Skip to main content
Episode 19

transformed: Takeaways: 2021 EDUCAUSE Digital Transformation Survey

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 and Wayne discuss the 2021 EDUCAUSE Digital Transformation Survey. Listen in for an interesting conversation about how higher education institutions are, and are not, adopting digital transformation strategies as we return to near normalcy on college campuses around the country.

Joe Gottlieb: (00:02)

Welcome to transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence culture, strategy and tactics planning, and execution people, process and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s what’s required to truly transform. 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 back to transformed


Wayne Bovier : (00:52)

Thanks, Joe. It’s great to be with you again. What do you want to talk about? 


Joe Gottlieb: (00:57)

Well, EDUCAUSE just published another digital transformation survey, this being the 2021 version following up on the 2019 version. So I thought we would talk about what’s new in that survey and how it differs from the one that came before it. 


Wayne Bovier : (01:11)

Yeah, I think that’s a great topic to dive into today. 


Joe Gottlieb: (01:15)

All right, well, let’s jump right in then and start with engagement. Obviously right off the bat here, we saw some increased engagement in this 2021 version. Take us through some of the numbers and what you think is driving this evolution. 


Wayne Bovier : (01:29)

Yeah. I mean, I think a couple of things that stand out to me and what we’ve seen just in the span of two years, and obviously this encompasses a good chunk of COVID. You really saw a major shift in terms of those. I mean, the biggest shift, there are those that are responding yes. That they’re engaged in digital transformation and moved from 13% to 44%. And you also have a significant kind of movement for those that are developing an overall strategy, but the other side of the equation that I have to say now that we’re kind of over a year dealing with COVID and we’re kind of coming back to the semi normal on most campuses, you still have 29% totaled up that are not engaged or not even planning. I mean, they’re aware of it, they’re exploring it, but they’re really not doing anything about it. I mean, that’s close to a third of the overall higher education industry, and just as much as I was encouraged by the shift in moving to digital transformation, you still have almost close to 30% of the industry that are, even despite all this, they’re just not really taking it seriously. I mean how are you reacting? 


Joe Gottlieb: (03:00)

Well first of all, I think the engagement level is a huge increase. And I think that is representative of a large turn in terms of people acknowledging that what’s underway here is digital transformation. I think as you point out the 29% that aren’t engaged and are maybe just exploring. I think some of that is still hype backlash, right? I think some people want to answer in the negative here because they’re sick of hearing about it. Because if that weren’t your rationale for and for answering no, then you must be completely on your heels buffeted about by COVID and other industry challenges if you’re not transforming in any way today, because COVID aside, right. And COVID, we know exacerbated all the industry challenges before it you’d have to admit that all institutions were grappling with industry shifts before COVID. And so whether you want to call your response to that digital transformation or not, if you aren’t responding, right. It means you’re hoping to wait it out and hoping it goes away. Right. I think some of this might still be mired in terminology and, and emotional reaction to hype. 


Wayne Bovier : (04:26)

I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I do think one of the things that stands out after digesting this, another great piece by EDUCAUSE, give them major kudos for all of this insight. I strongly think that just based upon our experiences as a company, there’s still no common agreement on what digital transformation needs. So I do think that certainly could play, play a role. But I also interpret this as it may be a little bit of a silo, ivory tower thinking where higher ed has been around for centuries, the business model has fundamentally changed in centuries. We survived Y2K and all these other technical worries, some things, so why is this any different? And I think that there’s a lot of details lost on a lot of people that are running those types of institutions, where they’re just not taking them seriously and not really paying attention to the macro market. And some of the real shifts that are providing the evidence that this time is different. 


Joe Gottlieb: (05:54)

Well, I think here we get into the domain of something that is hard to tease out with a survey, right. It’s like, okay, what are we really talking about here? Whether you want to call it out or not, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, whether you’ve been answering surveys or not. Are you evolving the approach to participate in how the industry is evolving or are you clinging to older methods that are presently maybe more profitable because the market still wants what you have in that traditional form? And look, let’s be clear there. I have to leave open the possibility that there are some players that are going to take that route and actually have a fair amount of success sticking in that route and sticking with maybe a smaller market that continues to appreciate and embrace even for the sake of nostalgia, right. 


