On August 8, 2023, Roper Technologies announced that it had acquired Syntellis Performance Solutions for a total value of $1.4 billion—less than two weeks after the largest gathering of participants ever for the 2023 Syntellis Virtual Summit for Higher Education.
The acquisition raises multiple questions for the company’s higher education customers, and for those evaluating the Syntellis Axiom suite, it raises additional questions. This blog post will address those questions, including those regarding product enhancements and other updates announced at the July summit, with the information we currently know. To start, Syntellis will be combined with Roper’s Strata Decision Technology, and current Strata CEO John Martino will oversee the combined companies under the current company name, Strata Decision Technology.
Syntellis is providing assurance to its higher education customers that investments in product innovation and client support will continue under the merger, which makes sense given the maturity of both platforms and the relatively separate verticals served by Strata and Syntellis.
For the near term, Strata indicated that there will be no changes to policies or service level agreements. There are no plans to sunset any legacy products at this time. Frank Stevens, Strata’s chief growth officer, emphasized that “Strata will similarly add immediate value to many of those similar Syntellis clients while contributing new tools and methodologies for our mutual academic clients.”
A few weeks prior to the acquisition, Syntellis announced several product enhancements and increased client support initiatives during its one-day virtual summit. It showcased the recently released Axiom 365, a suite of products offering several new data-enabled solutions to analyze and drive institutional performance.
During the keynote, CEO Flint Brenton referenced the newly released Axiom Visual Insights, the first product released under the Axiom 365 SaaS umbrella. “We developed Axiom Visual Insights knowing that institutions manage massive amounts of data which often come from various source systems and don’t always connect,” he noted. In fact, more than 75% of institutional chief financial officers who responded to the latest Syntellis survey reported that multiple data silos significantly impede long-term budget planning.” This new Axiom solution makes it simpler for finance leaders and their teams to make data-driven decisions that accelerate organizational performance and results quickly,” Brenton said.
Axiom Visual Insights empowers organizations to combine complex and disparate data sets quickly. It provides self-service tools to create and edit data models and produce timely, dynamic visualizations without IT involvement. Organizations can now pull in data from external data sources and other Axiom solutions, including Axiom Budgeting and Financing, Axiom Financial Planning, and more.
Syntellis has provided assurance that there is no immediate impact or change to the Axiom Higher Education suite roadmap with the merger. In fact, a Strata representative said, “Strata is excited to add more resources to the planned launch of our latest tuition revenue planning solution, which was announced at the NACUBO Conference in Orlando” and was also highlighted during the July summit.
Tuition revenue is now a vital revenue stream at private and public institutions. However, summit presenters reported increased pressure on tuition streams with a decrease in traditional college-aged students and a similar decline in international students. The need for long-term tuition revenue forecasting is more critical than ever. A one-year analysis does not provide the insights needed for financial stability, but an ad hoc survey of conference attendees showed that only 10 percent were using modern budget and planning software for tuition planning, while more than 50 percent relied on manual processes.
Presenters discussed the capabilities of Syntellis tuition planning to conduct in-depth scenario modeling with inputs such as growth, various tuition rates, and the addition of new program offerings to build a long-term view of tuition revenues. Schools noted an increase in data accuracy while seeing a decrease in staff time with the software.
Andy Brantley, CEO, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) presented insights into the current labor market in higher education—notably that the quit rate is now 25 percent higher than pre-pandemic. The number one reason is unsustainable workloads. Survey data shows that more than 40 percent of higher education employees work more than 40-hour-per-week schedules. The need for in-depth workforce planning has never been more pressing.
Presenters noted that with Syntellis, they are conducting five-year forecasts that factor in salary and benefit increases to determine their institutions’ financial stability. All schools are seeing an increase in competitiveness to fill open positions at their institutions. One presenter noted that given the nature of higher education, the budget is out of date the day it is published. Without continuous planning throughout the year, institutions could see significant changes in budget to actuals throughout the year. Syntellis functionality allows models to be updated monthly with real-time data and supports all modern HR solutions, including Ellucian, Peoplesoft, and Workday. Syntellis scenario planning functionality will enable schools to see the impact of changing assumptions on the bottom line.
Summit presenters made the case for institutions to move beyond spreadsheets and embrace a new data-infused approach for long-term planning to ensure institutional financial sustainability. If your institution is looking to get started, be sure to read my blog post, “Beyond Spreadsheets: It’s Time to Rethink Budget and Planning Tools.” Tambellini’s 2023 Practice Guide: Selecting Budget and Planning Tools and 2023 Budget and Planning Vendor Solutions Comparison Infographic, available to all Tambellini clients, are other great resources as you get started.
In addition to product updates, Syntellis’s CEO emphasized the company’s commitment to providing a first-class customer experience. He revealed the addition of a new customer success team that will work with schools to drive maximum value from their Syntellis solutions. He also announced the increase in the Syntellis Academy offerings for higher education and noted that the company had added more than 20 new courses over the past year. Finally, Syntellis intends to expand its partnership to support schools better. Brenton announced the new partnership with Ellucian, which has the largest market share of ERP providers among U.S. higher education institutions. Integrations between Syntellis Axiom and Ellucian Ethos are now available. Strata has stated that the announced expansion of the partner program will continue.
Syntellis Summit 2023 showcased new functionality and allowed several colleges and universities to demonstrate how they use sophisticated modeling and scenario planning tools. The key observation over the coming years will be how future product development plays out in the long term with the recent merger.
Perhaps universities that operate academic medical centers may realize the biggest gains in the short term. Strata has been deployed in several academic medical centers, so the combined portfolio has the potential to provide new capabilities around budget and planning. In addition, Strata’s and Syntellis’s highly vertical market approaches may make this acquisition and merger a short-term win for some academic medical centers.
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