Two Key IT Trends for EDUCAUSE and Beyond

As we head toward EDUCAUSE week and the calendar turns to 2012, two IT trends are front of mind for me and, no doubt, for many of you: user mobility and real-time information exchange. The advantages of both are summed up with one word ─ speed

Speed helps higher education leadership, staff and faculty become ever more nimble and responsive. Speed bolsters institutional agility, allowing schools to succeed in an increasingly competitive landscape for students, funding, and tuition revenue. And, ultimately, it helps achieve fiscal stability.

Mobility isn’t about having remote access anymore; it’s about mobile access. With smartphones, iPads and the like attached to the hip or tucked under the arm of most university leaders, staff and faculty, there’s a rapidly increasing expectation that staff can complete work anytime and from anywhere. As a result, there’s a good chance the school around the corner wants to lure away your top prospects and current students. And there’s a good chance they are doing as well as – or better than –you are at attracting and retaining students.

Why? Because with mobile platforms in easy reach, representatives can act decisively and communicate in a timely fashion, accomplishing formerly desk-bound tasks from anywhere. Need to evaluate a transcript for transfer credit purposes? Bring it up on your iPad. Need to make a decision on an admissions or financial aid application? Review the complete file and respond from your smartphone.

Remember, students and prospective students carry these devices as well and are accustomed to the instant gratification such devices bring. For that reason, they are increasingly unforgiving when it comes to delays, especially when other schools consistently respond more quickly. Mobility means staying out in front.

Real-time information is just that: real-time. Not so long ago, organizations could get away with having slightly stale information in a line-of-business application. After all, LOB apps — especially large, enterprise-supporting ones — were thought to be somewhat unwieldy, with a tendency to operate in isolation, as an information “silo” of sorts. Batch processing with a turnaround time of a day or more  was common and accepted.

The pressure is on to move faster. Critical to gaining speed are tighter integrations between mission-critical business apps. One fundamental example would be real-time feeds between the student information system (SIS), and the complementary enterprise content management (ECM) platform driving files and actions to and through SIS-reliant business processes.

Want to know when an admissions application file is complete and ready for review? Have the ECM system update the SIS document checklist in real-time, then trigger the review process when all application-related docs are received.

Want to make sure your top prospects have admissions letters in hand before the competition gets its letters out to them? Have the ECM system manage the review process, then update the decision in SIS in real-time in order for that early action decision letter to be generated right away.

As we travel full-steam ahead to Philadelphia for EDUCAUSE and into another year of increasing demands for ease-of-access and greater speed and efficiency, it’s clear that the race is on.

Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years in higher education, serving as a tenured university professor, program director and accreditation specialist. His deep understanding of best practices in deploying ECM (enterprise content management) capabilities comes not only from his direct involvement in system implementations in colleges and universities, but also from his prior work as chief editor of Web and print publications focused on ECM and data storage technologies.

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