Maintaining a high quality of teaching and supporting good student outcomes is more challenging for the UK education sector now than it has perhaps ever been. This is particularly the case within higher education, where competition between universities and colleges for the best staff and students is increasing. Students have ever higher expectations around welfare, facilities and accommodation as well as teaching, and the overall reputation of a university’s teaching, infrastructure and brand now requires significant investment to uphold. Additionally, financial pressures mean many further education bodies have turned to overseas students to maximise their revenue and to subsidise research. However, Brexit and increased competition from universities abroad has limited the potential of this revenue stream. Many of these challenges seem human and tangible. But by digging beneath the surface, it becomes clear that the root cause is often technological.

What is causing these challenges?

There is a lot of inefficiency in the way that many higher education bodies operate their technology. For starters, there is often a lack of standardisation and integration: an inconsistent approach across different academic, staff and campus services can leave students dissatisfied and damage a body’s reputation. Additionally, areas such as IT, HR, curriculum and asset management are often disconnected, whereas a more integrated approach can be far more cost-effective and easier to control. The other area where tech can fall down is in user-friendliness, both for students and teachers. Students expect sophisticated systems and products that support a seamless, intuitive experience. Without it, they become frustrated, and time is wasted by staff resolving issues that technology could take care of much more quickly. And at a time when many teachers are considering leaving the profession, any tools that aren’t easy to use just add to their workload and stress levels, especially as many teachers won’t be tech natives like their students. The good news is that digital automation can address many of these inefficiencies. Many universities are already exploring the potential that automation can deliver, especially when deployed through a single integrated platform, such as Enterprise Service Management.

Introducing Enterprise Service Management (ESM) for education

Digital automation is not the same as digital transformation. Digital automation means applying a specific software platform to streamline core processes, rather than applying technology more generally to improve operations. For education bodies, perhaps the most practical way to deploy digital automation is through Enterprise Service Management (ESM). This combines human and automated processes, and streamlines them in such a way as to maximise productivity, leveraging established principles of IT service management. ESM can be accessed as a fully managed service, or can be self-operated by an education body through plug-and-play solutions. A good ESM set-up can allow education establishments to deliver a consistent approach to all its business, academic and campus services, all from one place. Built on a solid ITIL process foundation, and with an established best practice framework for service delivery, it makes it far easier to meet student expectations and ensure teaching and business excellence. Whether trying to improve information security or student welfare, ESM enables the easy creation, modification and customisation of workflows that allow these services to be delivered quickly and accurately.

Benefits of ESM for education

From an education perspective, the benefits of a good ESM solution can spread far and wide:

  • Improved experiences: students expect quick resolutions to issues, and to be able to easily access all the data, applications and resources they need, wherever they are. ESM uses automation to deliver on these expectations with a coordinated approach to data
  • Sync people and resources: a single system, and a single source of truth for data, can help ensure that interactions between departments are better managed. Ensuring that, for example, a facilities department can fix equipment in a lecture hall, or that IT can respond to problems being encountered by staff, can minimise disruption to learning and build trust throughout the organisation
  • Improved capacity and skills: automation can relieve teachers from repetitive tasks that quickly consume their valuable time. This can free up their resource to support students better, apply their subject expertise and focus on the areas where human skills are needed the most
  • Drive productivity: by using automation for repetitive tasks, and by giving students self-service functions, demand for good service can be managed more effectively in all areas. This can boost satisfaction and reduce stress for students and teachers alike

Prime use cases for digital automation

Every university and higher education facility is different, and so the areas where digital automation can be applied will understandably vary. But in most cases, the benefits can be extremely wide-ranging, encompassing:

  • Information technology: support for equipment in classrooms and on student and teacher desktops; protection of sensitive data, including ensuring compliance
  • Finance and business services: easy management and distribution of bursaries, and efficient processing of HR data and workflows
  • Staff and student welfare: the ability for crisis teams to explore student data and quickly respond to potential incidents, and provide focused support where it’s needed
  • Campus and accommodation services: quick reporting and responses to incidents such as fire, damage, crime and other security-related issues
  • Estates and facilities management: better management and timely replacement of furniture and other physical assets, so that the quality of the campus can be maintained

In summary

Education bodies all over the world are leaving no stone unturned in finding new efficiencies, opportunities for revenue, and innovative ways to deliver on student expectations. Those who are succeeding are earning positive reputations with students and teachers alike, and are more likely to achieve their goals in results, in research and on the bottom line. ESM is proving to be a vital tool in making that possible. However, care should be taken when exploring ESM solutions, so that the right technology is applied in the right ways to suit the specific needs of the university and its student body. This is where the expertise of a specialist partner can prove invaluable. When you partner with SCC, you can access expertise and digital automation to help your education establishment succeed. Take a closer look at what we can do for your institution here.

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