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Higher Education Innovation In Action

  • 4 Benefits of Automation in the Workplace

    by Kate Heider, Technical Writer | Apr 26, 2018

     
    Workplace automation is in the media a lot these days, from burger-flipping robots to self-driving cars. The news is not always good. In fact, sometimes it’s downright dystopian, as it’s often framed in terms of job displacement and mass unemployment.

    At Credentials, we automate back-office processes for university registrars. Our core mission is not to replace jobs, but to help registrars do their jobs better with software that handles repetitive, time-consuming tasks. In short, we’re optimists: We prefer to focus on positive outcomes. With that in mind, here are four encouraging reports on automation along with benefits we’ve seen firsthand or heard about from our customers.

    Job creation

    This special report in The Economist, Automation and Anxiety, looks at how automation ultimately creates more jobs than it destroys. “‘That is because of the way automation works in practice,’ explains David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ‘Automating a particular task, so that it can be done more quickly or cheaply, increases the demand for human workers to do the other tasks around it that have not been automated.’” One example of this is the growing need for information system specialists in the registrar’s office – staff who can develop bolt-on solutions for existing software and bridge communication between your team and the IT department.

    Job support

    Not only does automation create the potential for new jobs, it supports existing jobs by freeing up time for more important, creative, or fulfilling work. The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse cites a recent McKinsey study that found only 5% of U.S. occupations can be fully automated. “McKinsey’s conclusion was not that machines will take all of these jobs, but rather, ‘more occupations will change than will be automated away,’” says author Sarah Kessler. “Our CEO, for example, won’t spend time analyzing reports if artificial intelligence can draw conclusions more efficiently, so he can spend more time coaching his team.”

    A more ‘human’ workplace

    This piece in Business Insider, Automation could make the modern workforce more ‘human’, reinforces the idea that automation is best suited for repetitive tasks. “For example, if you're an HR manager, you probably spend a large portion of your workday doing things that could be automated,” according to the article. “HR also includes activities that no computer program can do — like building personal relationships and managing employee concerns… These are the exciting, important parts of HR that you never have enough time for because of the repetitive activities that take up too much of your day.”

    This might sound all too familiar to registrars. As Mindy Starcher and Natalie Spooner have mentioned in their blog posts, a large part of a registrar’s job involves mentoring staff, assisting students, and developing collegial relationships throughout the institution. Automated systems free up time and resources for these high-touch activities.

    Lifelong learning

    Finally, the BBC reports that even though automation can cause uncertainty and upheaval, it can also foster lifelong learning. “The distinction between work and learning might need to become more amorphous,” says Bhagwan Chowdhry, professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We currently have a dichotomy where those who work need not learn, and those who learn do not work. We need to think about getting away from the traditional five day working week to one where I spend 60% of my time doing my job and 40% learning on a regular basis... For the majority of us, this could be a crucial switch in our thinking.”
  • Innovation in the Registrar’s Office

    by Kate Heider, Technical Writer | Apr 10, 2018

     
    Registrars know all about small, incremental innovations, as they’re often pressured to perform with ever-shrinking budgets and workarounds. This kind of innovation is really more of a mindset. It’s also known as “design thinking,” and it’s an unwritten part of the job.

    Take, for example, this article in iJournal – it’s from 2009 but still relevant, perfectly illustrating how registrars rise to the various challenges they face. The Admissions and Records Office at College of the Canyons, led by Jasmine Ruys, put together a team of volunteers to find quicker and more efficient ways to serve its growing student population. The team met once a week to brainstorm ideas and develop a plan to streamline registrations for the fall term. The result, Ms. Ruys said, was more satisfied students, and that afterward “the staff was motivated, even during hard times. They were excited about their jobs again… innovation can be put into place in any office.”

    In her project management post last April, Natalie Spooner wrote, “effective teamwork is just as critical to project management as day-to-day implementation.” It is also an important ingredient in innovation and design thinking. With that in mind, here are three articles on how to inspire innovation among your staff and breathe some new life into your team projects.

    How to Inspire a Culture of Innovation

    “True innovation isn’t about creating the ‘next big thing’ to capture fleeting attention.” So says Mauro Porcini, the chief design officer of PepsiCo, in this article in Entrepreneur magazine. Instead, he says, collaboration and connections are key. “The fast-paced business world is focused on results and returns, but truly innovative companies have a culture focused on long-term gains where innovation can thrive.”

