Digitalization conquering erasmus exchange flows and student application processes – can you handle it?

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Digitalization conquering erasmus exchange flows and student application processes – can you handle it?

As the forerunner of international Student and Personnel Exchange and Relationship Management systems in Finland, SoleMOVE paves the way for electronic application process in all fronts. Some brave advances have been slowed down by the opposing forces of change resistance, who hardly participate in actual process themselves. Luckily their rigid, outdated systems and stalled development can no longer satisfy the modern end-users managing the hectic mobility flows.

“Tightest resistance is often confronted in not end-user but IT – department led environments. Nevertheless, our heroic liberators keep maneuvering through their flanks to reach cheerful masses of fed-up International Relations officers and coordinators”, describes an anonymous Sales manager from the field. “For too long we had it all in paper. For too long they made me use Excel. For too long I struggled with inflexibility, linearity and complex user-interfaces”, unnamed Exchange officers sighing of relief and welcoming SoleMOVE with open arms.

In addition to the Sales manager and Exchange officers, this is a common situation in daily operation of any institution that rely on any digital tools. Often choices of tools are made based on the amount of resources spent on existing systems and decisions justified with a swift and authoritarian “We have spent so much time and money on this, so we stick with it” argument. Christian Bonilla expresses it well in his Smartlikehow article, How To Deal With Bad Software You Have To Use Anyway (January 5, 2016) advising users not to suffer in silence but taking the initiative instead.

In his though-provoking article the author makes a clear difference between How-To take the initiative and How-Not-To take the initiative in making yourself more productive. How-not-to is simple. “Refrain from merely complaining about it”. Merely complaining does not solve problems or speed up changes of complex environments. However, making a recommendation to improve the business to achieve better results with less time and resources does. Author Bonilla has recognized the following steps in selling and justifying the need for change to decision-makers.

We are now taking these steps to context of managing Erasmus exchange flows and the arrival of fully electronic application process.

1. Communicate the cost of the issue in its entirety

Instead of grieving about things you or your team struggle with on a daily/weekly/monthly basis try changing the perspective and look for a compelling reason or more from IT – manager’s seat. Their responsibilities often include uninterrupted functioning of systems, transparency of processes, complying with regulations and system security and preserving data.

Thus, try involving your development idea concepts such as compliance, regulation, EU GDPR (general data protection regulation), sudden changes in policies, transparency, human error, total annual costs for the current process, contract management, centralized data management, handling capacity, real-time awareness, reports, statistics, budget management, audit trail, reacting to technical problems, risk scenarios and student data & server security.

2. Show what is being done to work around the problem

Human mind is inventive and can bypass most issues with clever tricks and lots of manual work but that’s hardly how things are handled professionally or effectively. This is where the matters listed above get real: The amount of printing we are doing. Loss of important documents (applications, agreements). Changing information causing loads of work. Missing e-mail correspondence with students. Formulas messed up in the Excel. Templates. Reports. Forms.

All this versus a centralized tool where all the information and documents are available in a stable environment optimizing the amount of human resources needed. Quantifying the cost of issue helps illustrate the matter too. In addition to events above define ‘how many’, ‘how often’ or ‘how many hours spent’. Hours can easily by converted to euros (or any other currency).

3. Recognize whether this is a training, configuration, or tools issue

This is an important step to analyze. Many service providers claim there is nothing wrong with the tool but you are just using it wrong. Thus, fixing the problem of an unsuitable system often begin with additional trainings and further configuring the system the way it becomes even more customer specific. The more it has been tailored the harder it will be to get rid of it. This is where the “We have spent so much time and money on this, so we stick with it” jumps in. Be clear and precise about the tool issue when taking things forward to maintaining department.

Going back to the beginning: Can you handle IT? IT – department does not understand feelings or mere complaining from users. They have plenty of things to take care of and run every day usually with minimum resources. The IT – department understands concrete quantities and well-justified demands that are 100% rational. In best case the IT – department will hardly need to participate in the set-up of a new system. Furthermore, it should not add their “helpdesk” duties or demand additional coding. SoleMOVE, as a true SaaS – solution for exchange management, fulfills all this and much more decreasing the daily work load of a Higher Education Institution’s IT – staff and helps coordinators make their work better.

SoleMOVE – Professional deserve the best tools

Olli Kämäräinen
Olli Kämäräinen