Creating a Digital University: Where Do We Start?


In embarking on a massive initiative such as creating a digital university, it is easy to get lost in all of the nitty gritty details of the different moving parts. One lesson that stuck with me is to never lose sight of the forest despite the many trees and leaves that need attention. With this, we start with scoping out the great forest that is an educational institution by identifying its process architecture, a general high-level overview of the numerous business processes that a university is composed of.

Establishing the Process Architecture

There are various frameworks that are already available that define the process architecture of a higher education institution (HEI). One of which is the American Productivity & Quality Center’s Process Classification Framework (APQC’s PCF), which is “a taxonomy of business processes that allows organizations to objectively track and compare their performance internally and externally with organizations from any industry” (APQC, 2019, APQC PCF – Cross Industry, para. 1). Another framework is the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology’s (CAUDIT) Higher Education Business Reference Model, which “describes a standard set of business architecture elements relevant to higher education” (CAUDIT, n.d., Business Reference Model section, para. 1). These process frameworks depict a holistic perspective of the numerous capabilities of a university and support the establishment of common vocabularies within an institution. One thing to keep in mind is that these frameworks do not list all possible processes of a HEI, nor do the processes indicated in these frameworks exist in all institutions. The mentioned process frameworks can be customized to more accurately illustrate the various capabilities of a higher education institution.

In our journey of assisting a HEI through their digital transformation journey, we utilized both APQC’s PCF and CAUDIT’s Higher Education Business Reference Model in creating a process framework that describes the institution’s various capabilities. Through this framework, we were able to scope out and come up with a comprehensive list of processes that are relevant to the digital transformation initiative. With it, we were able to proceed with the next step which is deep diving into the details of the numerous processes that the university has.


The involvement of process owners and process champions are critical for this exercise. The depth of knowledge of the process owners and champions have on their policies and procedures would provide more context on the architecture being established. Furthermore, their mastery of their operations would ensure that all perspectives on their processes, as well as those processes that have linkages with them, will be considered.


Defining a HEI’s process architecture is a good starting point for process improvement projects, regardless of its scale. It provides a compact view of the different capabilities of an institution which can assist in scoping the work and identifying linkages and/or dependencies of the project. Process frameworks made by industry leaders is a powerful tool in aligning to industry standards and best practices, and promoting common vocabulary across the different sectors of an institution.

After establishing the high level overview of the different capabilities, we will deep dive next on the finer details of the various processes of a university in the space of Student Lifecycle, which covers Student Recruitment up to Student Graduation.

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