    The Greatest Innovations are the Ones You Don’t See

    In this post, Jeff DeGraff talks about finding inspiration in “the hidden gems” – the places where others don’t think to look. Using travel and camping as a metaphor, his advice includes “swimming upstream,” or turning a problem on its head to consider it from another angle, and “talking to the locals” to ask them what they need. For registrars, “the locals” might mean students, colleagues, or staff in other departments. They usually have lots to share about their pain points. Engage with them and look for opportunities for improvement. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and really get into the thick of it – perhaps those in the trenches are too busy hustling to innovate – but that’s where you step in.

    Five Stages in the Design Thinking Process

    Finally, this article teaches you about the five stages of innovating a project.  They are:

    1. Empathizing with your end user
    2. Identifying the problem
    3. Ideating (brainstorming)
    4. Prototyping the solution, and
    5. Testing the solution

    Recall that the Admissions and Records team at College of the Canyons (above) followed all of these stages:

    1. They empathized with students by…
    2. Identifying a need for faster and more efficient service.
    3. They met once a week for a brainstorming session.
    4. They prototyped a plan.
    5. They successfully implemented the plan, which benefited staff as well as students.

    This article also emphasizes that innovation doesn’t happen in a straight line. “In essence, design thinking is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users,” the authors say, “with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave.”

  • Eight Tools We Love

    by Rose Addison, Manager, Documentation & Training | Dec 14, 2017

     
    What’s on your task list for the day? If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure you are, you’ve got a lot to do and very little time to do it. Although we can’t always control our workload, we take steps to work as efficiently as possible.  

    The concept of efficiency brought me to my question: what tools make my job easier while increasing productivity? We all typically have a few shortcuts that make tackling our responsibilities just a little bit easier… so I decided to ask my colleagues too and got tons of great feedback. Read on to learn more.

    Admin Tools

    Smartsheet

    Smartsheet is an asset around here and I’m not quite sure what we did without it. Smartsheet provides one central platform for Credentials team members to work together. We use it in many applications, such as project task lists, cross-team collaboration, file sharing, etc. Smartsheet even provides automated alerts and reminders so nothing ever slips through the cracks.

    GoToMeeting

    With four office locations, client institutions spread across the country, and our Sales team often working remotely, GoToMeeting (GTM) is an obvious slam dunk. GoToMeeting is a web-hosted video conferencing tool used to meet with others in real time. GoToMeeting offers screen sharing, built-in audio, and screen recording (for those who can’t make it…), so we’re able to seamlessly conference whenever we need to. The cost of the tool is minimal and it’s very easy-to-use. GTM even offers convenient features, like chat and email calendar plug-ins.

    Sales Tools

    Salesforce

    Salesforce, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, provides our Sales team with tons of opportunity! Sales uses the tool to ensure our customers’ experiences are ideal – whether it’s keeping in touch with clients, collaborating on tasks with fellow Sales team members, or staying on top of potential opportunities, we don’t want to live without it! Salesforce provides the analytics, flexibility, and best of all, security, we need. Did we mention it’s all available from a mobile app?!

    Loopio

    Loopio is an online platform we use to collaborate on requests for proposals (RFPs), security questionnaires, sales proposals, etc. Content is contained in one central library and organized using easily searchable categories and tags. Searching through up-to-date information has never been easier! Loopio even offers workflow structure, such as email communication to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), if ever we still need to double-check our facts.

    Training Tools

    Camtasia

    We’ve all heard the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so how much is a video worth? My team, the Documentation & Training Department, suggested Camtasia, a video-based screen capturing tool we use to create training and marketing videos. Camtasia allows us to record video and audio, edit the output, then share with our intended audience. The best part is that it’s easy-to-use, so no experience is necessary! We now have a library of training videos – which frees up the one-on-one time we individually spend training others.

    KnowBe4

    Our executive team loves the convenience and peace of mind KnowBe4 security awareness training provides. With data breaches constantly in the news, your employees need comprehensive security awareness training. KnowBe4 provides an easy way to educate our employees, track employee’s security knowledge, and provide an audit trail for all our compliance needs. They also deliver tons of content such as newsletters, training videos, and mock phishing tests, adding an extra level of caution to our cybersecurity measures.

