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Episode 24

transformed: Digital Transformation in the UK

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 welcomes Michael Agnew, Senior Vice President of the UK and Europe at Higher Digital, to discuss digital transformation and how it’s manifesting at higher ed institutions in the UK. Listen to the episode for a unique perspective on the challenges of embracing digital transformation through an international lens.

Joe Gottlieb: 0:02

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 joined by Michael Agnew, Senior Vice President of Europe for Higher Digital. Michael, welcome to transformed.

Michael Agnew: 0:52

Thanks Joe. Great to be with you today. What do you want to talk about?

Joe Gottlieb: 0:57

Glad you asked. In this episode, I’d like to provide our listeners an update on digital transformation practices and unique challenges in the UK higher education space. And to catalyze our discussion, I thought we could look at recent materials published by McKinsey , but then apply our higher ed perspective. Sound like a plan?

Michael Agnew: 1:18

Sounds good, Joe. But before we dive into the article, let’s remind our listeners how they should be thinking about DX value in the first place.

Joe Gottlieb: 1:27

Good idea.

Michael Agnew: 1:29

And the point of digital transformation isn’t to become digital, it’s to generate value for the business. And that can be things like better student experience, better performance, bigger student numbers, but those are the things that are really applicable to universities and colleges and, you know, a successful transformation starts at the top. So we really rely upon the vice chancellor and the leadership group reimagining the business and the digital age . So it’s not standing still. You’ve gotta think new for the digital age

Joe Gottlieb: 2:05

Makes so much sense, right? To me, it’s easy for people to forget. And sometimes digital transformation as a term gets so hyped, but frankly it’s a disruptive force, which is uncovering a lot of different possibilities, right? Across all vertical industries, all businesses and for sure all institutions of higher education . And it is an opportunity to now use new things, new tools, new techniques, new methods, new platforms , new ways of looking at information to really advance teaching and learning. So a fantastic opportunity. So I’m glad we’ve kind of nestled people into this context. And actually I did the same exact podcast, honestly, I’ll acknowledge to our listeners with Wayne Bove , our CEO, we were of course focused more on the US market in that podcast, but what’s gonna be great about talking about this whole topic with you, Michael, is given your involvement very actively with several institutions in the UK and abroad in Europe. And I think that’ll just put a nice new and appropriate lens on this entire topic for our listeners in the UK or those that are curious about that market. So five metrics that McKinsey called out in a recent article, five metrics for the digital CEO and this of course remembers for all industries. So they didn’t aim this particularly at higher ed – that’s our job. But they were generalizing the way that all CEOs across all industries should really step up to the challenge of measuring success with digital. And the five metrics are one, return on digital investments, two, percentage of annual technology budgets spent on bold digital initiatives, three, time to market of digital apps, four, percentage of leaders incentives linked to digital and five, top technical talent attracted, promoted, and retained. So if I run down those really quickly and characterize that, you know, you’ve got a classic ROI metric, but it’s gonna be really ROI trained on the investments being made in digital, which is a useful thing to look at. Of course , the second one is, okay within what you’re spending on technology annually, what portion of it is spent on boldly looking forward versus maybe just keeping the lights on, right? There’s a lot of that. We’ll talk about that third, the speed time to market of digital apps . So really challenging the digital CEO to think about velocity and, you know, velocity is an agile term, but we all know what velocity is, right? It’s speed. How quickly are we actually participating in this digital age by moving these initiatives forward? Fourth then is the percentage of leaders in incentives linked to digital. I know that is gonna be a bit more tricky. And when we talk about the UK sector, how might we make sure that there’s the right level of reinforcement of this commitment? Really, really important, and then last but not least talent, right? It’s hard to get digital talent. It’s hard to evolve an organization to be more effective with technology, but your ability to do that is clearly something that is going to translate to greater success. And so it ought to be measured in whatever ways that makes sense for your institution. So let’s start with that first one: return on digital investments. Tell me what comes to mind when you think about the UK market and the sorts of institutions we’re working with there on the way that they look at digital investments and how they might measure return.

