3 Questions to Consider When Evaluating New Technology in Higher Education

Principal Analyst

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As higher education institutions begin the process of evaluating new administrative systems, they often revert to what has historically been viewed as most important in technology selection—functionality and cost. That’s a mistake.

When choosing software for legacy, on-premises systems in decades past, what it did was the most essential factor in the decision. Further, functionality was often measured by how closely it conformed to current processes—not by the opportunity it provided to streamline and modernize processes. IT was left to figure out the rest, including reporting, data warehousing, customization, and extension. Since the software was going to be installed and maintained in on-premises data centers by internal engineers, database administrators, reporting and analytics developers, and integration developers, the institution had to hire and train staff to fill all other components of the complete solution. This is why functionality and cost became key determining factors in technology selections.

With the cloud, you are literally buying (leasing) software as a service (SaaS). The term seems self-evident, but the implications of this model are far-reaching as you approach a selection.

The platform, operations staff, hosting platform, innovation capabilities, and platform capabilities offered by the vendor have become a significant part of the evaluation. These systems have more ready-to-use functionality for all these capabilities, and the investment the vendors are making specifically in delivered reports and analytics, data management capabilities, and extensibility can be of very high value for institutions to achieve their end goals of complete solutions and access to analytics that serve the institution in less time than legacy on-premises solutions.

Evaluate Innovation Before Buying Technology

As we consider the complexity of SaaS and platform as a service offerings and the breadth of what institutions are buying, colleges and universities also need to consider the pace at which the vendor can innovate these functions and ask themselves:

  1. How viable do we expect this vendor’s solution to be in 20 or 30 years?
  2. Do they have a clear financial picture that demonstrates an ability to innovate the solution at the pace of technology and business innovation?
  3. How quickly are they delivering innovative technical and process innovations today?

Sales presentations typically do not answer these questions. Institutions have to look at the fundamentals of the providers, including their financial health, technology, and strategy. They must also consider institutional strategy and investment. For example, if you currently have a modern data management practice with modern tools and a mature application development capability for extensibility, these factors are not as critical, but should not be discounted entirely.

When it comes to exploring and choosing tools that are the best fit, institutions will have a plethora of options. In-platform tools can offer a more seamless user experience with functionality that is built into process flows rather than accessing assets separately. In-platform tools can also provide drillable or actionable data elements that simplify workflows. Lastly, in-platform tools can allow the same team that maintains and configures the platform the ability to extend the value of the solutions without building integrations to another platform, generally built by a different team.

The bottom line? Platform matters. Innovation matters. Get fully educated on the products that you are considering beyond the functionality they offer. Need assistance with technology evaluation and selection? Explore how Tambellini Group can help with our unmatched and unbiased higher education technology market knowledge, expertise, and experience.

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Principal Analyst
Dave Kieffer spearheads research focused on finance, and HCM applications, data management and other critical higher education technologies at Tambellini Group. He brings more than 30 years of creating, implementing, and managing enterprise-class applications in higher education. His experience includes all levels of applications development and management in higher education. Among other things, he has been responsible for ERP implementations, mobile, and web development, application architecture and integration technologies.

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