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Digital transformation
for higher education:
enabling organizational
agility

Author: Rose de Fremery

Organizational agility is a critical tool for colleges and universities—one that determines whether a higher education institution could navigate the profound disruptions caused by the pandemic. Digital transformation for higher education has played a key role in enabling this agility, giving colleges and universities the core capabilities they need to adapt quickly.

Organizational agility helped higher education institutions navigate the challenges of 2020. Digital transformation drove that success—and it will help colleges and universities campus build resilience and stay ready to deliver learning experiences.

Organizational agility definition

Organizational agility is "the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment," according to McKinsey. True agility requires stability and dynamic capability in equal measure. Too much of the former, and your organization becomes too rigid to respond to change. Too much of the latter, and you risk decentralization.

Organizational agility is as relevant in higher education as it is to the enterprise. Agility helps institutions do more than weather sudden disruptions that compromise their ability to conduct their core missions. It also helps them capitalize on emerging market opportunities and gain an edge on less flexible competitors.

To increase agility, colleges and universities must lean into digital transformation for higher education. They need reliable, secure and scalable networks that support various educational use cases on and off campus. For example, a university could use software-defined networking and network function virtualization to automate core network functions and simplify digital learning experiences. By keeping the digital campus connected and engaged, the university could build agility into its network and create the capacity for change.

How higher education institutions adapted in 2020

Colleges and universities have relied on organizational agility to keep pace with digital transformation for higher education for years. In 2020, that flexibility helped colleges and universities quickly pivot to address the challenges of the pandemic. Their solutions boosted organizational resilience and left them better able to weather change.

As the pandemic intensified, schools recognized the need to create safe facilities for students, faculty and staff. They suddenly had exciting new options for configuring campus spaces. While reimagining their physical spaces to adhere to public health guidelines, institutions found more roles suited to remote work than originally expected. The prime real estate that faculty members might have once jostled for can now be repurposed to meet an institution's fluctuating needs.

Agile higher education institutions also rolled out mobile hotspots to support remote learning to help students without reliable internet access complete their class work. When campuses reopened, the increased mobile connectivity supported hybrid learning environments.

Some schools used the time that students were away to build stronger network connectivity on their campuses. The upgrades laid the foundation for digital transformation for higher education. By building mature network infrastructure now, these higher education institutions will be poised to accelerate their digital transformation once the pandemic abates.

Digital transformation for higher education and organizational agility

Colleges and universities face three unavoidable challenges, Educause says: mounting financial pressures, changes in the college experience and ongoing uncertainty. Digital transformation for higher education can help them meet these challenges.

First, they will need a strong, stable foundation built on a robust network infrastructure. Higher education institutions that build mature networks now will have a far better chance of addressing urgent issues. They will also be better able to take advantage of additional opportunities for innovation, like using the Internet of Things to create smart campuses.

Managed services providers can offer colleges and universities deep expertise and ensure a smooth, successful digital transformation. An experienced partner can help your institution identify its chief objectives and build a strategy to achieve them. It could also help you choose edge and cloud computing solutions, effectively manage cyber risks and construct contact center solutions that can deliver personalized experiences to students, parents and staff.

Enable organizational agility and transform your campus

The most agile colleges and universities were best equipped to ride out the seismic shifts caused by the pandemic. Digital transformation for higher education enabled this agility, helping schools continue their educational missions while navigating the switch to virtual and hybrid learning environments.

By starting the digital transformation journey now, future-minded college and university leaders can build resilient organizations and unlock exciting opportunities for innovation.

Discover how Verizon's higher education solutions can transform your campus and keep you education-ready.