Joe Gottlieb: (06:58)

Something that has been around for a very, very long time, but meanwhile, anyone is interested in growth or in addressing the harder problems emerging in higher ed, such as adult learners that need to be re-skilled upskilled to be more effective in a shifting labor force. Right. Clearly in those, in that context, we have institutions that are, we have lots of institutions that are absolutely front and center attacking that problem. And so I think, yeah, I think there’s a big portfolio here. I think it’s hard for a survey to capture perfect status on, on this, this pretty complex and nuanced topic. 


Wayne Bovier : (07:35)

Yeah. And, and, and, you know, the other thing is, as you, cause you, you know, the audience that typically engages with it, you know, as part of these surveys are, you know, tend to be more, uh, lopsided around the it side of things, which, you know, they do, they actually do talk about, you know, kind of segwaying into kind of the next next topic, right. They do start to break out the details between, and I, I really thought those, those organizations and how they, you know, uh, kind of ranked digital transformation in 2019 versus 2021, I thought was pretty telling as well. 


Joe Gottlieb: (08:10)

Yeah. Let’s take a look at that. So four out of the five items, um, stayed the same. I eat four of the five items, uh, four out of the top five items in 2019 remained in 2021. And those are central. It enrollment, admissions, recruiting library, and student learning a little bit of shift in positions, three and four, there are three to five, top two central it, number one in both, and two enrollment, admissions recruiting stay consistent. Um, I want to come back to those and what might be driving the durability of those focus areas. Um, but let’s observe some of the bigger shifts that happen, right? Research that was a top five in 2019, dropped from four all the way to 12 in 2021. And meanwhile, faculty teaching, um, which was only, uh, 14 in 2019, moved all the way up to four in 2021. So anything you can clean from that, that, uh, those shifts. 


Wayne Bovier : (09:19)

Yeah. I mean, I’m not, there’s some, there’s some things that I’m not surprised about and it was really encouraging. And these are, you know, these are the departments or functional areas that are, are, that are now focusing on digital transformation. They are essentially, you know, for lack of a better way to describe it. They got the religion now. And so faculty had was the biggest mover. Um, and two years, no surprise. They totally get it, you know, based upon my anecdotal experiences over this past, you know, 18 months, um, uh, it talking to provost as well as senior faculty members and deans, you know, there’s a, there’s a deeper appreciation for the role of technology and the future of the institution. And so, um, I, you know, just like we were talking about the definition of digital transformation, I do, I think, you know, I think there’s lots of different opinions on what that should mean or could mean. 


Wayne Bovier : (10:15)

Um, I think there’s a lot of ground to cover between now and, you know, even five years from now what, how that’s gonna evolve. Um, but that, you know, that, that, that stood out, you know, I, it’s hard for me to kind of determine exactly research, you know, the research aspect, um, you know, the departments of research, uh, I mean, that seems like a big kind of bucket, um, because a lot of institutions spread, you know, the research is depending on the department, right. Um, and what, they’re, what they’re doing there. Um, I guess if it’s institutional research, um, you know, that is a very, that tends to be a very academic, um, you know, uh, task, uh, where, you know, you’re analyzing it and stuff. So it’s, it’s, it’s hard for me to pull, figure that one out. Um, the other one I I’ll highlight, um, that, that, that, uh, that jumps out to me as well as HR human resources also made a big jump. 


Wayne Bovier : (11:18)

And that to me is, you know, pretty interesting as well. Um, you know, they were kind of mid-level mid pack in 2019 and they moved into the top six. Um, so just outside of the top five, uh, in two years. And so, um, you know, HR plays an interesting role on campuses, you know, not only do they have to support their own staff and their skills, um, but they deal with students too, right. You got a lot of student workers, work programs, work, study programs and things like that. And so, um, you know, to me, the wrecking, what I see is that there’s a recognition by HR and an awareness that technology, the role of technology to engage, you know, uh, your current employees and stuff, and then future employees, the graduates or future employees, uh, that also is kind of, that’s one of the other aspects that I gleaned out from this. Um, what about you? 


