Managing Change in the Higher Education Sector

Higher education institutions are turning to software to help them deal with financial, organizational, and regulatory change. TEC surveyed higher education professionals to find out whether their software systems were able to address their most pressing challenges. We also assessed a vendor that emphasizes the change management capabilities of its software—UNIT4—to determine how well it supports change management challenges. Download this report for full results and analysis.
Higher education institutions are under greater pressure than ever before to make changes that help them operate efficiently and stay competitive. Broadly speaking, these changes fall into three categories.

  • Financial—Faced with increasing costs and, in many cases, reduced public funding, universities and colleges need to find better ways to administer their finances, avoid unnecessary expenses, and make the most of limited budgets.
  • Organizational—Like many other types of organizations, higher education institutions undergo periodic restructuring to contain costs, operate more efficiently, and reflect changing priorities (e.g., new departments, new areas of research, etc.). In some cases, institutions may share resources, or even merge to form larger entities, which requires major changes to workflows, business processes, and organizational structures.
  • Regulatory—Regulations for higher education institutions can cover ethics, financial integrity, educational standards, hiring and firing, ways of transmitting information (e.g., mobile phones, Internet, etc.), and more. As colleges and universities come under increasing scrutiny from governments, students, donors, and others, their regulatory burden is increasing steadily.

Like their counterparts in the business world, higher education institutions are turning to software to help them deal with these changes. But how well do their systems really accommodate change management? Can software vendors deliver the functionality that higher education institutions need to manage change effectively?

To answer these questions, Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC) identified the following five major challenges related to change management:

1. Business process change
2. Compliance with new regulations
3. Financial management-driven change
4. Mergers and acquisitions
5. Reorganization and restructuring

We then surveyed higher education prefessionals to find out

a. which of these challenges were most pressing, and
b. whether their current software systems were able to adress them.

Finally, we chose a vendor that emphasizes the change management capabilities of its software—UNIT4— and asked it whether and how well its software supports specific software modifications required to address each change management challenge.

To verify UNIT4’s responses, we performed reference checks with three of the company’s customers in the higher education sector, asking them whether and how UNIT4’s software helped them address change.

This report analyzes the results of our end-user survey, UNIT4’s responses to our questionnaire, and the results of our reference check.

Breakdown of Respondents

In total, TEC collected responses to four change management–related questions from 216 higher education professionals representing a broad spectrum of roles and institutions.

  • Twenty percent of respondents hold management positions, another 20 percent work in information technology (IT), and 16 percent work in administration. The remaining 44 percent selected “Other” as a response.
  • A majority (75 percent) of respondents work at a university or college, while 10 percent work for an institute of technology. Only 5 percent work for a vocational/trade school. The remaining 10 percent selected “Other” as a response.
  • As seen in the graph below, survey respondents represent institutions of all sizes, with large institutions (more than 10,000 students) represented somewhat better than other groups.

 

Survey Results Summary

Opportunities abound for vendors that can help higher education institutions lighten their change management burdens. According to TEC’s survey results, nearly half of respondents would consider replacing their current software solutions to help them manage change more effectively, without relying on external support.

A likely reason for that is the high cost of change management initiatives. Almost 36 percent of respondents report spending over $100,000—with 7 percent of respondents spending upwards of $1 million—to meet post-deployment change management requirements—a figure that most likely reflects only direct costs.

Driving these change management initiatives are a variety of internal and external pressures—chief among them increased regulatory compliance requirements and internal reorganization and restructuring efforts designed to cut costs and increase efficiency. Respondents identified those two factors as the top change management drivers, and also indicated that software was a critical part of meeting change management requirements.

Question 1: Willingness to Replace Current Software Solutions to Manage Change More Effectively

TEC asked respondents whether they would consider changing to a new enterprise software system if the majority of ongoing changes could be handled easily by business users or internal IT staff.

 
Results here look very promising for enterprise software vendors that are able to address emerging change management requirements, as almost half of respondents are ready to replace their existing systems. Ambitious vendors may also choose to see the undecided third of respondents as potential clients, as they may simply be unaware of available alternatives to their current systems. It would be worth considering whether your vendor or other vendors are able to address change management requirements without expensive recoding.

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