As higher education leaders continue to refine and enhance the student experience, there is often a debate about where to start. Many higher education professionals want to immediately implement a software system that boasts an easy, streamlined fix for all student engagement difficulties. While updated technology and software can be extremely beneficial for an institution, it may not be the best place to start.

Every college or university has a process that moves the student from a prospect to an alumnus. Most often, this process has not been defined and tested for gaps in service leading to “ad hoc” processes by individuals, creating overlapping processes and technology owned by different departments and divisions of the institution. The process may be undocumented and undefined, but it exists. And this process is the driving force behind helping – or in some cases, harming – the student’s journey.

When exploring process reengineering, it is important to note that there are things within your institution that are working, and it can be challenging for employees who are deeply engrained in the current process to agree on what is working and what should be changed. Because of this, colleges and universities find it helpful to work with a third-party to provide un-biased suggestions and changes that put the student first.

Mapping existing processes to give a holistic view of the interactions that students have, whether that be through automated communications or one-on-one communications, ensure that your institution knows all of the “points of entry” for inquiries. These serve as key functionality requirements for deciding the right technology that your institution needs.

When you have defined your existing process, identified opportunities for improvement and desired communication methods for prospective and current students, the path to building requirements criteria becomes less subjective and more student-centered. This method not only ensures that student success is the priority behind any decision-making, but also plays a key role in ensuring that if you purchase technology, it is a fit for the institution strategically.

When technology is implemented without a solid process map, institutions run the risk of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ineffective solutions or solutions that remained underused or not used at all.

Every school is different and has unique needs for its students, staff and infrastructure. What processes and systems work for one, may not evoke the same results for another. However, there are best practices that should be considered during this process that will ensure that the technology that is selected was selected objectively and with the student experience at the forefront.