One of the first things that someone does when thinking about starting a new business is create a business plan. When I started with the Provost’s Office back in 2001 (as Director of Web Services for Enrollment and Planning), I was asked to do just that. This was a newly created position so I was an office of one, with no staff and no budget. In the business plan I outlined the need for a professional web presence, how this goal would be reached, budget and staffing needs, a web management structure and a formal process for requesting web projects.
The business plan has proven to be valuable over the years. A key point was a goal to keep staffing levels where all legitimate requests can be handled in a reasonable amount of time. Despite many organizational changes over the past 6 years, I have grown to the point where I am now an official campus department with my own budget line. We have four full time staff members along with grad assistants and student assistants and a decent-sized operating budget.
A key to this growth is a focus on ROI. While we still don’t have the resources to do everything that everyone wants, we have been able to focus on the projects and initiatives that provide the most value (most of the time 🙂 ) The success of our projects has helped senior leadership see the value of the web in reaching organizational goals and justified additional investment.
So, do you have a business plan? If not, I would recommend creating one. You will find it a valuable exercise.
I think this is a really interesting thought … I’m finding that my own way of working is more business and process-model oriented (i.e. focus on CRM, ROI, etc.), but that many higher ed institutions — including, to some degree, my own — actively resist this mode of thinking. There seems to be a culture of denial regarding the fact that higher ed IS a business, and one way to be successful is to use a more corporate model. For many, it may be that the institution needs to move on this or face some significant failures. How do you see this shift playing out?
Colleen – I completely agree that many higher ed institutions actively resist this kind of thinking. I do see some significant failures down the road.
I just read an article on how the The University of Southern Maine is facing a multi-million dollar deficit for the third year in a row and is looking at a major reorganization and implementing cost cutting measures to stay afloat (See http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=138640&ac=PHnws )
I expect we’ll be reading more of these types of articles.