How can the central administration get even better at digital transformation?

Focus on end users at the departments and centres, solid business understanding and heightened attention to the organisational and cultural change process. The central administration must focus on these areas when implementing new digital solutions.

2021.03.23 | Arnold Boon

Most of us have probably experienced how difficult it is to change our habits when we encounter new digital solutions in our everyday lives. The first time I used online self-service solutions to transfer money and check in at the airport, I was sceptical – and to be honest, probably a little bit unsure of myself. Today, it would feel like a big step backwards if I had to stand in line to ask an employee to handle my bank transactions or check my baggage.

There are two examples of successful digital transformations. Over time, digital solutions have enabled banks and airports to free up resources to use on more important tasks. And users have adopted new routines that make it impossible to imagine going back to the way things used to be.

Digital transformation has become of the hottest buzzwords of our time. But it isn’t just an empty slogan. It refers to crucial ways of understanding and working with digital changes in order to ensure that new technological solutions contribute greater quality and value to society, to companies and to organisations – including Aarhus University. New digital solutions have an enormous potential to free up resources that we can use on the university’s core tasks instead – or to provide better service to students, researchers and lecturers.

Digital transformation is not easy

Many of us here at the university are already working with digital transformation, and most of us have realised that much more needs to change in addition to IT systems if we are to reap the benefits of new digital solutions. Habits, work routines, processes, behaviour, competencies and culture must also be transformed, as the examples from the bank and the airport show.

This is why digital transformation is a complex and resource-intensive process in an organisation – both for those who are tasked with implementing new digital solutions and for those who are to use them.

The central administration has an important role to play in contributing to successful digital transformation in connection with the new digital solutions that are introduced at Aarhus University. I find that many administrative employees work with digital transformation in a focused, intentional and insightful manner, and we already have a great deal of insight and experience to build on.

Digital transformation is often on the agenda at meetings of the the administration's management team (LEA). This is because LEA would like to do a better job of supporting digital transformation at Aarhus University.

But to tell it like is, digital transformation is not easy. And that leads me to the central question in this month’s blog post:

How can the central administration get even better at digital transformation?

I would like to highlight three areas that LEA focus on when we discuss digital transformation:

We must understand users at the departments and centres. The solutions we implement must be embraced by users at the departments and centres. This requires regular, consistent involvement, dialogue and adjustment – and we need to prioritise and allocate resources to the individual projects. I am well aware that in some cases it can be difficult to meet the strategic ambition of more shared systems across AU and, at the same time, provide solutions that meet the needs of users and fit into the local context. In this context, the administration’s task will always be to find and explain the solutions that meet the needs of users in the best possible way within the common framework. At times, this will require that we dare to challenge and inspire users in relation to how new solutions can meet their needs.

We must understand our organisation. It is necessary to understand the context in which digital solutions must function. The university is a complex entity, and employees who work with digital transformation need to understand work routines, processes and cultures in the contexts to which they provide systems and solutions. Some of this comes with experience, but we also need to work more with focused competency development in relation to ensuring organisational understanding.

We must focus on realising the benefits. We need to get used to the fact that project and process plans do not end when a new IT system has been implemented technically. We must maintain focus on the project's objectives for a long time after users have begun using a solution. In this phase, we must ensure that the desired benefits that motivated the implementation of the solution are actually realised.

I understand how easy it is to focus on technological change at the expense of on cultural and organisational changes. Digital transformation challenges our traditional mindset, and it takes constant attention to change. We need to focus on this, and I will do my part to ensure that LEA take responsibility for ensuring that cultural and organisational changes are high on the agenda in AU’s digital change projects.

If you would like to explore some examples of how the central administration works with digital transformation in the administration in practice, you can read or re-read the series of monthly articles published in the administration's newsletter since the beginning of the year:

As always, I would like to hear from you if you have any comments or questions about this blog post.

Fællesadministration

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