Michael Agnew: 5:41

Yeah , thanks, Joe . I suppose I would start off with really, you know, when do you get value? That’s the great thing there. So the return on digital investments, when you earned the value, and really the simple metric there is to measure adoption. And by that, I mean, adoption doesn’t mean that you’ve created the proof of concept or you’ve got it running in a test . It genuinely has to be used by students or academics or administrators within the university. So that then, truly, the time that you’ve taken from, you know, starting that development and starting that implementation and really getting it into the hands of the users and that drives another thing there as well, which is really to not consider it as a project. And one of the things is going digital is a kind of journey. It doesn’t stop. You keep going more and more. So it’s really important to start conceptualizing around programs and what we even call minimal valuable products. So really traditional product management rather than a project. So it’s not done at the end of this one. It’s just going to be the first version, the second version, because you’re continually adding to that. And the technologies help you there. So you can actually begin to deploy things faster thereafter. And so it’s important to really think about, you know, that minimal valuable product, get that in the hands of the users, the students, the academics, and then have them use it and get value immediately. So that’s truly where we are . The article itself does have some useful facts that kind of draws. And it’s not to just look at, you know , best to look at overall organizational goals. Are the actual initiatives going to help drive those overall organizational goals? And one of the kind of ideas it has is to do things one business domain at a time. And that’s quite a good idea. Don’t try and solve all the problems at the same time, pick one area. And the business domain could be something like student experience, or it could be something like , maybe a transformation to more cloud based , try and retire, old legacy hardware, then, you know, pick something and actually then focus on that and get the value from that particular aspect of the system or the aspect of, you know , what the student wants to do. And really it’s quite important to not just have change without the , you know, you’ve got to help drive that change because in the end you are realigning business processes or you are going to change something. There’s always a kind of opportunity to try and resist that change. So it’s really important that you don’t just build the system or build the improvement, or you actually couple it together with the idea of having that change adopted and change understood by the people who are going to use it. And one of the great recommendations in this whole paper, I think, was that you should push for simplification and renewal across the system that drives the greatest business value. And we see that typically at universities these days that they , you know, the systems are quite frequently, maybe 10 years old, 15 years old. And they’re really wanting to, they’ve been built over the years, they’ve been added to, and it’s now a good time to simplify them and renew them. So we’re seeing that as a kind of sector wide activity in the UK.

Joe Gottlieb: 9:12

So I like the whole notion of, well, you’ve got all this stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. And when you look to renew it, I would say, pick the parts of those systems that have the greatest business value, right? Don’t assume you’ve got to reproduce everything. Leave some things behind, right? And get the things that are gonna trigger the most business value, move them first and do them in a way that allows you to carve them off to lower the scope. Because we know with greater scope, we’ve got greater complexity, and of course we’ve got greater risk. So one of the keys to success, I think we’ve seen, and it’s true across all markets is target scope to decrease complexity and increase success. Now I wanna ask you though, and this will put you on the spot for sure. Are there any cultural nuances , particularly in the UK, that help or hurt or come into play? That’s probably the better way to say it. When on a good day , the organization does work hard to engage the business, to get them to be more specific about what they need to better understand maybe some of their obstacles to adoption to make sure they’re trained properly before the system is rolled out and totally live , right? Like these are things, a best practice is to do all things. We know what takes more time and more work, but it results in much greater return because of this adoption factor can be raised. Right. And now what you are choosing to do is achieving that actual result versus doing more work, doing more things more quickly with less discipline around adoption, and then none of it gets adopted or gets poorly adopted. And you start with a system that’s legacy from beginning , any nuances there that you see in the UK ,

Michael Agnew: 11:01

You asked a good question, Joe. And I would’ve said that , you know, higher education has a culture and I don’t think it’s particularly British or particularly Irish for that matter, or the US, I think higher education is an attractive industry. A lot of people work in it because they want to help students. There’s buzz around it. It’s an environment in which people are learning and there’s is a culture there, but I don’t think it’s any more resistant to change particularly than other kind of, I’ll just say that, you know, financial industries or anything like that . I mean, I do think that change is difficult for us all. So, you know, it doesn’t matter whether we’re IT suppliers like ourselves, change is difficult. And so I think I’m not gonna say there’s anything particularly stronger about the UK higher ed in terms of culture and change. I think it’s something, any business has to recognize that when you change things, you’ve got to bring forward reasons why you would want to adopt the benefits. You’ve got to train people, encourage people to, to actually promote as well. So there’s all sorts of aspects there. So I won’t want to single out that , you know, it’s any worse than anyone else. Change is tough. Change is tough .

