Digital Transformation for Higher Education. Take That First Step.

February 22, 2019
Digital Transformation for Higher Education. Take That First Step.

While major corporations soak up most of the attention when it comes to big data, data analytics and digital transformation, public and private universities face many of the same challenges.

For example, the University of Central Florida, the largest public university in the U.S., — has more than 68,000 students and 13,000 employees. All those folks generate a lot of data. And that data can be used to improve the entire student experience, from application through graduation — but not if it is sitting in silos, with no central oversight.

As part of the Dell Boomi sales engineering team, I often show CIOs and IT groups at these schools how they can gain control of their data without spending millions of dollars on a consulting engagement that might last years and drain untold funds from more strategic projects.

I recently helped six people from a large university IT team build a functional proof of concept for their CIO in only a week.

The proof of concept (POC) integrated real student data from multiple sources. The test showed that no matter how many different systems housed this data, the Boomi platform can make access and governance much faster and simpler, helping lower costs and freeing staff to work on more strategic projects.

No Shortage of Higher Education Use Cases for Boomi

It’s staggering how many use cases higher education presents for all components of the Boomi unified platform: Integration, API Management, Master Data Hub, Flow and B2B Management. But of all the Boomi platform components, Master Data Hub is arguably the most important for higher education, as data quality is key to delivering control.  

The larger the school, the more data it has. And, in my experience, that means data that's more spread out and more poorly governed. In that respect, it’s not much different than a large company.

Most big universities use CSV files and email for virtually every administrative task associated with students. Teachers and administrators know this is inefficient yet feel too far behind the technology curve to do anything about it. They’re overwhelmed.

For example, frequently class drops and adds are done via a CSV file that’s emailed one-by-one to teachers and department heads for the required approvals. The amount of time this consumes in a large university is staggering.

When I explain that Boomi can quickly take CSV files and transform them into data files in a Hub repository, it almost seems too easy.

By "mastering" the student ID as an entity in Boomi, it’s very simple to create a drop/add dashboard using student IDs. And requests for approval can be automated using Flow.

This was the POC we built in a week. The data was held in Hub and displayed via Flow. In one user view based on student ID, it showed what student data resided in Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow and an AWS database. If a student was in the process of dropping or adding a class, it showed what stage he or she was in.

In the past, to get this kind of data access, university employees and students typically used paper forms and written approvals that were walked from one department to another.

Learn 10 reasons why more than 300 higher education institutions, including Cornell, Baylor and UTS, chose Boomi.

Wherever You Are on the Technology Curve, Boomi Can Help

All University CIOs dealing with older systems worry that they will never be able to catch up.

“You don’t even want to know what we’re using here," they say.

And I always explain, “It doesn’t matter. You’re not unique in experiencing these issues. Most all universities are struggling with data issues and cloud complexities. But Boomi can help. We've seen it before. Our platform can easily connect what you have. ”

Every university has some departments that use antiquated methodologies for handling data. The CSV file is just the simplest version of that scenario.

I often start with a prospective customer by asking for limited access to one of their databases. I just need to understand the kind of data they have and how it is structured.

Or, I might look at their ServiceNow or Salesforce instance so we can show some charts or graphs that convey the value of that data.

Integration is not just about transforming data, it’s about realizing and understanding what you have.

One school I visited had every platform under the sun because every department had its own budget and bought its own tools.

Often at the university level, no one knows who has what. There may be six departmental Salesforce instances, nine ServiceNow instances and a dozen AWS databases that contain the same data.

That's an area where Boomi can help by showing the opportunities for consolidation. With Boomi, one unified higher education data stack can become a reality. And with that data, universities can deliver personalized digital experiences and automated workflows that help transform the student experience.

For ease of use, accessibility, display, governance, time to production and just knowing where all the data is, the Boomi platform fulfills higher education's ultimate mission: improving the student experience.

And all that's needed is for one department to take the first step.

Visit our higher education page for more information on how Boomi helps higher education institutions with digital transformation

About the Author

Based out of Seattle, Washington, Andy Tillo is a member of the Dell Boomi sales engineering team.