A couple of weeks ago, I attended Ellucian Live to hear how the company was performing, see any updates to their strategy, and to gather customer reactions. It has been five months since Ellucian released their strategy and the associated product roadmaps. Generally, the event was positive and Ellucian presented plenty of useful information. Below is a summary of my thoughts concerning the most salient points delivered at the conference.
- Their largest expense category was R&D. I was impressed that they are investing in the product and staying the course.
- Their commitment to the strategy is present. Ellucian is still only a one-year-old company with a new strategy. Customers are looking for them to keep their promises and stand behind their commitments. Of course, the multiple strategy changes since 2008, including a number involving technology approaches, cannot be ignored.
- They are showing the transparency customers appreciate. Ellucian provided a measure of their progress against their roadmap. There have been a total of 86 target releases since the roadmaps came out. According to their measurements, 82% of all releases were completed on time with full scope. An additional 16% were delivered with full scope but with slight delays. A suggested metric to add would be customer satisfaction – how do customers think they are performing against the roadmap? A difficult measure but important to Ellucian, customers and potential customers.
- They are committed to exposing the APIs and services to their products. Exposing their architecture to customers allows customers more flexibility. I think this is Ellucian’s path to moving customization out of their SIS, especially Banner. Customized Banner environment is a barrier to customers wanting to upgrade their environment. I can imagine that Ellucian would like customers to take advantage of the new releases, so the customizations present a barrier for Ellucian as well. If this strategy works, it would move Banner toward a product implementation without the need for all of the services (or least the services would be focused on value to the customer and not how to make the product work). But are all Ellucian’s customers able to take advantage of this new toolset? We’ll have to wait and see.
- They discussed CRM in context of the entire life cycle of the student. In the past, there was not a clear picture that CRM was more than recruitment and included advising, career services and advancement. This year, though, they addressed all that CRM involves. There was even a hint of more to come in the next few months.
Overall, customers were generally positive but cautious. They are pleased to see consistency of strategy and components of the strategy being delivered. The biggest concerns involved licensing and cost changes due to product changes. This is still an unknown and will have to be addressed when they occur.