Otis College of Art and Design had the ‘art’ part covered – no surprise there. But it needed a little help when it came to the science, or data-driven approach. The team was massively proud of many programs in its robust portfolio, which included calligraphy, digital photography, interior design and even hat making. (!) But many of the classes in its extensive catalog were plagued by cancellations, unprofitability or lackluster community interest. With its programming strategy in flux, the Otis team needed a way to ensure its programs filled a genuine community need at a price point that was profitable without being prohibitive.
When a new dean was hired in summer of 2019, the ad-hoc approach to developing classes would no longer cut it. Otis needed a north star to guide its programming strategy and help it build offerings that could keep classes full and their balance sheet, well, balanced.
Things at Virginia Tech could have been better. The team – while largely hard working and dedicated to getting the job done - was being held back by a handful of poor performers. And without accountability built into their working processes, there was no surefire way to identify where bottlenecks were gumming up the wheels of progress. Process inefficiency was a problem, as well, with too much repetitive action, needless double checking and, ultimately, wasted time.
And it wasn’t Virginia Tech’s fault – in one way, they were a victim of their own success. They were clearly doing many things right, generating nearly $10 million in revenue per year through solely word-of-mouth marketing – and this is without any non-credit, open enrollment programming.
Yet, you got a sense the organization had grown too fast, too soon, without a cohesive strategy in place. As a result, Virginia Tech’s internal processes felt a bit patched together, with new and old elements jumbled to create a system that was unreliable at best and downright inefficient at worst.
And the stakes were high – they didn’t know it at the time, but a once-online-bookstore-turned-ecommerce giant was hatching plans to build a corporate headquarters in the Arlington area, where Virginia Tech has a satellite campus. This meant an unprecedented opportunity to take advantage of an upcoming influx of potential students and things were happening fast.