AWS Imagine Conference Is True to Its Name

Principal Analyst

Top of Mind: AWS Imagine Conference Is True to Its Name
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AWS holds an annual Imagine conference for forward-thinking institutional customers to discuss their strategic AWS successes. The conference is unusual because there is limited conversation about product details. Instead, it focuses on how innovative educators can leverage AWS technology and partnership to change their institutions, the higher education industry, and the world beyond education.

In 2022, some of the most progressive and outspoken CIOs and technologists attended to discuss their partnerships with AWS for research, administrative system infrastructure, new academic paradigms, and innovation centers that support surrounding communities. From Wharton Interactive, which built a prestigious MBA program on a custom gaming platform, to a panel discussion about strategic platforming of legacy administrative platforms, AWS was able to showcase strategic successes in higher education and the public sector. These collective efforts translate into the following strategic themes and messages for other campus leaders.

Strategic Investments

AWS is investing in higher education and technology improvement to jump-start and solidify partnerships. In doing so, they are creating long-term customers. Cloud Innovation Centers such as those found at Cal Poly and Arizona State University bring AWS and institutional resources together with students and the community. The result is a joint attempt to find real and sustainable solutions to authentic problems experienced by students and community stakeholders.

Technology Investments

AWS provides discounted services for institutions seeking to move legacy software solutions from competitor database platforms to native AWS database technology. The end result creates agility for the institution and a long-term, cloud-native customer for AWS. For institutions with the technical capacity to become AWS practitioners, this transition opens up core institutional data to innovation using the cloud platform’s capabilities.

Focus on Data

Higher education institutions generally lack data literacy and governance and access to clean data. This situation results in an inability to make data-empowered decisions about student success, program viability, operational efficiency, effectiveness, and new market opportunities. As institutions consider how to solve these problems, many are seeking solutions for gathering data from existing platforms for analysis and application development. Therefore, AWS is positioning itself as a partner to solve these problems as a more strategic investment than replacing core technologies with SaaS solutions.


AWS has made inspiring technology and nontechnology leaders a crucial part of its growth strategy. In recent years, AWS has expanded its team of higher education thought leaders to help it understand how the platform might contribute to solutions for the industry’s most significant problems. The company is working to establish long-term business partnerships by employing top-down, strategic marketing and a set of product offerings that appeal to decision-makers.

Today, most institutions are AWS customers (and also customers of other leading cloud service providers) for one or more use cases. Institutions that view this as a transactional or commodity relationship may be missing valuable benefits from the investments that partners such as AWS are making in higher education.

Influential CIOs and institutional leaders are exploring these strategic problems with AWS and other key vendors to look for aligned opportunities for solutions. Though commodity cloud service provider services are available from all key players, many of the differentiating benefits of these platform providers are in the innovation they offer for streamlining processes and better organizing and analyzing data. Amazon Imagine proved to be an interesting showcase for initiatives that succeeded because the featured leaders used a strategic lens and were able to optimize the value for their institutions, students, and communities at large.

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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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