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5 Things You Can Do Now to Accelerate Your University’s Digital Journey

By August 27, 2020

IDC White Paper on Digital Transformation

While regional differences and COVID-19 case counts all play a role in universities’ reopening plans, one thing is certain: Digital transformation is now an immediate priority.

“Higher education is at a turning point,” says Donna Kidwell, CTO of EdTech at Arizona State University. “We simply can’t assume that the traditional models of delivering education are sustainable without adaptation. If we’re to thrive and deliver on our mission, we’ll need to innovate.”

The herculean efforts to move classes online and prepare campuses to reopen are not in vain, but there’s still much work to be done to reopen and reimagine how higher education should evolve for future disruption. Shifting to digital channels, adopting digital apps, personalizing experiences, and unifying disparate technology into a single platform — these are all no-brainers.

While the majority of digital initiatives are too tactical, too short term, and too siloed, the most innovative and future-proof institutions are reinforcing long-term commitments to enterprise-wide change management while investing in digital capabilities and technology.

71% of survey participants report being digitally distraught, according to the IDC report.

Indeed, the game has changed. The good news? COVID-19 has united universities like never before, bringing them together to collaborate and share ideas on how to enable and achieve a digital-first strategy and culture. All of this sharing has also made most universities realize that embracing digital capabilities and technology empowers them not just during a global pandemic, but for any kind of disruption.

And while digital transformation takes time and persistence, the key is to start somewhere and to start now. New research by International Data Corporation (IDC) shows why and how digital transformation is critical to learner and institution success, highlighting success stories from Arizona State University, London School of Economic and Political Science, Monash University, and BI Norwegian Business School.

As a sneak peek into IDC’s research, we’re sharing five things you can do now to become the best digitally-connected university you can be.

1. Educate yourself and your institution on what’s possible with a digital platform.

Start by talking with your peers in online communities, such as the Power of Us Hub, and at virtual events to gain a deeper understanding of how technology can support your institution’s mission. Personal conversations can uncover important details and lessons learned.

2. Get buy-in from leadership and make sure there’s a clear leader who can oversee platform development.

Create a center of excellence, an internal team who will help advocate and accelerate digital transformation, along with its associated governance and institutional changes. “Don’t be scared to start experimenting with technology solutions,” says Mike Page, head of enterprise CRM at the London School of Economics and Politics (LSE). “Seek support from those who will help you achieve your institution’s digital goals.”

3. Get community input on initiatives.

LSE implemented a Live Chat feature to help applicants engage with recruiters.Set up a process to ensure there’s input from key user groups. Collect feedback, such as how users want to access digital services and any concerns they have about digital transformation initiatives.

“Build capabilities in-house by empowering your teams to grapple with the problems. Give them the opportunity to learn and grow with new technology,” says Josh Teichman, group manager of digital transformation at Monash University. During the initial months of COVID-19, Monash increased its speed, agility, quality, reliability, and productivity on the Salesforce platform, while also reducing time spent on developer tasks — all while increasing its application releases by 86%.

4. Include continuous improvement plans with regular reviews of evolution and progress.

Digital transformation is a journey and a process. Your journey will need to be adjusted and corrected along the way to account for new trends, innovations, learner needs, and market disruptions.

ASU makes change management a top priority. They actively encourage staff to learn new skills by taking advantage of ASU’s own programs, as well as providing work opportunities for skilled Salesforce developers. The university also supports existing staff to develop new Salesforce skills using Trailhead.

5. Embed security, privacy, accessibility, and inclusion

Embed security, privacy, accessibility, and inclusion into all aspects of decision making to ensure your institution has digital trust with staff, faculty, learners, and alumni. Trusted data management sets the foundation for transformative decision making.

To learn more about IDC’s research on the role of digital transformation in higher education, download the white paper and register for the September 9 webinar, which features IDC and technology leaders from ASU and LSE.

IDC White Paper on Digital Transformation



Download the Paper

Register for the Webinar

About the Author

Nathalie Mainland, senior vice president and general manager of Education Cloud at

Nathalie Mainland is senior vice president and general manager of Education Cloud at She has over 15 years of senior-level experience working at technology and education organizations, including Blackboard, Autodesk, and Pearson. Follow her on Twitter @nmainland.