Digital business applied to universities

Posted on Friday, December 7, 2018

Hung LeHong, VP and Gartner Fellow at the University of Ottawa

VP and Gartner Fellow, Hung LeHong

On November 28, 2018, VP and Gartner Fellow Hung LeHong, gave a great presentation to uOttawa leaders and IT personnel on how to properly plan for digital transformation. 

This expert kicked off the morning by showing us why a holistic view of our ecosystems and vendor partners is important, and discussing the value of fully leveraging our existing platform models.

Hung LeHong helped us grasp the idea that digital business can be expressed in terms of digital technology enablement, digital business optimization and digital transformation so that we could classify the opportunities he later described. First, we can perceive our digital business strategy as a search for initiatives that offer digital business optimization and bring:

  • Improved productivity and existing revenues
  • Better customer experience

Second, we search for opportunities for digital business transformation that usher:

  • Net-new revenue products and services
  • New business model
uOttawa employees at a presentation

Universities can add significant value without changing their business models or undertaking pure digital transformations. Typically, they can leverage analytics, use IoT (Internet of Things) to reduce costs, introduce AI to take on more volume without increasing head counts, establish better digital channels to provide connected experiences to their students and community, and so forth.

Opportunities to venture into true digital transformations in universities are more difficult to identify for non-profit institutions. Selling existing digital assets, selling metered revenues, running a platform business or moving into an adjacent industry are not as obvious in academic environments. The question then becomes: When is it advantageous to concentrate on transforming and when it is it more advantageous to optimize or enable? We must give serious thought to these questions if we want to successfully navigate the digital journey. Naturally, for publically funded universities, digital business optimization is often considered before digital business transformation, in part due to the nature of education and a larger organization’s lack of agility. What will be uOttawa’s primary metric for digital transformation progress and success?

Hung LeHong, VP and Gartner Fellow at the University of Ottawa

It was interesting to hear why human interactions are desirable when planning the degree of process automation. Our community and potential community members may be better served by retaining a human touch in some aspects, without compromising the efficiency of University operations. According to Hung LeHong, the next big wave of innovation will likely come from the outside, due to the emergence of a new product or technologies that community members could bring in as their de facto standard.

So what are some areas of opportunity for universities? These include: matching tutors with students; finding parking spots on campus; matching mentors with employees; reserving lunch in advance; renting a bike or car; adapting Google map directions for open house events, on-campus conferences, visitor tours, new students; students asking Siri for the deadline to drop a class, what their grade is in a specific class, or what’s on the menu at a campus café, etc. As you can see, we are only limited by our imagination!

From smart parking to intelligent streets graph

In conclusion, to remain competitive and relevant, universities must have a strong digital presence that delivers to the height of their ambitions. We now need to align the initiatives currently occurring in silos across the University so we can focus our vision and deliver results. What will your contribution be?

Click here to watch the presentation (you will need to download Adobe Connect).

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