In 2015, Lubbock Christian University took on a five-year institutional strategic planning process that our president named Vision 2020. It was a broad look across the university to identify improvement opportunities. Every university employee was involved, and at the conclusion, the overarching theme of the document became “a transformational student experience.” There were many parts to this plan, but the primary focus became to “conduct a strategic alignment review of our institutional processes and technology systems to transform the operating environment into a thriving student experience.”
The strategic planning process led to many observations about the life cycle of an institution of higher education, including our own. A higher education climate in which students demand increasingly more services at low prices challenges all sides. There are now more universities available to a wider group of students across the United States. Administrators wrestle with offering discount rates to attract a broader share of students while meeting overall budget concerns.
The environment is ripe for engaging technology tools that enhance the ability to tell the university story, to listen to the prospective student’s story and dreams, and for both to see how there might be a mutual relationship. Technology within the control of the university has a potential reach like no other time in our history—getting a brand and a story out in front of students in increasingly compelling ways to better empower recruiting efforts. Not only at our school, but at other schools too.
Many know the terms ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and their significant effect on the ability to develop and foster a relationship with a prospect that can turn that prospect into student, graduate, alumni, supporter, donor, and parent. Over time the process increasingly comes to include data points and the ability to help identify attributes or predictors of success. Conversely, data can help identify attributes about those who do not succeed, so actions can be taken in advance to improve opportunities for success.
A consulting partner helped us develop our plan. We found our strengths to be engaged and committed leadership, excellent working relationships, willingness to change, and a talented and dedicated staff. We found our weaknesses to be lack of documentation and project experience, numerous shadow systems, lack of depth in personnel, and to expect a large budget impact. And, just to make things more exciting, we were preparing for our 10-year accreditation site visit.
We developed a change management team that included all key areas of stakeholders, allowing for voices from all key areas. We started with a dream of having every possible area tied up nicely with one bow in one product and with one set of management tools and interface. We saw many slide decks and heard many presentations from numerous vendors in the higher education market place. The summary for us is when we cut through the salesmanship and storytelling it became a matter of who best fit us for our current situation and intended future.
We brought in three potential candidates for more in-depth review on the campus. We went through an instrument to help us determine strengths and weaknesses based on our goals. Next, our Executive VP wanted an analysis based on culture, or that thing we all call our “gut feeling,” and who would be our best fit as a partner. Third, we considered cost as one potential factor to be added into the mix, although that was not intended to be the determining factor by the stakeholders. In fact they were not shown cost comparisons until after other steps were completed. Each of the stakeholders representing all the campus areas cast their votes and their opinions to the Executive VP. His office compiled both the quantitative and qualitative information.
LCU’s new student system has been live for a few weeks, and here are some lessons we’ve learned up to this point in our journey.
In closing, LCU’s experience demonstrates that strategic planning is eye opening, and the end result is well worth working through the challenges.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Tambellini Group. To become a Top of Mind guest author, please contact us.
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