Oct 7, 2011

Small + Complex = Bad Combination

Travel to a few independent colleges or schools, schedule a visit with the President’s cabinet, and query them as to what their biggest challenges are each day.  I suspect that you will find one of the core issues facing nearly all of them is how to integrate data – which is currently living in silos – in an effective way to make good institutitional decisions.  If I had to predict how the conversation would go, they would complain that too much information exists without much integration and data mining.  And, to make it worse, they would most likely complain that most people in the organization have little knowledge about what is happening in other parts of the campus.  
Most colleges and schools which with we work are far too small to be this complex.  Most consumers expect that a large organization will be hard to navigate and rarely client-centered.  But, they tend to believe that small organizations – like a small liberal arts college or an independent school of fewer than 1000 students – will be easy to navigate and very client-centered.  In other words, large often means complex and small often means client-centered and intuitive.  From a marketing and strategy perspective, small and complex is a deadly combination.
As we move into a world where the consumer trend is back to the local, smaller retailers as a backlash against the impersonal, big-box companies, this is an important issue.  How is your school or college working toward making your organization client-centered and easy with which to work?  How is your information technology organized and is it integrated?  And, how many information silos exist with your organization?  Answering these questions may be one of the more important strategic questions for small, tuition-driven organizations in the future.