Software as a Service solutions: The key to maintaining Australia’s competitiveness in higher education
- 28 September, 2016 14:52
Picture: letavua (Flickr)
Australian tertiary educations are larger, more international and more prestigious than ever. The country boasts seven of the world’s top 100 universities, and 10 more that rank among the world’s top 300. In 2015, there were 498,155 international students on a student visa in Australia; that’s 10 per cent more than in the previous year, making education Australia’s largest service export. During the same year, 31,912 Australian students from 34 universities left to study abroad.
These statistics show that education is now a truly international commodity. This means Australian institutes must compete not only with each other for grants, employees and students, but also with the best colleges, schools and universities internationally. To do so, they must be efficient, cost-effective and responsive. This is where technology and, specifically, the use of an enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) solution can make a huge difference.
What is SaaS?
A SaaS solution is one where customers benefit from using software run and managed entirely by the software provider. In other words, customers don’t need to worry about updating and managing the software or spending their capital on the expensive infrastructure required to run it. The SaaS provider gains economies of scale from running the solution for thousands of customers and passes on these long term strategic benefits which aren’t achievable from hosting providers or on premise solutions.
By their nature SaaS solutions are accessible from the web, the best also provide all functionality on any device.
An industry-based SaaS solution, designed specifically for educational institutions, provides an added competitive edge by catering for the specific business processes and needs of the sector. With shorter implementation times and lower risk being just some of the benefits achievable from using an industry solution, it’s essential to partner with a SaaS vendor that truly understands the education industry.
An integrated IT ecosystem
An industry-based enterprise SaaS solution makes life simpler for organisations, by eliminating the need for point products and solutions and integrating smoothly with specialist products required for the industry.
An enterprise solution supports an extensive range of business processes and provides a single source of truth, removing the need to duplicate information across multiple core systems.
Australian institutions can also learn from their international counterparts, with the United States and United Kingdom regularly featuring in lists of the world’s best universities. The UK alone boasted 71 of the top 100 universities in last year’s QS World University Rankings, with high adoption of new and emerging technologies one of the key drivers behind the country’s success.
The University of Lincoln, for instance, has taken on an enterprise SaaS solution as part of an overarching IT strategy aimed at removing the complexity of its IT setup, reducing total cost of ownership for its business software and future proofing the organisation. The solution will enable the university to make its software available via self-service to students and employees, and improve the efficiency of operations through process automation.
A more connected student experience
True SaaS solutions lead to more connected and meaningful experiences in two main ways.
First, they make it easier for students to apply for university positions and manage their enrolments. Students can track the progress of applications and receive updates as they are reviewed. Along with greatly improving the student experience, this also enables back office employees to review applications as soon as they are submitted and from wherever they are, significantly increasing efficiencies.
Second, in addition to making administrative tools available on mobile devices, a purpose-built SaaS solution allows university staff members to automate routine processes. This means, for example, that they can arrange for important correspondence to be automatically archived or redirected to appropriate personnel. As a result, staff members end up with free time – time they can invest in more valuable projects that lead to richer student experiences.
A scalable solution
University IT workloads are fairly predictable. They peak three or four times a year: when applications are due, and when results are released during first and second (and sometimes third) academic terms. Traditionally, universities have had to maintain the physical infrastructure required to deal with these peaks all year round. However, with a SaaS solution, universities can take advantage of scalability, meaning that they only pay for the resources they actually use, when they use them. This also eliminates the risk of downtime, leading to a smooth experience for students and staff members.
Paul James is General Manager Cloud and Matt Arnott is Group General Manager for Education at TechnologyOne