How U of Memphis Embraced Digital Transformation by Cultivating "Intrapreneurs"

October 27, 2021 Watermark Insights

EDUCAUSE recently released its Special Report: Digital Transformation, and we were thrilled to get a closer look at how long-time Watermark client, the University of Memphis, structures its transformational technology work. By taking a similar approach to a software start-up company, the IT team has been able to quickly test and launch innovative tech programs that benefit students and faculty.

Robert (Bob) Johnson, Associate CIO at the University of Memphis, shared a case study based on twelve months of experimentation. This is a public Research II institution founded in 1912, currently serving more than 20,000 students. The goal: set the organization up for success with current and future technologies on campus.

Choosing the Experiment and the Team

Promoting the Process of Digital Transformation at the University of Memphis (found on page 58 of the EDUCAUSE report) shares several core tenets that any school can use to get advanced tech programs off the ground. To start? Keep the experiment/outcomes simple, and create a multi-faceted team.

Bob chose a new AI Chatbot as the experiment — a small innovation that didn’t get much use (and therefore wouldn’t cause disruption if an experiment ran awry). Team leads were on the Web and Mobile Services team, but the rest of the team came from a variety of areas across campus — not technical roles. This cross-functional team was key, as they learned from one another, hierarchy was not an issue, and everyone had a voice in the project.

The MVP: Minimum Viable Product

The outcome of the experiment — the “product” — should be simple. The team purposefully tried not to figure out “how” they were going to get to their end goal, so as to not overcomplicate the work.

Great Lessons Learned

Read the article to see how planning, discovery, and learning validation all played critical roles in the experiment’s success, and get actionable tips to help you think more like an "intrapreneur" when trying new things.

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