All educational establishments from small specialist colleges to large multi-campus institutions carry out a complex range of processes in order to deliver learning and teaching. Most of us recognise that some of those processes could be improved but it is often difficult to know how to tackle the issues or indeed what to tackle first.
Implementing new systems is often a driver for considering how we carry out business processes but you don’t necessarily need technological change to do things in a better way.
Although we don’t always talk about ‘business’ and ‘customers’ in the world of education we cannot escape the conclusion that we exist to serve the needs of a client group and foremost amongst those clients is the learner or student. Education differs from other types of ‘business’ in a number of significant ways. It operates within a controlled environment of external controls, shared governance, participative process and shared power.
Also, although income generation forms an increasingly significant part of our activities, it is run on an essentially ‘not for profit’ basis. These factors limit the usefulness of many models developed in the commercial sector but this does not mean that we cannot learn anything from established good business practice in other large organisations. This guide takes a selective approach to the available models and identifies those that could be used to good effect within the education sector.
Many organisations have worked on projects to integrate learning environments and administrative systems. This integration is effectively a set of business processes and you need to develop these processes to fit your vision. At certain key points processes will ‘hit’ your IT systems. Look at optimising the ‘non-system’ as well as system components of the process (you may even be able to move non-system processes into the system environment).
Often the non-system components are more flexibly changed. Considering processes across the piece in this way can dramatically affect the overall length and shape of the ‘bigger picture’ organisational process.
This guide could be aptly subtitled the 'Three Rs of Business Processes' – the Rs being:
We offer a step-by-step guide to improving your business processes. You don’t necessarily need to take all of the steps and, as we will go on to discuss, full-blown business re-engineering isn’t appropriate for everyone (in fact there are probably very few examples of this actually happening in the education sector).
Business process review is a huge topic and there is a vast array of useful reference material. This guide will cover some key approaches and techniques and point to sources of further information. It won’t tell you everything you could ever want to know about the subject but it will give you a very simple, fast-track method of evaluating your processes and finding better ways of doing things.
Technophiles and those looking for the latest fad beware – it doesn’t involve:
- Complicated/expensive tools
- Lengthy training for staff
- External consultants.
If you’re tired of being restructured, downsized, benchmarked, total quality managed, performance indicated or having your scorecard balanced try this common sense approach to business improvement.
This guide assumes that any business process review will be undertaken as a project and managed within a formal project management framework. The approach to project management is based on the PRINCE2 methodology and is detailed in our project management guide. We have endeavoured to avoid any method-specific terminology in this guide and refer only to general project management practice.