Helping institutions gain and sustain Strategic Traction® is the core of our work and the foundation of our service portfolio. We provide the analysis, perspective, and guidance that enables institutions to develop focus, set direction, and achieve alignment--to gain Strategic Traction in their thinking, planning, and decision-making. Linking those elements--focus, direction, and alignment--creates the strategic context for clients to frame, discuss, make, and evaluate decisions and access performance.
Deep Strategy Articulation and Alignment
No one can predict the future. Yet every organization, every individual tries to anticipate changes the future will bring and prepare for them. Colleges and universities are not immune to the desire to see over the horizon.
That ability would be extremely valuable today for colleges and universities that face an uncertain economy, changing customer expectations, shifting societal attitudes toward postsecondary education, and new forms of competition. Institutional executives face decisions that have become so complex and capital-intensive that there is virtually no margin for error. Institutions—and their leaders—must be flexible enough to see around the next corner, nimble enough and adequately prepared to jump over sudden obstacles, focused enough to create opportunities, and decisive enough to seize them.
And yet, the pressure of day-to-day operations and the myriad decisions that require executive attention make it difficult for college and university leaders to keep the conversation forward-looking and at a strategic level—focused on “deep strategy” issues.
Examples of Deep-Strategy Issues:
- Sustaining competitive positioning/brand awareness
- Achieving institutional literacy
- Enhancing alumni engagement
- Leveraging strategic partnerships and networks
- Maximizing return on mission
- Determining educational lines of business and delivery modes
- Balancing undergraduate and graduate program mix
- Achieving global engagement
- Managing faculty size, mix and demographics
Student Recruitment and Retention
- Setting desired enrollment size and mix
- Balancing affordability and discount rate
- Expanding experiential learning networks
- Creating employment pathways for graduates
- Ensuring business model sustainability
- Providing capital flow for academic and infrastructure investment
- Maintaining competitive compensation levels
At Kaludis Consulting, we have the experience and expertise to frame the right deep-strategy questions and to guide the process of identifying the client’s most critical deep-strategy issues.
Strategic, Academic and Business Planning
Building a sustainable business model requires a realistic, multi-year appraisal of student markets, academic and student support bases, available capital and operating resources, and strategies for the productive use of assets. Institutions must integrate strategies across products, markets, pricing, and delivery channels and develop a clear picture of direct costs, cost drivers, and overhead. In today’s environment, that requires an ongoing program of strategic intelligence-gathering and continuous attention to and refinement of strategy - what’s working and what’s not, why, and what to do about it?
Designing a rational academic base and achieving institution-wide cost effectiveness are among the highest current priorities for colleges and universities of all shapes and sizes. A roadmap to achieving those priorities comes from former university president and foundation executive Bob Dickeson.
In his book, Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance, Dickeson asserted that “most institutions can no longer afford to be what they have become.” What was obvious to Dickeson when he wrote the book is pervasively understood today by colleges and universities that face growing uncertainty about financial sustainability at a time when the outcry over the cost of higher education and demands for accountability are getting more strident.
Dickeson offers the following observations that we find to be all-too-often true among our clients:
If the academic base is not operating rationally, it is very difficult to do any serious strategic planning. That is why we work with clients to link review of the academic portfolio and academic program prioritization with strategic planning and, ultimately, business planning.
For institutional success, planning must be viewed as a continuum that looks critically at the program portfolio—the institution’s economic lifeblood—to establish priorities linked to the institution’s mission and vision, and strategies selected to achieve that vision, and to the creation of a business model and plan that supports financial sustainability. A clear picture of institution-wide strategic issues is the essential starting point, lest the process become an exercise in compiling unit perspectives.
Kaludis Consulting’s work enables clients to explore new strategy options, especially those focused on collaboration within and outside the institution to achieve synergy and leverage, and to test new business model scenarios.
Our approach fuses academic, strategic and business planning, causing colleges and universities to think about integration of strategies for student markets; academic programs and delivery systems; second-connect student engagement; academic and administrative services; facility and technology infrastructures; and human capital—creating a holistic framework. Most important, this fusing connects resource-allocation and asset-deployment decisions to the business model through a student-success and financial return-on-investment mentality—an outcomes-focused perspective.
