Critical success factor

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A critical success factor is a factor whose presence is necessary for an organisation to fulfil its mission - in other words, if it is not present then its absence will cause organisational failure.

The majority of work on this in e-learning has been oriented either to large-scale failures, usually of consortium models focussed on distance learning, or on "hygiene" and KPI type success factors not critical success factors

The Re.ViCa project aims to produce a new synthesis. A natural starting point is to start from a base of general theory and fuse the large-scale critical success factors with evidence from the benchmarking and quality arenas, concentrating on criteria that are critical not just useful ones. There is a close relationship to issues of e-readiness.

The Wikipedia entry on critical success factor indicates that one should look in the following areas:

  • Money factors: positive cash flow, revenue growth, and profit margins.
  • Acquiring new customers and/or distributors - your future.
  • Customer satisfaction - how happy are they?
  • Quality - how good is your product and service?
  • Product or service development - what's new that will increase business with existing customers and attract new ones?
  • Intellectual capital - increasing what you know that's profitable.
  • Strategic relationships - new sources of business, products and outside revenue.
  • Employee attraction and retention - your ability to do extend your reach.
  • Sustainability - your personal ability to keep it all going

These have to be turned from management-speak into concepts understandable by and acceptable to higher education providers.

Further reading

  1. See the Wikipedia article on critical success factor.
  2. There is a sparse literature on critical success factors in education, but mostly oriented to large-scale failures of e-universities. See for example Lessons to be learned from the failure of UK eUniversities by Paul Bacsich.
  3. An interesting paper on critical success factors in a more "normal" educational context is the paper on Ten Critical Success Factors from the former Learning and Skills Development Agency, oriented to the success of embedding teaching on key skills.
  4. There are signs of convergence of the "mega" and "meso" strands of critical success factors literature on universities - see in particular Critical success factors for e-learning and institutional change – some organisational perspectives on campus-wide e-learning by Su White. There is also a strand of work over several years by Maggie McPherson - see for example Organisational critical success factors for managing eLearning implementation in Computers in Education, 2002, Page(s): 1540 - 1541, vol.2
  5. There is very recent work on "key factors" by Stephen Marshall in connection with the HERDSA 2008 conference.

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