- Tambellini Analyst
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The End of the Student Information System Era

Are you working at an institution that is involved in an evaluation to replace your legacy student information system (SIS)? If so, you are probably noticing the “student system” nomenclature shift. Modern SaaS cloud vendors are no longer referring to student software solutions as student information systems and have since rebranded them as “student systems.” The basis behind this nomenclature shift is that student systems have evolved to become so much more than their SIS predecessors. Previous SIS served primarily as a back-office System of Record (SOR) providing information storage and retrieval for institutions with traditional curriculums. However, modern student systems have morphed into more open repositories of institutional data that serve as the SOR but also include integrated support for non-traditional programs, reporting and business intelligence, social, mobile, cloud, and even CRM.

As institutions strive to serve Generation Z students, who expect continuous communication and immediate responses across a plethora of Internet of Things (IOT) devices, many institutions with legacy SIS are struggling to meet modern student expectations. While legacy SIS vendors have modernized their user experience, most support mobile and CRM through add-on components. Ellucian offers Ellucian Mobile and Ellucian CRM; Jenzabar offers Jenzabar Mobile App and Jenzabar Strategic Enrollment Management CRM, and Campus Management offers CampusNexus Mobile Portal, with CRM integrated into CampusNexus Student. Also, institutions are frequently using third-party CRM tools such as Blackbaud, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, and SugarCRM.

One of the key benefits of modern student systems is that they have been designed and built to accommodate modern requirements and student expectations. The Oracle Student Cloud, Unit4 Student Management, and Workday Student all include a consumer-like user experience, integrated social and mobile-first design, integrated workflow to facilitate automation of tasks, built-in reporting and analytics, and the ability to support diverse and flexible curricula and degree programs that includes traditional, non-traditional, online, and competency-based education. All of this functionality is integrated into the core student system. Most legacy SIS solutions are not able to adequately accommodate continuing education, non-credit, and certificate programs. Ellucian offers Ellucian Elevate, and Jenzabar offers Higher Reach. CampusNexus Student provides support for non-traditional learning models within CampusNexus Student.

The Oracle Student Cloud and Unit4 Student Management also include integrated CRM platforms, as does Campus Management CampusNexus Student. The Student Engagement Module of Oracle Student Cloud leverages the Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua), and Campus Management CampusNexus Student and Unit4 Student Management both leverage the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. Integration of CRM within the student system allows institutions from within a single SOR and SOE to facilitate personalized and targeted multichannel communications and engagement in support of student recruiting, student retention and student success, alumni and donor nurturing, and other outreach efforts to constituents across the student lifecycle. In addition, personalized communications can leverage constituents’ interests, as well as, their digital profile and behaviors.

Tambellini research shows that as of June 2018 over 135 institutions in the U.S. have selected a modern SaaS student system. Workday announced last week that Indian River State College is now live on all nine modules of Workday Student, and Workday anticipates that forty more institutions will be live with one or more Workday Student modules by the end of 2018. Unit4 anticipates the first institution to go live with Unit4 Student Management in 3Q2018 with several others to follow closely. The Oracle Student Cloud is on an accelerated development path and is expected to be available at the end of 2018 for institutions with limited complexity, and by the end of 2019 for the Oracle, core install base and more complex, R1 types of institutions.

A major higher education differentiator is the large number of applications that need to integrate with the student system. Lack of integration has been a common gap with legacy SIS. It is not uncommon for institutions to have well over 100 third-party solutions that must integrate at some level with the student system. As such, integration is of paramount importance and represents a key layer within the underlying architecture of each modern student system. These new modern student systems have incorporated more functionality and offer improved integration paths as compared to legacy SIS. Each student system offers multiple integration options that include open, standards-based web services APIs, Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS), and pre-packaged connectors.

Modern SaaS student systems are at the beginning of a new era. Institutions are selecting these modern student systems both individually and together with ERP solutions from the same vendor. Many institutions are slowly moving to the cloud with hybrid deployments that consist of a combination of on-premise and modern cloud applications. Tambellini research shows that an estimated 32 percent of institutions that made student systems decisions in 2017 chose modern cloud solutions from either Oracle, Unit4, or Workday. As these modern cloud-based student systems mature and establish peer references, the number of higher education institutions evaluating student alternatives is increasing exponentially. Tambellini estimates that 400 institutions will select a new student system within the next 36 months (by June 2021).

Want more information on student systems? Check out Tambellini’s annual 2018 Student Systems U.S. Higher Education Market Share, Trends, and Leaders Report, available to all Tambellini members, along with upcoming student systems’ vendor profiles throughout summer/fall 2018. Also, don’t miss Tambellini’s Student, HCM, and Finance Webinar Series occurring every Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. EST through August 14.

©Copyright 2018, The Tambellini Group. All Rights Reserved.
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Columnist: Mary Beth Cahill - Tambellini Analyst
As head of research for The Tambellini Group, Ms. Cahill focuses on higher education technology trends and software strategies. She has led numerous research efforts, specifically in the area of vendor ERP and Student Information System (SIS) software solutions, data and learning analytics, CRM, learning management, and social networking. Ms. Cahill is also the co-author of several published industry reports, including The Tambellini Group's "Upgrade or Replace" and "Vendor Review" series of reports.