Agility and Digital Transformation in Higher Education
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Improving Agility and Enabling Digital Transformation in Higher Education

See how a composable business mindset can help higher education providers to effectively adapt to new modes of competition, changing business models, and shifting student preferences.
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It's no secret that digital transformation creates an environment of constant change that requires higher education providers to adapt to new modes of competition, changing business models, and shifting student preferences.

While change has been a constant force, what has shifted over the past two years is the rate of transformation. A survey by McKinsey details “Companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years”.

Despite changes during the last two years being heavily influenced by the global pandemic, the underlying enablers of transformation are only continuing to accelerate. New technologies, more connected devices, and the growth of AI and machine learning-enabled experiences create a complex operating environment that rewards the agile and nimble, but also leaves those who are slower to move in a constant state of catchup.

The Composable Business Mindset

This persuasive rate of change is upending incumbent providers and creating opportunities for the organisations that embrace the benefits of change. A key concept that empowers organisations with this capability is the idea of a composable business, which is defined by Gartner as “creating an organisation made from interchangeable building blocks”.

In fact, in the ‘Gartner Keynote: The Future of Business Is Composable’ article, Gartner goes on to state that “Composable business is a natural acceleration of the digital business that you live every day. It allows us to deliver the resilience and agility that these interesting times demand”. 

A composable business mindset includes composable business thinking, architecture, and technology. Therefore, it can touch on every aspect of a university's operating model, from its modes of study to how it fosters collaboration with academics and engages its administrative staff. 

Enabling Agile Digital Transformation

While a composable business mindset is not limited to technology, many of the challenges and sought-after outcomes intersect with the technological capabilities of an organisation. Within a university, it is equally clear that common strategic priorities related to student or staff experience, academic performance, and the influence/reach of the institute can all be closely tied to digital capabilities.

In addition, an important distinction made by Gartner is that composable technologies need to be the "tools for today and tomorrow". Therefore, when thinking about digital transformation, universities need to place value on the flexibility of their underlying tools and systems to respond to new market pressures, be easily adapted to pursue new opportunities, or simply to adapt to changing student preferences for how they interact with an institute and its array of services.

Universities that place value on agility and the ability to respond to change will procure technology with the knowledge that a solution needs to be fit for purposes today but also enable the flexibility to adapt and change over time. If this approach is implemented, universities can define their IT architecture in advance and seek solutions that align with this agile approach. Ultimately, this can reduce duplication of effort, make change management easier to accommodate, and decrease the time to market for new products or solutions (as no new procurement cycles are needed to take advantage of new opportunities).

The Role of a Digital Experience Platform

When you consider the experience of students, staff, or academics within a university setting, they engage with numerous systems and applications on a daily basis. Taking just the view of a student, it is likely that the information they view or have access to is being sourced from a CRM, student information management system, learning management system, and other various databases and systems.

Each of these components is a spoke in the wheel of technology that defines the overall student experience. Where the challenge arises however, is when those solutions are tightly coupled that they restrict the flexibility and agility of a university to respond to change.

Leveraging a digital experience platform (DXP) aligns with the concept of a composable business and agile approach to change. Universities such as the University of London, University of East Anglia, and George Washington University leverage Liferay DXP to be a unifying layer that brings together multiple disparate systems to create a consistent end-user experience. Examples of this include student self-service portals, employee portals or intranets, and portals to support academics and researchers.

More importantly, however, the use of a digital experience platform allows universities to embrace composability as each individual component (or solution) can be changed or replaced without impacting the end-user experience. Take an example where the learning management system (LMS) needs to be replaced. With a DXP acting as a unifying layer, the end-user experience can remain consistent, even as the best of breed solution behind the scenes - the LMS - is being replaced.

Abstracting the integration layer and creating an environment to provide a consistent user experience, while ensuring an organisation has the freedom and flexibility to utilise new tools and technologies as they emerge, goes a long way to delivering on the promise of composable technology and an agile university.

Find out more about how Liferay DXP is designed to work within your existing business processes and technologies to build a custom solution that uniquely meets your needs. 

Originally published
April 22, 2022
 last updated
April 22, 2022
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