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I am working with a college which is buying new administrative software.  They are considering buying best of breed software such as admissions system from one vendor, financial aid from another, registrar from another, etc.

 

Does anyone have any experience in buying such a system?  I am interested in finding out what was involved integrating the various systems.

 

Thanks in advance for your help.

 

Rogers

 

J. Rogers O’Neill

President

Education Strategies LLC

513-761-8980

www.edustrat.com

 

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

Comments

Rogers,

Although Arizona State University does not use individual vendors for all these systems we do have a number of systems to integrate.  Even if you are not choosing the “best of breed” each new system you add to the mix adds complexity to vendor relationships and integration. 

 

Things to consider that relate to the total cost of ownership include:

·         Maintenance windows (especially when using cloud solutions), do all vendors have the same schedule?

·         Integration methods especially with your single sign-on?  If you do not plan single sign-on, customers will need to manage separate credentials.

·         Release and contract schedules, it would be helpful from a budget management approach to align these.

·         Varying assumptions across vendors/systems may need to the internal maintenance of data cross-walks.  Example (does phone number have the same format,  ID numbers need to be 9)

·         Will “best of breed” systems use the same “best of breed” computer architecture?  You may get increased function but need to learn differing database, application integration and development toolsets adding to cost of licensing and additional technical skill development.

 

Katie Ranes M.Ed PMP

Arizona State University

Director Information Technology Services/UTO 

USB 2631/O: 480 965 2772/C: 480 458 7432

 

 

 

 

I agree with Katie.   Our vendor is a systems integrator and it is challenging enough to keep data properly integrated between various vendors of the modules they integrate with their product.   A big problem is that almost never are you able to purchase code the software is written in, and often one can’t get through the “back door” to databases using SQL or Oracle.   Use much caution!

 

Gerald Ball

Director, IT Dept

Mars Hill College

gball@mhc.edu

828 689 1242

 

 

 

Message from mof4@georgetown.edu

Agree with Katie too.  From a functional perspective, the more modules you can get on the same system, the more you save yourself and various users serious integration and reconciliation issues.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a system that has the best of breed for all modules so we are left with giving up some to get some. Integration can be a nightmare if not well thought out, researched and planned. Caution can not be emphasized enough.  

Katie's list is excellent. 

We've had a few issues over the years just keeping a core ERP, then adding on best-of-breed solutions at the edge.

Some examples:

Read licenses carefully for permission to integrate.  Just because you have a license from Software vendor A and a license with Software vendor B doesn't mean that A and B will work with you to integrate their products.  We hit a situation where we couldn't even talk about the different data architectures of two products because both vendors required the signing of a mutual non-disclosure agreement with the other vendor in order for us, in the middle, to talk about those data crosswalks.  Neither vendor would sign the other's non-disclosure.  So we had to create a "middle system" to store the data from either system, and build the integrations from there.  It was painful.

Also, if there's data definitions that are different, you need the middle system to do the data changes (i.e., the code for student status on one system is numerical, 1 position, and on the other system student status is a 10 position text label.)  You need a perpetual system to maintain the integration cross-walks.

What is the end-user experience at the desktop?  Do you have to keep 3 different browsers, all open to different products (and different browser releases or Java releases) in order to do your work?  Are the lines really clearly drawn between the products, or is there an overlap such that one group of end-users starts using one system to store a type of business data, and another group of end-users starts using the other system (and you end up having to look in two systems to find something)?

Just a couple additional thoughts.

Theresa

If FTE is less than or equal to about 5,000, you can't beat Jenzabar EX.
 
 
David Case
East Central Community College
Decatur, MS  39327

Most of the systems I’ve worked with came with source code, though a few have not.  Though even if you do get the source code, any modifications you make have to be maintained with every upgrade made by the vendor – and that maintenance can cause tremendous grief, particularly with major upgrades.

 

I believe the answer to your question lies in the APIs and Middleware more than the products.  I’d focus there, as well as on platform level integrations.

 

I personally do not like or accept the use of the terms “Best of Breed” or “Best Practice.”  As a former IT Auditor I found how often “Best” was really contextual, and fleeting, thus an inappropriate hammer to use on management as it so often was.  “Good” or “High Quality” or “Commendable” make for better objectives in my mind, or some more contextual definition of the outcome objective.  An Oracle IdM solution may be “best of breed” on paper, but if all you really require for your business situation is an ETL tool with a tiny bit of local logic, then “Best of Breed” represents tremendous cost and integration/infrastructure investment.

