Tertiary education institutions are under extreme pressure to create digital services that meet the needs of tech-hungry millennials and Adelaide’s Flinders University is no exception.
Since 2016, Flinders has been underway with a program to mature and digitise campus services for 27,000 students and 5,000 staff.
“Our digital strategy is about transforming from what was a very manual organisation with a high reliance on people delivering services internally to staff and researchers, as well as students [to a digital one]. This way they can undertake their studies or deliver on their research efficiently from anywhere, anytime or anyplace,” said Nicole Fishers, deputy CIO at Flinders University.
But up until recently, there’s been a problem. The university’s transformation program was being inhibited by very immature integration capabilities. This made it harder to introduce new cloud-based services and new technologies in areas like artificial intelligence, as well as more personalised learning systems for students and staff.
The university is also working on creating better control around omni-channel interactions with students by connecting its website, customer relationship management, text messaging and other apps to better understand student needs.
“Certainly from a [system] integration perspective, when we embarked on this journey, we were very immature – we a lot of ad-hoc, point-to-point and very manual [processes]. In some cases, we didn’t even have integration,” she said.
“We had people taking information out of one system and putting it into another. I won’t say we’ve got rid of all that yet, it’s part of a longer-term journey but certainly where we are heading is having that integrated ecosystem.”
To overcome its integration issues, the university has deployed the Dell Boomi integration platform for master data, workflow automation and API management. The platform helps administrators stitch together core applications as they are migrated to the cloud. This includes its student management and financial systems and other learning management, HR, CRM and admissions applications.
“One of the biggest pieces of work that built up our integration capability in the organisation was the project to take our on-premise student administration system to the cloud, and in doing so we have about 80 per cent redone all of our integrations,” she said.
Meanwhile, the university has also retrained its existing three database administrators in the new platform and hired an additional integration lead, said Fishers.
“We very rapidly were able to train up three of our existing staff to have them developing integrations and be very productive in terms of delivering outcomes that the university needs. The platform supports rapid deployment and helps us get people up to speed very quickly,” she said.
Fishers agrees that universities are under increasing pressure and the marketplace is more competitive that it ever has been.
“Obviously some of that is through our customer expectations being our students and researchers and some of that is due to external factors, such as where the federal government sees higher education moving in this country,” she said.
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