A strong vision will help universities attain digital excellence

A new report on content management technologies and practices in the higher education sector shows that universities are under increasing pressure to deliver better digital experiences to students, but face challenges of culture, organisation and technology when it comes to attaining digital excellence. To remain competitive in an era of experience management, universities must establish a strong vision among leadership to drive transformation from the top down and across their organisation.

Download ‘Digital Transformation in Higher Education’ by Digital Clarity Group


Why we sponsored this report

Manifesto has been on quite a journey over the last year or so as we’ve almost doubled the size of the team. As well as strengthening our user experience and strategic capabilities, Creative Cherry merged with us, adding additional content and creative brains to supplement our technological know-how. At the same time, we’re looking to deepen our understanding of the sectors in which we work. The Higher Education sector is one we’re very interested in. From our initial work in this area we feel some of the things we’ve learnt working within the not-for-profit sector can be applied.

When we were first approached to take part in this Digital Clarity Group study, to our knowledge the first which looks exclusively at experience management in Higher Education, we had our own preconceptions. Some of those have been validated in the final report but there are also areas where our expectations were confounded – proving the need to do real research when assessing the rapidly changing digital landscape.

What’s inside the report?

Here are some of the key points that stood out for us.

HE institutions tend to move slowly

Institutions are focussed on preparing individuals for productive lives and, although financially responsible, their primary concern is not on making money for shareholders. This can result in slow decision making, often with complex hierarchies amongst trustees, faculty and administrators, where interests are not always aligned. This is not uncommon in the digital world. It’s something we’ve seen many times with our strategy work.

Content managers work in silos

Those working in Higher Education often believe their content needs are unique and hold the opinion that they know their audience better than anyone else. This creates a barrier to collaboration. Experience has shown us that some of the best digital experiences come from a unified vision, shared by all stakeholders and based on real user research.

This leads to great inefficiency

The above points lead to decentralised operating model where each department acts as its own mini-organisation within the institution. This leads to lack of unity in tone and content.  A statistic which I found particularly alarming was a report of one UK institution maintaining over 1,500 websites serving over 6 million pages. With 15 people making up their web team, one can only imagine the difficulty faced in keeping content fresh, consistent and up to date.

Download ‘Digital Transformation in Higher Education’ by Digital Clarity Group

In fact, this is not uncommon at all. Of all Higher Education Institutions who were asked, web teams ranged from 1 to 15 people in size, where the majority of teams were managing multiple websites with a minimum of 10,000 content assets.

Institutions are risk-averse

It would appear that one such reason for this decentralised model is uncertainty over long term funding, as state subsidies wane and the costs of education are increasingly borne by students. This leads to less risk taking, which in turn leads to attitude of quick tactical wins as opposed to long term strategy. Experience has taught us that a long term strategy will almost always work out more efficient.

There is a significant technology gap

Many institutions have not yet invested in classes of technology which help web teams deal with volume, multi-site management and workflow. The good news here for Higher Education institutions is that the technology landscape is maturing rapidly, resulting in many options when it comes to progressing digital capabilities.

The role of technology providers and integrators

The report suggests that technology providers and integrators have a key part to play in turning digital visions into reality for HE institutions. We have the robust software and digital expertise needed to advise on, and deliver, the best way to achieve an organisation’s digital goals.

Before these changes can begin to take place, however, it is essential that today’s Higher Education leaders are ready, willing and able to take a fundamental role in digital transformation. First by establishing a strong vision, and then by driving transformation.

The education sector is currently lagging behind many others when it comes to establishing executive roles that oversee digital initiatives. In order to remain competitive, institutions will need to empower digital experts to align their organisation’s needs, aspirations and wider business strategy with a solid roadmap of ongoing digital developments.

Download ‘Digital Transformation in Higher Education’ by Digital Clarity Group

Where do we go from here?

Manifesto values long term strategic partnerships with clients. We like to be thought of as an extension of an organisation’s team.

We can provide services ranging from digital transformation strategy through to ongoing content creation and development. By developing long term partnerships we gain a thorough understanding of an organisation’s needs and requirements. This ensures that we consistently provide value and help our partners achieve their digital ambitions.

The research provided by DCG goes some way to proving that an effective partnership can help institutions in the Higher Education sector leapfrog their competition when it comes to delivering the kinds of digital experiences that meet the ever growing demands of students.

In September we will be hosting a Higher Education round-table to discuss some of the key points in this report with special guests including one of the report’s authors. To find out more, and to book your place, drop me a line.

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