Digital Transformation in Higher Education

Digital Transformation in Higher Education

Resource centre for driving campus-wide change

This hub is home to EAB's digital transformation resources. Just getting started on this journey? Watch the video below to make sure you and your colleagues are on the same page when it comes to the buzzwords that can make digital transformation seem confusing. Then, scroll down to learn about, and access resources for, eight core capabilities that are essential for digital transformation success.

In response to consumer and environmental pressures amplified by a global pandemic, higher education institutions are rapidly embracing ‘digital transformation’. But, like many buzzwords, the term is only useful in the context of a shared definition. The video above introduces you to three common terms related to digital transformation, and provides definitions, and examples, for each.

Digital transformation is the process of using digital tools—specifically data and technology—to deliver value and drive change.

The emphasis is not on specific technologies but on the application of those technologies to core strategies or operational challenges.

The rapid scaling and widespread adoption of the solution in turn creates a culture of continuous improvement and sets the stage for further transformation.

A digital strategy focuses on problem-solving innovations in service of the university mission. It should be rooted in business needs rather than the latest-and-greatest vendor pitches.

It is not an IT department strategy that has been renamed ‘digital’. While IT strategy is about infrastructure service, cybersecurity, and systems, digital strategy is about business, value, and the customer.

Digital transformation does not happen by itself; rather, it requires the development of concrete practices, infrastructure, and skills—collectively, capabilities—that create an environment in which transformation can flourish.

Specifically, digital transformation requires both organisational capabilities, which help drive cultural change, as well as IT capabilities, which ensure the technological infrastructure is equipped for transformation at scale.

The last of these, namely digital transformation capabilities, are needed to fully support a digital agenda. Senior leaders play an important role in working across campus to establish a shared understanding and identify problems (and opportunities) requiring digital solutions. IT units must be able to respond thoughtfully and partner effectively with different areas of the institution to design, implement, and monitor innovation initiatives.

Need a quick primer on Digital Transformation in the higher education space?

Eight capabilities that are critical to the success of digital transformation efforts

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Executive Sponsorship for Digital Ambitions

Senior management understands the necessity of digital innovation for both organisational continuity and market relevance. University strategic goals are embedded with digital initiatives and technology, and there is a clear leadership structure to realise them.

Process and Customer Journey Mapping

University staff understands and regularly collects input from students, staff, and alumni about digital expectations. Digital projects are built on a foundation of process redesign and 'customer' engagement to ensure efficiency and service expectations are met from the start.

EAB resource coming soon.

Portfolio-Minded Project Prioritisation

Senior leaders agree on a process for evaluating and approving digital initiatives. By adopting a portfolio perspective, IT keeps an eye on addressing redundancy, sequencing, or reuse issues. Responsibility for initial and ongoing budgetary investments is clear.

Digital Literacy and Engagement Campaigns

Executive leadership recognises that promoting and enabling digital transformation is not the sole responsibility of the IT department. Leadership conducts needs assessments to avoid over-or under-estimating digital capabilities. Students and staff have ample opportunity to develop needed digital skills.

Integrated Digital Platforms

Costs in the university technology portfolio are minimised through scalable enterprise architecture. University IT systems and data capabilities deliver competitive advantage through speed, flexibility, and agility, with no constraints to performance from legacy systems.

Future-Oriented IT Skills

Ongoing IT staff training and hiring supports the institution’s current digital strategy and actively anticipates future skills and knowledge requirements. IT staff understand institution-wide workloads and strategy and provide proactive input into digitisation and process improvement projects.

Trend and Opportunity Sensing

IT staff are motivated by change and actively engage in environmental scanning, competitor analysis, and trend identification. The potential impact those trends may have on university mission, strategy, business model, and the higher education sector is communicated to senior leadership regularly.

Roadmap to Support and Scale Innovation

Customer-driven innovations are piloted to ensure that any potential risks from new endeavours are contained and do not metastasise across the institution. Successful pilot projects are celebrated and scaled up. Centrally driven innovations are designed to generate new value for stakeholders, prioritising cloud-based solutions.

Assess your campus readiness for digital transformation

Take this flash poll and let us know which digital transformation capability (or capabilities) you are actively working to address. Your EAB Strategic Leader will follow up with additional resources and guidance.

Interested in discovering technology projects that will enable digital transformation on your campus?

Check-our our compendium, which is designed to help you identify trends in digital projects, engage in environmental scanning, and identify new opportunities for your own campus.

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