Tambellini Unveils Student Systems StarChart: The Definitive Guide for Institutions Seeking Their Best-Fit Technology Solutions 

Mary Beth Cahill |

Former Analyst

Top of Mind: Tambellini Unveils Student Systems StarChart
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

In higher education, two facts are as undeniable as gravity: 1) institutions are facing unprecedented competitive pressure to improve the student experience and outcomes, and 2) there is a complex morass of student system vendors that all make similar bold claims to help them reach that goal.   

It can be challenging to figure out where to begin vetting these solutions—which is why our team of expert research analysts has created the first publicly available preview of the Tambellini StarChart™: 2023 Student Systems.

As noted in our blog and webinar introducing the new StarChart series, each one of these proprietary visualization tools is designed to help higher education leaders save time by assisting them in narrowing down the myriad of potential technology solutions to ones that are most closely aligned with their institution’s unique needs, priorities, and resources. 

To make the most of the valuable data and analysis in the Student Systems StarChart, here’s an overview of the methodology and research behind this groundbreaking resource.  

How did Tambellini Group select which systems to include in the Student Systems StarChart? 

The systems included in the 2023 StarChart had to meet two criteria:  

  • Vendors are actively selling the systems in the North American market in 2023. 
  • At least one North American institution selected the system in the last 12 months. 

There are 14 systems from 12 vendors that met the standards listed above, including two systems each from Jenzabar and Ellucian:

It’s important to note that the two systems with an asterisk, Oracle Fusion Cloud Student (Oracle Student) and Thesis Elements, are included in the StarChart as “forming core systems,” meaning these systems are in development but not yet generally available. They have, however, been selected by at least one North American institution in the last year.  

How are student systems evaluated relative to each other when they’re all so different?

Based on our team’s collective expertise and more than 20 years of proprietary research and data covering all types of higher education technology, we know that the two most essential factors for institutions to consider in evaluating potential solutions are usability and innovation.  

Usability measures the functional breadth of a solution and how easy it is to use, while innovation measures the degree to which a solution addresses unique challenges and requirements with novel and/or advanced capabilities for sustained innovation at scale.  

With that in mind, we developed a consistent methodology and algorithm to provide a standard measurement for both factors based on more than a dozen key data points—including user satisfaction survey results from a cross-section of stakeholders such as CIOs, CFOs, provosts, registrars, and front-line system users; complexity and cost of implementation and maintenance; availability of integrations; vendor profiles; security; and more. 

Are all data points weighted equally in the Tambellini StarCharts™?  

No. Each data point has a proprietary weighting based on criteria deemed most important to the current year’s market. This ensures that each measure has a corresponding proportional influence on the final overall score. For instance, on the innovation axis, data related to generative AI capabilities carried more heft this year because of its burgeoning impact on many facets of student systems.    

Can the StarChart tell me which student system is the best one overall?   

There isn’t one student system that is “the best,” and the StarChart isn’t designed to provide overall rankings because there are no “right” or “wrong” positions on either the innovation or usability axis. 

For instance, a small private four-year college may not need a system with complex functionality to serve its community. At the same time, a large public research university may place more value on a system that offers sophisticated extensibility and integrations to link with its existing solutions.  

What the StarChart does provide, however, is an initial guide for institutions to narrow down their viable system options based on the factors they deem most important for their specific needs.  

It’s also important to remember that the StarChart should not be the only resource an institution uses to make a final student system selection decision. While it does offer a valuable starting point of navigation to help make sense of the higher education technology market, choosing the best-fit system for your institution will require a more in-depth personalized assessment of how the available options will impact your people, processes, and current infrastructure. 

Reach out to a Tambellini analyst to learn how to best leverage the Tambellini StarChart: 2023 Student Systems for your institution’s specific circumstances, resources, and goals.  

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Mary Beth Cahill |
Former Analyst
As a former senior analyst for Tambellini Group, Mary Beth Cahill focused her research on CRM and advancement initiatives. She has led numerous research efforts, specifically in vendor administrative systems and student information systems (SIS) software solutions, data and learning analytics, CRM, learning management, and social networking. Mary Beth was also the co-author of several published industry reports, including Tambellini Group's "Upgrade or Replace" and "Vendor Review" series of reports.

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