Joe Gottlieb: 12:31

So you heard it here first, UK higher ed, no less resistant to change than others like them in other parts of the world. Fair enough. Change is hard. We know change is hard. What about the emphasis on speed? Cause we’re gonna talk a bit about speed a bit later in the podcast. And I know that traditionally when, particularly IT teams are under the gun to ship software and whether that’s working with their partner vendors or, and, or building some things in house or some combination thereof, there’s always this, you’re always feeling behind you’re. You have got too many things you’re trying to accomplish. And so you wanna ship stuff faster. And that’s probably the greatest reason why a fixation on adoption by the business is often overlooked. And that’s why we wind up with shipping a lot of software that has relatively lower adoption or begrudging adoption or, or adoption with results that aren’t quite what they could have been. Right. In any , any , see any nuances there that you’ve, that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Michael Agnew: 13:40

Definitely put me on the spot again, Joe. I would say the kind of, adoption aspects. I mean, I think you’re involving many different players at times so you suddenly realize that you’re , the change can be quite big. So the change can actually affect academics. You might have to mark a particular class, the student who’s got to understand his marks. So it’s changed. I would say it is quite, you know, it is quite widespread. So you’re , you can be impacting quite a lot of things at the same time and, and trying to roll that out very quickly. You know, sometimes it’s hard to identify what we talked about a minimal viable product would be. So I think that really fundamentally, you know, what, what is minimal and what can , you know, we always feel that kind of challenge, you know, this is not enough. This is not enough. We need to do more. So I would say that, I mean, there’s the technology side as well, but we can cover that later. I think in a couple of, maybe 10 minutes , few minutes time, we can cover that later the technology side, but I’m thinking more, you know, the , the time , you know, really getting it in the hands of the users, you know, it really is down to the change can be quite widespread and, and we’ve just taken, you know, you know, involving all those different parties, et cetera . So I think it can be just, you know, and then we decide , well, it’s not good enough. We need to do more. We need to do more. And higher ed tends to be done into one, a more complete solution potentially than other businesses would accept. That would be my feeling.

Joe Gottlieb: 15:17

Okay. So the way I’d summarize that then is that really accomplishing the targeted nature of minimum viable delivery, right? It is useful because what it can do is it can narrow the number of parties that would be involved. It can achieve a result more easily, and we have to suppress that need to have a complete integrated solution, which would take too long and we could very easily get it wrong before we had a feedback loop. So I don’t, I think that’s, you know, quite similar as we see in other markets. So no, no great surprises there. Well, let’s move on to this second metric., because, the second metric is the percentage of annual technology budget spent on bold digital initiatives. And that would be proactive stuff, not just keeping the lights on. So, share a couple views on this in terms of what this triggered, you read it, Michael.

Michael Agnew: 16:14

Yeah. So, I mean, I have to agree quite greatly with what was in the report there. I mean, they did the focus, there was a bank, but, in the end I can see similar patterns in what I see at UK institutions. They had a like expenditure of 92%, and weren’t keeping the lights on. So maintaining con systems and only 8% of the spend was being pushed towards new business ventures. And I think higher education won’t be so radically different there, and that’s something we have to change there. You’ve got to be bolder and, and spend, you know, and spend more money on these kinds of new initiatives to improve experience, to make it easier for academics to do things for administrators to be more productive. And, and really, you know, I think one aspect that we can do is of course the efficiency gain. So I’m not saying cut money, but I’m saying that you can actually, you know, see that driver that you can actually do things like we see lots of cloud transformation at the minute. So going away from maintaining your own infrastructure to actually pushing lots of things through the cloud to actually, use more modern technology, change parts of your systems. And remember, it’s not just student systems, you’ve got universities that have maybe a hundred different systems, 150 different systems here. So there might be a focus on student information systems, but there aren’t many other systems within university. So, I really push for refreshing business processes too, to get rid of some of these customizations so that you can take advantage of what the supplier’s newest features are. I mean, it’s astonishing when you, when you start looking at some of the systems that are running,  realize that they’re used home grown parts of the system, they were built 10 years ago, and actually the vendor has provided solutions in this area, and yet you’ve been unable to adopt them . So I think all these kinds of ideas that you can actually gain by, by actually saving on what you’re maintaining yourself, because you don’t need to maintain it because there is a replacement free , you know, you’ve paid for already. And so start using that to kind of get more budget for those proactive, bold digital initiatives that we talked about.

