Malikongwa’s waves of changes that transformed IDM

Thursday, January 27, 2022 - 15:30

Richard Malikongwa took over the reins at Institute of Development Management (IDM) in 2016, a critical period in the transformation of the tertiary education sector in Botswana. When he assumed office, IDM was just reviewing its 5 year strategy, followed by a wave of changes under Malikongwa, which saw IDM transforming to become one of the most recognisable and respected brands in the education industry in Botswana – writes ALFRED MASOKOLA.  
Malikongwa recalls the challenges that faced the Institute when he came on board in April 2016 as its Regional Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He previously held brief spells at two leading commercial banks in Botswana; Barclays Bank (now Absa Bank) and Stanbic Bank, an experience which added to already existing wealth of experience acquired from other blue chip companies.
It was at IDM, where the major challenge presented itself.  The tertiary education sector was going through transformation, owing to a huge investment that government made subsequent to the approval of Tertiary Education Policy (TEP) which was approved by Parliament in April 2008.
While there was a boom in the industry as a result of rising number of government sponsored students at tertiary level, IDM was not necessarily among the major beneficiaries of the opportunity that existed.
“Competition was creeping in; we were having private institutions which were moving at a very fast pace. We had issues around funding because we had fewer students, we were not able to attract students because there was perception that we are an institution that is on downward trend and henceforth not many people wanted to associate with the brand,” recalled Malikongwa about the state of affairs when he took charge.
“We had challenges around our infrastructure, and IDM does not have a huge infrastructure as compared to other government institutions. We also had challenges of attracting the best in terms of our faculty, as they preferred other institutions.
“We had a challenge relating to absorption of our graduates into the market, as there was delink between the institution and the market. Our brand was perceived to be weak and a dying brand, and all these factors compounded together were besieging the institution.”
Malikongwa revealed in an interview with WeekendPost the landscape in the tertiary education space was quite competitive at the time and that there were many changes in the educational sector due to the advent of entrepreneurial educationist, hence IDM had no alternative but to survive.
“When I came on board, we first as a team looked at our strategy, and crafted our strategy map, and predominately using the scorecard, we focused on four pillars; learning and growth, we looked at our internal processes, we looked at our customers and looked at our financials,” Malikongwa said. 
“We then deliberately built organization capability; this was ensuring that people have the right skills and right education to take the institution to the next level. We had to make sure that we manage change because there was change in the education landscape henceforth it was very important that we must manage the change and transform of the organization.”
Malikongwa said the strategy demanded that IDM build a high performance culture, to meet other demands such as improving corporate governance. There were issues of corporate governance that IDM needed to embed in the institution to take it to the next level and make it relevant.
Another opportunity presented itself in the technology space, which IDM fully leveraged on by optimizing its own technology infrastructure, because they realized that the institution needed to survive.
“We also had to look at our business processes; and ensure that there is value, and there is optimal customer experience as a consequence of our business process,” he said.
“In terms of customers, we needed to know who our customers are; our students, our part time students, our distance learning students and how to put forward our offering to meet their needs. Our relationship with our key stakeholders was clarified.”
A key focus on customers ensured that IDM knew exactly what experience they wanted to take their students through, so that when they leave IDM they looked back with pride, and they even become the institution’s brand ambassadors.  
One of the biggest bets key in transformation of the institution under Malikongwa was providing innovate offerings in terms of IDM products and ensuring that the products meet the needs of their students, for the present time and for the future.
“We also had to enhance our corporate brand; you will agree with me that IDM brand is strong in the market relative to where we were probably six or seven years ago. We had to make sure that our brand is visible,” Malikongwa said.
Part of transformation under Malikongwa also included reviewing its financial strategy to ensure sustainability, because as an institution they needed to survive therefore had to identify alternative revenue growth streams which included innovative offerings that IDM introduced.
“We had to ensure that we increase value to our shareholders. We had to manage our costs, and did not want them to skyrocket to a point we become insolvent as an institution. This formed part of our strategy to make sure that we stay afloat as an institution,” Malikongwa highlighted.
“If you look at IDM model, our campuses in Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini do not receive funding from our governments for our recurrent budget. We depend on governments only for funding through scholarships, but for salaries and development we are on our own.
“In Botswana, we have become the envy of many such that government wondered why other institutions do not follow the IDM model. Government said, if IDM was able to do it without funding, why can’t other institutions do the same.”
A seasoned human resource professional, Malikongwa understood that human capital was key in the transformation that he sought at IDM.
“Human capital is at the centre of everything we do at IDM; we being an education and training provider, focusing on education, training, research and consultancy, we depend on the quality of human capital in our organisation.
“We deliberately invested in the development of our staff. We brought in specialized skills from the industry to make sure the training is more practical as opposed to being theoretical.
“We also had to look at our leadership, because we had to look at competencies that we had and needed at IDM to take the institution to the next level,” he said.
The tertiary education sector has come under fire for failing to produce graduates that are needed by the industry, a criticism which Malikongwa is of the view that it is legitimate.
“It is one thing to produce a graduate, and another thing to have them absorbed into the industry. At IDM we took cognizant of that; that is why we had networks and relations with various partners. It was deliberate to ensure that the product that we churn to the industry is relevant; has requisite skills and ready to take the industry to the next level,” Malikongwa said.
“After engagement with the industry and thorough needs assessment, we realized the need to infuse issues of entrepreneurship, innovation, skills and the right attitude towards work in our programmes to ensure we respond appropriately to the needs of the industry.”
As Malikongwa prepares to leave IDM at the end of his contract in March, handing over the baton to an Eswatini national as per the institution’s rotational arrangement, he looks back with satisfaction, the path he has charted nearly six years ago.
“It was quite a hectic journey but we succeeded. We have increased net profitability, increased student enrollments, attracted top talent and increased our brand visibility,” he said. 
 “As we speak today, IDM is a household name. It is a “go to” institution and we did that through a deliberate strategy.”