Flexibility, Agility, and the Three Dx Shifts: Culture, Workforce, and Technology

Flexibility, Agility, and the Three Dx Shifts: Culture, Workforce, and Technology


Institutional nimbleness and adaptivity are crucial for success in today's higher education landscape, especially as institutions make the many cultural, workforce, and technology shifts needed to digitally transform their institutional operations, value propositions, and strategic directions. In the past two years, digital transformation has accelerated in higher education as institutions have had to manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as they engage more and more in digital transformation (Dx), many institutions still face major barriers to those efforts, the most notable being issues of insufficient cross-institution planning and coordination. Many of these barriers can be managed or overcome by making IT processes more versatile, allowing for rapid adaptation to changing needs.

Even before the pandemic, many institutions were working to reevaluate their IT culture and the way IT interfaces with other functions across campus. If an organization can make this type of change, it can improve its workforce skills and capacity, as well as shorten turnaround times for new projects and added features. Developing a more adaptable approach can also help win over stakeholders across the institution and ultimately change institutional culture outside IT.

EDUCAUSE and Spectrum Enterprise partnered to highlight institutions that have been engaging in digital transformation, specifically institutions adept at change management that have built flexibility and agility into their IT processes. This summary report of the case studies highlights the ways that three institutions—Arizona State University, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain), and Southern Methodist University—have built versatility into their IT systems and the ways that can contribute—and has contributed—to Dx shifts in culture, workforce, and technology.

Key Findings

  • Creating clear organizational goals sets your transformation up for success. Once goals and objectives are well defined, the organization has a clear direction forward toward building digital environments that are agile, flexible, and aligned with institutional strategy.
  • Making a big organizational change can be scary, but it's easier when you create a positive and proactive culture. When communities and values are in place for staff, they will feel more comfortable engaging in collaboration and communication.
  • Putting resources into shifting IT culture, workforce, and technology can improve process across the institution. The resources and processes developed during digital transformation naturally bleed into other institutional departments because IT collaborates with so many units and stakeholder groups.
  • Cross-institution collaboration and planning can be difficult but are vital to transformation. The creation and maintenance of cross-unit partnerships can be more difficult with a remote workforce, but efforts to ensure that partnerships survive and thrive are essential to meaningful and lasting Dx.

Digital transformation involves coordinated shifts across all three components of culture, workforce, and technology at the institution. The case studies in this report highlight ways in which institutions might excel at each of these three Dx shifts: Arizona State University has made an impressive culture shift; Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Spain has democratized its IT governance and the workforce involved in IT; and Southern Methodist University has been reimagining data and technology access for its staff.

Learn More

Access additional materials, including an infographic and case studies, on the Spectrum Enterprise Dx Research Hub.

EDUCAUSE is a higher education technology association and the largest community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education. Technology, IT roles and responsibilities, and higher education are dynamically changing. Formed in 1998, EDUCAUSE supports those who lead, manage, and use information technology to anticipate and adapt to these changes, advancing strategic IT decision-making at every level within higher education. EDUCAUSE is a global nonprofit organization whose members include US and international higher education institutions, corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and K–12 institutions. With a community of more than 99,000 individuals at member organizations located around the world, EDUCAUSE encourages diversity in perspective, opinion, and representation. For more information, please visit educause.edu.


Spectrum Enterprise
Spectrum Enterprise, a part of Charter Communications, Inc., is a national provider of scalable, fiber technology solutions serving many of America's colleges, universities, and public-sector entities. The broad Spectrum Enterprise portfolio includes networking and managed services solutions: internet access, Ethernet access and networks, and voice and TV solutions. The Spectrum Enterprise team of experts works closely with clients to achieve greater business success by providing solutions designed to meet their evolving needs. For more information, visit enterprise.spectrum.com/highered.

© 2021 EDUCAUSE. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Citation for this work
Sean Burns. Flexibility, Agility, and the Three Dx Shifts: Culture, Workforce, and Technology. Research report. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, September 2021.