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SunGard Higher Ed Launches ERP Community To Drive Product Development

SunGard Higher Education is applying some of the advantages of an open source community approach for application development to its own line of products and also recently said it had developed a platform to ensure consistent navigation for its many products.

The company recently launched the Community Source Initiative, a set of forums focused on higher education Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. The endeavor, according to the company, is to bring together the knowledge and experience of SunGard's user community for the benefit of all institutions; make functionality available faster; and help ensure product quality through functional and technical review.

"SunGard Higher Education's Community Source Initiative is yet another example of its commitment to a truly Open Digital Campus vision for its customers," said Nicole Engelbert, practice leader for technology industries at Ovum. "Institutions will find that participating in this program offers many of the benefits of open source but without the inherent risks, thereby enabling the extension and consequent value of Banner and other SunGard solutions in more rapid and innovative ways."

Traditionally, Sungard customers who develop custom features incur the cost of development as well as the on-going expense of maintenance. Through the Community Source initiative, customers will be able to post their code and download the contributions of other institutions. Customer-led boards focused on specific products lines will prioritize submissions and decide which would be valuable additions to the baseline versions of SunGard Higher Education products. New functionality vetted by the boards will be production tested and then supported by SunGard Higher Education.

"This initiative is important ... because it turbo-charges the efforts to develop quality, vendor-supported products by engaging the customer experts who use it in the field," said Bill Thirsk, vice president of IT and CIO for Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY and a member of the customer board. "SunGard is taking a very intelligent risk with this move, and I believe it will be successful. By working directly with its customer community, SunGard is clearly telling us they trust us to co-develop the product and that they really do have our best interests in mind.... I believe this is the model of the future and that SunGard's disruption of old school development cycles will be a winner."

The company said several enhancements developed by the user community have been incorporated into SunGard's Banner baseline solutions and that a pipeline of enhancements is currently being reviewed. Although the initial communities grant access to customers, partner access is expected shortly.

SunGard has also gone public with a platform named "Aurora," initially referenced by the company in December 2009, which will act as a guide for making system navigation easier and more consistent across its product line. Aurora has surfaced in Banner Self-Service and will be used to revamp other products in the company's portfolio in 2010 to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies. The company said eventually institutions will be able to apply Aurora beyond Sungard programs to ensure a consistent user experience across a campus' applications.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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