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An educated decision in enterprise software: Why the education sector is reinvesting in enterprise capability

By Peter Nikoletatos, Industry Director – Education, TechnologyOne

Almost three quarters of Australian educational institutions are planning to replace or adopt new enterprise solutions in 2019 to take advantage of new technologies, according to a recent study from IBRS, titled The State of Enterprise Software’.

No longer content to hold a ‘wait and see’ approach to cloud-delivered solutions or to hold out for existing vendors to play catch-up, higher education, vocational training and colleges across Australia plan to invest heavily in multiple enterprise capabilities.

These capabilities traverse the full spectrum of education management including student outreach and marketing, student information systems, enterprise reporting and analytics, next-generation learning management, and upgrades to back-office functions such as student support, finance and administration.

Significantly, that intention to reinvest coincides with a period of funding stasis or budget tightening across much of the sector. The implication is that educational institutions recognise the value of investing in smart foundational technology, despite funding constraints, to attract and retain students through the improved service delivery and business process innovation that such solutions enable.

Underpinning this reinvestment in enterprise software is a notable shift in the decades-old dynamic between IT departments and other internal business units or faculties. As the historical owners of IT purchasing decisions, IT departments have naturally developed a conventionally risk-averse attitude over time. Charged with delivering complex infrastructure systems that exhibit little or no downtime, the best measure of success for IT has largely become invisibility.

That rigid focus on optimum system operation — coupled with the advent of cloud-delivered capability — has led individual business units and faculties to drive their own digital transformation and seek enterprise-grade solutions that solve immediate problems. If outdated technology or resistant-to-change IT teams are blocking those transformation aspirations, business units and faculties will — and do — go around them.

However, it’s worth noting that while Software as a Service (SaaS) has enabled easy acquisition and deployment of business-led applications, it has equally delivered unexpected issues. Running disparate solutions in isolation of a centralised back-end can lead to fragmentation of information and processes and create an integration challenge that educational institutions need to address early on their digital transformation journeys.

Education industry insights

According to the report, the education sector is largely primed to invest in new technology solutions to advance their digital transformation, with 72 per cent of study participants indicating the process is currently underway. Around 17 per cent intend to finance a new solution over the next two years and a further 10 per cent are looking slightly further out with a target of three to five years. For those committing to a system upgrade, 31 per cent have already commenced and close to 50 per cent intend to act within the next two years, so momentum in the sector is significant.

Understanding options and determining preference

With cloud-based technology solutions becoming more prevalent, participants across all sectors were ask to rate their organisation’s understanding of the cloud and cloud-based offerings, ranging from low to high. Nearly 40 per cent of education sector members said their institution had a high level of understanding — the second highest of any sector surveyed. A further 43 per cent identified a moderate level of internal knowledge and expertise when around cloud-based technologies and solutions.

When asked to identify the preferred enterprise solution delivery method, while cloud-based (SaaS or IaaS) were well represented at 33 per cent of respondents for each, almost one quarter of education sector study participants cited on-premise as the optimum solution. This suggests that, despite the self-ascribed high level of understanding around cloud-based delivery, some hesitation through misunderstanding still exists.

Cloud myths abound

The study uncovered that any preference for on-premise solutions was strongly linked to avoidance of the cloud, however it was based on at least one of the following erroneous beliefs; 1) a perceived security risk; 2) cloud infrastructure is more expensive and; 3) cloud services are inherently hard to integrate.

These three myths are just that – myths:

  1. Most organisations simply cannot compete with cloud vendors when it comes to budget and capacity to manage complex cybersecurity. The Australian Federal Government’s current aggressive migration to cloud-delivered enterprise services illustrates the ‘thinness’ of the security excuse.
  2. The State of Enterprise Software study has revealed that organisations moving to the cloud enjoy multiple benefits including; freeing up IT resources, reduced on-premise infrastructure investment and lower operating costs.
  3. Cloud services are simply not more difficult to integrate when compared with on-premise solutions. Commonly arising integration issues are more closely related to business unit ad—hoc procurement practices and the absence of whole-business strategic planning.

Easy does it

Study participants were asked to describe their ideal enterprise solution and across the board, one word stood out — ‘Easy’. C-Level Executives from every surveyed sector agreed; an enterprise solution must be easy; to procure; to configure; to deploy; to access; to integrate and to use. The education sector was completely aligned to this way of thinking.

SaaS solutions are allowing universities, colleges and TAFEs to procure new software and develop new innovations faster than ever before, but the most successful deployments will come an institution-wide strategic focus that enables true integration across the entire campus rather than simply at a functional level.

Hear an in-depth analysis of The State of Enterprise Software research from IBRS researcher and author of the report, Dr Joe Sweeney, at TechnologyOne’s Showcase events in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this month. Register for this free event to uncover the impact of these findings on the education sector.

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