Joe Gottlieb: 18:40

Makes sense. I mean, I love the way you’ve highlighted here, this notion of if your budget is fixed and many budgets are right, you will , if you can move things to the cloud, which will then translate to efficiencies in managing infrastructure, I, you’re no longer managing it. You’re leveraging the synergies of a cloud provider to handle those things. Everyone’s seen benefits there, but if you haven’t migrated, then you’re not seeing the benefits. So that unlocks more utility for your budget. The other that you point out is being smart about implementing new systems without customization, so that you can, with your just your maintenance payment alone or subscription payment to these SaaS offerings, you’ll continue to benefit from new features versus be stuck on an island because you’ve customized the , a previous version and, and can no longer take advantage of the new features coming around., so that’s, I think that’s really important. You know, we started this podcast by kind of defining digital transformation as being something that people have to get, they’d have to accept as a continuous thing. So program, not project, you’re gonna be continuously evolving your portfolio in the digital age., and, and then the opposite extreme would be to literally do a one and done project to replace a system, but do it the same old way you did before, and, you know, do a bunch of customizations where you’re suddenly on an island again, in between these two things are, are we see actually in the , in the UK, we see a lot of I think very mindful E R P refreshes and or replacements and or net new implementations. And it just struck me that the term digital transformation doesn’t seem to frighten folks in the UK as much. I think they take it for what it is. I think they’re less concerned about what hype might be attached to it. They’re, they’re, they’re seeing it, how , how it might apply to them. And they’re progressively evolving their systems with, I think, some fresh approaches. We’ve definitely seen that pattern in the UK and in the work I know you’ve done with several customers.

Michael Agnew: 20:56

Yea . Agreed , Joe. I always remember one, I visited one university, but not actually a customer of ours, but I remember talking to them, and they said, you know, it’s fantastic. For them, the single biggest advantage of the cloud was to move all that infrastructure out of very expensive real estate. So they could actually use that very real estate, very expensive real estate to house students and to do more useful business things rather than have clunky IT running. So, I do think that all of the amazing ways you can gain efficiency in the transformation world.

Joe Gottlieb: 21:39

I like that a lot. I’m gonna use that later. All right . That brings us to the third metric here, time to market digital apps. This is the speed thing we were talking about, which can definitely be a trade off as a , as a , a source of sort of , , , competing, you know, focus or, or, or, you know, prioritization of what’s most important. What do you see here?

