Lessons from the slopes: Skiing and business processes

ski family


We are not a ski family. To be clear, we are not even a very athletic family. We would like to be, but my 12 and 14-year-old girls are not part of the “all sports all-stars” group of kids of today. Still, my husband and I thought it would be fun to surprise them with a trip to a ski resort in the hills of Pennsylvania the week after Christmas.

We arrived to 50 degree weather. But two short days later, the temperature had dropped to 25 and the overnight snow created perfect conditions for my girls to gear up for ski lessons. I watched people from age five to 75 swish down the mountain effortlessly. I told my girls they could do it, then sent them off with a ski instructor – hoping that no one would break a leg.

Three hours later, lessons are over. They had a blast. They can snow plow, start and stop.

As parents, we observed the lesson and we knew that they had achieved this task on the newborn bunny hill. Not the real bunny hill. The not-even-a-bunny hill. But they are so excited. And this feels like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

So when they say they want to ride the chairlift and come down one of the easy slopes, I think, “There is NO WAY I’m letting you do that.” But I quickly say, “OK, if you promise to stick together.”

They agree and they seem determined and I think they are young and capable.

Then, the longest 1.5 hours of my life began.

You have to start somewhere

Honestly, I think my girls’ sole motivation to ski down the hill is because they really wanted to ride the chairlift and the only choice was to get off at the top of the hill. I wasn’t entirely sure they would have the nerve to get on the chairlift. And I was certain one of them would start to panic when their skis started dangling as they rose high above the slopes on the chairlift.

But they got to the top. They had begun their journey.

With the pressure to do more for students increasing, does it feel like your institution just rode the chairlift for the first time? Now you’re at the top of the hill, looking down at all the complicated process that you need to automate.

You need to go faster. You need to digitize. And you need complete reliability.

But like my daughters, sometimes you just have to get on the chairlift, hop off at the top and start. At some point, you’ll be those expert skiers other “newbies” are staring at in awe.

We have customers just completing reworks of their processes around Curriculum Review, around Faculty Tenure and Promotion and around Transcript Processing. These are big, important processes. They have been done for a long time a certain way. It could seem daunting to rework them, but you can’t be afraid.

You have to start somewhere. You have to get on the chairlift that first time.

Work your way slowly, but keep moving

Once my daughters exited the chairlift and made their way across the ridge to the “easy” trail, it was time to head down. Now mind you, from where we were watching, we could no longer see them. The easy trail is behind a large set of trees. I literally had no idea where they were, how they were doing or if they were hurt.

My five-year-olds were cruising down a mountain! But then, people were starting to go past us, head back up and come back down again. One full hour passed. We were starting to wonder if we should stop skiers and ask questions.

Should we alert the ski patrol? How long is too long? It was a LONG hour until one of them finally turned the corner and came into sight.

This is easy to relate to, isn’t it? Think about what are your most important processes in your day-to-day job. Where do you have zero visibility into the process? Is it approving a new hire? Reviewing a prospective student? Receiving the invoice you need?

Where would you start to find out where the process is stuck? Who would you call? How many processes stop and are never seen again? And, most importantly, who has time for this nonsense?

By utilizing the right enterprise content management (ECM) and enterprise information platform, you know exactly where everything is in every process. You have full audit trails that detail who changed what documentation and when. You have escalation procedures and notifications. You have a consistent process every time. And you easily make changes to it if needed.

Also, if you are utilizing document management, but you don’t have robust workflow processes in place, it’s something to think about. Workflow management can truly transform higher ed by optimizing and automating key processes. Like taking the chairlift instead of walking.

We can operate more efficiently. We can be more agile. And we can deliver better student service.

And the continued changes coming require that we stay ready to act.

You will make it down, eventually

Once both my daughters were back in my sight, there was still a long way to go. But I finally understood why it took them so long. They were not skiing. They were using some kind of method that involved standing, hurtling forward and then falling down to stop. It did not in any way resemble skiing.

And judging by how long it took, it was not efficient. When they were finally on dry land without skis, we agreed they needed more lessons before trying that again.

They survived but there was a time when I was wondering if we would be a national story:

Mother allows two young girls to try skiing before they were ready.

I’ve asked CIOs on our Executive Advisory Board how institutions survive today without a system for document management that allows for better student service, especially in areas like enrollment management, admissions processing and financial aid verification.

I know I am biased. I hear so many stories of our customers achieving success. And I know higher ed budgets are tight. But I cannot understand how we can serve students and stay agile in higher ed without platforms that manage information and make it easily available, which improves that all-important student service.

When I talk to them, some CIOs tell me it’s because offices are getting by. What they are doing is good enough.

I have to tell you, getting by is not good enough. Getting by is not strategic. Your senior leaders don’t sit at a table and ask “how can we get by?” They plan for growth and agility and flexibility and outreach.

Utilizing ECM across your entire campus, in every department, is a strategic part of that story.

Ask us for a story of an institution like yours and how they have used technology to make life better for everyone on campus. We’ll show you their map.

It’s easier than skiing, I can promise you that.

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more than 20 years of experience working to map proven solutions to higher education challenges, Laurel implemented ERP solutions at Dickinson College and University of Oregon Foundation before joining the sales and marketing team at Datatel, now Ellucian, Inc. Laurel offers a deep understanding of higher education, dedication to transparency and a fondness for candid conversations about the solutions Hyland develops and delivers to the market. You may reach her at Laurel.Stiller at onbase.com.

Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more... read more about: Laurel Stiller