Case Study: Turning Around the Positioning, Revenue and Costs of a Leading Australian University

HIGH LEVEL DESCRIPTION

Macquarie University – 2011-2012

Faced with increasing competition globally and domestically and significant cost increases – some things had to change at Macquarie University. The then President Steven Schwartz (an incredible University Leader) set us three challenges:

  1. Our international business needed to move from substantial decline to sustainable positive growth; and

  1. We need to find ways of reducing our quickly growing operating expenses; and

  1. To underpin our future prosperity we needed to significantly increase our capital efficiency.

PROBLEM CAUSE + EFFECT

International recruiting, after decades of strong growth was now in significant decline.  Government changes to visa approvals and the rising dollar were seen as the causes, but more significant was the material increase in competition and relative drop in competitiveness of Macquarie’s offerings (perceived or actual). What had worked for Macquarie at one time no longer worked.

Operating expenses were growing at an unsustainable rate.  Lack of business intelligence and a clear understanding of value for cost did not support important decisions about what not to do and where investment produced the best or worst return.  Business processes were not optimised to enable the delivery of the best service in the most efficient way.

The rigid delivery of most courses (2 semesters, lectures, tutorial) meant that for much of the year, billions of dollars of capital remained under-utilised.

SOLUTION

A complete reorganisation of the International Team focussed the group on the driving success in recruitment.  Adjacent tasks were moved into the University’s core – where a capability already existed and tracking systems directed effort to the tasks that contributed best to the objectives of that group – a sustainable level of the highest quality students.  In parallel and in conjunction with research – we executed a campaign leveraging relationships in target markets that repositioned the University as a leading research university and a fast moving young but successful university creating greater demand from higher quality students.

A program of over 40 individual efficiency projects across people, process and technology looked at opportunities to transform the efficiency operational model of the University. Both quick wins and longer term efficiencies were targeted.

We introduced a third semester.  This was a first in Australia for a top 10 University and involved impacts across all aspects of the University business; workload, delivery model, timetabling and many others. Despite the obvious efficiency benefits, In the end this was driven and was only able to succeed as a result of an institutional desire to meet a strong demand from students.

RESULTS

We achieved all three of those challenges, along with a few others. For example, international revenue was up over nearly 50% at close of the project, operational costs had been reduced by over 5% (opex efficiency was up by over 15% in the back office areas under scope), and we introduced a third semester with thousands of students with increased student satisfaction.

LEARNINGS AND OBSERVATIONS

It would be unfair to say we did this all ourselves – organisations like this don’t work that way – the team’s role was to work with the organisation to get results in the required timeframe for the budget.

We received incredible leadership and support from the University, in particular the President and the COO without which we would never have succeeded.  Many of the changes required were not popular and often openly opposed.  The regular communication including progress and issues management are essential to success.

The University now enters the next phase on much stronger footing and I look forward to seeing Macquarie University realise its potential.

Case Study: Introducing volume products while maintaining prestige and market position

HIGH LEVEL DESCRIPTION

The Centre for Sustainability Leadership provides training for 25 of the most promising leaders from both Sydney and Melbourne to develop their leadership skills in the sustainability sector each year.   In 2012 they developed an online learning tool: Leadership Rewired, which was open access to anyone who wanted to develop their leadership skills for $150.

PROBLEM CAUSE + EFFECT

CSI has positioned itself as Australia’s leader in sustainability training through their current highly sought after exclusive leadership program that recruits just 10 students per year. Moving from exclusivity to an almost open access product in the market needed a balance of strategies for growth and brand protection to maintain the sensibilities of CSI’s leadership program.

SOLUTION

Our objective was for CSI to become the leader in sustainability professional development in Australia and we developed strategies to support this by encouraging LGA’s and professional membership organisations to endorse the program to their members.  Industry intakes were developed for select segments in addition to premium sessions integrating mentorship by fellowship alumni.

RESULTS

Successfully launched and taking students in good numbers – see rewired.org

LEARNINGS AND OBSERVATIONS

For a highly exclusive brand to suddenly open access was a challenge to CSI. How do you retain brand integrity and prestige yet reach critical mass in the market?

Having members and local government endorse the program ensured reach for the product was wide and yet retained its integrity.  Industry intakes and alumni mentorship sessions bridged the gap between highly exclusive and open access and provided a stepping stone between the two product offerings.