Joe Gottlieb: (12:15)

I liked the observation about HR, because I, I would say that traditionally HR, they get a lot of, um, HR, HR, um, is often an under appreciated department. Let’s just call it what it is, right. Like in, in all industries. And they’re there yet. They’re often hunting for ways to add value, um, to any organization that they’re part of. And so I think during COVID, they found opportunity to assist with, okay, we’re going through a crisis here. We need to improve employee communications. We need to think about shifts in ways of working. And so I think, I think a lot of, uh, institutions lean on HR and HR was all too ready to step up and demonstrate some value because now there were, there was a little pull there versus the tendency for them to have to push value to it, to establish their kind of role in the, in the business, so to speak. 


Joe Gottlieb: (13:09)

So I like that observation, but what about research? I mean, I have a guest, uh, who knows if it’s accurate, but maybe in 2019 of course, research, which will tend to be closer to technology was even recognized by central. It is as being somewhat active in quote transformation, right? And maybe in 2021 research has decided they’re going to do it on their own and they’re going to transform on their own. And so central, it is seeing less of research being active in their projects. That’s a bit of a, a jaded view. Uh, but, but perhaps plausible, 


Wayne Bovier : (13:42)

I certainly could see that, you know, it goes from theory to practice where 2019 was theory, 20 or 21 was practice. 


Joe Gottlieb: (13:50)

Yeah. Maybe we could make progress without cooperating. So very briefly, I, I’m gonna assert, um, at least an opinion on why these four out of five items stayed the same and the top five, and I’d love to get your reaction, Wayne. Um, so number one was central. It, yeah, that one’s pretty obvious, right. Digital transformation right. Or wrong has often been led by or originated by, or, or, or provoked or stimulated by the it organization. And we both know, and we spend a lot of our energy with our customers, helping them to grapple with digital transformation as a business first endeavor. But the fact remains that it’s often central it that is actively helping the organization to, to, um, leverage this trend in a positive way versus a negative way. Number two, enrollment admissions, and recruiting. To me, that’s a tactical business driver, a burning platform. 


Joe Gottlieb: (14:49)

Enrollment has been under pressure. And so particularly in a COVID era, you know, time or this, this, uh, during which these surveys, well, 2019 was pre COVID 2021 post COVID, but this was already a business critical issue, right. To get enrollment up because if the industry shifts and some of the competitiveness there. And so I think that’s, what’s been attracting a lot of attention, um, at that level. And then if you look at student learning, I would say, this is the strategic business driver. If you, if you examine how institutions are really trying to, um, get back in tune with their mission, student-centric mission is, is it has become more popular. And, and we, I think we both love the fact that that’s a trend, um, but that’s a bit of a big change. Right. And, and to really commit to your customer, it can be hard, especially when you’re so successful with a model that maybe wasn’t so overtly, uh, customer satisfaction, obsessed, I’ll say it like that. And then last but not least library, you know, they had to shut down libraries because they were breeding grounds for COVID for sure. But yet they needed, you know, you need to, the library services need to be available at some level during COVID. Right. So I think that thing, that thing sticks around because all of that material can be automated for sure. And that was probably something that was sustained that does that, does that help do some accounting here? Do you have any reactions or, or different opinions on that? 


Wayne Bovier : (16:13)

Yeah. Um, yeah, this is, this is great. So, you know, if you told me to create a list, the top five list, uh, I’m going to start with, uh, uh, the shocking omission that I don’t see here. Um, I would have central, it would have been number two. Um, the recognition and, and kind of the ones that are starting, that are focusing on digital transformation should be administration, should be senior executives, should be the boards. Um, you know, as part of the survey, it’s an emission on both, both, uh, both surveys in 20 19, 20 21. So, you know, as we know, right, Joe, um, you know, real digital transformation, meaningful digital transformation can truly only happen when leadership is engaged when they own it, when they’re driving it, obviously you can accomplish certain degrees, some digital transformation without senior management involved, but if you really want to transform your entire institution, you need to have leadership actively participating. 


Wayne Bovier : (17:18)

And so that was a big emission, um, that, uh, kind of struck me, you know, the fact that central it is, you know, is as, at the top, not surprised at all. Um, I think, you know, again, based upon our experiences with the many different it organizations we work with, I think that there’s a general recognition by everybody that, um, you know, the, the, the, the way of doing business, right, the way of how they, uh, you know, make purchasing decisions, how they implement, how they set priorities, how they communicate, um, is fairly broken, uh, and most institutions. And so it is, you know, most, you know, when you hear digital transformation, you think digitally, you think it in many cases, right? So that’s not, that’s a clear, obvious one, you know, the enrollment, um, you know, enrollment and admissions and recruiting effectively our sales and marketing, um, for the institution. 


