Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 3.39.03 PM

Graduating Higher Education into the Digital Era: The Importance of People Readiness

Throughout my years working in higher education, I have been fortunate to be a part of several graduation ceremonies. I love the celebration, joy, and especially hearing the journeys that students have experienced in achieving this milestone. Stories that are filled with unique and transformational experiences, with challenges and obstacles overcome, making plans, and then rewriting those plans, often several times over. In short, they are stories of triumph. With my background in student success, I pay particularly close attention to the support systems students mention, the guidance and advice they received, the planning entailed, and how they navigated their journey.

College graduates celebrating with confetti.A students’ journey to graduation is rarely completed in isolation, but rather includes a network of support from members of their institution, family, and friends. While student support systems are designed for students to easily connect and engage, they often include a complex, multifaceted network of offices, departments, engagement activities, individuals, and systems working together.

In today’s environment, having a robust digital framework for these support systems is essential. Cloud-based enterprise student information systems offer streamlined processes, enhanced data management, and increased efficiency to improve the student experience, making student support more seamless and portable than ever before.

Much like a student’s journey towards graduation, a successful digital transformation of a student information system includes detailed planning, strategic execution, and a focus on people readiness and support. It includes creating easy access for end users while intentionally connecting information across a complex institutional network. Successful implementation and utilization lie not solely in the technology, but on the readiness and integration of the faculty, staff, and students who will use it. Just as a student’s path to graduation is filled with obstacles, challenges, and a needed willingness to step outside of their comfort zone, so is undergoing a digital transformation.

Just as faculty and staff help students create and navigate their educational journey, complete degree requirements, and manage their current and future goals, institutions need to undergo a comprehensive exploration of their digital experience, business processes, stakeholders, institutional policies, training, and support to fully prepare for a digital transformation.

Professor helping student on laptop.In the same way that institutions prepare graduates to enter a new world, institutions must prioritize people readiness. Faculty members, for instance, play a crucial role in guiding students through their academic journey. They must be equipped with the knowledge to effectively utilize digital tools, from inputting grades to accessing student records seamlessly. Staff members also must be ready to navigate the new system to configure and provide efficient support services, and students must feel empowered and supported with a new system to manage their next steps and academic requirements.

Moreover, the importance of people readiness extends beyond technical proficiency. It encompasses a cultural shift, a collective mindset that embraces change, fosters collaboration, and prioritizes student success. Institutions must cultivate a supportive environment where faculty, staff, and students feel empowered to implement new technologies, business processes, and embrace innovation.

In essence, preparing for a digital transformation is like preparing for graduation. It's a time of excitement, anticipation, and a little bit of nerves. Just as students spend years honing their skills, acquiring knowledge, and preparing for life beyond academia, institutions must invest time and resources in preparing for the next chapter in their digital transformation journey.

Much like the moment when a graduate steps onto the stage to receive their diploma (cue the pomp and circumstance) the completion of a digital transformation represents a culmination of hard work, dedication, and the promise of a brighter future. With a focus on people readiness, institutions can successfully navigate new ways of supporting students with confidence, ensuring a smooth transition for all.

Brian Hamm is a senior consultant for Avaap’s Organizational Transformation Solutions business unit. In his 20-year career in higher education, Brian has served in a variety of capacities within Enrollment Management, Academic Affairs, and Student Affairs to drive student success and retention. His career has taken him across the country, working in one of the largest universities in the United States, to small private and public institutions. Brian works to help institutions and organizations successfully navigate and adopt digital transformations to maximize their potential for serving students and end users.