Key Takeaways: Mastering Change Management in HigherEd’s Digital Transition

Navigating Change in Higher Education

Change is a constant in higher education, and institutions are continually evolving to meet the demands of the modern world. In a recent PeopleAdmin webinar, Mastering Change Management in HigherEd’s Digital Transition, experts from Central Oregon Community College and Chapman University shared their experiences with change management during two large technology implementations, offering tips and best practices for other institutions anticipating change in the new year. In a poll at the start of the webinar, 95% of attendees responded that they would be facing a change in the new year. 31% are facing a major change, while 64% are navigating minor adjustments. If you’re among that 95%, read on below.


Case Study: Central Oregon Community College.

Laurel Kent, IT Project Manager at Central Oregon Community College, explored her team’s journey through a Performance Management upgrade that took place over the past year.

Case Study Focus: Performance Review Transformation

  • Moving from manual, PDF-based processes to a digital platform within PeopleAdmin.
  • Addressing issues like inconsistency, versioning, and tracking associated with PDF processes.
  • Utilizing the PeopleAdmin portal to streamline performance evaluation tracking.

Wins and Lessons Learned:

  • Leadership Buy-in and clear project vision: Project support from the CHRO and CIO helped provide the appropriate resources. Dedicated project managers and functional analyst team, working collaboratively with HR, oversaw project timelines and deliverables to keep things on track.
  • Clear project plan and frequent communication: Sharing the project progress and updates regularly across campus meant that end-users knew what to expect.
  • Clear Roles and Timelines: Regular and predictable working sessions, clearly defined roles, and a reasonable timeline for testing and implementation kept things moving forward.
  • Relationships matter: Make sure that you have users across campus who can answer questions and provide feedback.
  • Build in time to fine tune product: A lesson learned was to include extra time for testing and stakeholder feedback. The team found it was important to see the product live and get direct feedback, and then tweak the platform as necessary.


Case Study 2: Chapman University

Robin Borough, Director of Talent Acquisition at Chapman University, shared insights from her many experiences with change management—and her top tip was a formula.

Change Management Formula from Beckhard and Harris: Change (C) = Dissatisfaction (A) * Desirability (B) * Practicality (D) > Perceived Cost (X)

“This formula is old, but everybody will be able to relate to it and see that it’s a real quick and dirty way to see if you can get the funding, and the sponsorship that you need, or if you need to prove something to get that funding and sponsorship,” said Robin. “‘C’ is the change. ‘A’ is the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo, and ‘B’ is the desirability of the change or proposed end state. ‘D’ is the practicality of the change—so are the steps to make this change practical and are we minimizing risk and disruption as much as possible? ‘X’ is the perceived cost of the change. For change to make sense, A * B * D has to be greater than X—meaning, I have to have a lot of dissatisfaction and a lot of desire for something different, and the plan has to be practical. If AB, or D are zero, you’re out. Don’t even try to make the change. So much of what we’re doing is subjective, because there’s so many people and constituents involved with change management, so I thought this formula was an interesting way to think about it.”

Final Thoughts

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, change is inevitable. The experiences shared by Central Oregon Community College and Chapman University underscore the significance of proactive change management, user-centric approaches, the value of learning from past successes and challenges—and how important it is to understand what you’re getting into from the start. As institutions embark on their journeys of transformation, these insights can serve as guiding principles for navigating the complexities of change in higher education. For more, check out this webinar on-demand.