Active Projects

An Adaptive Team That Deploys To Serve Change-Minded Leaders

Think of us as the secret weapon every transformational leader needs to turn their vision into reality. We are the team that wraps around them, and deploys to make sure important things get done – while nimbly adapting to our client’s daily challenges. This episode of the FutureX podcast demonstrates what happens when any area of a college (in this case technology) does not have transformational leadership and help guiding it. 


Here’s A Short List Of Some Active Projects

Since most of our clients like to keep us their “best kept secret”, we don’t disclose specific case studies by client name. However, here’s insight into the types of things we are working on with innovative Presidents, Provosts, CFOs and CIOs across the landscape.

Project 1: Re-Imagining The Student Experience 

A bold President decided to take a sledgehammer to the student experience at their school after seeing first hand how many obstacles were in the way of a student simply enrolling in the school. We were invited in to help design a “frictionless, Amazon-like experience for students.” To accomplish that final outcome, here’s just a few of the things we’ve embarked on.

  • A comprehensive study of the student journey – by mapping every single step of student life at the school. Over 1,000 staff, faculty, and students participated in listening sessions powered by our proprietary ThinkSpace technology.
  • Identification of 100’s of friction points- ranging from unnecessary holds in the SIS, to manual processes, and outdated policies – that were hindering the student journey.
  • A series of re-imagining workshops were the obstacles were replaced with new, modern, and innovative processes with the student at the center.
  • Recalibration of outdated policies, procedures, systems, and structures that hinder student success. (Yes, our staff did the heavy lifting).
  • Facilitation of design thinking sessions to rethink how SIS, CRM, and other campus technologies will operate going forward.
  • Reprogramming of the SIS to remove barriers, and automate tasks to save thousands of man hours per year. The reprogramming is projected to reduce enrollment melt (students abandoning the enrollment process due to unnecessary barriers) by over 18% per year.
  • Professional development of staff as they take on new roles that involve meaningful work (as opposed to repetitive structured work that technology can do).
  • Automation of transfer credit, dual enrollment, and transcript generation. Just the transcript automation process saved 18 FTE’s worth of manual labor each month – and the college decided to redeploy those FTE’s to more meaningful student-facing work.

Project 2: CIO Transition Lab

The incoming CIO of a large institution faced a huge challenge. He was stepping into a role that the previous two CIOs had failed in. The school was in the midst of a Modern Campus implementation, a Salesforce implementation, and several major fixes to the PeopleSoft SIS. In addition, he found himself down 30% in staffing due to the leadership change. The Transition Lab (and follow up support led to).

  • Clarity on all the active projects along with a prioritized list based on importance and urgency.
  • An understanding of the political landscape – and how he would navigate it.
  • An understanding of current human capital constraints, and outsourcing solutions available to bridge the gap.
  • A roadmap for the first 180 days to “keep the lights on”, while developing a longer-term strategic plan.
  • Weekly advisory sessions to problem solve, ideate, and offload stressors that would typically hinder progress.

Project 3: Rolling Out The Institution’s 5 Year Strategic Plan

Most strategic plans are worth the paper they are printed on, because they typically sit on a shelf with no activation, momentum, or organization-wide support. To ensure this was not the case for our client, we locked arms with the President and became part of their leadership team to do the following.

  • Design of a messaging campaign leveraging our ThinkSpace technology to educate staff on the key elements of the strategic plan – and how it impacted them.
  • Hosting working-group design thinking sessions with senior leaders and volunteer staff to ideate programs and solutions that would make the strategic plan “come alive”. This created significant buy-in from key leaders who began to feel connected to the plan.
  • Creation of a rapid innovation framework that faculty and staff could use to bring ideas aligned with the strategic plan to market.
  • Production of print, audio and video assets to communicate both internally and externally about the strategic plan, and it’s progress in the first 12 months.
  • Participating with the President in a roadshow to sell the progress made in the first few month of the strategic plan, and engage staff and faculty to bring new ideas and innovations to the table.

Project 4: Designing The IT Shop Of The Future

A forward-thinking CIO invited us to guide in him in the design of a technology strategy that will position his shop to serve the institution nimbly in the years to come. Even though things were running extremely well at the institution, this CIO wanted to anticipate future needs of the executive team, and prepare the operations, staffing, and technology stack to be ready to adapt.

To assist him in the designing this strategy, we’ve embarked on.

  • ThinkSpace sessions with the senior leadership team to capture the vision for the future of the institution. We supplement that with 1-on-1 discussions with each executive and a senior member of our staff.
  • Vision, mission, and values exercise for the IT office. This is to capture the essence of the department’s culture so it can be scaled.
  • ThinkSpace sessions with staff to identify pain points and opportunities in how IT serves the organization today.
  • 1-on-1 interviews and group design thinking sessions with IT staff so they can bring their unique perspectives to the IT shop of the future.
  • Identification of the current IT stack and how ready it is to handle the needs of an institution that is involved in higher education, broadcasting, and publishing.
  • Re-imagining the IT shop of the future – and the human capital needed to support a tech-enabled institution.
  • Design of the organizational chart of the future, and identification of the competencies required of each position.
  • Creation of an upskilling plan so that current staff can continue their professional development to meet the growing demands of the new org structure.
  • Salary study to equip the CIO to advocate for the proper staffing levels and compensation structure to attract and retain top talent.
  • Presentation of the strategy for the IT shop of the future to the senior executive team with the CIO.

