NACUBO 2014 Conference Wrap Up

NACUBO 2014Last week, I attended the National Association of College and Business Officers 2014 Conference, better known as NACUBO. I look forward to this conference every year because the finance officers represent the pulse of the University “money engine”.

It’s one of the better conferences in that the speakers are well versed in not only the business and political issues that financial officers are facing, but also provides opportunities for learning how to improve upon these issues at your organization.   My two ‘take aways’ were the keynote address by Bill Gates, and a late Monday afternoon presentation done by Xerox.   As I write this, it’s amazing to realize how intertwined they were.

Having a prolific speaker like Bill Gates was a big draw for this conference, thus the attendees were very interested in his views regarding education and what his own foundation is focused on.  During his talk, he emphasized three important themes he sees in education:

1)     Leaders in higher ed need to understand they are never going back to pre-2008 funding levels.

2)     Because of #1, Colleges and Universities need to be more proactive in partnering with corporations for not only “funding” but more importantly, connecting kids to future careers.

3)      There needs to be a real focus on preparing kids with the skills needed post graduation.

Hearing this from someone with the stature of Bill Gates, was a wake up call for the leaders present.  Last year’s NACUBO danced around many of these issues but overall there was hope that with the economy improving the only thing they needed to worry about was MOOC’s (big disrupter last year).

After the keynote, it was clear this year’s focus was on:

  • Lowering operational spend due to unstable, unreliable State budgets
  • Shared services across campus (es)
  • Leveraging sustainable resources

An example of all three of these in action is how Xerox is partnering with universities across the nation for a printing strategy that centralizes the entire process. Rather than hundreds of outdated and under-utilized machines, they provide a consolidated approach for print service needs by department.  This provides a high level of availability and responsiveness to individual needs, but reduces the amount of hardware (new and old) that needs to be maintained.

How this relates to our practice

We are always talking to our clients about connecting their offering to their customers’ business and political issues.  Bill Gates outlined the business and political issues quite boldly in his keynote.  Xerox has clearly already identified these challenges and their session showed a perfect example of how to not follow a typical “this is who we are and what we provide” sales process.

The “Business and political issues” drove decision-making, rather than Xerox just trying to push their products. In this case, navigational research and interaction with culture replace traditional sales techniques, resulting in a bigger project.  The bottom line is cost savings, saving energy, and sharing services (sound familiar?) and best of all: everybody wins because the operational savings can now be used by the campus to reinvest in student programs.

The real punchline from Gates and Xerox is pretty simple.  A symbiotic relationship exists between higher education’s mission to graduate a skilled workforce and the Private sector’s need to attract fresh ideas and innovative minds.

To learn more about NACUBO visit


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