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Realizing an Enterprise Model

In 2017, Unity Environmental University adopted an enterprise model as its institutional organization. An enterprise model allows for the creation of distinct revenue generating business entities and centralized support entities within the overall University. The enterprise model is similar to a matrix organization.

With this new structure, the University can rapidly respond to the changing needs of students and society. The enterprise model unleashes the innovation potential of our employees through built-in collaboration and a project-based structure. Our core shared services are coordinated and standardized across the University to optimize resources, while our distinct business entities have the independence needed to develop programs, services, and/or products that are tailored to audience-specific needs.

Are you ready to explore the potential of an enterprise model at your organization? Distilled from our several years of experience, the steps below outline a replicable process to building a structure that will give your organization the flexibility to thrive.


Discovery and Development

Step 1: Explore your strengths and opportunities

Take stock of your current brand, identify market opportunities, fully explore any internal and external factors that might be standing in the way. A new structure should serve new directions.

At Unity Environmental University…

  • We conducted a Deep Dive – donor funded branding initiative looking at who, what and where our audiences are.
  • We were awarded grant from Endeavor Foundation to investigate “a new and replicable model of institutional structure” and “growth pathways for small private higher education.”

Step 2: Lay the groundwork in governance

Review and revise bylaws and other governance documents as needed to create conditions for a new structure. Launch distinct business entities that are ready to go, and lay groundwork for future launches.

At Unity Environmental University…

  • We augmented our University bylaws to accommodate implementing the Enterprise Model. We clearly delineated the role, scope, and authority of the President/CEO, Board of Trustees and the governance model.
  • The Board of Trustees formally adopted the Enterprise Model for Unity Environmental University.
  • We formally created independent business entities within Unity Environmental University for our academic offerings – Distance Education and Flagship. This established the template to create additional distinct entities such as Sustainable Ventures, Hybrid Learning, and the Technical Institute for Environmental Professions.

Step 3: Draft a structure for broad input

Prepare an initial structure to try out new language – this is not for consensus, but for information and input.

At Unity Environmental University…

  • We hired a consultant to start the transition and outline the structure.
  • We introduced Strategic Education Business Units, Enterprise and Functional Area concept based on the Grant Thornton proposal.
  • The Enterprise Model concept was presented to employees for the first time.
  • We formally introduced the Enterprise Structure with new nomenclature:
    • Unity College (UC)
    • Unity College Enterprise (UCE)
    • Strategic Education Business Units (SEBUs) – (later changed to Sustainable Education Business Units)
  • We began to define the centralized Functional Areas that provide shared services across the organization
  • President Khoury introduced Leadership in Abundance and the new working structure to employees.


Step 4: Align your strategic plan

Embed the enterprise build-out into your strategic plan, so you create space, time, and leadership roles to get it done.

At Unity Environmental University…

Step 5: Align leadership roles

Evaluate the current leadership positions and align role, scope and authority with the needs of the Enterprise Model.

At Unity Environmental University…

  • We clarified and differentiated titles so that SEBUs are led by the Head of the SEBU and Functional Areas are led by Chief Officers or the Head of Functional Areas.
  • Direct Reports to the President were consolidated to only Heads of SEBUs and Chief Officers and Functional Areas were clustered.

Step 6: Align work units

Decide which work units within your organization provide centralized services and which must be differentiated to support independent business entities.

  • We decided to centralize any work unit that best serves the University by being coordinated and standardized. These units are shared services, representing the institutional perspective and include: Academic Administration, Registrar, Student Financial Services, Marketing, Business, and Information Technology.
  • We decided to decentralize any work unit that must be managed independently in order to best serve a specific audience. These units include Academic Instruction, Recruitment, and Dining Services.

Step 7: Align policy

Your new structure may be complex and unfamiliar to employees. To support employee adoption, establish formal guides to explain the key aspects of the new structure. Also revisit all current policies and update or adapt them to reflect the new language, roles, and structures.

At Unity Environmental University…

Step 8: Employee education and change management

Take time to intentionally educate employees on the new language, roles, and structures. Identify points in employee life-cycles when this information will be presented, revisited, updated, and practiced in action.

At Unity Environmental University…

  • We created a new University-wide employee handbook, as well as SEBU-specific faculty and student handbooks.
  • We implemented human resource management software and aligned employee classifications with Enterprise Model.
  • We began training employees on Working Within the Enterprise Model during University-wide professional development days and new employee orientation.
  • We created a FAQ about working at Unity Environmental University for current and future employees.
  • Finally we updated the organizational chart to reflect the Enterprise Model.

Step 9: Allocate resources

The distinct business entities in your structure require some share of organization-wide resources as well as discrete resources unique to the needs of that business’ goals. Decide which current assets are to be shared and which should be dedicated and controlled by each business.

At Unity Environmental University…

  • We completed a full inventory of our physical assets and established annual inventory protocols.
  • Our next steps are to formally assign all assets to reflect the Enterprise and SEBUs including: technology assets, physical assets, and intellectual assets.

Step 10: Business development

An enterprise model is intended to enable rapid and mission-aligned response to the changing needs of your target audiences and reach new markets. Establish the means to identify, incubate, launch, evaluate, and even decommission business entities.

At Unity Environmental University…

  • We are refining how we use market research to drive program development and assesses viability of new markets.
  • We are creating individual SEBU Mission Statements.
  • We are refining the role, scope, and authority of the Enterprise and SEBUs regarding partnerships; sponsorships; vendors; and external relationships.
  • We are developing multi-year financial pro-forma for each business entity.
  • We are establishing guidelines to assess SEBU ongoing viability, mission appropriateness, and quality.


Step 11: Document and communicate your success

Explain how you created this model in a way that can be shared and replicated with others.

At Unity Environmental University….

  • We believe this structure is critical to our organizational adaptability and ongoing success. We want to be around for years to come, providing an affordable and accessible environmental education. We believe this structure can help other organizations pursue their mission as well.
  • We created this outline with the steps we took to create this model for Unity Environmental University and the steps other institutions can use to implement a responsive structure.