Digitalizing business operations at Hogeschool Utrecht
Thanks to technological advances, education is personalizing along the principles of ‘any time, any place, any path, any space’. Universities and colleges will likewise offer modern online and offline learning concepts. The required flexibility, scalability and user experiences require an appropriate IT infrastructure that facilitates this optimally. From our consultancy practice in the education sector, we present the vision on this topic as seen by some of our customers. This week, Ellen Schuurink, Manager Digital Operations at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, has the floor.
‘The coherence in focus’
Ellen Schuurink has been working for Hogeschool Utrecht (HU) since 2016. After she started as Manager Digital Learning Environment and Digital Research Environment she made the connection between didactics and IT. At the time, the focal point was the newly formulated digitalization ambition, focusing on personalized education, among other things. Agile, DevOps and low-code development were important tools in the realization.
As Manager Digitalization Business Operations, she is now shaping the next battle in digitalization, in which three elements play an important role: people, processes and IT. “Business operations are organized in such a way that students, teachers and researchers can focus optimally on their core tasks.”
Innovation and optimization
HU is one of the large educational institutions in the Netherlands with almost 35,000 students. “Given our nature and size, everything we do ultimately has a significant social impact,” says Schuurink. “With all the initiatives we undertake, we ask ourselves, for example, how this will make things easier for the student or teacher, or how it will improve the process.”
Ultimately, everything must be in line with the digital strategy. “In doing so, we are always looking for the balance between innovation and optimization.” Some time ago, with the help of Anderson MacGyver, the Manager Digitalization Business Operations and her team ran a project in the ERP domain, aimed at optimizing basic administration. “That too involved the trade-off between super fancy and super simple, or something in between.”
By examining the entire process and the supporting IT, you will easily get a good picture of of the coherence. In the ERP project, for example, the relationship with the various related financial and HR processes and systems became clear. This includes matters that seem more distant from these processes. As a result, the impact of choices also emerges.
“For us, for example, a so-called contract student – a student who combines work and study – is of a different importance than a 17-year-old who chooses their studies following their high school in his or her region. The latter will come to us automatically, while for contract students we compete with other colleges and institutions, commercial or otherwise, at home and abroad,” Schuurink said.
“Both categories relate to the administrative process, but for the young student from the region we can probably suffice with a standard solution in terms of CRM, while we may have to differentiate with regard to the contract student.”
Vision and expertise
“In a decentralized governance, you can enter into dialogue about every point solution that should make the difference,” says the Manager Digitalization Business Operations. “For a lot of support processes, uniform systems suffice. It’s a missed opportunity to do all of that on a small scale and every man for himself. That does require a clear demarcation, where you choose technological solutions that fit the strategy and the purpose of use.”
“Anderson MacGyver helps us get the insights based on which we can make these choices. They make a nice picture of that. They also know the products available in the market. Everyone brings in his or her individual knowledge and skills: overview, content, execution power, knowledge of architecture and so on. That all works well with the people involved on our side.”
In the trajectory with Anderson MacGyver, a pressure cooker was chosen, aimed at delivering two things: the documentation of the thought process and their outcomes, plus a translation into business impact suitable for decision-making in the IT board. The focus here was on the supporting processes.
Together with the IT board, costs are also considered. “By investing in IT you can improve things, but the operating costs have to be kept under control.”
“The question here is also: where do things need to be stable and reliable, and where is agility required? What buttons do we need to press to be effective and efficient, but with the right change capacity and absorptive capacity? Here it is all about finding a collective point of view.”
“The interpretation must be based on the question in which areas you want to be distinctive as an organization and where uniformity is sufficient.“Ellen Schuurink – Manager Digitale Bedrijfsvoering van de Hogeschool Utrecht
“The target architecture is the starting point,” says Ellen Schuurink. “The interpretation must be based on the question in which areas you want to be distinctive as an organization and where uniformity is sufficient. Thanks to the trajectory with Anderson MacGyver, we have a handle to give direction to this.”
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