Next-Generation Enterprise IT: Using System Implementations to Help Organizations Become More Agile by Improving Business Systems

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In 2018, the EDUCAUSE Enterprise IT Program is examining the concept of next-generation enterprise IT. The fourth set of materials for that topic describes resources that help IT leaders use system implementations to promote agility through continuous process improvement.

Server room with data floating around
Credit: Andrey VP / Shutterstock © 2018

The 2018 focus for the EDUCAUSE Enterprise IT Program is preparing the institution for next-generation enterprise IT. (Read about our plan for the year.) As we prepare new resources for this topic, we will publish them on the Enterprise IT Program web page. In our fourth set of resources for the year, we look at the opportunity presented by system implementations for IT leaders to help their institutions become more agile by continuously examining and improving business processes.

Next-generation IT is characterized by numerous interconnected systems organized to provide information in support of achieving an institution's vision. These systems are a mixture of on-premise and cloud-based technologies and must be unified to provide the analytics and services needed for unit and enterprise-level decisions. Whenever new systems are implemented, or existing systems are interconnected, or IT services are added is the perfect time to examine and improve the processes that provide these services.

IT's involvement in leading or driving these changes provides a vantage point and the initiative for cross-institutional collaboration to help increase agility through the infusion of continuous improvement into the organization's culture. During an implementation, the associated business processes are typically examined and improved as part of the effort, but too often, upon the effort's completion and IT's exit, these same processes and their outputs and outcomes are not again examined until the next system implementation.

Examining and improving processes is often considered something to do during a project; it's a set of tasks added to an implementation plan that has a start and end to it. A group of involved stakeholders is gathered; a process map or narrative about how a process works is constructed and then examined for streamlining or other improvement; potential changes are discussed, and selected changes are agreed upon and (perhaps) documented; and the changes move forward and become part of how the work is done. Once those changes become the way of doing business, no further changes are made.

Processes and their outcomes are the operations of the institution. They are how an organization provides services, achieves its mission, and moves forward toward its vision. Paying attention to each outcome; monitoring key process metrics; examining processes where outcomes are suboptimal, not cost-effective, or need total transformation—all these duties need to be operationalized as part of how an organization operates. These tasks and resources to perform them must not await the next upgrade or system change.

Consider the following lessons:

  • For any examination of business processes, ensure you have a broad range of stakeholders involved.
  • Focus first on how you do it today and be clear about that—get stakeholder agreement before you identify improvement opportunities. You must understand how it presently works before you try to improve it.
  • Identify, and then monitor, only key metrics for business processes and systems. Just because you can measure something doesn't mean you should. The metrics should be related to the institution's strategic plan or direction and give an indication of whether you are making progress.
  • In many cases, incremental changes are better than complete transformation—achieve small wins, communicate them organization-wide, and then continue your changes more widely.
  • Culture is about the way "things are done around here," and changing that takes time and effort. Using the go-live planning effort to include continuous improvement tasks and resources and linking them to operational tasks will help an organization become increasingly agile and help those resources and tasks become part of the organization's fabric of work.

The Enterprise IT Program has collected resources to help you on your journey. A new web page dedicated to using system implementations to help organizations continuously improve business process redesign efforts provides resources including the following:

  • A set of case studies that describe how IT leaders at Bridgewater State University, the University of Wisconsin–Stout, and the University of Maryland are using enterprise system implementation or upgrade efforts as an opportunity to accelerate cultural transformation
  • Member blogs from Boston University, State University of New York at Oswego, the University of California at Merced, and University of the Pacific, detailing how each organization used change management to drive the redesign of some key business processes
  • Working group papers, articles from other members of the EDUCAUSE community, and more

Because this organizational effort extends across organizations, you will also find links to resources from other professional organizations such as NACUBO (the National Association of College and University Business Officers).

We hope you find these new resources helpful. Send us your questions and your suggestions by email.

If you have a story to tell about your own institution's work in the area of next generation enterprise IT, or if you have suggestions or questions about the Enterprise IT Program, please contact Betsy Tippens Reinitz.

Andrew Clark is President of Andrew Clark & Associates and EDUCAUSE Consultant.

© 2018 Andrew Clark. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 International License.