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Creating the business case for change

Author: Ian Arbuthnott

Delivering savings to fund higher education transformation

This article is part of a series on higher education.


One of Unipart’s guiding principles is to ‘manage with a long-term view’. We know that change does not come overnight and short-term thinking will not deliver the best results over the long-term. So, when tackling change, it is important to balance the longer term goals with the pressure to deliver immediate results. Our recommended approach is to:

  • deliver short-term, breakthrough projects and the quick wins that relieve the immediate cost burden and improve revenue,
  • plan and design administrative and support functions that can grow efficiently with the organisation in the future,
  • start to build internal capability for continuous improvement to drive better outcomes and improve long-term financial health.

Our experience in creating enduring performance change is that if the key leaders of the organisation are aligned around the need to change, and that this and the longer term vision for the university have been communicated and are understood by its constituent parts, there is a need to generate quick wins and tangible benefits to create the momentum for change.

The immediate issues to tackle are:

  • Leadership commitment and clarity over the need to change, communicated out to the organisation;
  • opportunity analysis (potentially informed by benchmark data) to identify the quick wins for pilot projects; and
  • planning to ensure that the university commits its resources to fully support the change.

Graduate admissions is a process with potential to deliver a number of improvements, increasing the number and calibre of students, boosting revenue and removal of cost. Addressing this process area also aligns with a common strategic goal of improving intake management for overseas students due to their higher revenue potential.

Other immediate opportunities present themselves in finance, HR and procurement. These departments across the University all have potential for optimisation and standardisation of work and policy to deliver quality, cost and efficiency improvements.

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The desired approach will engage people in change from the bottom of the organisation upwards, so that they may feel ownership of, and ongoing commitment to, new behaviours and new ways of working.

Similarly, training and coaching staff in the tools and techniques they need to improve their work will develop the capability of the organisation and the confidence of people to continue to improve and innovate. Combined with other critical elements, it is possible to instil a culture of continuous improvement in to the organisation.

The Unipart Way: performance improvement that sustains

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