What does digital transformation have to do with student success and retention?
This episode takes listeners on a journey through The King’s College with Stephanie Brewster. Currently, she’s the Associate Director of Admissions and New Student Financial Services. That may sound like a lot, and it is. But wait till you see her resume:
She completed her undergraduate degree at The King’s College before receiving her Advanced Diploma in Data Analytics from NYU. She also has a certificate in Full Stack Web Development, serves on 3 executive-level teams and committees, and continually shapes the Strategic Enrollment Plan. (We’re impressed, too).
She joined us on the Digital Transformation Pioneers podcast to share how her implementation of digital products streamlined the student experience and ultimately led to greater retention rates.
At Least 5 Different Systems. In Every Department
The IT department at The King’s College manages a complex tech stack that varies throughout departments. Each department uses at least 5 different systems, many of which are several years old.
This creates a potentially chaotic set up for students. Grades, finances, and admissions may each have their own siloed data locked in disparate systems.
Stephanie took up the task of updating various systems in her own department, as well as unifying system usage across departments.
Here’s what she learned:
1) Stay Focused on the Mission-Critical Objectives
“You have to prioritize the most mission-critical objectives first.”
— Stephanie Brewster
When Stephanie decided to update various systems and data, she had a wide variety of options. Every day new opportunities presented themselves. A new software would enter the market, with increased functionality and plenty of seemingly useful bells and whistles.
In today’s world of accelerated innovation, it’s easy to get distracted.
Fall on Stephanie’s words: Stay focused on the mission-critical objectives. Don’t allow the new fancy, shiny tool to deteriorate your focus.
By prioritizing those critical objectives first, she was able to update the admissions’ systems, learn new technology, and streamline data … in just 4 weeks. (She’s a rockstar.)
2) Consider Overall Organizational Impact
The organizational structure at The King’s College is largely decentralized: IT does not make software suggestions, and department heads have final say on technology implementation within their respective areas. Because of this, finance may purchase a software that accomplishes an objective, not realizing that admissions already owns a similar product with the same functionality.
Furthermore, when someone onboards a software to their tech stack, they often wouldn’t realize all the other systems it was interdependent on throughout the university — changing one system impacted the entire grid.
Stephanie pushed for a better organizational structure. One result was an IT committee where a representative from each department discusses their IT needs, so if there is a crossover, they can enhance instead of combat each other’s systems.
There’s also a major end-user benefit: When departments behave differently with different systems, the individual going between them is usually the one becoming frustrated. In most cases, this would be called the customer. Here, they are students.
As walls disappeared IT and information sharing increased analytics showed student satisfaction, retention, and success rates were up as well.
3) Standardized Language About the Data
As Stephanie worked towards integrating systems and implementing new processes, she discovered the impact language can have on IT. She was working with old-school databases, SQL, and cloud-based analytics.
“It’s easy to get overwhelmed by possibilities.”
— Stephanie Brewster
Many systems contained the same data sets, but called them by different names. To further complicate matters, the data sets were different or incomplete between systems, so she also had to determine what the ultimate source of truth would be.
If she’s ever in a similar position in the future, she knows to create a unified language about the data early on to streamline the process.
Stephanie has an incredible wide breadth of knowledge (we didn’t even mentioned the economics or philosophy). She had to learn SQL while performing these updates — she had never even run a query before. Again, she learned this within that 4-week period.
The impact digital transformation has had on her organization has profoundly impacted retention and success, as proven by multiple data points and surveys. Also, the qualitative benefit has been noticed: Overall student satisfaction has soared as well.
(Add one more to the books of how digital transformation enhances lives.)
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