Wayne Bovier : (18:15)

And it is no surprise that the marketing organization needs to be the most advanced out there in the marketplace, engaging with students that are, you know, high school age, um, and teenagers, uh, that live, you know, spend a lot of time on their, on their screens. So not, not surprised there, but I’ll add in another, you know, but the fact that it is number two on this list, um, and it continues to be there. Um, I wonder if part of the shift going into 21 is that, you know, there’s those that are responsible for admissions and enrollment are starting to recognize the shift in the industry of like breaking degrees down, right. Offering up smaller chunks, right. To get students in, you know, versus a commitment of four years. I wonder if there’s a, there’s a, you know, cause a pool, everyone understands at least in north America that in the next five to 10 years, that a pool of 18 year olds is going to decrease pretty significantly. 


Wayne Bovier : (19:19)

Um, I dunno, 15% somewhere in that ballpark. Um, and that’s going to have a real impact on, you know, the traditional numbers. Um, and so I think that there’s a, certainly an understanding and awareness by most of the enrollment officer’s admissions officers that, um, they gotta be more savvy. They need to be more technical on that. Um, student learning, we’ve, we’ve talked about, um, you know, our, uh, not student learning, but the faculty teaching we’ve talked about the student learning is, um, you know, this one to me is about location, right? Uh, that we can be as an institution effective, um, teaching in different locations. Uh, it’s, we’re clearly not at a point where, uh, it it’s, you know, technology and distance achieves a hundred percent of the in-person, but I also think that there are benefits, uh, and downsides on both sides of that, but that, you know, the student learning, uh, leads me to believe that and the same with library, right? Like there’s just those that are on the front lines that were, that were on the front lines during COVID that really had to scramble to continue to figure out a way to provide services, um, and to continue to do their job in a totally remote world. Totally ranked, you know, digital transformation as a top top item for them. Yeah. 


Joe Gottlieb: (20:43)

It’s um, it is fascinating. We could talk about this for a long time, but given, given some of these shifts, it’s interesting to look at these, these, um, that these functional areas, because these ended up becoming the, really the points of, of, of, of traction one gets with change, right? Like if this is where people are starting to really, really change, um, it, it, it rubber hits road in these functional areas. I think that’s probably why we didn’t see institutional administration or leadership show up. It probably wasn’t even in the list because they were really trying to isolate these functional areas. Institutional strategic planning is on the list and it moved from, looks like 13th, the ninth. Um, but that’s, that was probably answered in most cases with, is that specific process in its own right. Being transformed versus are you ultimately, uh, incorporating digital transformation in your strategy to drive forward all these things, right? That, that, those are two different ways to think about that. And I I’ll bet you that the survey had a big hand in deciding that, but if, if this is what people, uh, at institutions are grappling with, w what does this then require of the CIO? Yeah. I know you’ve had some thoughts on how the role of the CIO has been evolving. And, and does this, does this produce additional impetus for the role of the CIO to evolve? 


Wayne Bovier : (22:10)

Yeah, I mean, I think, I think this all goes hand in glove, um, right. Is, and you even just said, you know, said it right. And it goes back to some of the details on the EDUCAUSE survey where, you know, most institutions are moving into figuring out how to put a digital strategy together. Right. And so historically it departments and CEOs were there too as, as an operational unit. Right. I mean, th the, the, it department’s been around for 40 years. Um, there’ve been computers that have been running institutions for quite a long time, but they were very operational, right. In many cases, they report, they still report either into the CFO or the provost. What, um, what also came out in this assessment and certainly is aligns to our experiences, working with many CEOs is that there’s a real shift, um, and recognition and shift that’s happening at institutions where, um, the CIO, uh, is being promoted. 