Michael Agnew: 22:03

Yeah, I mean , I fully agree then we , we talked , we did cover it a little bit in the beginning, but it , you know, there is a, I mean, we’re seeing all the kind of vice chancellor saying , you know, we want to improve the , the , the student experience and that has helped in, in creating a sort of urgency around new digital applications. So I , so I would say that that need to improve the student experience. Cause it differentiates you , you know, and it’s , it’s wonderful for the students. And , and it’s very costly when these student experiences, it’s not good AU , they don’t, and they don’t tell their friends that that was a great university or they don’t, they don’t tell the younger brothers and sisters, that was a great university. So it doesn’t, you know, so that’s one way of thing about it all. And they, and they actually consume a lot more administrative time. So if the student experience is, is not great, somebody still has to solve the problem, right? So you end up having requirements for more and more administration to pick up the PC because the , the student has become confused. So the simpler and, and the simplification of that with experience the , making it easier, that’s really pushed towards new digital apps to actually make it better for them. And, and therefore like cut back on all these things. However, you know, there , we still got some technical challenges and , and one thing, you know, we did talk about the minimal viable product and, and , you know, and some , , industries, it’s certainly easier to actually deploy minimal valuable products and then get them in widespread use and then begin to refresh them on a constant basis. And we’re not saying it’s Netflix, we’re not saying universities are like that, but they , but the , but it becomes more, you know, we’re not as fast yet. And this way we can actually modernize our it shops and our it factories so that we can move in this more of what they call DevOps world. I don’t want to use too many techy one, but, but it’s what they call DevOps . And the whole idea is that you can actually push things to production much quicker. We are cautious in the higher ed world. And rightly so, because, you know, you don’t want to, to make mistakes. You don’t want to have, you know, re you know, problems, et cetera , cuz it’s all highly public and, and it’s very exposed. So we, so it’s not so simple. So we’ve got to be sure that we have great testing method mechanisms. So it’s not like pushing things to production without testing quality is really important in that kind of whole DevOps world and the, the , the , the minimal viable product world. You really got to drive quality and make sure that when you push to production as safe, but so that’s something we’ve got to continually build upon and , and improve within the higher education world. And, and I think that, you know, that we, we can do a better job and we’re still learning, I think, and still trying to get better at prioritizing, but what’s the most important things we should be rolling out. What should we be doing and not just try and do everything. And again, that, you know, cuz that leads to us being slower to push things out to the marketplace. So I think that we , we do need some, it modernization through DevOps op and we do need to kind of be better at prioritizing, but we’re getting there , we’re getting , you know , and that challenge is there and we are facing it and we’re trying to improve upon it.

Joe Gottlieb: 25:33

I think this is really, really important. I love the way you’ve highlighted those two items, right? Because you know, DevOps is a concept that is somewhat, somewhat new, you know, in the last five to 10 years, I would say it’s really taken hold. , it really was driven by , , the movement to SA and, and the notion that, that we can’t just write software and not think about how it is going to operate consistently in an environment that is, you know, you really have minimum the whole , the whole point, right? So you’ve got software that just stays up, it keeps running, you have methods of migrating you know, from across different platforms, you’ve got all your redundancies in the like but I think the DevOps , you know, the DevOps paradigm has doubled down on our appreciation of testing. So writing things and testing as we go and even now in an environment that is literally a continuous operations environment. So, so they , they even used to talk about, you know, design for administration or design for scalability or design for uptime, right? All these D DFX is designed for X, right. And those were, I think, artifacts of the fact that that was a unique <laugh> net new focus, that wasn’t part of the original obligation to just design software that addressed a certain function. So I think that’s a really great , , theme that’s been I think helping all, all teams along in terms of how they can be more effective, but at the end, oh , and by the way, my point was gonna be, sorry, my point was, as we embrace more of that quality, continuous operation mentality while it’s slower at first, it , it , you know, we, we, we are more disciplined, but then our yield is higher. Right. And so it’s , it is counterintuitive, but we go slower to go faster, right. Overall, same thing as true with prioritization. And this gets back to the adoption thing. If we prioritize well and we deliver well with good adoption, that takes time to focus on narrower, smaller things. But if we do it right, we, our overall yield is higher, which is which actually then does ultimately improve our velocity if we’re measuring it correctly. All right . That brings us to the fourth metric. And that is percentage of leaders, incentives linked to digital. I know you’ll have fun with this one. <laugh>

Michael Agnew: 28:01

Yeah. I mean , say higher education, isn’t the same as wall street or for that matter of London. Right. So, so we , we have to realize that higher education , the incentives in higher education are less dynamic, but they are rewarding in themselves. And that you are, you know, you are training the next generation. You are, you know, there’s an enormous, you know, there’s an enormous benefit and , and pleasure that people get in that higher education world. And, and , and I would’ve said that, you know, the way that’s really important from the , the sort of, you know, the CTO type perspective. So the guys heading up the it departments is really to be elevated to the, to the , so the, I , you know, to position that it is a leader, I , it isn’t just a , a cost center . It’s not just a , you know, it’s not just looked upon as something that costs money. It’s looked upon as something that really is a change agent. So it’s an agent of change. It’s building new apps for PE for students and for academics and for administrators. And it’s really creative organization, that’s bringing value. And, and I think that’s where, you know, we can be successful from the, from the CTO perspective or the it leadership perspective there. And that that’s really for the, you know, that’s part of what the vice chancellor has to do as well in building his team. So the leadership team or her team, so that that’s the , the important idea is to really elevate , , the, it leadership to be part of that leadership group. And, and I think we are seeing that in the progressive universities and we’re seeing them being more successful, but that’s the case