Project 5: Turning Around A Failing Technology Implementation

We’ve been invited to this process on multiple occasions, but this project is fairly indicative of our work.

  • Hosting alignment calls with vendor, implementation partner, functional leaders, and college staff to find all the failure points.
  • Deep study of the current project plan to identify gaps, bottlenecks, and mis-steps.
  • Design of a new project plan in alignment with all constituents.
  • Installation of clarified roles, responsibilities, and expectations – with governance to ensure compliance.
  • In the absence of a business leader to represent the school to the vendor and implementation partner, deploy an interim business leader from our staff to speak on their behalf.
  • Deploy a project oversight layer led by senior Beyond Academics staff who run weekly cadence meetings and drive project success.
  • Installation of a dashboard system with escalation capability so that any opposition to project success is quickly identified and resolved.
  • Commitment that the new project timeline, budget, and outcomes will be delivered with excellence.

Project 6: Credential Automation 

A school with enrollment of 50,000+ students was experiencing significant and expensive delays in the student journey related to transfer credit, transcript fulfillment, and verification. Our IntelliCampus (smart campus) team deployed to assess the situation to find the institution spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in unnecessary costs tied to outdated policies, procedures, and manual processes. To rectify the situation, and give the school the “Amazon speed” experience students expect, here’s what we set out to do in 8 weeks or less.

  • Integrate the PeopleSoft system with transfer credit automation software that fully automated the transfer credit process for under $50,000. This took a manual process requiring 1-4 hours of work per student, to a fully automated process that takes less than 5 seconds.
  • Deploy a public blockchain technology to give each student a digital wallet that houses their transcript credentials – allowing them to share that information with whomever they want, without requiring college staff. The distributed nature of blockchain technology prevents tampering, and even protects against human (data entry) error. This step saved the college $5 per transcript in 3rd party clearninghouse costs, and is projected to free up time of 10 FTEs who can be redeployed to other areas of the college where there are staffing shortfalls.
  • Add features to the technology so that verifiable internship and volunteer work entered into by the student also be part of their digital credentials. This gives industry a better (and easily verifiable) picture of the applicant.
  • Facilitate conversations with partner schools within the state (as well as colleges students often transfer to), to create a fully automated pathway for student success. Educating industry on how to leverage this breakthrough technology for better talent recruitment.

Project 7: Standing Up A Leadership Academy For Staff

As the great resignation takes its toll on higher education, visionary leaders are recognizing the importance of providing talent with a legitimate pathway for professional development and career advancement.

We were asked to design (from the ground up) a professional development platform and leadership academy for a school with over 2,500 employees. This 12 month-engagement included:

  • ThinkSpace sessions with staff, faculty, and senior leadership to imagine the most ideal environment for professional development.
  • Design of the curriculum that would serve the entire staff population – including layered content based on each employee’s level and area of work.
  • Design of a leadership academy where selected applicants go through a year-round series of in-person experiences designed to build their leadership muscle. Each 1-day experience includes professional speakers, facilitated working groups, ThinkSpace environments, personal development, and memorable social/team building activities.
  • Gamification of the learning process along with incentives and rewards for participants.
  • Deploying our HERO Agency staff to design marketing communications plan, including design of social media content to promote the programs.
  • Deliver all event planning resources – from site selection and decor, to food & beverage, agenda, and staffing.
  • Ensure the client’s budget is met, while wow-ing participants at every step of the process.

Project 8: Conducting An Asset Inventory To Drive New Revenue Streams

As enrollment numbers at most colleges face unexpected melt, some leaders are not leaving things to chance, and hoping for a miraculous turnaround. This Chancellor included the pursuit of ancillary revenue streams as a key initiative of their strategic plan. We were asked to help bring in some “outside the box” thinking, and hands-on execution to making that initiative a reality. To accomplish that we:

  • Hosted WhiteBoard sessions with executive team to uncover the hard assets and soft assets they were aware of within the institution.
  • Hosted institution-wide (multiple) ThinkSpace sessions where staff and faculty could contribute their ideas on assets that could be turned into 1-time or recurring revenue.
  • Advised the working group assigned to this initiative as they conducted a hard asset inventory (facilities, land, etc).
  • Led the work to conduct a soft asset inventory (intellectual property, billable services, etc) and deliver a prioritized list of assets to monetize – along with a strategy to do so.
  • Design of a Rapid Innovation Framework (customized to this institution and its culture) so that staff and faculty had a repeatable pathway to bring monetizeable ideas to market.
  • Work with CFO’s office to model various scenarios – along with risk/reward analysis for each strategy.
  • Operate a hybrid Rapid Innovation Center and provide executives in residence, coaching, and intrapreneurship activation/nurturing programming to those bringing ideas to the center. This includes helping each project team design their business model, go to market strategy, and business case to present for approval and advancement.

The list of engagements goes on and on, but this list of active engagements likely gives you the breadth and depth of work we are trusted to do for our clients.

Unlike traditional consultants who want to design strategy decks – with no capacity to execute and make that strategy an outcome, we spend a majority of our working time with our sleeves rolled up working in, and on our client institutions – with real outcomes as the measure of success.


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