iPaaS in Higher Education: An Nascent Market

Principal Analyst

Top of Mind: iPaaS in Higher Education
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

What’s The Problem?

Higher education often lags behind other industries in the adoption of new technology. There are multiple reasons for the lag:

  • Technical investment is difficult to justify to institutional leaders without significant research.
  • Time to implement new core technologies is limited, and delivering new functionality is preferred.
  • Changing how we work is difficult without external pressure.

The external pressures on higher education IT are abundant, including budget reductions, pressure to deliver on student success and other key initiatives, and cloud technology changing the role of IT. These pressures are creating more opportunities to use iPaaS technology to increase agility and lower the costs of relieving these pressures.

Tambellini Group research shows that, to date, less than one-third of US institutions have adopted modern integration methods and technology. Many of those institutions have only adopted iPaaS technology to integrate with a specific SaaS offering.

As institutions expand their SaaS adoption, integration becomes a key role for IT and an inhibitor to the adoption (or integrated adoption) of new functionality. Strategic IT leaders are finding high value in adopting iPaaS technology and operationalizing modern integration methods to become more agile and reduce costs. As one CIO said to me this week, “I don’t know how we would have enabled so much technology in the last 18 months without this capability”.

What Is The State Of The Technology?

As iPaaS vendors have come to market, some clear patterns have developed. These patterns can assist institutions in scoping the type of product they are targeting to adopt.

User Experience Design

iPaaS providers with either a developer-friendly technical interface or a low- or no-code design are targeted at less technical users. For the developer community, technical interfaces provide the most flexibility and ability to write code to solve data problems. For technically savvy business analysts, the low-code and no-code designs create an opportunity to build integrations with reduced reliance on IT.

Over recent years, these two iPaaS product categories have started to converge, with most platforms improving their products for the other audience. In today’s market, the products are differentiated between which type of product they began with, even if additional development capability or low-code interfaces have been subsequently added.

Higher Education Focus

There are a few vendors that are solely (or nearly) focused on higher education. The benefits of these solutions often cited by institutions include excellent customer support and pre-built connectors that connect frequently used higher education solutions. Their size, however, can limit more complex functionality that may be needed for larger institutions.

As discussed in the following section, the company size tends to limit the breadth of products offered. Neither of these products offers data governance capabilities, though both offer data preparation and forms tools.

Data Platform Offerings

Larger commercial packages offer broader data governance and data management capabilities in conjunction with the core integration products. For institutions that require these capabilities, there can be strategic value in a single platform to cover these capabilities.

How Can I Dig Deeper?

As we wrote about a couple of years ago, there are significant considerations behind implementing an integration strategy, such as tool experimentation, selection team composition, and starting with small projects first.

Tambellini’s recent publications on iPaaS platforms are available to our members to guide their exploration and selection of the right tool for their institution. Tambellini recommends deep-dive trials with these solutions to find the right solution for your institution.

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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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