    Marketing & Design Tools

    Hootsuite

    Hootsuite is a social media management platform that supports our social media efforts. We use Hootsuite to create and schedule Twitter and LinkedIn posts, allowing us to prepare content in advance and plan ahead for events and other significant times of the year. It also helps us keep a close eye on industry news that is being shared throughout the social platforms.

    Adobe Illustrator

    Our graphics team uses Adobe Illustrator, a vector-based program, to manipulate images in order to apply each institution’s branding to our systems and services. Adobe Illustrator maintains high quality images and allows our Graphics team to design with accuracy. It provides the tools to paint, draw, manipulate typography, etc. and allows the designer to customize his/her workspace. The graphics program works with nearly every computer type and produces small files for easy sharing.

    Not to toot our own horn, but we hear positive feedback from our clients all the time! Our customers can’t believe what they can get done after implementing Credentials services. We’re proud to help you proficiently handle your workload, big or small, and we’re thankful for all the tools we wouldn’t want to live without either!

  • Eight Lessons Learned in Emotional Intelligence: a Roundup!

    by Rose Addison, Manager of Documentation & Training | Nov 08, 2017

     
    Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – the ability to make emotions work for you, rather than against you – has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason. As it turns out, those who exemplify EQ are easily set apart from those who don’t… Sure, technical knowhow is necessary, however, those of us possessing EQ skills have improved chances to get the job, take home more money, avoid burnout, and lead successful teams.

    Don’t believe me? Take a look at these examples and let them make the case.

    Example 1: Business as Usual?

    Studies have shown emotional intelligence is just as important to employers as technical expertise. In this article, read about a woman working her way up the corporate ladder only to struggle once she got there. The struggle is real, so they say, but improved EQ skills help to resolve conflicts before they even arise.

    3 Benefits of Emotional Intelligence for Today's Business Leaders

    Example 2: Pull Over & Let EQ Drive

    Could IQ really take a backseat to EQ? That might just be the case. Fast Company’s post examines why potential candidates displaying both knowledge and emotional intelligence will always give those without a run for their money!

    7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is One of the Fastest-Growing Job Skills

    Example 3: Time is Money – So is EQ

    After all is said and done, those touting a higher EQ make an average of $29,000 more annually than their lower EQ counterparts! Yup, you read that right. Not only does EQ contribute to putting more money in the bank, it creates a better sense of work-life balance. Who wouldn’t want that?

    Sorry, but EQ is Way More Important than IQ These Days

    Example 4: The Balancing Act

    Stress, left unattended, can wreak havoc over your life. Have you ever wondered why some people struggle to find a balance while others don’t? In Harvard Business Review’s article, explore why emotional intelligence is the deciding factor. Learn how to lean into your EQ skillset and put some of those old stressors to bed.

    Why Some People Get Burned Out and Others Don't

    Example 5: The Proof is in the Productivity

    In this case study consider how an up-and-coming business was growing leaps and bounds only to be stilted by a weak company culture. That’s when Todd Delano, CEO of ServRx, stepped up to the plate with EQ training, which resulted in engaged and joyful employees.

    Case Study: Doubling Down on EQ Culture at ServRx

    Example 6: Bridging the Generational Gap

    It’s no secret that differences exist between generations. Although each generation has its own advantages, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials possess different influences, work values, communication traits, assets, and liabilities. That’s where EQ steps in. Check out Advance Systems’ post, which explores what we can learn when leading Millennials and what we can learn when we’re led by Millennials.

    EQ and the Future of Work

    Example 7: The Bottom Line Isn’t Always Everything

    It’s no secret, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, intends to make money selling cars but not at the risk of his employee’s safety. When Tesla’s injury rate was on the rise, he was determined to understand and ultimately fix safety issues. Read how Musk leads through emotional intelligence here.

    This Email from Elon Musk to Tesla Employees Is a Master Class in Emotional Intelligence

    Example 8: Failure is Not Fatal

    The path to success looks different for all of us but always contains some bumps along the road. Leaders discussed in this post recognize that failure is the part of the process and coach their teams through trying times rather than condemn them. The outcome is increased teamwork, room for growth and innovation, and cohesion throughout the organization.

