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Aligning the Strategic Academic Enterprise

Datatel execs Ilene Smith and Jayne Edge reflect on that company's focus on the strategic academic enterprise.

This fall, Datatel announced its concentration on the Strategic Academic Enterprise. CT asked Vice President, Strategic Planning and Marketing Jayne Edge and Director of Product Marketing Eileen Smith to comment on the SAE focus.

CT: What is Datatel's Strategic Academic Enterprise focus and how did it evolve?

Jayne Edge: It really evolved from some of our strategic planning--a scanning of the environment for higher education, and the realization that it gave us of a different environment from what we've worked in for more than 30 years. Over that roughly 30-year period the landscape has really changed.

Around 1970, we were focused on manufacturing, or materials requirements planning. That was the beginning of the systems that were constructed to take care of the business needs of a manufacturing environment across an integrated view of systems... And that of course progressed into something that you're now very familiar with, the ERP. That term, enterprise resource planning, has been applied, particularly within higher education, through the '90s into the current day. Gartner defines it as an administrative software system that's composed of at least three components--typically, HR, Financials, and Student Information--the core systems that should be integrated for an enterprise-wide system. Datatel has been offering systems that would be defined as ERP for our clients, and in addition to the three [noted by Gartner] we have always had Advancement integrated with those three across the business needs of higher education.

But as we have looked at the environment, we've realized that it is now much greater than an ERP, serving the needs of higher education. Datatel has been focused on higher education--systems, solutions, consulting, implementation--as I said for 30 years, and through that time we've utilized strategic planning to help us zero in on the specific needs of higher education.

Now, our systems move us into what we are calling the Strategic Academic Enterprise. And the reason we selected this term is because many of the solutions we offer to higher ed do focus on the strategic side of what they are doing in education. In developing this SAE framework, it not only applies across the entire academic enterprise, but it also provides a way of looking with a holistic approach at the complete business and academic needs of an institution--focused on campus-wide experiences, enhanced user satisfaction, and increased productivity. And, truly greater effectiveness for the institution through their mission of teaching and learning as well as effectively using their funding and resources, from faculty, administrators, and student workers, all the way across the enterprise--to accomplish their mission in a more effective way.

CT: What are the main reasons Datatel is moving to define its focus on the Strategic Academic Enterprise?

Eileen Smith: The first overwhelming reason is that institutions of higher education are interacting with a multitude of generations at this point. They're serving very young students, digital native students. They're serving those who are your age, and my age, and they are serving retired folks who will actually make up the largest proportion of college growth in the next five-to-ten years. Serving all of these generations makes the Strategic Academic Enterprise necessary. The second reason is related to teaching and learning. The way students interact is quite a bit different today than when you and I were in college. Students learn where ever they are, and what ever their ages, they use a variety of mechanisms to do that. And the third reason the SAE is necessary is the economic conditions we find ourselves in today--certainly with higher education as a microcosm: Tuition is rising, people have less and less money, and institutions want to know that their students will be employable once they graduate.

Jayne Edge: I'll also mention one very critical point regarding the economic conditions that we hear directly from our presidents and chancellors. Because of state and local funding cuts and reductions in those funding sources--and the demands they face of doing more with less and keeping their expenses constant if they can--they need more and more functionality, easier to use systems, integration of data, and reporting of that data that helps them make business decisions. I've been in this business for years, and I've seen the language from C-level individuals from campus change. They do realize that it's a business. Certainly teaching and learning are the core missions of their institutions, but they also realize that they have to analyze where their revenue is coming from. It is from tuition, it is from state and federal funding sources. And regarding how they are using their funding from their alumni, and from their fundraising activities--they have to be accountable, they have to be transparent, and they have to provide this information back to those constituents. In order to do all that in an effective way, they have to have systems that are integrated across their entire academic enterprise, enabling them to deliver their mission in the most effective way possible. And it's become more and more critical that the leader of an institution understands systems, data, and decision making for effective leadership of the institution.

About the Author

Mary Grush is Editor and Conference Program Director, Campus Technology.

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