2.4.3 What is the horizon for strategic planning and review?

Our research found strategic planning, in most cases, to span a horizon of three to five years. ICT strategies were identified, under the overall strategy, and reviewed on an annual basis. Further strategic and operational plans, representing different threads from the overall strategy were shown to be active documents used in the planning; monitoring and control of ICT related business projects and services.

ICT can enable transformation or be an operational tool depending on your institutional needs and the positioning of ICT within the institution. We found that most institutions are using ICT as an operational enabler to improve the quality and provide the most cost effective services. Some senior ICT management interviewed saw the role of ICT to contribute to the vision and articulation of how ICT may provide more strategic support and even the means to achieve transformational change within institutions.

The ability of ICT to transform an institution is of great importance as political, economic and technological pressures continue to impact on the HE sector. Historically, there are many examples of institutions using ICT to support different modes:

  • operational support of student lifecycle administration to improve quality, efficiency and lower costs
  • strategic support through on-line marketing, enquiries and applications to increase student applications
  • transformational support to provide on-line and blended learning over the internet to transform the traditional course delivery model

Duke & Jordan4 provided further evidence, 'that research was seen as a particular area where ICT had been transformational. Several universities were clear that ICT had changed the nature of much research (such as use of extremely large data sets or extremely large numerical models) and one noted that major investment in ICT for research could be a research enabler (for example, in High Performance Computing research).

There is evidence that ICT plays a vital role in the sustainability and agility of an institution but there is also growing support that planning cycles need to be rethought to enable this, John Voloudakis wrote in the Educause review5:

'Having given the subject of strategic planning much thought, many corporations, authors, and academics are moving beyond linear, multiyear planning efforts and are instead focusing on the need for flexibility. The result is the "adaptive enterprise." IBM Corporation refers to "on-demand business." Gartner Inc. describes "the real-time enterprise." Whatever it is called, the essential message is that organisations need to rethink how they plan for the future. They need to focus on their strengths and build capabilities to rapidly adapt to changes in customer demand, market dynamics, shifting technology, and other unforeseen events.'

Similarly, as the subject of the Higher Education Leadership Summit 2010 from The Leadership Foundation for Higher Education6, 'Leading the Agile University, Innovation, Creativity Technology', the agenda was set for a focus on agility and sustainability.

This was seen as paramount as Universities face the challenges of operating within an increasingly competitive market, absorbing major new strategic priorities such as internationalisation as well as working with and benefiting from new stakeholders from business and the wider community. In addition, institutions must also deal with and turn to their advantage, the rapid developments in ICT which have the potential to change the way in which learning and research are carried out.