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Building IT into Institutional Strategy

West Shore Community College’s IT Challenges

CS-2-1West Shore Community College, located in Scottville, Michigan and servicing over 1,500 students, offers a comprehensive general education cirricula designed to meet the needs of students interested in occupational programs leading to immediate employment and students wishing to transfer to a senior institution.

IT leadership recognized that there was a gap between what IT was delivering and the expectations of their customers. “They didn’t get what they needed, so they built their own solutions,” said Scott Ward, West Shore’s Vice President of Administrative Services. “There were projects all over the place and there was a lack of communication about their creation.”

Knowing they needed an independent view of the challenges surrounding IT and having a mandate from the college president and governing body of trustees to “spend wisely and have a plan”, West Shore contracted with Delta Initiative to perform an independent assessment. Working with Ward, Delta Initiative set the following objectives for the assessment:

  • Understand West Shore’s strategic plan
  • Review the current and planned IT activities
  • Identify gaps between West Shore’s strategic plan and IT’s current activities
  • Identify opportunities where the gaps could be closed quickly
  • Identify mid-term and long-term approaches to closing gaps
  • Work with West Shore to create an IT strategic plan

“I envisioned the IT assessment was going to be very IT-based,” Ward said. “But Delta Initiative was looking at it from every user experience. For example, from the viewpoint of the students and the faculty. Looking at it holistically.”

The Framework for Implementing the Solution

CS-2-2The key to the effective use of technology is to start with organization’s strategic plan and goals. Working with West Shore IT and business process owners, Delta Initiative developed an understanding of West Shore’s culture, values, and mission. These elements established the college’s identity and how they viewed their relationship with students and the student experience with West Shore.

Understanding West Shore’s strategic plan and looking at the institution’s culture from the viewpoint of all stakeholders shaped the discussions regarding IT’s strategic direction and role. All IT activities were subsequently reviewed using the business strategic filter. The result was a unique roadmap tailored to West Shore’s environmental challenges and opportunities.

Executing West Shore’s Solution – Step by Step

The initial engagement with West Shore began in July. Delta Initiative launched the discovery process by surveying and interviewing users across the board, from administrators to students. The discovery was meant to uncover how effective IT was in the context of West Shore’s strategic plan.

The results exposed an urgent need for triage before proceeding to strategy.

Following the interviews, Delta Initiative, began working with the IT team from a performance perspective. There was limited knowledge of project status and with no resulting analysis on quality, the IT team was unable to answer questions such as “Was the issue resolved?”, “Can you close the request?”,“Was the user satisfied?”

In September, the first of many meetings occurred with the IT staff to build and execute the recommended strategy. The written assessment and verbal presentation was delivered shortly thereafter.

Delta Initiative provided all IT employees with three months of side-by-side training, particularly on change management techniques for a smoother transition into the newly organized structure and responsibilities therein.

After nine months, Delta Initiative had helped to equip West Shore with the tools necessary for sustaining the strategy, including education on how to adjust with changing technology and marketplace demands.

“Delta Initiative became a trusted advisor, a coach,” Ward said.

A Comprehensive Approach – Managed Change

Even minor technology changes impact every level of an organization. Successful implementation begins with ensuring clarity on the organization’s strategy and goals. From there, Delta Initiative is able to include and engage stakeholders, who ultimately determine the success of the project by their input and advocacy for any recommended changes.

By gradually implementing Delta Initiative’s recommendations, the IT department moved from a reactive position to a preventative, proactive capacity, ensuring successful customer service. Delta Initiative became a trusted advisor as well as a coach for organizational change management, providing best practices on implementing accepted change.

Executing Strategy for Results

CS-2-3The Delta Initiative consulting team provided a write up on best practices and how to implement them into West Shore’s environment. West Shore continued to implement the overall recommendation a year after the assessment, with ongoing training from Delta Initiative. By then, the technological implementation had reached 70 to 80 percent completion.

“They helped change the perception of IT on campus,” said Ward, “They delivered more than I envisioned. We had a baseline of what objectives we would like Delta Initiative to achieve. They exceeded this by providing us with tools beyond IT on campus.”

Delta Initiative helped the IT department engage with and obtain buy-in from the college’s leadership on their project management recommendations. This was a significant measure of success for the IT department. Based on the success realized by IT, the college’s president and board decided to implement their model campus-wide. The full-scale implementation of the project management recommendations are 40 to 50 percent complete.

“We now have high buy-in on implementing the strategy,” Ward said. “Delta Initiative was able to get this done by getting the board of trustees, the president, and his team on board with this strategy.” The changes were also implemented within budget. “They drove significant cost savings and brought significant gains,” Ward said. “The bottom line was helped.”

“They gave us a great document to identify current weaknesses and a thorough document of how we can improve with a road map,” Ward said. “After a year, there are no regrets. We are still using what they did. And those recommendations are now becoming principles.”

CS-2-4About Delta Initiative

An independent management consulting company servicing institutions of higher learning and businesses, Delta Initiative’s executive-level consultants use their extensive knowledge and experience to empower and actualize clients’ strategies for greater success. Delta Initiative is committed to helping leaders generate measurable strategic change by focusing your organization on a culture of delivery enabled by technology.