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Shared Services - Is It Possible For Higher Ed?

The concept of “shared services”, where multiple institutions band together around providing a joint solution to a problem, has tremendous attraction for higher education institutions. Costs continue to rise for basic administrative software and services, threatening the very survival of many institutions - in particular smaller private liberal arts colleges and universities who are desperately trying to regain profitability. How can that be done when administrative software costs are rising at an alarming rate?

Recent developments in the ERP market have not been comforting. Ellucian, the providers of the Banner ERP, has had major leadership changes right in the middle of what many customers perceive as a “forced upgrade” to their latest and greatest release - which comes at additional costs to institutions that many smaller schools simply cannot afford. Workday, with a more modern elegant solution, has made inroads into many institutions, but the costs of implementation and continued use are astronomical. On top of these developments, the traditional higher ed vendors have attempted to provide a cloud-based “shared service” model (again, at a stiff price), but have so far fallen flat.

Institutional driven shared services seems to be the answer to these problems. But, to date, there have been very few successful results. Several state systems have attempted to create consortia and other means of cost sharing, but these often devolve into simply a purchasing discount operation with no strategic long-term cost reduction resulting from actual sharing of software and services. The 2014 devolution of the open-source Kuali initiative into a profit based model is indicative of the failure of higher ed to come up with a sustainable shared service / community software model.

There is hope however! There are some new developments that hold promise that may become the lifeline that smaller private institutions need to remain in business. Please feel free to contact me for further information and for assistance in exploring these options for your institution.

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