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Developing a modern university in a constantly changing environment

August 26, 2016 By Sulayman Koroma

Historically, universities in Sierra Leone have enjoyed a steady advancement in educational growth since 1964. The strategic flexibility of some universities policy and structures over the years has enabled them to survive within this constant changing environment. A lot of emerging educational institutions have experience strategic drift in placement, structure and programmes. Their traditional educational strategy cannot withstand the dynamics of the business environment in which they operate.

Taking a cue from my article on Employment Outcomes of University Graduates in Sierra Leone, which was published recently in Concord Times Newspaper if universities did not renew their strategy in congruence to the external environment, they will end up producing mismatch graduates into a dynamic environment. In this competitive and dynamic environment, there are lots of performance gaps as a result of non-congruence between the internal organisational strategy and their external environments. Educational institutions should study external dynamics of their operating environment to avoid strategic drift. External dynamism of every business environment represents the rate of change in that environment. Van Witteloostuijn defined external dynamism as the rate at which the preferences of consumers and the products of organisations change over time. Therefore changes in consumers’ preferences and organisations’ product and services should be in congruence.

Sierra Leone changing environment

Sierra Leone is going digital and there is no turning back. The foundation has been laid by the government. We heard of the fibre optic submarine cable being installed. We have seen a lot of transformational development in businesses, education and the political arena.

Recently, the Ministry of Information and Communications held a meeting with heads of universities on plans to install the fibre optic cables to universities in other to enhance research and development of online classroom management.

Looking at the present government’s digital operations, E-passport, cyber security reforms and E-banking, among others, these developments show the trends of our beloved nation in 2020 going E-Governance and having a digital business environment.

The World Development Report 2016 highlight in many instances how digital technologies would boost growth, expand opportunities, and improved service delivery.

Deducing from the research of GSMA intelligence

That the digital revolution can give rise to new business models that would benefit consumers but not when incumbents control market entry?

Technology can make workers more productive, but not when they lack the know-how to use it.

Digital technologies can help monitor teacher attendance and improve learning outcomes, but not when the education system lacks accountability and ICT infrastructures.

For better improved service delivery, universities in Sierra Leone on the other hand, should start automating their operations by creating an online classroom management, integrating technology in their curriculum and developing staff capacity for new advancement in technology.

Statistics have shown that 47% of jobs in America and 27% of jobs in the UK in 2020 will be technology driven jobs. The World Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 2016, in one of the Davos sessions on discussion and prediction about 2020, focused on business environment becoming world without work. A rapid automation of business environment activities is ongoing. And CEOs of companies are predicting that because of global competition, precisions, efficiency  and reduction of labour cost, it’s necessary in 2020 to 2030 to integrate machine intelligence.

The head of Society and Innovation, World Economic Forum, Nicholas Davis, elaborates on the trends of the other industrial revolutions; the First Industrial Revolution is widely taken to be the shift from our reliance on animals, human effort and biomass as primary sources of energy to the use of fossil fuels and the mechanical power. The Second Industrial Revolution occurred between the end of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century, and brought major breakthroughs in the form of electricity distribution, both wireless and wired communication, the synthesis of ammonia and new forms of power generation. The Third Industrial Revolution began in the 1950s with the development of digital systems, communication and rapid advances in computing power, which have enabled new ways of generating, processing and sharing information.

It is therefore worthwhile taking some time to consider exactly what kind of shifts we are experiencing and how to renew our business strategy, to enhance a place in this global trend.

Business organisations should be aware that the Third and Fourth Industrial Revolution represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies to hasten the changes in business environments.

Developing a modern university in this dynamic environment should connect closely with both its external relationships and the systematic development of internal management. (WAN Li-juan, LU Yuan, Quan, SHAO, Bing-jia). Such an initiative is not easy and it is a continuous process of aligning the universities internal operations with its marketplace—and doing so more responsively and effectively than competitors. (Lisa M. Kudray and Brian H. Kleiner).

Many empirical researches have highlighted that major change initiatives, whether change from quantity production to boosted quality, improvement in culture or business process reengineering, many fail miserably.

John P. Kotter, in 1996, “Leading Change” said only 30% of transformation initiatives succeed. Mckinsey, a consultancy firm in human resource, who carried out a survey in 2008 of 3199 executives, said only one transformation in three succeeds. Ede Rooij said an average life expectancy for a company is 13 years. But a further study by Strangler and Ablesman in 2012 said companies stay on the Fortune 500 list is 40 years. A 2006 study by Harvard Business Review found that 66% of change initiatives fail to achieve their desired business outcomes.

Universities should realise that connecting both its internal systematic development to environmental changes prompted by political, economic, social or technological relationships is a process, not an event. It advances through stages that build on each other and it takes years. Pressured to accelerate the process may skip stages, but shortcuts never work. John P. Kotter maintains that understanding the stages of change and the pitfalls unique to each stage can boost your chances of a successful transformation. The critical goal has been the same for all change initiatives; to make fundamental changes in how business is conducted so as to help cope with new and more challenges in the Third and Fourth Industrial Revolution market environment.

Take IAMTECH, an affiliate to Njala University, being sensitive to the changes of Sierra Leone market environment. The basic goal of IAMTECH should be to produce a digital workforce if we are to become a talent pipeline in 2020. This demand for renewed strategies, reforms on policies, rebranding of employee valve propositions and reviewing the curriculum, making it more relevant to the changes in society.

Conclusions

There is an ever need to include new skills and knowledge in the curriculum when the need arises at regular periods in order to meet the challenges of a dynamic and unstable economic climate. This goes to all emerging institution and traditional universities that the threats posed by the external environment and needs to adapt in other to survival will also create the need to change.

The author is Dean of Technology at the Institute of Advanced Management and Technology (IAMTECH). He holds a Master of Science in Management Information System, Master of Science in Human Resource Management, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Higher National Diploma in Management Information System, Ordinary Diploma in Development Studies and Certificate in Education Administration.