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The Path of Most Persistence

July/August 2019

By SUSAN WHEALLER JOHNSTON

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Susan Whealler Johnston
is president and CEO of NACUBO.
sjohnston@nacubo.org

They say that life isn’t a destination—it’s a journey. The same can be said of strategic planning. Done well, it’s an iterative process that helps organizations stay on track to meet their desired goals.

That’s the way we’ve approached planning at NACUBO this year. Our goals are simple but significant. We want NACUBO to be indispensable. We want our value proposition to be irresistible. We want to be a leading 21st-century membership association.

In order to accomplish our goals, we have planned a purposeful course of action that we will pursue with determination.

Our Vision

NACUBO’s Strategic Blueprint—our plan for the future—addresses five priorities: helping institutions undertake necessary transformations, increasing proactive advocacy, promoting solutions to institutional challenges, helping institutions use data for decision making, and strengthening the strategic leadership role of the chief business officer.

Undergirding all our work is a concept expressed by business management expert Jim Collins: Preserve the core and stimulate progress. What this means to NACUBO is that we will continue to offer professional development activities and our annual meeting, for instance, but we’ll recharge and reshape them to ensure that they address your needs in ways that best support you. We’ll also continue to advocate for higher education, but we’ll add new tools and approaches to that effort. At the same time, we will develop new work and initiatives that respond to changing member needs and interests. We’ll use technology more adeptly; we’ll create “just in time” educational opportunities; we’ll build reasons for deeper member engagement; and we’ll focus on the professional development that individuals in business offices may want to pursue as more chief business officers transition into retirement.

Strategic Centers

In the area of institutional transformation, we’ll update our Economic Models Project and position ourselves to help institutions address business-model issues, among other common business concerns. We will also establish a Center for Higher Education Financial Leadership, through which we’ll provide a range of offerings to college and university staff, including institutional and academic leaders, to help deepen their understanding of higher education finance—an essential key to understanding the business model.

We will continue and deepen our work to help you advocate on behalf of higher education, expanding our existing work on the value of higher education. We will initiate state-level advocacy efforts focused on critical business-related issues facing colleges and universities.

NACUBO will also issue an annual “state of higher education” report following up on the positive reception of our 2019 Perceptions and Priorities post on Medium. You’ll find that our podcast NACUBO In Brief will have a new focus on advocacy. Finally in this area, NACUBO will develop a group of authoritative voices from among financial leaders in higher education—those people who can speak compellingly and convincingly about the needs and value of our industry, the impacts of proposed legislation, and the work being done to address higher education’s most challenging problems.

Tracking With Technology

NACUBO will turn to the power of technology to help you find the solutions you need when you need them. By redesigning and personalizing our website, we will provide you with tailored access to solutions.

We will soon be releasing new microlearning offerings—short knowledge-building opportunities available online and on any device. And we’ll help you create dashboards and data visualizations to help your work be more meaningful for end users and more powerful for your own decision making. We’ll also create more online communities for sharing your know-how, solutions, and lessons learned, including insights about the linkages between business strategies and environmental sustainability.

Because we understand that analytics holds the power to transform institutional and student success, we will expand our collaborations in order to propel our efforts and enhance your capabilities in this area. We will continue to grow our partnership with EDUCAUSE and the Association for Institutional Research on the annual enterprise summit on analytics. Our three organizations are currently working on a joint statement on analytics, complete with guidance for different roles within institutions. We will preview the statement at the NACUBO 2019 Annual Meeting in Austin and release the final statement in early fall. NACUBO will embed discussion and training on analytics in all our conferences and workshops, and we’re also looking to leverage our business partnerships to enhance the tools we currently offer members.

Internally, NACUBO plans to walk the walk by leading higher education associations in the use of analytics to enhance business development and member engagement.

Preparing for Turnover

Based on the results of the NACUBO 2016 National Profile of Higher Education Chief Business Officers, we know that a significant turnover is coming in the financial leadership of higher education. The survey found that 44 percent of CBOs plan to retire between 2016 and 2020. What will be needed in the face of this tsunami of retirements is a robust pipeline of strategic business officers and business office staff.

NACUBO will enhance its ability to help institutions find the staff they need in this area. We will also create new educational opportunities to help develop the next generation of chief business officers. These opportunities will include executive education; a new initiative on the CBO of the Future; a new Emerging Leaders Network; and an important initiative to strengthen the diversity, equity, and inclusion principles in the higher education business community. In our industry, where only one-third of all chief business officers are women and only 13 percent are people of color, this initiative focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical.

A Look at Your Journeys

As we begin our work on these projects, take the time to peruse this issue of Business Officer magazine. The three sections in the issue feature articles that look at some of the journeys that the higher education industry, institutions, and chief business officers are undertaking during a time of continued disruption to traditional funding sources and structures, an ever-shiftingregulatory environment, and new accreditation requirements, among the other forces that are at play.

To further the value proposition that higher learning brings to students, employers, communities, and society, institutions must be able to adapt on the fly. And expectations for CBOs have never been greater. In addition to technical expertise and oversight skills, today’s CBO is expected to bring insight to the complex challenges facing his or her institution as well as foresight in framing and addressing future issues and opportunities.

Travel Together

In a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, we at NACUBO believe that this is precisely the moment to lead. NACUBO’s mission is to advance the economic viability, business practices, and support for higher education institutions in fulfillment of their missions. The new work we’re undertaking—some of which is described here—will allow us to advance that mission while building a compelling 21st-century membership association capable of being nimble, responsive, and engaging.

We invite you to lead alongside us as NACUBO continues this journey executing our new strategic plan. I hope you’ll share your thoughts with us along the way. As we develop and implement our new work, I will be eager to hear from you directly about what resonates with you and what would be of meaningful assistance to you. And I always welcome any new ideas. You can reach me directly, any day and at any time, at sjohnston@nacubo.org.

SUSAN WHEALLER JOHNSTON, president and CEO of NACUBO


Related Topics

Our goals are simple but significant. We want NACUBO to be indispensable. We want our value proposition to be irresistible. We want to be a leading 21st-century membership association.