Survey: professional services still operating under pre-pandemic conditions

Heidi Fraser-Krauss
Heidi Fraser-Krauss

The new digital experience insights professional services survey shines a light on the teams which form the backbone of the sector.

A librarian helps a student locate a book using a computer.

With 5,413 participants from 19 different organisations, it is the clearest snapshot of digital provision, support and utilisation in HE professional services today.  

Represented in its findings are librarians, IT workers, student services, as well as those from business operations and management.  

The results, which were collated between November 2021 and June 2022, reveal a picture strikingly similar to the world before the pandemic hit in 2020, where digital transformation is still an ambition rather than a reality. 

It is surprising that, more than two years on from the pandemic and the shift to remote working, there are still persistent issues with poor equipment and system access. More than 1 in 10 professional services employees (14%) don’t have equipment supplied by their institutions but are using their own. In addition, professional service staff are, in the main still only utilising fairly basic work-related software tools such as Teams and SharePoint, both of which were available pre-pandemic. Few respondents are utilising newer software that promotes collaboration beyond meetings or aids better cross-departmental working.  

Upgrades and integrations which would help improve efficiency and student experience are still needed. It’s clear that higher education institutions need to invest significantly to enable the effective use of digital technology, which will help propel the sector to new heights, rather than just maintaining the pre-pandemic status quo.  

It’s also clear that training provision is still compliance-focused rather than centred on how teams can use technology and the tools it provides to best effect.  

A majority (71%) of respondents rate the support they received to work effectively online as above average, which shows that basic needs are generally being met. But just 18% said they had received an assessment of their digital skills. This indicates a reactive rather than a strategic approach to improving the workforce's capabilities. 

The shift to hybrid working suits many within the sector, and it looks like it is here to stay: 48% are already working that way, 62% see it as their preferred way of working, and 89% see online working as convenient.  

This presents a new challenge for large organisations to encourage a sense of belonging and community within their professional services teams.  

I was heartened to see 44% reporting a sense of community being fostered online, which shows good work has already begun, but there is also a significant number who feel lonely and disconnected.  There is obviously still more to be done to optimise the hybrid model.   

For more details about the results, visit the digital experience insights professional services survey

About the author

Heidi Fraser-Krauss
Heidi Fraser-Krauss
Chief executive officer

I joined Jisc as chief executive officer in September 2021. My key priority is to ensure Jisc stays innovative and focused on the needs of students, educators and researchers in what will be a turbulent but, I am sure, productive time ahead.