Wayne Bovier : (23:14)

And I mean, there’s a couple of, uh, institutions we’re working with, um, and, and, uh, helping them transition the CIO into a cabinet level role. Um, and not only just doing that change, but, um, kicking off a strategic planning effort where a central pillar to the strategic planning exercise is the role of technology. Um, how do we make things more efficient? How do we deliver the better services and so on and so forth? So this really is a big, um, that one’s, this one’s a big one, um, for institutions because, uh, you know, one of the biggest challenges really has to do with financials, um, in terms of that, that, that CIO role. Um, and so, you know, you know, moving a CIO onto the cabinet, that’s great. But if you don’t address the decision-making in a budget authority, uh, I E if those still remain in the departments, the deans, the VPs, when it comes to technology, um, you’re really not changing that real, that you’re not really changing the dynamics. 


Wayne Bovier : (24:32)

And so, um, you know, but what this also tells me and what the analysis of, of the EDUCAUSE data is that, you know, the, the student is continuing to be the center, right? How do we provide better support? Um, the, the students, the other dynamic is part of this chief CIO moving up in, including the budget is, you know, holding them accountable. Um, you know, uh, you know, if they miss, if an it department misses a deadline, it’s usually because they’re oversubscribed, right. They usually have too many things they’ve said yes to, and, uh, they can’t say no to certain things, right? So there’s a real empowerment that needs to happen beyond just organizational, um, seat changes, um, that there really needs to be it paired with real fundamental budget changes and the accountability, uh, and how you hold certain groups accountable. Let’s take the other, let’s take the flip side, for example, if I’m a VP or a Dean, I have my own budget and I go buy, you know, small CRM because I like it. 


Wayne Bovier : (25:45)

Uh, and I have the, I can have the budget. Am I going to be held accountable by the institution for adding to the technical debt, adding to the technical architecture and complexity around that? Um, or can, are you going to empower the CIO to say no? Right. Uh, right. So I think, you know, so again, just like we talked about at the beginning, I think this is all very encouraging. I think we have, you know, we’re heading in the right direction and an awareness and understanding, but, you know, we’re still just scratching the surface at really what is necessary truly necessary, organizationally. Um, what changes need to happen to truly embrace and make digital transformation work for you, um, versus via constant friction point. 


Joe Gottlieb: (26:32)

Yeah. Just even just listening to the way you frame that up. It just reminds me that this is, this is all about leadership, and it’s not just a single leader. It’s about a cabinet sort of undertaking, uh, a more collaborative, collaborative approach that can make it, this should not be about it getting more power it, instead, it should be more about the organizational structure allowing for it to play a role as guided by, uh, the collective sensibilities of the institution. Right. And, and to make that iterative and to make that healthy and effective. And you’re right, if you just switched chairs or put someone in a chair, but don’t give them the necessary authority, um, particularly with budget, let’s say, you’ve just sort of rearranged the deck a little bit. You haven’t really, really addressed the problem. And so I think that’s what you mean by the sort of the mindset, right. 


Joe Gottlieb: (27:28)

Really accomplishing this mindset of collaboration, so that, that you can be functional, uh, in this, in this new era, utilizing technology, uh, as a mechanism to be more successful in teaching students, right? Like at the end of the day. And I, I think that, you know, some organizations achieve this through pure, um, amazing leadership. Some organizations rally around causes, I think more often organizations rally around either a disruptive competitor. And we’ve seen this, we’ve seen certain people respond to, uh, some of the online players gather market share or, or neighboring states, right? Like poaching students at the public and community college level. Right. So a common competitor ends up gathering and galvanizing the team to be more effective at collaborating. And that has drug technology along with it, as you might expect, another option is that’s what we talked about. The student centered, you know, institution, right. Uh, co a customer obsession can help rally. And, and, and so, whereas normally you got these unavoidable reflexive dysfunctions in imperfect organizations, when you’re rallying around a common customer, common competitor, it can often help an organization to figure out oh, okay. In this case we probably should be cooperating. Let’s, let’s see the bigger picture. 


Wayne Bovier : (28:47)

Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, the other, the other aspect to this, that, that really stands out to me, and it’s something that you’ve been hearing a lot, um, in the industry and that’s diversity, equity and inclusion, right. DEI, and what’s interesting. Um, and, and there’s a variety of different viewpoints on this, but, um, what, what I find interesting is the correlation of digital transformation in DEI, um, and really where that hits home to me is, you know, especially rural areas where their lack, you know, the lack of broadband access access like is so fundamentally, what does an institution do, right? You want to grow your, you know, your student base, you want to do it in, you know, in, in the way that your institution has done by leveraging technology in a smart way. You want to be able to provide equal access, right. 


