Monday, 7 November 2011

Student information systems

Second session is on changing student information systems. Very timely as we'll be starting a review of our SIS soon. 
SISs are expensive and complicated, but necessary.  
In US, there's high competition for students, finances are with the student, not controlled centrally. The  average student applies to 14 institutions, so recruitment and retention is much more a focus and the emphasis is therefore on competition and efficiency.  This is now spreading to Europe and UK as the funding model changes.
The major North American systems are now spreading throughout the world. For example, Sungard  has 150 international clients in 40 countries in 9 languages. The reason is they are very flexible and adaptable. As European environment central control loosens there'll be more demand for these systems. 
We've had two decades of measured growth and functional changes, that's now over.
Changes now happening faster in mobility, social networking, and consumerisation.  These are speeding up change, not just in SIS but in ecosystem surrounding it
Vendors are making systems more flexible and more modular. Interconnections are becoming easier with APIs to the most popular solutions.
These changes give us more flexibility, and it's not necessary to reimplement an enterprise level system to get significant benefits. 

We have to adapt to a new paradigm in the relationship with our students. The death of distance and the  consumerisation of IT  means that now we have to push the transactions to our customers so that they can use their mobile devices. And they love it. 
The number of devices touching our networks is rising exponentially,a  recent study showed that students in the  US have 3 different internet enabled devices. ( We know that locally looking at access to our wireless network  ). 

We need to manage expectations and devices. We've lost control, live with it. Users have expectations of mobile access to everything, 24/7 and collaboration with each other and the institution using a variety of different social platforms.
We need to develop a coping strategy to deal with BYOD, and advertise the goal as being maximum safe use of the institutions data, technologies and systems.

Go for a common denominator, flashy is nice but if it works, that's OK. Look at how information is delivers to mobile devices
Two of the biggest vendors in US, Oracle and Sungard are looking to expand around the world.

Money is tighter, technology is changing fast than before, and vendors are scrambling too. We need to watch for vendor changes such as modular upgrading, and consider cloud and SaaS options. 

Is the SIS a "money pit", or an effectiveness engine? A properly implemented SIS can help provide efficiencies and effectiveness for your institution and it can serve as the foundation for adding other value added services.

Benefits can be improved, but we need to address these issues :
Initial implementations are often not efficient.  Often decisions are made by users who are unfamiliar with the processes of the system. Often the cow paths are paved over - we've always done it this way.
Governance issues can result in poor compromises. Lines of authority are blurred, especially where processes cross organisational boundaries. Expensive modifications lead to maintenance and upgrade nightmare. One university discovered that hundreds of modifications cost them $750000 every upgrade.
Data integrity issues from poorly controlled data migration can cause problems 

Have to have a continual improvement philosophy. As users learn more about the system, you can incrementally change configurations. Useful to have periodic outside reviews by a vendor expert. Participate in user groups, blogs and share new techniques and discoveries. 
Have business analysts review new functions with users. Look for new and improved processes. 
Configure, don't customise. 
Committees can advise, not decide. (How true!)
Stay vigilant! Use business analysts, user groups, release notes, technical conferences, vendor demonstrations.
Implement add ons to get maximum value including the following:
Mobility apps 
Business intelligence
Alumni development
Research management
Document management
Some of this is functionality is in the baseline system, but may not be best of breed

Seeking increased value is a process, not a product.

1 comment:

Carl Eberling said...

Sounds like you have been through the pain a few times Doc. Are there some SIS packages that are easier to manage through upgrades then others?