Joe Gottlieb: 29:41

For sure the success can be patterned here, right? Like we see the correlation of role and sort of organizational context for the, the , the it organization as typically evidenced by the CIO or, you know, you know, director of it, whatever the , the label might it be., but it’s funny how it , it comes from both sides, right? So you , you want your it leader to be rising to the challenge and becoming more customer focused and more organizationally savvy, but there’s only so much they can do with that. Sh their sheer dedication to, to operating in that way, which is hard to begin with the , the leader, the , the , the CEOs and the vice chancellors, you know, the , the , the real leadership of the institution they need to meet. ’em , you know, they need to meet ’em in the hallway and they need to meet ’em in the boardroom. They need to meet ’em , , in the operational, you know, review teams so that they can reinforce this. And that’s what we mean by that ownership and leadership aspect, right? Because

Michael Agnew: 30:41

When both sides are working together, and it doesn’t mean the CEO or reside owner needs to be a technology specialist on the contrary, right. They need to be comfortable, delegating and expecting like they do in all the other domains. And that’s what makes them a good leader. And the digital domain has to be one of those active domains where, where the entire leadership team is embracing this. And now they’re looking at their it teams to handle the specialization needed to be successful, but they’re absolutely engaged in embracing this as something that, that involves them so that they can put their fingerprints on the business, change the business vision, what needs to be new. So that brings us to our fifth. And here is where we’re now at the real business end of the, of the equation. And that is top technical talent attracted, promoted, and retained. And so I know this is challenging across the globe. I know it’s particularly challenging in the UK right now in higher ed, what would you say about this one? Yeah, I , I think it’s about, you know, you know, what drives us to be successful and , and , you know, is actually doing a good job and it is, you know, getting enjoyment in the job. It’s not just always about how much we are . Of course that’s important. I’m not trying to say it’s not, but, but there’s an incredible satisfaction. And then , you know, working at a university and , and, and being involved in higher education and seeing that energy that you see with students walking around campuses and, and talking to each other, and you see the , you know, the Le the academic lecture are enthusiastically presenting to the class. So there is, there is an energy there, and, and I think, you know, what we, what we need to do really link our top talent together with the business. So you see that, that , you know, by having the it department work side by side with the business, then, then you’re actually building a, a success pattern there. And I think that’s where we, you know, that’s again, where you, you have the it leadership working with the academic registry, with the different business arms that produces success. And the same thing when you, when you push it down a level, it’s where the , you know, there’s great satisfaction in having theit people, the , the, of devs and the business analysts, et , etc . Working together with the business people. And that really produces, you know, a , an in a great working environment and a , you know, and is it is makes for success. And it really is, you know, is a way to actually, you know, retain staff drive because they’re enjoying the jobs. And because , you know , there is a , a great atmosphere and the , and , and that , that’s something we see all the time that we do see, you know, very collaborative teams of people spanning, you know, the business and the it department and those lead to success.

Joe Gottlieb: 33:34

Oh , that is so true. And I I’m , I’m, I’m so glad to hear you emphasize that, Michael, because we all know from just listening to HR over the years, that what really attracts, promotes and retains people is, is most often, mostly about culture being recognized for, for, for what contributions are made, having a career path that allows people to see what’s my next level of con that I can make. , and compensation is typically the least important. It’s always a factor, but it’s the least important. And if I just reflect on, look, the UK has been a higher education exporter, a proud exporter for a long, long time. I won’t even try to put, you know, essentially centuries, for sure. Right. And so you , if you consider the , the trajectory of any individual that has an it career, right, if you get a chance to work with a , a UK institution of, of higher learning, that also happens to have these things we’ve been talking about, I E getting a chance to work side by side with business, because the leadership at that institution is embracing digital change as part of their future, the , the , the , the , the bullet on the resume or the CV in this case, right. That is produced is so much more valuable to that individual in their career than frankly, even what they might earn during that period , it in their career. Right. And so I think that that speaks volumes about the importance of how institutions can harness their unique heritages, but they’re also their current practices in attracting, promoting and retaining talent.