Wayne Bovier : (29:44)

Um, you know, to every student, right. And those students should be higher than another one, right. More important than anybody else. Right. They should all be kind of equally important. And so this really starts to bring home some of the inequities, um, and location. And, uh, obviously, you know, the, the wealth or lack of wealth and, you know, poor neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods, like it just really starts to bring this home and makes it much more cognizant and in your face as, as it pertains to kind of, you know, uh, the role of technology and, uh, and CIO, 


Joe Gottlieb: (30:21)

And certainly COVID exacerbated that right, where you had to do more online and remote work, and that meant getting necessary, you know, sufficient bandwidth to these neighborhoods. Uh, I, I think of the acid case, which was Alaska, right, how difficult it was for them to, you know, establish even through mobile technologies, adequate bandwidth, to do remote, remote learning, remote teaching, um, um, and otherwise you are a failure mission to deliver public access to education, because you’ve got this dependence on technology at the infrastructure hasn’t provided, or, or isn’t even commercially available or, or elusive, uh, to, to this subset of your, of your, of your market and, and, and your, your, your necessary customer base, your, your, your, your obligation as a public institution. Um, so let’s, let’s shift gears now. And there was a, uh, interesting question on, on asking these institutions to answer the question, how closely does your institution resemble an idealized, digitally transferred institution, and now, and then where do you expect your institution to be in five years time? 


Joe Gottlieb: (31:33)

And if we look at the data here, while not as pronounced as the increase in engagement of institutions, um, engaging digital transformation, we did see some shift forward in terms of, um, this index that they created in terms of how people responded. Right. And so it went up a little bit, you know, maybe it went up 25, 30 5% in both cases, um, moving from, to the 2019 to the 2021, like both of these moved forward. But I think what it reflects still, because it didn’t move forward as much, is this fact that an idealized digitally transformed institution that just feels like a mythical high bar 


Wayne Bovier : (32:15)



Joe Gottlieb: (32:16)

Yeah. Not only abstract, but I think people, I want to believe that this is a, uh, a very practical reflection on either being intimidated or just appreciating what might be involved to get to that place. Uh, what do you think? 


Wayne Bovier : (32:31)

I think that’s, it requires, look, I think we’re, we’re in the world where, and this goes back to skills and that kind of stuff is that we’re kind of in a world it’s hard to imagine five years out really what the real impact is going to be. Um, you know, there’s no doubt that there’s a significant percentage of, uh, most institutions, uh, not the majority, but I do, uh, I, I do think societal, um, percentage that think that we’re going to return back to normal, right. And I’m using air quotes, um, uh, you know, it’s your typical lag or kind of, you know, the, the crossing, the chasm for those that are in the audience that have red cross and chasm kind of similar concept. But, you know, I, it’ll be interesting to kind of look back five years from now and really map what the curve really was. 


Wayne Bovier : (33:23)

I think it’s going to be steeper and, and more rapid, um, than what we’ve seen in five years compared to this seems to be a little, yeah, it’s a shift, but it flats. Yes. There’s a little bit of a peak, um, in terms of, you know, five years from now in terms of the recognition, but it also flattens out a little bit. Right. So that, there’s a, like, yeah, we’re gonna kind of move forward and stuff. Um, you know, knowing some of the dynamics that are out there, some of this we’ve touched on in previous podcasts, like, you know, the, uh, the venture capital community has been pretty large over the next five years. They’re, they’re funneling up to $2 trillion into ed technology, education technology. Um, they’re betting that that’s going to have a bigger impact, um, to be seen, right. Um, a lot of times technology over promises and under the livers, but, but, but I, but what will be happening is that there’s going to be a lot of innovation, a lot of disruption. And usually as a result of those two ingredients, there’s going to be some that, you know, whether by luck, skill, or whatever are going to end up being, you know, pretty advanced, uh, as a result of this. So, you know, I’m surprised to some degree not surprised at all. Um, you know, I, I, my gut tells me that, you know, the industry tends to underestimate this kind of stuff. Uh, and I think that’s going to happen. Uh, they’re, they’re underestimating as a whole, um, what’s going to happen in the next five years. 


