What Higher Ed Can Learn from Business Process Redesign

Changing demographics and shifting workforce needs are only a few variables forcing colleges and universities to review how they attract, enroll and engage students. One approach that can help is to use the philosophies of business process redesign to evaluate whether you’re getting the outcomes you want from the resources you have. Since most of our readers are involved in admissions and marketing, our approach will focus on those areas.

When it comes to business process redesign, the principles can be applied to any department or workflow — but it’s helpful to consider how systems are interrelated and how changes to one can produce measurable impacts on another. For colleges and universities, try looking at your students’ experience across campus as they interact with admissions, registration, advising, etc., as well as with in-person and digital interactions.

 “Once you get the big-picture view, you’re sure to see spaghetti in the workflow.” --Christy Behrman, Collegis Education's vice president of client relations

“You can focus on marketing, admissions, or the supporting technology, but solving a problem in one area without understanding its impact downstream often results in band-aid treatments that have no effect on enrollment and can exacerbate underlying problems in other areas,” says Jeff Certain, Collegis Education’s director of partner strategy. “A more comprehensive solution that drives growth can usually be achieved with similar investment.”

Read on for information on the basics.

What is business process redesign?

Business process redesign is a way of evaluating current workflows and outcomes to see if they are truly providing what the organization needs in the most efficient way possible. Some benefits we’ve achieved through business process redesign have included reduced turnaround time on admissions inquiries — which creates less paperwork for admissions staff and allows for more follow-up time with students — and tying data-collection practices to outcomes that are more meaningful to the marketing department.

What steps are involved in business process redesign?

  1. Review Current Workflows

Typically, the first step in business process redesign involves a review of current workflows and outcomes. Whoever is leading the business process redesign will want facts on what is actually happening on a daily basis. They will want to know how much time staff spend on each task as well as how many times they start and end a task (such as reviewing admissions inquiries or following up with students). They’ll also want to know, for example, the turnaround time between receiving a student inquiry and issuing a response.

  1. Consider Updates and Minor Enhancements

“Every one has to drill down and do a process review from time to time,” said Christy Behrman, Collegis Education’s vice president of client relations. “Once you get the big-picture view, you’re sure to see spaghetti in the workflow.” 

What Behrman is referring to is that the next step typically involves looking at how daily work might be enhanced through a few simple updates. The team may realize that a digital tool could replace copying or paperwork. Or they may realize that updated technology is at their fingertips but that there simply hasn’t been enough time to transition work into a new platform. If outgrown workflows, long ago established for reasons that no longer apply, seem to be tolerated more than valued -- this is your opportunity to refresh.

  1. Competitor Comparison

Another way of looking at the workflow-review data is to compare it with industry standards. Have other colleges and universities found ways to respond more quickly to enrollment leads? If so, it may be critical to redesign workflows in order to meet new industry benchmarks.

  1. Look for Opportunities to Share Data Internally

Fourth, by comparing workflows across departments — especially with regard to what data is collected, for whom and why — staff often discover that they never knew the information they’d been wanting had been captured in another department. 

  1. Make a Wish List

Business process redesign is a good time to look at ideal workflows. What have staff been wishing for? How could the school’s mission be enhanced by new tools or workflows? What ideas have staff been holding onto, yet unable to implement? One question that is helpful for colleges and universities to consider is how they can enhance student experiences from prospect to graduation. To a student, all interactions with a school, whether digital or in person, blend to create one single impression. How can all of the touch points be connected to create a positive, efficient, seamless experience for students?

  1. Leverage Tech Tools

Be sure to consider what technology is needed to support your new workflows. You may find that current tools may be repurposed to better support operational goals, or that minor investments in well-selected areas will stretch your resources farther. A good tech consultant will also help you prioritize technology needs, ensure smooth transitions, and create manageable milestones that support your budget and timeline.

Conducting a business process redesign helps schools identify core issues and build a firm foundation for future goals. When the world is quickly shifting and you’re not sure of where to begin, business process redesign can help you take stock of what you’ve got and determine a path forward.