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Driving digital change? Here’s how your higher education institution can benefit from guided procurement

Tanya Sewell
Tanya Sewell

The latest report from the Office for Students paints a bleak picture for universities in 2024, with predictions of 40% deficits threatening closure, unless more students are encouraged to fill places and bridge the income gap.

With 92% of students claiming that digital experience is central to their wellbeing and academic success, according to Great State’s Digital Experiences Report, technological innovation is definitive way to boost numbers. Nevertheless, in order to ensure that investment is truly worth it, decision makers must endeavour to choose technologies that bolster a more positive student experience and offers true efficiencies, rather than exhausting limited finances on features that might not necessarily produce the desired effect.

Guided procurement

Guided procurement services ensure that universities are investing in the best technologies for their unique needs and budget. Experts work with the Technology teams, thewider leadership and critical stakeholders to find out exactly what the institution aims for by prioritising digital, determining which pain points solutions could be used to resolve. Change management services are also on offer to ensure there is a clear plan to support smooth implementation and adoption. Ultimately, this helps to circumnavigate the common procurement pitfalls that see 70% of digital change initiatives fail.

Hurdle 1: overbuying

Universities are often criticised for having significant technical debt, which essentially means that they wait too long to repair or replace current IT systems in order to protect their budgets. Nevertheless, this can lead to increased pressure to purchase the latest and greatest when the time comes to upgrade, with decision makers convinced that the price paid will pay off in software longevity.

Investing in the most modern features for the sake of innovation is an erroneous and confounded approach. Indeed, investments should be made not on the promise of these features in isolation but their promise in the context of what they can do for your specific organisation. Spending money on tech that won’t be used or that offers little in terms of ROI simply eats into the university budget, leaving little room for future planning and appropriate digital control.

As such, a detailed needs assessment must be conducted prior to any digital investment. Only then can HE institutions ensure that their plans will pay off. Partnering with experienced procurement experts helps with this, bringing both technical knowledge and change management insights to the table.

Hurdle 2: unmanaged spend

The major benefit to procurement guidance is the ability to see the entire process through. Indeed, even after capabilities and aspirations have been aligned, it’s common to lose spending control without the right strategic planning insights. For instance, whilst replacing the current student record system might cost an initial £10 million, this can soon escalate to more than triple that amount when additional costs for things like training and additional software that enables the innovation to work enter into the equation. These costs could be largely eliminated by ensuring smooth integration with existing tools with the initial purchase.

This also helps to overcome dangerous data silos, where data is stored differently by each faculty and department, as information can be passed along and accessed easily without breaks in communication. This ultimately ensures that a higher quality of service is delivered, with students’ questions answered straight away and fewer delays and frustrations, boosting university rankings and income as a result.

 Hurdle 3: underbuying

The same foresight also serves to manage spending in the future. Whilst upgrades, replacements and maintenance tweaks are, to a certain extent, inevitable, by opting for technologies that are flexible and allow you to scale with growth from the start, high future spend is something universities can avoid. Rather than needing to replace systems that are too small once every three years due to ongoing student growth, for example, flexible systems might be leveraged and scaled over a much longer period of time.

Hurdle 4: underutilisation

Of course, another core aspect of any successful technology project is ensuring that staff members are truly on board. Oftentimes, employees can feel intimidated by new technologies, fearing the future of their jobs or worrying about their lack of digital skills. With Vertice revealing that an average of 33% of software as a service (SaaS) licences remain unused due to this human factor, it’s incredibly important to overcome such resistance through employee training and communication.

These actions play an essential part in preventing reversion to older legacy processes and systems, with underutilisation of newer software threatening to perpetuate pernicious data silos. Smooth change management is something that the best guided procurement companies like Equantiis would be happy to help with.

A strategic transformation journey

Procurement is about so much more than choosing the right technology. It’s about ensuring this technology meets your institutional requirements and will bring about the changes your university needs to satisfy both students and staff. It protects your budget and your future, covering everything from initial purchase and agreements with vendors to training, support and ongoing maintenance, allowing you to address both the technical and human sides of digital adoption for maximum results.

Interested in finding out more? Contact a member of the Equantiis team today to book an initial meeting.

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More about the author

Tanya Sewell
Tanya Sewell Executive Consultant