• Sam Sanders, Leadership |
6 min read

Cloud technologies have great potential to help universities overcome many of the challenges that they face today in delivering vital back and middle-office functions such as Finance, HR, Payroll and Procurement 

However, as I explored in my previous blog, many institutions are still using legacy, on-premise technology that isn’t providing the benefits they need. Some are reluctant to make the leap to the cloud, for fear of altering how things are done, or from change fatigue following previous failed technology transformations, among other common barriers to change.

KPMG has developed an approach to help back-office functions overcome these concerns and to seamlessly transition from legacy technology to the cloud – KPMG Powered Enterprise. 

A clear target operating model

Our Powered Enterprise approach is based on three fundamental principles: i. the move to a Cloud-based SaaS delivery model is now very much a question of when rather than if for all major ERP providers and their customers; ii. the key to successful Cloud migration is the adoption of standardised, systems functionality, configured (rather than customised) to meet individual sector needs, and; iii. major systems replacements programmes rarely fail because of the technology – they fail because the business fails to adapt its processes, mindset and behaviours to take full advantage of this switch. This is especially true in higher education.

Drawing on years of experience in helping clients to streamline and improve their professional services functions, our Powered Enterprise approach starts by outlining what we consider to be leading practice in terms of the entire target operating model (TOM) for HR, Finance, Payroll and Procurement. This TOM view goes well beyond basic technology considerations and focuses on all of factors that we know to be essential for any implementation to succeed and embed: people, processes, service delivery model design, data and reporting, governance, controls and change management. 

While universities are in some respects unique, a lot of the core transactional processes that they employ on a daily basis are no different from any other industry - e.g. processes such as purchase-to-pay, or absence management have similar basic requirements the world over. Having invested significant time and effort upfront in defining how these processes should operate and ensuring that they’re pre-configured to align with all of the major ERP products on the market, we can show people what the ‘end-state’ will look and feel like before we begin, demystifying the outcome and helping to speed up the transformation. 

Adopting (rather than adapting) the cloud

One of the biggest challenges that universities have always faced is in understanding and differentiating between user needs and user wants.

Whilst understandable (if not advisable) in a traditional on-premise setting, the propensity to try and please everyone by adapting common off the shelf (COTS) applications to meet individual user needs has, time and again, resulted in the same two issues: i. replication of inefficient legacy processes on new technology, and; ii. excessive customisation.

With the advent of cloud technology and the move to a SaaS model of service delivery, these issues have suddenly shifted from amber to red. To take advantage of the periodic upgrades that the major vendors provide through their quarterly or six-monthly patching you need to make sure that any design decisions that you make fall within the parameters of allowable configuration. If you try to customise or extend this functionality the onus will be on you as the customer to make sure it doesn’t break.

This move from adapting technology to adopting it places an enormous amount of focus on the need for robust and effective change management and means that the traditional approach to systems implementation, starting with an exhaustive, bottom-up requirements gathering exercise, is increasingly unfit for purpose. Which is where Powered comes in. 

Rather than starting with a blank piece of paper, having a pre-defined answer that incorporates all of the required elements of the solution means that you can start with an entirely different set of questions; rather than ‘what would you like?’ you can instead ask ‘why wouldn’t this work?’. It also means that you can actually show your end-users what a new system would look and feel like in practice, right from day one. This is especially important when dispelling assumptions around such thorny issues as self-service.

The result is a more engaged end-user community, significant time savings and the assurance that what you agree to implement is supported by your chosen technology.

Change management from the off

As referenced above, it’s your people that will ultimately make any implementation a success, not the technology. Understanding who they are, how they feel, what motivates and worries them and what will be required to ensure that – as far as is practically possible – they don’t reject the change, is crucial to ensuring that anticipated benefits are realised.

Any approach you take therefore, needs to have people at its heart. As well as ensuring that key stakeholders are involved throughout the validation and design phases of any programme it's really important that you:

  • Can articulate a clear, consistent and realistic Case for Change, laying out why you’re undertaking the move to the cloud and why, from both and individual and business perspective, it’s the right thing to be doing.
  • Understand the different stakeholder groups that will be impacted and engage with them in a way that will resonate. In the same way that’s there’s no such thing as a ‘typical student’, your academic and professional services staff are not one homogenous group that will respond to the same messaging or stimuli.
  • Fully understand the scale of the impact that any change will have, both in terms of perceived change and actual change, and can tailor your engagement and interactions accordingly.

For this reason, our Powered toolkit contains not only the functional and technical accelerators listed above, but also a range of change management tools specifically tailored to an HE setting – e.g. a range of pre-configured academic and professional services personas, customer journey maps, training materials and templated change impact assessments.

Building on the lessons that we’ve learned from numerous technology-led change initiatives across the sector – both in a delivery and assurance capacity - these assets have been specifically designed to help universities segment their different stakeholder groups, pre-empt the likely pushback and complaints they’re likely to encounter, demystify the process and tailor their comms and engagement strategies to meet the needs of their different ‘customer groups’, all of which will be essential to help the change stick.

Don’t waste the opportunity

Cloud implementation is not just about picking the right system, it’s about achieving an effective long-term partnership between IT services, your core business owners and your chosen software provider. With Powered Enterprise, we can help ensure that that your move to the cloud is not just an expensive re-platforming of your old operating model but a real opportunity to leverage leading practice to transform the way in which you work – both on-system and off-system.

By combining leading practice thinking from a range of different sectors, strong alliance partner relationships with all of the leading cloud vendors and an in-depth understanding of how to deliver change within an HE context, you can not only reduce the time it takes to realise business benefits but also help you to manage the many risks that typically plague these types of programme.

In the next and final blog in this series I’ll be exploring how the advent of Cloud has changed the way in which universities need to think about buying technology, and why preparation is the key to success.

To find out more about how Powered Enterprise can help university back offices, visit our Powered Enterprise insights page.