Tambellini StarChart Methodology

Guiding Higher Education Institutions to Best-Fit Technology Solutions

The Tambellini StarChart is a visualization tool that helps higher education institutions navigate the complex technology landscape and make more effective and efficient decisions when selecting new technology. The series supports technology selections across higher education, including finance, HCM, student systems, student success, and more.

Founded on our renowned data, research, and experience, Tambellini StarCharts evaluate and position products based on usability and innovation—crucial differentiators in technology investments. Using this research, analysis, and visualization, higher education technology leaders can use StarCharts to discover the best-fit solutions for their institution.

How to Use the Tambellini StarChart

The StarChart is modeled after the celestial maps used to identify objects and help individuals orient themselves and better navigate the world around them. The Tambellini StarChart series provides similar guidance for navigating various higher education technology selections.

On the right side of the Tambellini StarChart are the most complete and usable solutions that have been proven to support institutions of all types and sizes. However, as one might expect, usability comes at a cost, possibly making these solutions cost prohibitive for some.

Solutions positioned on the left side of the StarChart support less of the functionality that is typically needed by large and complex institutions, and they have not demonstrated scalability in these larger segments. However, solutions on the left side are generally more affordable and have been proven to support the needs of small to mid-market institutions, depending on their requirements.

At the top of the Tambellini StarChart, you’ll see products that demonstrate and possess the capacity for sustained and future innovation. The products at the bottom of the Tambellini StarChart generally have fewer embedded innovative features and may not have the ability to innovate and sustain innovation at scale.

In 2024, Tambellini introduced StarChart Orbits to help visualize how closely a vendor is aligned with core market needs, as well as the extent to which they impact and are interconnected with the broader ecosystem. The three orbit categories are:

The Commander

The Commander category is the outermost orbit located in the top right corner of the StarChart. Institutions should anticipate that solutions in the Commander Orbit are market leaders with highly innovative and user-centric designs that set the benchmark for what is possible. Their leadership is characterized by a consistent track record of excellence, significant market influence, and the ability to anticipate and shape future trends.

The Navigator

The Navigator category is the middle orbit. Solutions in this orbit demonstrate a balance of innovation and usability with more comprehensive and adaptable capabilities beyond niche specialization. Navigators steer development and adoption in promising directions, leveraging emerging trends and customer insights to navigate the market effectively.

The Specialist

The Specialist category is the innermost orbit. Solutions in this orbit represent niche offerings that are more narrowly focused on specific technology and functional needs, providing high value to its clients and meeting focused market demands. Specialists are recognized for their deep understanding and capabilities in particular areas.

An important consideration is that no position on the StarChart is either “good” or “bad” for all institutions. Those institutions with more complex needs and resources are likely to focus on one area of the StarChart, while other institutions with fewer resources and complexity may opt to focus on another area. The StarChart is not aimed at being the sole resource to make a final decision; rather, it provides a point of navigation to help make sense of the market and downselect to a more manageable number of products to take that next step.

How Do I Learn More?

The StartChart previews offer a high-level view of the market. Tambellini clients can access the full reports with deeper insights and analysis in our client portal. For a more nuanced understanding of the charts and the included vendor solutions, Tambellini clients should contact their client success associate to arrange a meeting with a Tambellini analyst.

The StarChart is part of Tambellini Group’s Future Campus Framework, a multi-faceted approach to supporting colleges and universities’ innovation, growth, and sustainability through a holistic, long-term technology strategy.

How Does Tambellini Evaluate Solutions for the Tambellini StarCharts?

Solutions are positioned on the StarChart based on a proprietary algorithm that leverages usability and innovation data points for the solution category being evaluated.

Usability is evaluated on the following factors:

  • User satisfaction survey results
  • Vendor usability evaluation (customer support, software release cadence, implementation, training)
  • Functional solution depth and breadth
  • US higher education market presence and demonstrated scalability


Usability data points were derived from institutional System Usability Scale (SUS) surveys, vendor assessments, Tambellini research, and a proprietary usability multiplier.

Usability is evaluated across criteria categories, including US market segment presence, demonstrated scalability, functional solution depth and breadth, customer support, software release cadence, implementation, training, total cost of ownership, ongoing maintenance requirements, and customer experience.

Innovation is evaluated based on the following factors:

  • Vendor capacity for future and sustained innovation
  • Innovative functionality within core features
  • Demonstrated commitment to innovation aligned with current market needs


Innovation data points benchmark each solution’s ability to address unique functional, operational, and business intelligence/analytics requirements and the vendors ability to sustain the innovation at scale.

Innovation is evaluated across criteria categories, including vendor company and resources profiles, functionality solution breadth, integrations and data access, security partnerships, inclusion of AI-powered tools and functionality when relevant, and capacity for future and sustained innovation.

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Michael Bisson: Vice President of Student Product Strategy at Workday
Michael Bisson
Vice President, Student Product Strategy
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Michael joined Workday in 2013 seeding the Student project team and contributing to its initial architecture and design. Michael led the Product Management team as they designed the core student product and facilitated a three-year customer design partner program. Today, Michael leads the Product Strategy team responsible for determining market fit, competitive market intelligence, and overall product direction. Prior to joining Workday, Michael worked 16 years at Peoplesoft and Oracle in support of the Campus Solutions product in Product Management, Development, and Support. Michael has committed his professional career to the improvement of higher education management through the design and development of Student Information Systems.

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