership, accountability lined up as a good practice at the beginning of the project. But even, you know, I would add that this gets back to the first point, right? When you measure return on digital investments, we talked about making sure that your digital investments are supporting your strategic objectives as an institution, things in your strategic plan, right? Making sure there’s alignment there. Similarly, making sure that your incentive plans are linked, but you bring up a great nuance that you’ll also wanna solve for. And that is if you roll out a SIS student information system, which is, you know, it’s, it’s is the higher ed version of E R P enterprise resource planning system. These terms are often used interchangeably, just to be clear, right? If you, if you wisely implement that sort of new system in part, by going, let’s say one domain at a time, the implication is that you’ll be still relying upon your existing systems for those other parts that you don’t do initially. 


Joe Gottlieb: (40:27)

And that implies a period of coexistence where you are, you have to cross integre with those existing systems and you have to migrate, as you bring on new systems, you migrate the integrations that existed with the old systems. You have to bring that forward. So it is trading one bit of complexity and project risk for another, but in our experience, getting the new system right, by focusing on it and, and giving it the time it needs to do it right, is the wise choice in practice. Because managing integrations with other systems while it does require expertise, it is accomplishable and reasonably straightforward, right? With the right discipline. You can do an effective job of that, and you can manage this coexistence period. And therefore you can give yourself the room in, in terms of the way that you’re going about this to get the new stuff, right. Cuz that’s gonna pay off huge dividends cuz you love that system. It’s gonna continuously evolve. If you do it really, really well, it’s gonna always be changing continuously as you go through and improve it, but it’s gonna have, it could have a good 10 years of life, maybe 20, right? If you do it right. And it’s just a continuously evolving system, if you rush and do it wrong or do too many things at once, you’re gonna leave behind a riddle system, which you’ll be replacing begrudgingly with at great costs in two to five years. 


Wayne Bovier: (41:59)

Yeah. That’s exactly right. Exactly. 


Joe Gottlieb: (42:01)

Right. So that brings us to the fifth one and that is top technical talent attracted, promoted and retained. And the key term here is technical, right? And so this takes something that’s already elusive for all businesses. i.e. doing a proactive job of managing their human capital, their talent, both in terms of who they attract, how they develop them, how they keep them happy, et cetera. So we all know that’s so important. It’s one of the things that most businesses struggle to do. It’s just so strategic and requires so much forward thinking and investment. We often don’t allow ourselves the time to do it right, given all the urgencies that we’re overwhelmed by. But in this case, it’s not only doing that, but doing it in the technical domain, which for many organizations is gonna be different and that’s not just hiring coders, that’s hiring executives or developing executives that can be effective in the digital age. So this one, you know, this, 


Wayne Bovier: (43:02)

And I think, I think, you know, you highlight a really good point. I’m gonna double emphasize that this isn’t just somebody that codes, this is not just a manager in it. This is across your your organization. And so, you know, some of the things that pop to mind first and foremost in higher education, you know, they have a natural advantage in terms of top, you know, attracting top technical talent. Why cuz they could, they’re in theory, graduating . So, you know which ultimately leads into couple, couple really important points. That again, the experiences that we’re seeing in the market today, you know, first of all, a, you know, embracing truly an agile mindset is really important. And here’s the reason why agile and, and agile mindset when it really, when you, when you embrace it properly, it really pushes down because you’re clear at a strategic level and your prioritization are clear. 


Wayne Bovier: (44:03)

You push down authority and responsibility down to, down to the lowest level. And you know, most organizations, at least a lot of the articles that I read, the healthiest organizations are ones that empower their employees. You, they give them the right tools and training and guardrails but then empower them to make decisions., and they tend to be, they tend to outperform significantly outperform their, their, their, you know, their peers. And so really, you know putting in place a, a, a, a, essentially an operating model, like a, like a scaled agile, like for us, it’s sea change, right. That really does produce the, that maintains and keeps and attracts the top talent. The other is, I would say, that higher education institutions need to get closer to business and the industry, and in particular, what I mean by that, right? Because there’s a lot of innovation, a lot of innovation that is happening in higher ed, but a lot more innovation is happening outside of higher education. 


Wayne Bovier: (45:08)

So if, you know, if you, as an institu are, are, are more closely aligned to graduates that are leading other companies and other industries, right there, there’s a lot of natural learning, and sharing that, that occurs. And another mechanism that could be really beneficial on all sides. And this is something that we’re actively working with an institu is establishing kind of a student intern partnership program where there, you know, because there’s so much work that needs to be done in it, departments are broadened, to broaden this out to more students. If you don’t have any, you should start it, but get some students working on some of the up projects that, that are really important. And these projects should have a line of sight from the software companies. And in addition, you know, these interns could be as part of the additional benefit of being an IT intern at an institution is, you know, maybe the institution should pursue a partnership with, alumni institutions, alumni companies. 


Wayne Bovier: (46:17)

Um, so Higher Digital, Hey, you know, Dickinson, I would love to, you know, I’d love to bring on an intern. I’m an alum of Dickinson or UNC Chapel hill. You know, I would love to Hire Digital, to have a partnership with Dickinson and UNC Chapel hill, where every summer we take on a couple interns, we get them focused on stuff, but that relationship is gonna be mutually beneficial and be more free flowing of experiences back and forth. That is only just gonna be the, you know, only at the betterment of the institution, the student, as well as the actual company. 


Joe Gottlieb: (46:55)

Yeah. And the flow of students in those kinds of programs, again, need not be limited to traditional IT domains. These could be business analysts, data analysts, process specialists, you know, customer success facilitators or specialists, right? There’s so many aspects of effective digital transformation that aren’t coding, right? That, that, that, that goes into this cross-functional effect of being successful in the digital age. And therefore there are a broad set of opportunities for students that are pursuing different degree programs to get involved and to, and to tap into that synergy. All right, let’s bring this thing to a close. So Wayne for our listeners we’ve covered five ways to measure digital success as articulated by McKinsey broadly for all businesses. We’ve brought it into a higher digital context, but if we are gonna say a few themes for our listeners, what would those themes be that you’d wanna leave them with? 


Wayne Bovier: (47:53)

Well, I think, the three that come to mind for me, you know, leadership has to take more direct responsibility for the O and I’m not talking about micromanaging, but they need to really take a, a true leadership role that, and any transformation does require the CEO and president to, to, you know, really keep the hands on the, on the wheel that, you know, we have seen way too often where the leadership is disengaged and this, it results in way too often of, of, of failures., the second is, is adoption, right, is really focus on on adoption as a key key performance me indicator., you know, when you’re launching a new system or Mo migrating to the cloud or whatever it might be, you know, you’re rep you’re replacing some processes and those processes can be measured by, you know, the, whether, or it’s a, you know, prospects, student engagement or an internal staff member. 


Wayne Bovier: (48:56)

And then the last is on on what we just talked about right on the talent., I think, you know, there’s a lot of mutual be benefit benefits for for higher education to really more modern in its methodologies, its approaches and tool set when it comes to people it, you know, more technology is coming, more technology is needed and you know, organizations need to get better at digesting and managing managing this, which ultimately is a human reality. Right? So you know, so, so get the people that can develop it, you know, and and you know, the processes, this will be a self-fulfilling kind of prophecy as a, as a result.


Joe Gottlieb: (49:43)

So true, well said, Wayne, as always, thank you so much for joining me today and, and thanks to our guest for joining us as well. We wish everyone to have a great day and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.


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About The Host


As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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