Joe Gottlieb: (35:03)

Yeah. I think to me, it will be fascinating to see is that, uh, how effectiveness evolves under what might appear to be a relatively familiar setting. Right. So what you could imagine relatively easily is, oh yeah, sure. People still come face-to-face to institutions, and there’s still that, that traditional experience, but what’s happening within the lecture halls and the labs and the dorm rooms and on the campuses and in sections, right. Is transforming more so at some than others. And that’s innovation at work, because look, one thing that’s true about higher ed, they want to advance, they want to get smart or right. And so there’s enough institutions that are going to get the bug for what’s possible, and they’re going to run hard with it. And so that’s what I mean by, it’ll be interesting to see how that, how that emerges and whether or not we can leave behind some of our, our, the, the traditional brand associations about which are the great schools and embrace some schools, which may be unexpectedly innovating and delivering an amazingly valuable education via measurable outcomes. And how much will that be recognized by the way that we as consumers consume the higher ed product. And that, to me is the most interesting thing to watch. 


Wayne Bovier : (36:32)

I think you’re right. I think you’re right on that. 


Joe Gottlieb: (36:34)

All right. Let’s, let’s move on then to, um, there was, they did some cuts of the data that was interesting to, to look at, and that is how, how is a, for example, one thing thing they did was they looked at the current engagement by bite size of enrollment. And so, um, this is pretty predictable, not sure how much we can infer an add to this, but at the gross level, the larger institutions, or further along in DX engagement throughout that life cycle, be it, um, already active or in the process of developing a strategy versus no, not yet just exploring or no, not at all. I observed a kind of a nuance here in that the smallest organizations, um, were, were a bit ahead of the next level up, right? So if you’re under 2,500 in enrollment, you actually were more engaged than that 2,500 to four 94,909 group. And since there were pretty equal numbers in each of these categories, um, that to me struck me as ma maybe the smallest institutions are maybe like startups. They’re a little more nimble than this sort of next level, which is just, wow, we got all the challenges of the larger institutions, but, and we’re just big enough to make it hard on ourselves to execute. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into that, but 


Wayne Bovier : (38:02)

No, I mean, that’s stood out to me as well. And, um, so there, you know, for the audience, there’s, there’s kind of three groups or four groups here under 2500 2500 to 5,000, and then you got 5,000, almost 10,000, then 10,000 and above. And so 5,000 and above, um, those institutions tend to be, you know, uh, pretty diverse as it, as it pertains to the different kind of schools and departments that they have. Um, they tend to have more, um, so there’s more complexity there. And so, um, to me, you know, overall, this was really generally encouraging, um, the 2,500 to 5,000, um, you know, they’re kind of, you know, mid level small to mid-level, um, you know, it’s hard for me to make out why they stand out. Um, you know, I’d like to, you know, dissect that data to understand, um, you know, public versus private, uh, you know, dynamics within, within that data. Um, you know, I know that there are a lot of privates in the less than, uh, less than 2000, right? So those privates in many cases have budgets and, and endowments that they can tap into. And, you know, so, so, uh, so anyway, so yeah, it’s, this one is a little hard to kind of pull out, uh, you know, on this. 


Joe Gottlieb: (39:33)

All right. Well, let’s, let’s, um, let’s wrap up with one of the more interesting things that we saw on this, and that is, um, the barriers to digital transformation. I know you have studied this, and I’ve been thinking about some of the patterns in the barriers that we tend to see. Uh, how would you comment on, on what the survey, uh, produced on barriers? 


Wayne Bovier : (39:51)

Yeah, yeah. This one, this, this one really was the one, um, where I felt had the most insight for us as a, as a company, um, you know, digital transformation, the way we define it, we, we look at it. Um, it’s really a holistic endeavor, right? It is. If you think about like using, uh, taking a technology to the cloud, um, that technology is, you know, one facet, you know, think about it as a stool. It’s one leg of a three legged stool. You got to look at your organization, you gotta look at your operations. Uh, those are the two other, uh, uh, out of the three legs. And then the seat is the culture, right? And so in order to be successful at digital transformation, you have to understand, uh, each role that the legs do and the seat and how it all is held together and, uh, or how each, you know, each one of those can down any, any, uh, activity on that. 


