To the clouds, and beyond!

3 June 2024
HE Transformation blog series part one main image

Get ready for your HE transformation journey: Part One

By Jennifer Tavano-Gallacher
VP Higher Education at Inoapps

As a sure sign of my membership of the project management methodology geek club, when I first came across the Rockwell International Space Plan I fell in love so hard I had a poster made for my wall. If you aren’t familiar with it, it‘s a plan on a page—a big page—that covers how we go from the space shuttle to manned colonies on Mars in 100 years. It covers the technology to be developed, key project stages and milestones, stakeholders, communications requirements, interdependencies etc. etc. It’s also virtually unreadable because of its complexity. 

I bring up my love for the Space Plan because I’ve been gazing at it as I gather my thoughts around the key considerations for a university’s journey from an on-premises system to the cloud. Every time I try to scribble down a high-level road map with the main considerations for the project, I wind up generating something that looks a bit like the Space Plan. This is undoubtedly because although these transformations don’t take a 100 years and trillions of pounds, they’re extremely complex programs that need significant amounts of collaboration, stakeholder engagement, creativity and detailed planning. 

So how do you unpick the complexity to articulate what this kind of program needs for successful delivery?

Well…  let me start with the three core structures we use at Inoapps to help develop plans for Higher Education (HE) cloud transformations:

  1. Project disciplines. These are the types of resources needed to deliver an HE project successfully. This includes internal and external resources all working in close collaboration throughout the project.
  2. Capability model. This is a structured framework that describes the elements you need to have in place to fulfill your organization's mission. It’s a key tool for many aspects of the project, from aligning technology to goals and adopting new practices, to shifting culture across the university.
  3. Project stages. These organize the project activities that need to be completed to deliver the transformation. You’ll see what I mean below.

The intersection of these three structures drives the planning process and informs your approach to governance. Governance is there to support robust project management, decision making and change management activities.

That said, if all you needed to successfully deliver these projects was a robust plan, there would be no end of successful HE transformation journeys. But these projects tend to be hard. Why? It’s because too often they’re seen as technology projects, when really they’re people projects. And getting people to change is always challenging. 

In my experience, the key to meeting this challenge is collaboration. It’s what will help you engage your stakeholders, build support, address resistance, foster innovation, and sustain change over time. And it’s vital to achieving lasting transformation.

In this series, I’m going to look at some of the biggest challenges and stumbling blocks as you move through your transformation project, and how to overcome them. I’ll explore the three core structures and how you can use them to support the collaboration and communication needed for a robust technical solution that’s also embraced by your user community. 

We’ll then look at the project stages below, considering what each discipline needs deliver at each stage, the resources you’ll need and some approaches to estimating.  

The stages of your HE transformation project

  • Prepare and plan. This is when you establish the capabilities your university needs to deliver to achieve its mission. You work out your goals, establish your governance, plan your decision making processes, and start thinking about change management.  
  • Establish your starting point. You can’t build a roadmap if you don’t know your starting point. Look at this from technical and cultural perspectives and consider risks and challenges alongside where the biggest improvements can happen. 
  • Articulate your vision. Every great endeavor begins with a clear vision. A vision statement gives everyone involved something to aim for and helps with decision making, alignment and change management.
  • Select your product and partner/s. Now it’s time to evaluate solutions. Make sure your vendor is committed to Higher Education and continued product development. Likewise, your partner should have solid sector experience and be committed to the evolution of your solution.
  • Initiate implementation project. It’s time to get going. Ensure you have strategies in place for all key workstreams and onboard your team. Make sure they’re all familiar with the new product and the program procedures, and that all key stakeholders are ready to start. 
  • Design your systems and processes. Often underestimated, this is critical for sustained success.   Consider both business process and system design. Investing time for process design here pays off later. 
  • Build the system. Construction of the system can mostly be done by your implementation partner, but it’s a good time to get your staff involved so they’re familiar with the system, which will help them support and enhance it after you go live. 
  • Testing. This can be fairly straightforward, but it’s important to be organized to make sure you have enough resources and the right people involved.
  • Transition to the new system. This includes dress rehearsal, deployment, hypercare and transition to business as usual support, with the key being a detailed and rehearsed plan.
  • Continuous improvement. This is about embracing a culture of ongoing adoption of updates that align with your roadmap, and adjusting business processes when you need to.

The blogs in this series will explore what needs to be considered at each stage from a business, technical and change management perspective, and how to foster collaboration to set yourself up for project success.

So let’s jump right in with a look at the project disciplines—the people you need for your project.

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