When Numbers Aren't Enough: The Powerful Combination of Data and Market Expertise

Principal Analyst

Top of Mind: When Numbers Aren't Enough
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Finding information on the higher education technology market can be challenging. It often takes hours to find data and even more hours to draw meaningful conclusions. And while those conclusions can be beneficial to institutional leaders, many times, the numbers just aren’t enough.

Mining Public Information vs. Investing in a Research Team

When institutions are faced with a significant technology decision, they often access publicly available information to help understand the providers in the market, the features of their products and services, and sometimes who is using the solutions. But that is rarely enough to support a campus technology initiative.

IT leaders work hard to plan for technology selections. Their relationships with analyst firms assist these leaders with providing credibility across their campus. This credibility comes from a significant investment in research. An analyst firm makes a substantial investment in researching a market segment that typically cannot be duplicated at the institution. The research from a dedicated team gives institutions the insights to see and predict market movements, especially when the research team has a long history in their market and can gather data before it is made public.

Collaboration and Transparency Are Keys to Success

Whether institutions are in the process of planning, preparing, or selecting their next technology solution, they need an expert who knows what is motivating the decisions long before the information is public knowledge. 

In higher education, collaboration is king, and creating transparency isn’t always easy. Analyst firms are uniquely positioned to assist institutions because they can ask institutions for deep conversations on experiences and provide open feedback on strategy, budgets, and staffing. This collaboration with institutions also opens doors for rich collaboration between institutional leaders that lead to insights such as

  • Why is a solution provider starting to lose more head-to-head sales?
  • Why are one solution provider’s customers actively looking to replace a solution while other similar providers have loyal and stable customer bases?

But even this very open culture has limits on what it can tell a particular institution about the technology choices and methods they can employ to move their institutional strategy forward. The bigger key to creating transparency is tying the research and the institutional knowledge together to describe with authority the current movement in the market and how it will impact a specific institution’s goals.

A 360-Degree View

If you want to know what is happening in the higher education technology market, you need to know not only what is evident from these conversations but what is happening from a contractual perspective—waiting until institutions go live on new solutions and choose to make their choices public can take years.

And while institutional selections are an important factor in helping drive decisions, having a deep knowledge of the solution providers and their products is a competitive and strategic advantage for institutional leaders. Solution providers’ market share is made up of the combination of solutions they are supporting and marketing. This market share tells us a great deal about current partnerships, institutional sentiment, expertise, and revenues of these companies in higher education. These lead to the nuances of vendor behavior in a complex and quickly shifting market.

Last but certainly not least, looking at the technology solutions underneath the products is essential. Not all software-as-a-service products are created equal, and the technology does indeed matter.

  • Why are cloud-native and modern cloud definitions essential to an institution’s decision-making process?
  • How easy will it be to integrate with other applications?
  • How quickly are institutions moving to modern cloud solutions?

The ability to answer questions like these and others gives institutions the confidence to choose the long-term, sustainable SaaS platforms that will allow them to accomplish their goals.

The Bottom Line

Helping institutions prepare for, select, and plan for their major and minor technology changes is much more than analyzing public data. Institutions want a guide to assist them with higher-education-specific best practice information, so they understand what and how to move their institutions forward. And for many institutions, that means the numbers just aren’t enough.

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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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