 

I put together a “monster PC” about 16 years ago because of my impending parenthood – figuring that event would forever tie my computing budget in knots.  I got the very best video, tape backup, hard drive, MOBO, memory, case, power supply, sound card, and software suites money could buy.  What I produced was the very worst PC I ever had.  Best of breed by anyone’s standard at the time did not integrate well (middleware?  Integrations, drivers, etc. failed.)  I suffered for years with my $5000 pc that crashed, blue screened, or failed to perform constantly – the pieces didn’t fit to give me my real objective, a PC that worked well for many years to come.  I learned that reliability was far more important to me than performance.

 

I like others endorse Katie’s list.  I’d pay attention to the amount of standards based interfaces and integrations available, and to platform support, not just the functional “bestness” of any particular approach or product.  I’ve not been overly impressed with the “connectors” some vendors advertise so far in my recent integrations experience.  Knowing that all products support REST or Web Services approaches might go farther than depending on custom product connectors.  If 2 of 3 functional stacks supported SAML integrations for example, and the third didn’t, then you might be forced into building a custom infrastructure level integration, introducing more to manage, and potentially timeliness and data integrity problems into your solution.  So look for “better” or “good” solutions that integrate well on an architectural and standards level, not “best of breed” in my estimation.

 

Best regards,

 

Jim Dillon

-----------------University of Colorado------------------

Jim Dillon, CISA, CISSP

Program Director, OIT

Administrative Systems, Data Services, and Identity

jim.dillon@colorado.edu                303-735-5682

------------------------Boulder--------------------------

 

Message from trevor.joubert@uct.ac.za

Hi Rogers,
 
Here at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) we use PeopleSoft Campus Solutions for our Student Administration and integrate/interface with SAP Financials and HR. We use RMS (Residential Management System) to manage our residences and Syllabus Plus to manage our venues. My personal opinion is that It probably would have been more ideal if we had one major ERP system, PeopleSoft or SAP together with RMS and Syllabus Plus. Overall we have a body of students, under graduate and post graduate, numbering in excess of 25,000.
 
Regards,
Trevor  

 
Systems Division, ICTS
University of Cape Town
Office  +27 (0)21 6503057
Mobile +27 (0)73 0088248
 
 
>>> Rogers ONeill <rogers@EDUSTRAT.COM> 2012/09/17 07:18 PM >>>

I am working with a college which is buying new administrative software.  They are considering buying best of breed software such as admissions system from one vendor, financial aid from another, registrar from another, etc.

 

Does anyone have any experience in buying such a system?  I am interested in finding out what was involved integrating the various systems.

 

Thanks in advance for your help.

 

Rogers

 

J. Rogers O’Neill

President

Education Strategies LLC

513-761-8980

www.edustrat.com

 

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.


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UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN

This e-mail is subject to the UCT ICT policies and e-mail disclaimer published on our website at http://www.uct.ac.za/about/policies/emaildisclaimer/ or obtainable from +27 21 650 9111. This e-mail is intended only for the person(s) to whom it is addressed. If the e-mail has reached you in error, please notify the author. If you are not the intended recipient of the e-mail you may not use, disclose, copy, redirect or print the content. If this e-mail is not related to the business of UCT it is sent by the sender in the sender's individual capacity.
********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

Rogers,

 

I would agree with most of the comments so far and would add that you should take a hard look at the business case for the “best of breed” purchasing strategy vs. investing in an integrated system.  There are many other factors such as departmental culture, flexibility, business processes, and available technical skills that will influence the outcome of an administrative software implementation.  What are the college strategic goals, and how will they be advanced by a “best of breed” purchasing strategy?  For core administrative functions ease of integration might trump “best of breed”; but then the college could focus on best of breed for those outward facing components (Alumni outreach, CRM for Admissions) that might help as key differentiators for the school.

 

Regards

 

David

 

David Norman Director of Administrative Computing, Bentley University

175 Forest Street, Waltham, MA 02452, W: 781.891.3498  M:  781-697-6239

Email: dnorman@bentley.edu

 

 

 

 

 

One other thing to consider is the effort you will expend locally to support the infrastructure each system is built on. By this I mean the run-time environment, database back-end, code management, browser compatibility, Java versions if that's part of your equation, etc. This is especially true if you cherry-pick modules from larger ERP systems. We have Banner Student and Finance and PeopleSoft HR. The Banner platform for two modules is maintained with not much more effort than if we had just one. But the PS platform is completely separate so it requires additional servers and database that have different configurations, with the corresponding increase in support costs. If you are going best-of-breed, make sure you factor these infrastructure costs into the overall picture. Alan -- Alan Deschner Senior Analyst, ICT Applications Information and Communications Technology University of Saskatchewan Room 56, Physics Building 116 Science Place, Saskatoon SK, S7N 5E2 Phone: 306-966-4846 ********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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