Does your digital strategy empower your business goals, or hinder them?

10 May 2023 by Catalyst

Our key takeaways from the THETA conference.

Making Waves was the theme of THETA 2023 – Australia’s number one biennial conference that addresses the most pertinent issues facing higher education information technology and education professionals, and our team at Catalyst IT Australia were proud to be a part of the conversation.

If we were to summarise all the content we absorbed at this insightful event we would say:

You CAN become your industry leader through a clever digital strategy!

The P’s – PEOPLE. PURPOSE. PROFIT. – are important but how effective and efficient you can be in achieving the bigger goals under each of those strategic pillars, will increasingly depend on the decisions you make around investments in and the use of technologies. Your business growth and resilience won’t be possible unless you are ready to transform, adapt and where possible, be two steps ahead in your tech strategy than you competitors.

10 things you must note if you’d like to stay ahead of the game:

  1. “The pace of change will never be this slow again!”

– Rob McMillan, Gartner. Top predictions for cyber security 2023-24, THETA 2023.

2. PEOPLE lead change. Not technologies (alone). Recognise this, collaborate with IT specialists early on in your strategy development / review phases.

  • Look at student success being at the centre of what you do in the IT department.
  • Look at your core values and goals through the lens of the IT department.

3. “You are not customer centric if you are not data centric.”

– Anders Sorman-Nilsson, Thinque. The Future of Education for a Humanist Age, THETA 2023

Observing, before brainstorming, before acting is important – this message was reinforced in numerous presentations and conversations throughout the event.


Can we really focus as many efforts on the school leavers as we always used to?

How relevant are our course offerings to the changing needs of the workforce? Do we offer the flexibility demanded e.g. micro-credentialing.

How engaging is our content? Is it short, snappy, ‘snackable’, digestible?

How helpful are we to our key stakeholders around the clock?

EDUCASE study has shown that “most chat bot requests come in between midnight and 2am – not working hours…” – John O’Brien, CEO & President, EDUCASE. The Other Transformation: Advancing a Campus Culture of Caring. THETA 2023.

4. The challenge of declining enrolment rates is real across the globe. But it’s not just about the students either.

The rate of adoption of new technologies among staff / educators is generally lower than that among students. How do you support your people? How do you balance different needs?

5. Burnout, disengagement and resignation rates are on the rise. This includes educators, support staff and increasingly, the cyber security and information officers.

6. Digital experiences and Digital divides cannot be underestimated.

According to research by EDUCAUSE, 30% of respondents experienced tech issues when they were in the middle of a major assessment (test, paper, etc.).

7. “Weaponise privacy!”

Rob McMillan, Gartner. Top predictions for cyber security 2023-24, THETA 2023.

EVERYONE is accountable for cyber safety. Most (reportedly 90%) people will do what they know is wrong from a cyber security perspective to take a shortcut. Is there such a thing as too much security friction given the importance of cyber security for business resilience?

“25% of CISO’s are expected to quit their jobs by 2025.”

If you manage cyber security and privacy well, this can be a very strong competitive advantage.

8. Be open!

Open Education. Open Research. Open Source Technology.

Efficiency, quality, greater community of specialists pulling in the same (future focused) direction, economies of scale, collective power, sustainable life of projects / applications and their ongoing maintenance and improvements are just some of the benefits of ‘opening up’.

Think about how using and contributing to the open source community is also contributing to the PEOPLE. PURPOSE. PROFIT. pillars of your strategy.

Digital transformation requires shifts in people and culture (behaviours and habits), not just the tech.

9. Good for business: Are the decisions you make good for business (in the long term)?

10. Good for society: Are the decisions you make good for society?

Artificial Intelligence: is it your friend or foe?

The use of AI featured heavily in the conference content and while it’s a whole separate topic in itself, the key thing to note is it intensifies competition. AI multiplies the possibilities for those organisations that are progressive, are experimenting with it and adapting it to their advantage, and others will lag behind because they are paralysed by the speed of change.

Coming back to cyber security, AI makes things more complex and your organisation more vulnerable.

Transformation, therefore is not really optional. Digital and culture shifts need to be happening in your organisation and they need to be strategic and proactive.

It’s important to be honest in reviewing the decisions that had to be made in a rush during the Pandemic. What have we not thought through? And what will it take to fix it?

Plan from the future. Collaborate. Innovate. Lead.

Innovation, out of the box thinking and industry leading solutions do not come from a single source / department or just from the lessons already learned.

Envisioning your ideal future scenario and setting clear service goals are important prerequisites for innovative / out of the box thinking. You can develop industry leading solutions and vastly improve your brand positioning.

It was great to see how some education providers are ‘making waves’ – like our client CQUniversity with whom we presented our joint project – CQU Success – the enterprise learning analytics solution.

We’d like to thank THETA for the opportunity to be a part of the conversation on some of the topics above and to collaborate with our industry peers.

At Catalyst, we believe that the decisions you make around investment and use of technologies play an increasingly critical role in achieving your business goals. Your business growth and resilience won’t be possible unless you are ready to transform, adapt, and where possible be two steps ahead of your competitors in your tech strategy.

Stay tuned as we unpack some of the above further in our blog and social media content, as well as share the tips and tools that can help overcome the common challenges higher education and enterprise level organisations are facing today.

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