    These 3 Emails - from the CEOs of Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon - Teach Extraordinary Lessons in Leadership

    Have I made a case for EQ’s authority? It’s clear that exhibiting emotional intelligence has so many advantages and gives you the upper hand across the board. I encourage you to explore how emotional intelligence can influence your success!

    Ready to Improve your EQ?

    If you’re up for the challenge, learn how to improve your emotional intelligence in this online Lynda course. The course is broken up into easy-to-understand short videos you can watch whenever it’s convenient for you.

    Leading with Emotional Intelligence

    Explore interesting topics like how our minds can’t think intelligently when in fight or flight response, how exercising self-control leads to better performance, and how understanding our own triggers helps to better control delicate and difficult issues. Delve into the included exercise guide and check out the additional recommended resources and references. You’ll take away as much as you put into it.

  • How to Choose the Best Management Methodology for Your Higher Ed Project

    by Mark Bonges, Vice President, Applications Development | Sep 19, 2017

     
    In 2012, McKinsey and Oxford University conducted a joint study on the success rate of large-scale IT projects and found that more than half go over budget and beyond scope. The study identified several reasons for this, all due to basic failures in project management:

    • Objectives that aren’t clearly defined
    • Constantly changing requirements
    • Scheduling that doesn’t fit a project’s size or scope
    • Reactive vs. proactive planning

    These issues probably sound familiar to you as a registrar, and they illustrate why proper planning and management are key to helping you stay on time and within budget in those projects you work so hard to win approval for each year.

    If you’re like most registrars, you probably follow your own process or have a favorite methodology. If not, or if you’re looking for a new and more efficient system (or maybe you’ve heard all that buzz about Agile), here are three project management methodologies to consider, plus their pros and cons, to help you choose one that’s right for you.

    Waterfall

    The Waterfall method, so named for its cascading series of steps, is commonly used in IT, though it can be applied to other types of projects. It’s made up of the following five phases with each one clearly defined and carried out in a specific order:

    1. Requirements – spelled out in a formal project document
    2. Design – the project’s inner workings or architecture
    3. Implementation – development/execution of the project plan
    4. Testing – verification that the project works the way it’s supposed to
    5. Maintenance – implementation and ongoing support of the project’s end result

    Pros: This method works best where all of the planning and decision-making happens upfront. For example, it might be appropriate for a joint technology project with your institution’s IT department.

    Cons: By design, Waterfall does not allow for deviations along the way, so it’s probably not for you if your project doesn’t have a rigidly defined set of requirements and/or you anticipate that its scope will change.

    In that case, you might consider Agile instead.

    Agile

    You may have heard the phrase “fail fast to succeed sooner,” attributed to IDEO’s founder David Kelley and embraced by many of today’s tech companies. In software development, it means that you quickly build what’s known as a “minimum viable product,” show it to customers, solicit feedback, make improvements, and repeat the process. You accept that, at the outset, you don’t really know if your vision is correct (“fail fast”), but you trust that small and incremental changes will help you build a better product (“succeed sooner”).

    It’s a philosophy that the Agile method was designed for, and here’s how it typically works in practice:

    • The project team meets to discuss the requirements of the initial release
    • Team members meet briefly every day thereafter for a “standup” to report on progress
    • Each team member takes on only as much as they can complete within a two- to four-week cycle
    • The team meets at the end of each cycle for a “showcase” to demonstrate what they have built so far and solicit user feedback

    Pros: Agile’s narrow scope and adaptability are ideal for projects that require making adjustments as you go along and fast turnaround times.

    Cons: This method can be expensive in terms of meetings, and its fast pace may not fit with your particular needs.

    However, some of Agile’s components, like regular check-ins with your team, may appeal to you. If so, you could try a hybrid methodology.

    Project Management Hybrids

    Recently, Natalie Spooner wrote about an imaging project she led as a registrar. She followed her own process, but that type of project would have also lent itself well to a combined Waterfall and Agile approach. For example, she might’ve used the first couple of steps of the Waterfall method to define and design the project, and Agile’s regular meeting schedules to communicate with the multiple departments that were involved and help keep the project on track.

    Pros: By combining methodologies, you can tailor processes to each individual project.  

    Cons: Because Waterfall and Agile are almost completely opposite methods, they have the potential to clash.

    All projects require governance, but there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. The key to project management is understanding the different methodologies that are available and finding the best solution for you and your team.