Institutional Economics and Finance
Higher education institutions operate in an increasingly complex financial environment. Small, independent colleges face enrollment management, price and tuition discounting, and debt management issues. Endowed institutions grapple with the fluctuating investment return, spending rule policy, and capital allocation issues. Public universities encounter continued declines in legislative appropriations, customer sensitivity to price increases, and a culture not attuned to bottom-line performance. Small-to intermediate size independent universities often face the challenges of accommodating differentiated markets served by academic programs with different delivery styles and venues within a single institutional economy.
Return on investments and return on assets, once terms reserved for the business world, are increasingly important as institutions allocate resources in pursuit of mission-fulfilling visions. We believe that return on assets and investments must be viewed in the broader context of “return on mission” for effective strategic alignment. Yet, for most college and universities, the annual operating plan, based on incremental budgeting, and in some cases, the capital facilities budget, drive resource allocation. A more sophisticated strategy is needed, one that embraces multi-year thinking and adopts a multi-year financial planning horizon because most institutions operate with a high level of fixed costs in the form of faculty tenure and facilities that cannot be overcome in the short- to medium term. Such a multi-year approach enables clients to explore new strategies to achieve synergy and leverage, and to test new business model scenarios.
Our approach for building and sustaining an effective financial framework and sound decision structure focuses on:
Our work combines research and analysis, scenario development, and financial modeling to provide a baseline for future economic planning and decisions in pursuit of financial sustainability. The ability to think and plan in a multi-year timeframe, setting near- and long-term financial goals, allows institutions to plan for financial health rather than just expecting it to happen.
Academic Program Analysis
Academic programs are the lifeblood of any college or university; they represent the real drivers of revenue and cost for the institution. An array of “healthy” degree offerings is an important element of the equation to attract, retain, and graduate and support employment opportunities for the desired number and types of students. Maintaining program health requires renewal and investment—in existing and new programs. For many institutions, a primary source of investment capital is reallocation of resources. Even more important than gaining an understanding of how academic investments can be redeployed, academic program analysis tests the soundness of the academic base. A sound academic base is a fundamental underpinning of any serious academic strategic planning.
Organizational Review and Renewal
Structure supports strategy. Structure is not simply an organization chart; it is all the people, positions, procedures, processes, culture, technology and related elements that comprise the organization. It defines how all the pieces and parts work together –or don’t, in some cases. Structure must be totally integrated with strategy for the organization to achieve its mission and goals. If an organization changes strategy, it must change the structure to support the new strategy. When it doesn’t, the structure will cause the organization, over time, to revert back to a strategy the organization structure does support.
At Kaludis Consulting, we understand that the linkage of structure and strategy is particularly important for colleges and universities because of the unique impact of tenure, shared governance, and inherent tendency for siloed functioning on the management of the institution.
Our approach to organizational review and renewal, be it at the senior management, college or school or administrative unit level, is to examine all the resources—people, infrastructure, capital, systems, procedures, processes, culture, technology—through the strategy-support lens, answering key questions:
Our evaluations and recommendations seek to create internal and external leverage and bring structure into proper alignment with strategy so the institution can deliver its mission and achieve its goals most efficiently and cost-effectively within the parameters of institutional values and culture.
Technology Assessment and Planning
Information and learning technologies have become imbedded in the fabric of higher education globally, and play a critical role in virtually every aspect of daily institutional life. These powerful tools are a mission-critical resource and have, in fact, become a means of significant leverage for institutions as they seek improved quality in teaching and learning and increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness in delivering their missions.
At the same time, the technology-planning-and-development environment has become increasingly complex, with new academic delivery modes serving multiple market segments, mobile platforms, aging transaction systems, cloud computing, web-hosting, outsourcing, overtaxed networks, threats to information security and business continuity, and growing demand for instant access to electronic services of all kinds for every constituency.
To compound the challenge, many institutions that weathered the dotcom competition storm are now faced with a skewed age demographic in its IT workforce as the Baby Boom bubble continues through and out of the workforce. Is the next generation of workers going to be available in an increasingly competitive global marketplace?
Faster cycles of change shorten timeframes for decision-making and complicate planning. And shrinking lifecycles often create a sense of playing “technology catch-up” among users and service providers alike. Too often, though, technology decisions are reactive or incremental, made without the benefit of an institutional vision for the role of technology or strategies for achieving that vision. Often the result is skewed priorities and squandered resources—a loss of Strategic Traction®.
At Kaludis Consulting, we stress the importance of mission-focused strategies, service improvements, integrated and cost-effective solutions, and workable recommendations. We understand the impact of competing, sometimes, conflicting demands, and the requirement for appropriately planned and managed information and learning technologies, services, and support.