Case Study

Higher education system integrates change management throughout universities

Higher education system engaged Baker Tilly Digital to work closely with university leadership to adopt a strategic approach by integrating change management throughout their universities.
Case Study

Higher education system integrates change management throughout universities

Higher education system engaged Baker Tilly Digital to work closely with university leadership to adopt a strategic approach by integrating change management throughout their universities.

Client background

The client is a public higher education system comprised of 14 universities with more than 93,000 degree-seeking students and thousands more enrolled in certificate and other career-development programs. The client implemented a redesign effort to develop a single integrated university that provides high-quality, affordable postsecondary education at six partner campuses.

The business challenge

Over the past decade, the higher education industry has faced economic challenges such as: reduction in enrollment and applications, decrease in high school graduation rates and financial constraints. To adhere to these economic challenges and enhance students’ success, the system launched a system redesign effort that planned to integrate six institutions into two regionally based universities. System leadership committed to a two-phase comprehensive transformation that assessed all areas to identify key actions to create new integrated institutions that would meet the expected outcomes of enhanced student access, retention and completions while improving institutional performance. Phase two specifically focused on the transformation of their service delivery for key functions including human resources, information technology (IT) and finance with a goal of identify synergies and other cost savings that would allow them to balance declining funding and increasing operational costs with the expectation of offering an affordable, accessible and high-quality educational experience.

The system engaged Baker Tilly Digital to work closely with university leadership to adopt a strategic approach to support the integration of these institutions. This effort is designed to:

  • Expand academic program offerings and program alignment to keep pace with the rapidly evolving expectations of their students and allow the university flexibility to better react to changes
  • Invest in new areas to serve new students and reduce administrative costs
  • Increase cost savings and fiscal sustainability

Strategy and solution

Baker Tilly Digital aided the client in the facilitation and project management of the integration effort – a process involving over 20 working departments and over 1,000 points of stakeholder analysis, examining all functional areas within the institution, including enrollment management, academic programming, student support services, technology, human resources, online programming, athletics and facilities/infrastructure. In phase one of the project, we provided frameworks to drive key integration design decisions on priorities for process modification, required investments and outcomes, best practices and optimizing resources. Baker Tilly Digital synthesized results into a summarized report of recommendations and next steps to serve as the initial prioritized implementation plan to position the integrated universities to be able to open in the fall of 2022. 

In phase two of the project, Baker Tilly Digital worked with the client to discover requirements for adopting transparent, sustainable practices in support of their transformation. This included communication plans, stakeholder engagement protocols and project management and tracking mechanisms. Working as an advocate for the system to articulate stakeholder viewpoints on long-term vision, strategic priorities and potential high-impact synergies, Baker Tilly Digital also identified and outlined goals and processes to drive desired behavior and outcomes at all levels and across functional areas. Finally, we helped the system through their consideration of the current technology platforms and ideal approaches to reduce redundancy and enhance the consistency of available information for decision-making.

As a result of the extensive efforts of the working groups and recommendations, the system presented leadership with a stakeholder-informed plan containing specifics on the preferred approach to realign resources and the academic program array, restructure administration, integrate technology platforms and applications and prioritize actions required to integrate and transform enrollment management functions, academic affairs administration, student support services and general administration.

By tailoring change management activities to align to the needs of the institutions, Baker Tilly Digital helped the system:

  • Assess current management needs and organizational change management maturity
  • Build organizational and leadership change management knowledge and capabilities
  • Lead change management strategy and planning in a phased approach that facilitated system wide strategy conversations
  • Document over 1,600 current state processes in order to standardize and consolidate future state processes, cutting the integrated university’s overall processes in half
  • Manage parallel regional project plans which included over 250 major milestones and 500+ interim milestones within each region
  • Establish an “easy to digest” project tracking dashboard for executive leadership reporting and monitoring throughout the engagement, highlighting key features of each work stream (milestone tracking, workflow development and implementation and risks and issue management)
  • Create a comprehensive communication strategy for the 18+ month transformative journey to inform students, faculty, staff and alumni of key operational changes and the benefits being delivered through integration
  • Develop a leadership development for staff taking on new roles, which required managing larger teams virtually located across multiple campuses
  • Assess the recruitment strategy to identify opportunities to support enrollment, with the schools in each region having been renamed
  • Facilitate long term strategy development inclusive of tools to enable on going refinement, alignment, and progress tracking

Baker Tilly Digital’s support throughout the two-phase plan allowed the system to achieve the following:

  • Create change management strategy and execution consistency
  • Develop change management capabilities and competencies at an organizational and empirical level by defining key performance indicators (KPI) and building a simplified KPI tracking dashboard for project management
  • Understand stakeholders’ organizational readiness while building a foundation for stakeholder communication
  • Reduce time and effort for employees and students of the university through processes consolidation

The system is currently in the process of performing additional in-depth analysis in target areas Baker Tilly Digital identified and implementing elements of the project road map over a two-year window to position themselves strategically for a vibrant and sustainable future.

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