Technology vs. Intelligence: Which one should your institution invest in?

As we bring technology deeper into the fold of higher ed, we find wonderful applications for it, particularly when applied to recruitment. Whether it’s a CRM, a CMS or even a financial aid calculator, technology has done its fair share of connecting more students to more institutions. It’s true that, except when cost prohibitive, the tech is there for any institution to use. So why don’t all institutions see marked improvement in their recruitment efforts through use of technology alone?

Bill Gates said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”  While Mr. Gates was speaking about technology as a means for automating processes in a business context (and perhaps you still believe higher ed is too far removed from being a “business” for this quote to apply), the fact remains, your institution certainly has its own operations and systems in place, and those may or may not be efficient, a determination that can really only be made with an intelligent, expert assessment. The takeaway here is that, great use of technology is only as sound as the strategy beneath it. Technology itself won’t dictate whether your processes and plans are effective. But intelligence will.

Intelligence is the key factor that will help you decide how to best apply technology to your current processes. Where technology may readily solve the “how” of a plan, intelligence is needed to generate thoughtful answers on the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” and “why.”  In higher ed, you’re dealing with select audiences with different needs, goals and motivating factors. Technology solves the implementation of targeted communications to these varied audiences. However, intelligence is the essential component in not only identifying these audiences, but creating the best strategies to reach them. It makes sense to emphasize intelligence with the same equivalency that technology receives. However, this doesn’t always happen on some college campuses.

The “wow” factor garnered by technology isn’t equally extended to, or shared with, intelligence. Many institutions are wooed by the potential of new, outside technologies to improve recruitment because they know they don’t have it, or they cannot devote the resources to develop it themselves. However, there is reticence to invest in outside intelligence when it comes to the strategy and communication that supports a recruitment plan. This is because of the assumption that the right kind of intelligence is a resource already possessed by most institutions. And that may be partially true; all institutions have smart, intelligent people in their organization. The problem is, the best intelligence is founded on breadth of experience and objectivity, a combination that institutions often lack, through no real fault of their own; often times, the more you care about your institution, and the more you wish it to succeed, the harder it is to remain objective about your current and future strategies.

Spending resources on technology is an investment that nearly everyone in your institution can get on board with. Making that same investment in intelligence is a harder sell. You may risk leaving some departments feeling slighted that an “outsider” was brought in to suggest what would work best in helping their institution succeed. Moreover, there may by objections to investing in an intangible where the ROI can’t be measured until a year or two down the road. While new technology is generally viewed as benevolent and warmly embraced by those ready for new solutions, outside intelligence can be viewed is ill-informed (at best) or hostile (in the most contentious scenarios). Still, it’s crucial to your success, and a major factor in putting new technology to use on your campus.

If you want to make your recruitment process more effective and more efficient, and if you want to be competitive with your cross-app schools, technology needs to be part of the equation. But if you’re attaching value to your investments, an investment in intelligence should be considered just as valuable—if not more valuable, in some cases—to your cause as technology is. If you’re one of the lucky few who has the precise intelligence required as part of your internal organization, certainly utilize it. However, you may be best served by investing in outside intelligence along with new technology.

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Kirk Donlan

Kirk is a Writer at RHB and the Engagement Specialist for The Major Key.