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The Importance of Change Management to Campus IT Strategies

Strategies for effective leadership
University Business, October 2017

Higher education is in the midst of significant changes, including in the areas of technology infrastructure and strategy. Moving to the cloud, updating or automating business processes and incorporating data-driven decision making can dramatically benefit the institution, but campus leaders can run the risk of overlooking a crucial component to ensuring any technology strategy is successful: change management. 

This web seminar explored some of the key components of change management, through a roundtable discussion with three campus leaders who prepared for and managed change successfully during the implementation of significant new technology strategies at their institutions.  

Change Management Issue #1: Switching ERPs

Chris Townley: In 2009, we had a new president come on board along with a new ad­ministrative staff, and changed us to an ERP system he preferred. In 2011, just before we were going to go live, our president resigned, and a new president and new ad­ministrative staff was hired. He immediately began evaluating our financial situation and looking at how he could repair it, including evaluating the ERP. We took our time and did more research.  This led us to join a purchasing consortium with some other colleges in Texas, and we eventually went with Jenzabar’s ERP. People were happier, we had minimal unforeseen costs, and TC’s financial issues began to resolve.

Michael Dumdei: We took our financial aid people, our business office people and our enrollment management people on discovery trips with us, and that gave them a really good opportunity to know they were a part of the decision. That had a lot to do with getting buy-in. We also had several meetings at the college. We pulled everyone together who was involved in the process and said, “If you have any issues, we want to hear it.”

Change Management Issue #2: Moving to the Cloud

Tom Pham: We have been a Jenzabar client since 1994. We started with TE, the legacy system, and in 2011 we converted and upgraded to the most recent version of the Jenzabar ERP. The migration and the conversion went very smoothly. Our users were trained, but since they were already familiar with the legacy system, picking up the new system wasn’t a challenge for them.

During our school year, we’d had some hardware failure on our main database server. The amount of downtime that it took to get the system back into place was unacceptable. So we approached Jenzabar and asked them about cloud service. By moving all of our systems into the cloud, we’re no longer dependent on our data center.

We were able to have an internal discussion about the costs, and ultimately came to the conclusion that it would cost us less to move to the cloud than to replace all of our hardware.  Additionally, we identified our short-term and long-term needs, and made a decision within a week. The flexibility of our campus and our vendor allowed us to be up and running sooner than re-installing new hardware. 

Moderator: What are the keys to making change successfully?

Gus Ortiz: You have to be cautious about allowing too much complacency. Change cannot be something that’s going to happen someday. People need to understand that change is coming, that they need to be a part of it, and it’s going to happen. No one likes to change processes and ways of doing things, but in reality, as human beings, we all have to change and adapt over time.

Also, whether it’s a new ERP or migrating to the cloud or adapting some new processes, those decisions cannot be made by an individual. They need to be made by a guiding coalition and the broader base of that coalition. More people from more areas is beneficial to making change successful.

Moderator: What relationships did you have to leverage or build across campus to implement change?

Chris Townley: One of the incredible things for us was that our new CIO had a good relationship with our president. There was a lot of communication between IT and the administration. They gave us time to be able to look at what we needed in order to make the right choice. Another area that I think a lot of people overlook is that we talked to the faculty. We showed them their side of the system. Because they knew what was coming, they were looking forward to the changes.

Moderator: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to campus leaders who are looking to make a change to their technology strategy?

Chris Townley: Network with other institutions. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Someone out there has already evaluated whatever software you’re considering and they have an opinion on it. Find those people and build relationships with them so that after you’ve made your choice you can still communicate to learn what problems they had during implementation. Then, after you’ve implemented, you can also learn things to make your system better.

Michael Dumdei: We are saving around $1 million dollars every year, even though the software itself was more expensive. We did some research and found out what kind of IT staff we would need to have, and we got rid of the managed services we were paying for. We took it all on in-house when we switched to the Jenzabar ERP. 

It wound up being a very large savings. Research, plan, get your people involved.

Tom Pham: My advice is to look more into the future to see where you want to be—and, realistically, where you will be. Look where the trends are going. Identify processes and know what the cost is before you do the conversion and the migration.

Gus Ortiz: Make sure that whatever your change initiative is, whatever you want to re-strategize, whatever you want to improve and do in a new and revolutionary way—understand that will have to be communicated to people. 

Having a vision and strategy to communicate is important. It takes a conscious and deliberate effort.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit www.universitybusiness.com/ws080317

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