Michael Agnew: 35:17

Yeah. And, and of course, I want you to say that with it , he being seen as a agent of change and builder and a creator of something as well, then that’s a far different position if you’re in that department than if you’re just maintaining stuff, maintaining stuff, maintaining stuff, you know, and, and not being given the opportunity to grow, to develop, to do new things. And that , that , so, so the two go hand in hand, if your leadership, you know, and , and that’s always the famous thing, you, you, you work for managers that you, you , you feel give you leadership as opposed to the other way around. Right. So, so your relationship with that, that whole structure means that you , your retention level should be good. And, and so I think it’s really with an it department and with that’s really, you know, valued by the university, then you , your retention will be good, so you can attract talent and you can keep talent. And then I think that’s, you know, that’s the way this way we should be doing it , I think, in getting that success.

Joe Gottlieb: 36:22

That’s a great way to put it. So if you are a leader outside of it, you’re a leader of an institution. And you know, that you have a challenge with how everyone has this challenge. How can I afford to pay to op technical talent to be part of my organization? You have the keys to success by being able to make technology part of your business evolution. Part of the way the institution is, is addressing new points of value, how it’s reimagining itself to be, to deliver the next century or, or two of learning., and, and that, that’s a great opportunity, right? And to say, oh, by the way, it’s gonna , it’s gonna yield tremendous benefits. As we’ve already talked about for the institution as a whole, it’s also gonna make it easier to attract, promote and retain technical talent, because they’ll, they’ll be, they’ll wanna be a part of that kind of organization. Absolute . So , Michael, I want you to summarize what, what are three things that our listeners can prioritize as they contemplate digital transformation? We’ve talked about a lot here, but let’s, let’s leave our listeners with three things.

Michael Agnew: 37:33

Um , I think we can have just pulled together some of the ideas we had , , in, in the discussions of , until now we talked about the leadership. So the , the kind of it’s really important that the , the leadership at the top and the leadership group under that leadership really drive, you know, they , they own digital transformation. It’s not , it’s not just the it department. It really is that leadership because, because they are looking across the whole university and not just narrow focused and that , , you know, that ownership can lead to driving student experience, improvements can lead to better value, can lead to, you know , all those kind of initiatives we talked about in value oriented aspects. We mentioned before, I think , , it’s important , important to prioritize bold initiatives and, you know, take, take some bold approaches, you know, shake off some of that conservatism that’s inherent, right. And, you know, you know, I’m not saying take wild risks, but, but definitely, you know, be bolder to, to address both efficiency gains and new business value . So, so, so, you know, consider how we can actually like faster move to do something and, and really, you know, improve efficiencies here of get rid of this. You know, there’s lots of these satellite systems, time block, how we get rid of satellite systems, you place them by more centrally controlled systems, also things. And, you know, that really sums up like simplification. It’s really important. And, and that’s something, actually, I hear that many universities, they , they use those words. Simplifi things let’s not that be so complex as, before and, and renew the systems, which, which are giving the , the greatest business value. So perhaps improve and , you know, renew parts of the student information system, renew parts of, you know, other systems, which are important timetable and finance, HR, there’s many of them and, you know , , aim for simplification because that does lead to, to efficiency gains. And I think we, we said it now in a couple of just even very few minutes ago, really this having it work side by side with the business and really helps with rapid business adoption and, and , you know , the faster time to getting that value the faster time that it’s in the hands of the academic or the student or the administrator. And that’s really, you know, that kind of adoption having it work together, this across and again, driven from the very top because their leadership group is operating like that across the, the different department. We can see that having it work together with a business, we will enable this rapid business adoption.

Joe Gottlieb: 40:24

Wow. That’s a great summary for our listeners, Michael, I really appreciate you joining me today and, and thanks to our guest for joining us as well, have a great day. And we’ll look forward to hosting you again in the next episode of transformed. Yeah .


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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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