Are the declining enrollments, increase in online education, and general economic turmoil over the past two years the result of COVID or an accelerated timeline of the inevitable? In the past few months, I have spoken with CBOs (Chief Business Officers), presidents, and recruiters trying to fill senior level finance roles. They need people with experience in higher education and finance, who are prepared to navigate a technology-driven and uncertain future. To enable CBOs to hire the right people to fill those roles, they need a guide to provide insight into the priorities for the future. I call it the 5 ATES.
Transformation focuses on platforms, people, and processes. To improve the student experience, we need to make our operations leaner and more efficient. This will mean overcoming anxiety over new technology and proactively planning for the future of higher education.
Here are 5 actions CBOs (Chief Business Officers) can take now to navigate the future of higher education.
I call this the 5-ATES.
- Automate – data entry and link data across all platforms.
- Search for repetitive and time-consuming tasks, ones we call high-volume, low-value, and train your software tools to complete them for you using AI (artificial intelligence).
- Rather than training a person to load the payroll journal entries, reconcile bank accounts, or enter accounts payable, train your finance team to train the AI. Your team will have more time to focus on more important and rewarding assignments and bots will finish the recurring tasks faster.
- Activate – by focusing on actionable data across the institution beyond money and link data to understand:
- How much does delivering a degree or class cost per student? Does this vary by program?
- How does classroom utilization compare to classroom cost?
- How much does it cost to recruit a student? Is the amount rising or falling with shifts in enrollment?
- Cultivate – your own talent to insure against the shrinking pool of finance professionals.
- The Great Resignation is starting.
- With lower enrollment and more degree choices in the finance arena (like Data Analytics and Entrepreneurship), fewer students are enrolling in accounting.
- This results in fewer potential employees, who will expect larger salaries and more flexibility.
Finance teams of the future will need to be tech savvy and analytically astute. We will need to find them early, mentor them intentionally, and train them fully so they’re technically adept enough to support our institutions in tomorrow’s competitive landscape.
- Delegate – by building a framework for decision making.
I constantly witness people who need to ask before making decisions — even small ones. When people need to ask permission before making decisions, they never learn to evaluate consequences and decide They don’t have the benefit of learning from their mistakes. To speed up decisions and your finance department, try this.
- Rather than allowing your team to come to you before making decisions, empower them to decide some matters for themselves.
- Enable finance teams to act in matters where consequences are at an acceptable level, and back them up if they make mistakes. They’ll learn to evaluate, decide, and deal with the results.
- For more impactful decisions, encourage them to present fully formed recommendations to you and to articulate the reasoning behind them for discussion.
- Innovate – Create a culture that embraces change without fear of failure.
This policy goes beyond decision making. It encourages people to look for opportunities to do things differently, and know they’ll have your support if things do not go as planned. If we want to keep pace with the changes necessary to support our institutions through this digital transformation, we need all the help we can get from each member of our team.
Bonus idea: Consider partnering with your school of business to share your insights on the trends shaping the finance and accounting world. After all, they will be preparing the finance teams of the future. The timeline for deciding what changes to make, seeking and gaining approval for curriculum changes, and graduating students takes at least 6 years. In that time, how will your needs evolve?
If you are curious about where your institution stands with the 5-ATE’s or would like a roadmap for getting there, reach out for a free consultation.