The Financial Times dedicated a section of the paper this past week (Jan 26, 2011) to the study of supply chain, in a special report called "The Connected Business."
"Supply chain" is certainly not a term that we use in the independent school world, yet we do have such a thing: it's called Admission. As I read through the lead article, "Supply chain is a strategic discipline," I couldn't help but consider how our admission offices serve as our supply chain managers, and how they are at the forefront of the "push to build sustainable and profitable businesses." In other words, they bring us students, whose families pay tuition. Without tuition revenue, our business model simply doesn't work. Strong schools have outstanding leadership in the Admission Office, and their professional development is as important as that for any faculty member.
With increasing competition from "free" (i.e., taxpayer-funded) public and charter schools, the Admission Office has never been more important. The admission cycle is really a year-round endeavor. Consider the importance of communication--the office is trying to reach more people than ever, and that includes the current parent body, which serves as a pipeline for new applicants. We all know how important word-of-mouth is. Just as it is important for supply chain managers to have relationships with people on the ground in all of the areas where a business sources product pieces, so too do we need to have relationships with multiple constituent groups. Social networking and electronic communications are nice, but we are in a people-centric business, and it's important to have face time with people. We need to show them that we know them and love them.
One of the things the Admission Office challenges us to do with regularity, as a supply chain manager should do, is to revisit our product offerings; in other words, our curriculum, from top to bottom. Those offerings are the "inventory" of independent schools: what do we have within our walls? What offerings make us so special? And it's not just about curriculum; it's about character development, extracurriculars...the value-added "stuff."
In this economy, consumer demand for quality is high, and our supply chain (the Admissions Office) needs to continue to build its network inorder to suit such high-demand customers. What are we all doing to assist in the building of our supply chain?
There is much at stake with our "supply chain," as article author Paul Taylor points out: "Today, supply chain competence has become a competitive weapon essential to success in launching products, entering markets, and responding to competitive threats."