Turning Process Into Progress: Using Technology to Drive Institutional Improvement

April 14, 2023 Watermark Insights

Turning Process Into Progress: Using Technology to Drive Institutional Improvement

How many times have you wondered if the tedious, time-consuming parts of your job could become more efficient with the use of software? You do the research and find software that can help, but now comes the tricky part — securing funding and buy-in from your colleagues.

Dr. Glenn Phillips, former Director of Assessment at Howard University, has some takeaways from championing the adoption of new technology at his former institution. Here are a few tips to help navigate the process.

How to Implement New Technology Into Educational Institutions 

The higher education industry can greatly benefit from modern trends and achievements in technology, from automated features to AI. Technology can support various goals and initiatives, assisting departments and teams as they try to improve your institution. Understanding how to adopt new technology into higher education can help schools navigate the unique challenges of the industry. 

1. Develop an Effective Strategy for Adoption 

Developing a useful technology adoption strategy requires you to know the needs of your institution, including your current assets and processes. The goal is to bring in a software solution that aligns with your existing processes, so you don't have to completely change the way you work.

There are four steps Phillips recommends you take when building your strategy:

  1. Know the technology you want to integrate and how it will support and improve your current processes. Develop a deep understanding of what your new technology will bring to the table.
  2. Identify your allies and gather a group of individuals who are on board. Be sure to involve the IT department from the start. This ensures a smooth, accessible rollout with single sign-on (SSO) access and integration with other key software applications (for example, your learning management system).
  3. Make yourself accessible to the people who are using the tech. Be available to answer their questions and talk through your goals for the onboarding process.
  4. Show everyone the benefits of the technology. Ensure your faculty and staff know how the technology can help improve their work lives and processes, and reassure them it won't become a hindrance.

2. Create a Compelling Argument for a Budget 

Crafting a compelling argument is all about asking the right questions. Typical budgeting conversations involve questions like:

  • Who wins if we get it?
  • What does it cost?
  • Who will pay for it?
  • How long will we need to use it?

Phillips recommends reorganizing your argument to uncover the risk your institution takes by not getting the technology. He states, "You don't need to argue for technology; you need to argue for this technology." 

Instead, consider asking questions like:

  • Who loses if we don't get this software?
  • What do we risk?
  • Who is responsible if it doesn't happen?
  • How long have we gone without it?

3. Select Quality Features 

Select Quality Features

When implementing digital technologies for your higher education institution, you should consider how the features can impact your intended operations and functions. The features included in your selected solutions can streamline and improve your daily operations for better results. Some common features that are increasing relevance amongst higher education institutions include: 

  • Automation: When you want to boost efficiency with your digital transformation, you should invest in a solution with automated features. These functions will reduce the manual labor required by your faculty and staff by taking over repetitive, time-consuming tasks like entering data from forms or sending out reminders and notifications. It can also improve operational reliability Individuals are prone to human error and may make mistakes like accidentally forgetting steps in processes. When accessing automated data, you can feel confident in its accuracy. 
  • Centralization: Because educational institutions have countless departments and teams that must work together, a centralized platform can streamline collaboration and data accuracy. With a centralized system, all data and files are stored in the same place, eliminating data siloes that can occur when departments store information separately. You can also save time going through data request processes by granting individuals special permissions to view and access more data. 
  • Cloud storage: Organizations can improve accessibility with solutions and systems that use cloud storage. This function allows individuals to access systems and data from any device. Because faculty members and professors might attend academic conferences, provide guest lectures, or hold office hours from other locations, cloud capabilities can enhance their functionality and efficiency while away from your institution. 
  • Scale: If your educational institution is planning on growing, your tools must easily adapt to size and volume changes in order to stay helpful. Platforms that scale to your operations allow institutions to adjust more efficiently to growth and improvement initiatives. 

Technology can support your institution in many ways. You must narrow your options by filtering for the functions that will best assist your initiatives and goals. 

4. Create a Training and Communication Plan for Your Community 

Providing your faculty and staff with meaningful training is essential for buy-in. If your community understands how the solution works and believes in its benefits, they'll be more likely to use it and encourage others to do the same.

Successful training and communication depend on four factors:

  1. Your process determines your audience. Focus your training on the specific roles that will be using the tech and what they need to know to fulfill their duties.
  2. Your size determines your service. Design your training plan based on the resources and time you have, and offer what you can to your community to help ease the implementation process.
  3. Your culture impacts your invitation. Know how your community learns best and how they connect with new materials and design your training and resources around that.
  4. The purpose writes your pedagogy. Create your training materials around the "why." Show your faculty and staff how the software will improve their day-to-day lives.

5. Plan for an Adjustment Period 

Whenever organizations implement new technology or tools, the impacted teams will need some time to get used to new functions and processes. As you plan out your timeline and predicted outcomes, you should expect lower efficiency levels and more questions as users adjust to new processes and resources. Beyond training, your teams can support your departments, faculty, and professors with new digital technologies by: 

  • Outlining functions and features: Even with the right amount of training, individuals still might forget what everything does when the resources are before them. It might be challenging and time-consuming to figure it out themselves. You can create online resources that list common functions and features, guiding individuals through how to use new technology more efficiently. 
  • Setting up FAQ pages: Individuals will need support throughout the adjustment period. You can use your training programs to determine some common questions or problems your faculty might encounter. Making this available with your resources can reduce the volume of questions and concerns you receive during adjustment, so you can dedicate more time to serious and complex problems. 
  • Accepting feedback: Your everyday users will apply the program to their operations the most, determining what is and isn't working. During the adjustment period, create a safe environment and system for feedback, allowing individuals to suggest more efficient processes based on their experiences or ask questions. 

Overall, be patient with your school. They often want to improve with decision-makers. Helping them understand how technology can contribute to common goals can help individuals see the purpose of new tools. 

Create Technology Adoption Strategies With Watermark 

Create Technology Adoption Strategies With Watermark

Technology is a tool that can help you turn your processes into progress. As Phillips puts it, "We want technology because it opens us up to the possibility of what our office could do if we weren't hamstrung by having to copy and paste things every day." Implementing technology across your campus can open doors for improvement and create sustainable, efficient processes.

For more advice on successfully onboarding new software at your institution, download The Essential Guide: How To Be a Technology Champion.

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