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How fusion teams drive digital transformation in higher education

Blog: ProcessMaker Blog

AACRAO quotes Dr. Jacquelyn Elliot, VP of Enrollment at a private liberal arts college and a specialist in boosting collaboration amongst higher ed teams. “Why is it so hard for people to see the big picture? We have to work together [to impact enrollment], not hold onto our own agendas.” 

Higher Ed has always relied on what they call “cross-functional teams,” “communities of practice,” or what Gartner refers to as “fusion teams.” EDUCAUSE views communities of practice, or CoPs, as a means to link nodes in different networks to forge new connections. These groups rally creative minds from all over campus into a multi-talented dynamo of fresh ideas and strategies.

What is a community of practice? 

Google knows the power of inspired groups taking on non-prescribed moonshots. The tech giant doesn’t gently nudge employees to explore new areas of interest—they openly urge them to. After all, Google Maps and Slack were born on the periphery of a typical day’s work.  Arguably the first forays into iPhone were pioneered by an industrious few, a fledgling concept that higher-ups didn’t think could sprout any wings. 

A community of practice takes on this more creative approach to future gazing. It democratizes digital transformation, inviting a broad, motivated set of employees to explore the potential of new technologies. 

In higher ed, these unlikely matchups engage with one another to find the best approach to novel issues. You might find them exploring issues like: 

CoPs are rooted in collaboration and sharing. Every team member brings their personal and departmental experiences to the table. Participants are encouraged to test smaller ideas that may not be buttressed by a traditional bullet-pointed initiative. Silos come down, learning diffuses over a broader group and sparks new approaches to digital transformation efforts. 

Where can you find these all-stars ready to take the helm of tomorrow’s technologies? 

Gartner calls them “business technologists,” and they make up 41% of the workforce. Some higher ed experts merge “functional” and “technology” into the playful moniker “funky-techs.” 

Who are they? They’re go-getters and innate strategists. They might be outside the IT realm but are interested in working with the latest tech. Whether they share a passion, curiosity, or sheer allegiance to the institution’s future growth, uncommon groups emit an unexpected fervency that can make big changes at your institution. 

In many departments, only a handful of staffers want to push all-speed ahead on new tech initiatives. 

Others are happy with the status quo. 

They don’t want to learn new systems or let go of the power associated with being the sole person who knows how to get it done. Begrudgingly, fresh ideas fade away. 

Fusion teams push new ideas to thrive. They bring together talented, future-focused individuals from all areas of the university into one motivated powerhouse undeterred by cynics. Fusion teams unleash great ideas from untapped pockets and etch them into the fabric of your institution. 

8 things your higher ed communities of practice need to succeed

Transformation can only exist where ideas are exchanged in new ways, and employees feel free to explore areas outside their expertise. Here are eight ways you can foster learning communities and unearth brilliant ideas from new sources. 

With fusion teams and CoPs, you can create new working relationships, unlock innovative insights, and reveal connections that otherwise wouldn’t exist. A CoP unites the cross-campus brain power you need to generate new ideas. Business process automation tools track and fulfill the step-by-step tasks that actually get them off the ground. These two strategies working hand in hand, will turn your institution into a hotbed of actionable, future-focused ideas that stick.

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