Wayne Bovier : (40:53)

And so when you look at the details of this, like the number one really, uh, solve, you know, almost zero movement, uh, in two years, insufficient, cross institution planning or coordination, right. Uh, you know, again, GYN and going back, it tends to be the only centralized organization and department at an institution that spans the entire enterprise. And so in order like academic computing and, and capabilities, right, um, you have to be coordinated, right. There has to be some centralized coordination, right? So a, you know, a digital plan is a good effort. Um, but you ha you have to centralize it. You got to bring in all the stakeholders and somebody has got to make some tough decisions about what is a priority, and what’s not right. Um, another part this, now this did improve, but it’s still close to 40%, 39%, um, in, uh, in the current survey, which is buy-in right. 


Wayne Bovier : (41:59)

Buy-in to understanding the basic understanding of digital transformation. And what does it mean for my institution? What does it mean for my department? Again, I think this is, you know, relatively easy to fix when everybody understands that digital transformation, isn’t a tactical, operational it exercise, it needs to be considered, it needs to be looked holistically. How do we make decisions? How do we communicate? How do we organize, uh, around that? Um, you know, the cost and affordability, again, I’m still pretty high. 41% is still saying, I’m not sure I can afford it. Well, um, can’t the longer you wait, right? This gets back to the technical debt conversations we’ve had in the past, the longer your wait, the more technical debt you’re incurring, and the more money you will spend, um, to dig your way out of that and on top of slowing down and stuff. 


Wayne Bovier : (42:53)

So, so that’s another aspect of, uh, of this, that, that stepped out, uh, or stood out to me, um, and related to that as the ongoing investments. Right. You know, um, I like to think in physical terms and physical architecture terms, when it comes to digital architecture. So, you know, you think about a normal campus, they’re spending a lot of money on buildings. Um, you know, whether they’re bought, they bought the buildings are and taxes and maintenance and upgrades, and, you know, changing rooms out, you know, with technology. So you can do remote learning, all those kinds of stuff. There’s still a sizable, um, uh, part of the industry that are just wondering about how can I afford this ongoing, I would actually say, how can you not? Right. I do think that there’s a, uh, uh, an opportunity that institutions need to do, uh, or it needs to take advantage of is this internal efficiencies, right? 


Wayne Bovier : (43:55)

Um, right now most of the institutions we engage with on some level, um, are overly manual where they have the capabilities in the software to make it much more automated. Right. So, so I think, you know, these are all, you know, these are just the top, uh, top ones. There’s some other ones that came with this, but, but I do think that, you know, these are real barriers, uh, that need to be discussed. Um, we, as a company play a major role in helping, uh, not only educate, but provide tools and capabilities and expertise on how to break down silence, how do you take a complicated institution? Because, you know, you’re not going to change the organizational structure of an institution that had been around. Right. So how do you take, and how can you help an institution that has these complicated budget authority everywhere. Um, the, the organizational decision-making, you know, the decentralized aspect, how do you start to centralize some of the decision-making? How do you empower, you know, the CIO, like we talked about? So, so again, this is kind of, you know, more evidence to me that, you know, what we are doing as a company really starts to solve some real pain points, um, that, you know, is clear based upon this, uh, you know, on this, uh, uh, data that, you know, there’s no, not real movements that the institutions are stuck with this as well. 


Joe Gottlieb: (45:19)

Yeah. I mean, just to, to, to bring that point home, as you pointed out, the, every one of these barriers dropped significantly, there’s still in many cases really high. So we know that the barriers still exist, and that’s why folks are wrestling with digital transformation. But the one that didn’t drop our only drop from 53 to 52%, the highest incidents of, of a barrier was this insufficient cross institution planning or coordination. And you’re, you’re totally right. It gets down to that mindset, that cloud of approach, it’s hard to change organizational structure, and therefore you got to figure out how can you make your structure, um, become more effective at doing this. And that comes down to becoming more effective at change, uh, in the face of, of technology advancement. So we know that’s, um, that’s an area of great interest. We love working with our customers on that. And with that, I’d like to bring this to a close Wayne, thank you so much for joining me today. Thanks to our guests for joining us as well. We hope you have a great day and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.


Back To Top

Follow Us on LinkedIn

Subscribe on Apple Podcast

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.

Interested in being a guest?