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How a University-Wide Platform Can Solve Your Higher Education Data Issues

Heather Mueller
October 28, 2020
Min Read

If you had to guess, how many different cloud-based applications would you say are used at a typical higher education institution?

10? 50? 100? 

Try 288. That’s the number one recent SaaS trends report uncovered.

To be fair, the study was looking primarily at private organizations. But when you consider the fact that many large universities have as many as 10,000 to 20,000 faculty and staff members, the enterprise report is likely reflective of other findings within the academic community.

An estimated eight in 10 higher education institutions rely on software as a service (SaaS) applications to send email, manage learning programs, increase productivity, and put higher education data to good use.

Given these numbers, it would be easy to assume these tools are making the lives of faculty, staff, and students easier. Unfortunately, the opposite often appears to be true.

In many instances, the very technology that was supposed to streamline and simplify day-to-day data-based tasks is making workflows more complex.

In the midst of this complexity, there is a way to make all of those apps work for you—and the answer lies in streamlining them into a much simpler, university-wide platform.

The problem: Disorganized higher education data

Many higher education institutions are increasing their use of cloud-based applications, but some speculate that the benefits don’t yet outweigh the costs. The reason? Investing in multiple services and vendors can add up to significant expenses in the form of onboarding, staff training, and manpower.

Yet despite these investments, many of those cloud-based applications don’t get used. In the SaaS trends report mentioned above, researchers put the problem this way:

Paid apps add up quickly—and with so many apps available, it’s easier than ever to waste money on duplicate or orphaned apps. That’s especially true if companies grow fast and add SaaS apps without a strategic plan."

Without university-wide policies and programs, it’s possible for one department to sign up and pay for a tool that another department has already onboarded, leading to duplicate subscriptions and extra fees. In some instances, staff members might sign up for new apps but then forget to reassign ownership when they leave—resulting in "orphaned" subscriptions that no one is accountable for. 

Surveys show that duplicate subscriptions and orphaned apps have increased 80% and 100% year-over-year, respectively, which means the potential for wasted spend across campuses is significant.

And then there’s the biggest roadblock of all.

If your university lacks a shared vision, it can be incredibly difficult to get real value from tools and technologies. When different departments work independently of one another, important data can become disjointed. And when higher education data silos occur, everyone suffers.

When data is fragmented across schools, departments, and campuses, it can become incredibly difficult to make informed decisions around resource allocation and programs. While individual tactics and department-specific goals may be valuable, the lack of collaboration can lead to loss of revenue and fractured student relationships.

The solution: A university-wide platform

So, how can you ensure your institution is making the most of resources? It all comes down to your technology choices. With the right platform in place, higher education institutions can:

  • Invest in deeper training to develop specialized expertise 
  • Replicate wins and best practices across departments and campuses
  • Rally around common a vision and goals

One of the easiest ways to prevent higher education data silos is to invest in a university-wide platform. This type of software brings together multiple tools into one central system, allowing multiple departments to use the same tool and gain access to the same centralized data.

Put simply, you can combine resources, eliminate duplication, and ultimately remain poised for innovation.

When choosing a solution, look for a robust platform that allows you to:

Simplify data collection.

To make the most of your higher education data across campuses and schools, it’s important to have one central system for collecting, storing, and reporting information. As part of this process, you’ll need online forms that are easy to create and fill out, and that keep information organized so it’s easy to access and analyze.

Streamline workflows across departments.

With the right type of higher education digital automation, information flows freely between departments. You can not only eliminate the need for manual data entry, but save hours on otherwise time-consuming tasks that come with financial aid applications, admission reviews, student communications, and more.

Integrate all of your apps.

When it comes to unifying everyone around common goals, built-in connections are essential. Look for a platform that offers an extensive array of native integrations that make it easy to add and remove apps as needed. That way, staff can continue to collaborate across departments while using the tools that are most productive for each individual team. For example: Any time new student details are received, your integrations can help ensure that data is automatically routed to various email marketing programs, CRMs, storage platforms, and more.

With a unified approach, your institution can get as much as possible from technology—and ensure the best possible experience for faculty, staff, students, and alumni. 

Looking for a solution you can use to rally departments around a shared vision? See how Formstack helps unify data and streamline workflows across departments—whether you have a staff of 200 or 20,000. 


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Heather Mueller
Heather is a website copywriter and digital content strategist who loves helping brands generate leads through the power of the written word—especially when using Formstack. Connect with Heather on Twitter @heathermueller.
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