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Key Issues to Watch at Datatel+SGHE Summit

Datatel+SGHE is still a very new organization, and I am sure they are working very hard to bring the two organizations together. The strategic combination was announced shortly after last year’s Summit, and next week’s Summit is the first opportunity for Datatel+SGHE to communicate to the Banner user community as a whole.

In my earlier post, Datatel+SGHE Merger update, I stated:

Customers will first see the changes to the back-office processes like Finance and Legal.  These are obvious areas for cost savings by eliminating redundancy. Datatel customers probably will not notice much if any changes. SGHE customers, however, will likely notice changes, but hopefully these will be positive.

Since then Vicki Tambellini broke the news that former SGHE product managers were released as part of the corporate realignment in Datatel+SGHE Product Managers Part of Corporate Realignment. The move might not be viewed as a surprise since Banner 9 is significantly behind schedule, key components like BRM have not been fully built out, and there was not a clear upgrade path to Banner 9. I thought it was surprising that the move happened as soon as it did and that it happened so close to Summit. The good news is: the new Datatel+SGHE is willing to make quick and definitive decisions. The open question is: will they now deliver a clear product strategy message at Summit?

Product Strategy

Assuming a clear product strategy is presented, it will be important for Banner customers to evaluate the strategy on its own merits and not be biased based on previous products and strategies. Banner clearly needs a technology upgrade as well as a usability upgrade. Banner 9 had promised these improvements, but only minor components have been released at this time.  The cost of obtaining these improvements will or would be a significant effort to provide a system upgrade. Also, many organizations have customized Banner for what many people feel is basic functionality. There has not been a clear upgrade path for Banner customers that have customized their implementations. It is time to be cautious, but to also understand a new product strategy at this time may not cause any more challenges than the current product strategy would have caused.

In my opinion, what Banner customers need from Datatel+SGHE is:

  • A clear product strategy  The currently defined Banner 9 is very late and the product managers are now gone; if that is the strategy going forward, this message should be communicated clearly.
  • A clear upgrade strategy  A clear upgrade path needs to be presented for Banner customers, including those with customizations.
  • A vision to support changing needs Customers need to understand how the product strategy will support the changing higher education needs. It is easy to look back at current capabilities, but it is more important to look forward.
  • A basis of confidence in delivery Customers need to have confidence in Datatel+SGHE’s ability to deliver their strategy in a timely manner. Banner customers have already been waiting, and adding on more years to the wait will be difficult for them to accept.

Challenges to Address

Datatel+SGHE will need to address a number of challenges in the development of the product strategy: the large install base, multiple products, multiple platforms, changing higher education market, and changing technology environments.  Let’s not forget that the number of new ERP implementations has been dropping significantly over the last fews years. There needs to be solid revenue streams to allow a new product strategy to be implemented. In my post SaaS Changes to Higher Ed ERP Market, I addressed how SaaS solutions are impacting ERP vendors and how ERP vendors need to respond:

Changing an ERP to SaaS is a large investment in time and cost for any vendor to address. Therefore the challenge for the vendors is how to get the ERP, with its slow development and implementation cycles, to provide the solutions to the new needs of the institution.

Student Service Experience

One of the areas I would like to see addressed in the strategy is how a student service experience will be delivered. Understanding the interactions with students through the entire life cycle is key, as well as allowing the student to drive the interaction. Banner BRM had this vision, but has not been built out to provide the service capability. Recruiter is focused on the recruitment activities. Currently, there are other vendors providing and/or building these capabilities:

  • SalesForce.com (SFD) – Institutions have already been using SFDC for recruitment and there vendors like EnrollmentRX that have built higher education specific solutions for recruitment. In addition, institutions and vendors are increasingly looking at the service capability to manage all student interactions.
  • RightNow – Recently purchased by Oracle, has provided a strong services solution to higher education. It is unknown at this time what the purchase by Oracle will mean, but this could allow RightNow to build on their already strong service capabilities.
  • Campus Management – Has been moving to a services approach with Talisma managing the student interactions and CampusVue ERP supporting the interactions.

Summit will be a test for Datatel+SGHE. A clear strategy needs to be communicated, and just as important, commitments must be met to demonstrate their ability to deliver. Whatever strategy is defined and communicated, it should be judged on Datatel+SGHE’s ability to execute for today’s customers with changing needs. Banner customers: listen to the strategy, evaluate it, provide constructive feedback, and hold Datatel+SGHE to meet their commitments.

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