Welcome to Year 2020. They say hindsight is 2020, but I don’t think we need to wait until 2020 is behind us to gain clarity on what’s in store for higher education in the coming decade. As we begin a new decade, it’s interesting to look at the one that just passed us. In the year 2010, Uber and Airbnb were just two startups, barely noticeable, only a couple of years into entering transportation and lodging industries respectively. The iPhone was two years old but had already begun changing ways in which information and technology was used. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram had just begun shaping new modalities of communication through the newly coined term “social networking”. Needless to repeat here what we have all evidenced as to what these and many other companies and organizations have done by tapping into the power of ‘digital’ and opening new avenues of creating value never before experienced by the masses.
Fortunately or unfortunately, these rapid and transformative changes have not disrupted the higher education space to the same degree as other industries, but change is certain and it’s on the horizon in this decade. This necessitates higher education institutions like Wentworth to embrace the ‘digital’. Now is the time for higher education to explore what our customers – the students and life-long learners – need and how ‘going digital’ is imperative to fulfilling those needs.
President Thompson so nicely articulates this need for a change at Wentworth when he speaks of the Optimistic Urgency, making bold and transformative changes to secure a distinctive and advantageous position for Wentworth in the future.
What does ‘going digital’ mean?
‘Going digital’ is a loaded phrase. I was, just as many of my CIO colleagues are (whether they admit to it or not), going crazy trying to answer this question with any specificity. So, I embarked on a fact-finding and soul-searching (a.k.a. internet searching) mission. I realized that ‘going digital’ is not a project but a transformational journey. It is unique to each industry and each organization within an industry. At the risk of oversimplifying the concept of ‘going digital’, I decided to settle on the following aspects of transformational changes that lie beneath the phrase ‘going digital’.
Going digital means:
1. Going mobile: Tapping into the power derived from the ubiquitous existence of wireless signals and devices, mobilizing existing services and creating new ones by transforming external and internal business processes. Think how banks enabled depositing checks (or images of checks) through phones and tablets or how Uber created the potential for every car on the road to be a cab, of course based on mutual will and agreement of riders and drivers.
2. Going analytical: Analytics, number crunching and reporting are not new concepts to humans. What’s innovative about this concept of ‘going analytical’ is how businesses use the astronomical computing strength to create fast actionable insights from vast, unstructured and often loosely formatted data sets. The key to successful outcomes in the digital economy is closing the duration gaps between when information is created, observed, linked to other relevant information pieces to derive productive actions.
3. Going social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and who knows what other companies out there are creating platforms that have transformed the way humans communicate, get alerts of their surroundings and keep tabs on their near and dear ones (or their rivals). Successful organizations use these concepts for engaging with their customers as well as internal and external partners. Going Social also means democratization of ideas where ideas take shape from content that is created by peers, edited by peers, voted on by peers and organically the popular ideas are the ones that rise to the surface.
Think of change.org, Khan Academy or Wikipedia as examples of this concept.
4. Going cloud: Today’s cloud computing power serves as an equalizer, a level-playing field. Storage and processing capabilities that were unheard of or affordable only to top Fortune companies are now available to mid-size, small and micro organizations. Tapping into ‘going cloud’ enables organizations to provide on demand, scalable, high-quality services and ubiquitous access to their customers.
5. ‘Not Going Crazy’: Yes, ‘going digital’ can be overwhelming, and frankly it’s not the ultimate goal of any organization. Going digital is just the new way of delivering the long-standing, time-tested mission of an organization in the new digital economy. So, to avoid going crazy, I wrapped up my informal research on this topic.
How do we transform the Wentworth experience by ‘going digital’?
Equipped with this newfound knowledge of digital capabilities, my team and I have embarked on a listening tour last Fall and will continue to do so in 2020. We are excited to see Wentworth’s Strategic Plan being crafted, and we are committed to developing a Digital Transformation Plan that is based on addressing the pain points, needs, desires, and aspirations of our Institute, and that is firmly rooted in, celebrates, and supports every aspect of Wentworth’s Strategic Plan.
The transformation at Wentworth is essential to leverage appropriate digital technology features and solutions to:
a) amplify the outcomes aspired to in Wentworth’s Strategic Plan,
b) accelerate the speed at which we realize the outcomes, and
c) enhance the university experience for everyone interacting with Wentworth in physical and virtual spaces
Thank you for your continued partnership. Please contact us to share your ideas or hear more about how the Digital Transformation Plan is taking shape.
VP of Technology & CIO