Traditional, monolithic application suites were initially developed in response to the inability to integrate applications in the early days of the enterprise softwareindustry. In order to create a full breadth of capability, a vendor had no choice but to write every application module themselves or to advance their product line through acquisition, often resulting in problems with integration, usability or no integration at all.
While these approaches may have appeared sound at the time, experience with these systems has surfaced many challenges and short-comings. Many colleges and universities have had to adopt several disparate”suites” to meet the various needs of operating units throughout the college to best service students. The results are extremely high maintenance costs, crippling IT complexity, little ability to adapt to changing opportunities, and little to no integration across the organization.
A new paradigm for higher education enterprise software is upon us. Modern enterprise application architectures are moving away from the legacyapproach of the monolithic suite. Higher education has reached a tipping point in enterprise applications, a point which creates massive new opportunities for colleges and universities to transform their enterprise architectures and achieve greater benefits. Benefits of this new approach include:
- Lower costs
- Reduced IT complexity
- The ability to capitalize on best-of-breed applications
- An integrated enterprise
The future of higher education software rests with companies who are the best at their core business focus. These companies leverage new industry standards to integrate broadly with other important education and business applications, and make it easier for universities to integrate their own internally developed applications. Higher education no longer has to settle for a package of second-rate applications in order to benefit from the one application module that is core to their mission.
The Emergence of SaaS: Is it Enough?
Software as a Service, or SaaS as it is known, is a topic of discussion in most higher education IT circles today and adoption rates are on the rise. But what does it mean?
Because a SaaS application is delivered to the school as a service, securely over the Internet, the school is automatically kept on the latest version of the application, reducing costly and disruptive upgrade projects. Colleges don’t incur the expense and hassle of purchasing, installing and storing their own hardware and software, plus they can better leverage staff expertise by moving the focus away from software maintenance and upkeep to instead focusing on strategic decisions to improve the overall student experience.
While SaaS in and of itself delivers numerous operational and financial benefits for higher education, traditionally it has been viewed as a closed environment. To truly embrace the potential of SaaS, it needs to be supported by an open architecture.
Open SaaS: What Does it Mean for the Future of Higher Education?
SaaS becomes that much more powerful through an open integration architecture with either pre-built connections with leading business and learning applications or a college’s own custom applications that directly integrate to the data and business processes. An open SaaS environment means that colleges and universities can benefit from a reliable, dependable, low maintenance SaaS model, plus they can customize and add on to both simplify and centralize information management in a way that meets their individual needs.
An open SaaS architecture allows simple integration with additional technologies used by the institution, enabling schools to create an ideal environment capable of meeting its unique needs. Schools that take advantage of an open SaaS environment are able to create efficiencies for users by streamlining operational and reporting processes.
From an operations perspective, users only need to focus on the applications that are relevant to the school. For example, a school that utilizes on-campus housing may need to integrate a housing application, while an online university wouldn’t need that application.
From a reporting perspective, a school can obtain greater insights into its business by creating reports from a central database, across all integrations and applications. An integrated Ad Hoc report writer will allow a school to easily create reports and track results it needs to support prospects, students, programs, growth and accreditation. For example, a college who wants to report on student learning outcomes in an online environment compared to a campus-based course can easily do so because data will be centrally managed through the core system and accompanying integrations.
Open SaaS: Is It Right for Your School?
When assessing an open SaaS environment, schools need to take a look at their current systems and any redundancies and/or disconnects where information management can be simplified and streamlined. An open SaaS model gives colleges and universities the tools to better support students, maximize theirinvestment and drive a competitive advantage.
- Supporting Students: An open SaaS model gives universitites the opportunity to constantly embrace new and advanced applications to meet the evolving needs of students and support them throughout their education. At the end of the day, a successful student experience is what typically drives institutional missions, and being able to readily adopt and create applications that enable a school to further support student success is paramount.
- Maximizing ROI: Br creating a a structure unique to colleges’ own needs and processes, universities don’t have to pay for systems and applications they are not going to use. They also are not incurring exorbitant costs for custom integration into a closed system.
- Staying Competitive: Staffing efficiencies in IT and across the institution mean that users aren’t burdened with functionality they don’t need, therefore giving them more time and resources to dedicate to recruiting and retaining students, as well as delivering and advancing programs to meet market demand.
Adopting an open SaaS modelcan enable your core system to integrate with preferred applications, allowing for complete student lifecycle management in a whole new way. The old rules and assumptions no longer apply, and the future possibilities of an open SaaS environment are quite endless.