How data driven design enables a better future for Higher Education

By Jon Faulkner

Design research Education

Leaders and practitioners working towards the definition and fulfilment of digital strategy will invariably speak of key anchor points which need to be considered and baked into strategic plans. Elements like sustainability, value for money, user focused or core mission objectives are all very important to overall success and for different stakeholders.  However, as layer upon layer of complexity and expectation is applied, it gets harder and harder to reasonably fulfil all of them and compromises arise.

All too soon, you end up in a position where possibly you are not effectively progressing or fulfilling anything effectively.

We would urge that it becomes even more essential to take stock and ask the question:

“What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?”

To know this, what process have you been through to get to where you are and is it evident that all of the current activity and meeting time is clearly aligned to core purposes.

6bythree have an established and proven process which enables you to ground all of your activities firmly in alignment to strategic goals and ensures that the voice of your diverse communities are heard and responded to.  In order to help the journey and provide visibility and assurance to sponsors and leaders, as well as share broadly to help with the wider organisational change, data insights and evidence is provided throughout our process.

We recently held a workshop within a ucisa London online conference in which we spoke with the senior higher education IT leaders and asked their input across their current challenges and approaches.  As we share details of our recommended approach to achieve well informed, community-researched and evidence tested strategic change, we’ll draw out relevant aspects of our findings and provide recommendations.

Our 6bythree collective team have used aspects of our proven process with these different complex, large-scale, community serving organisations:

It is all too easy when working within complex organisations with many different stakeholder requirements and expectations that strategy ends up being formulated by mapping together already identified projects.  The other pitfall to be wary of at this stage, is the ease with which a priority becomes about a project implementing a solution or new system, whereas actually the priority should be about achieving change and developing new organisational capabilities towards a stronger vision aligned future. 

Summary of insights

We’d urge you to adopt the approach that ensures future change is informed by insights from multiple sources and to consider:

  1. What is the organisational strategy you are aiming to contribute to and fulfil?  Who are the communities you are serving and how?  e.g. can you easily define that and trace a line from each of your team’s activities? 
  2. What are the capabilities that your organisation needs and how will you best define them with all aspects of systems, people, data, processes and the wider organisation in mind?
  3. How are you ensuring you are discovering, defining and delivering the front-facing digital services that your external and internal communities need in a way that both works for them and you? e.g. what does true collaborative design and delivery of future services look like and how can you achieve a culture and capability to achieve that?
  4. How are you delivering innovative, sustainable, impactful and resilient change to your own organisations and sector, such that together you are breathing life into the impending and aspired disruption? e.g. students as customers are already asking for more and different, what do your responses include?
  5. How can you ensure the sustainable ongoing and effective running of your services?  What do you deliver yourselves or pass to others to provide?  e.g. what does outsourcing the effort, cost and complexity of delivering change or running a greater proportion of your technical infrastructure to others afford you?  What might you do with that time, capability and budget?