How MuleSoft is Tackling the Biggest IT Challenges of Higher Ed

April 16, 2019 Shaki Krishnamoorthy

College students sitting in front of a laptop working in a Higher Ed setting

The rise of SaaS has been instrumental in enabling Higher Education institutions to deliver modern digital experiences. From Higher Ed-specific LMS systems like Blackboard to cloud-based CRM like Salesforce, SaaS has enabled colleges and universities to create consumer-grade experiences for students, faculty, and alumni.

But like the business sector, Higher Ed is facing new demands from their users. With Gen Z in their student, grad-faculty, and alumni populations, high-end SaaS isn’t enough. Today’s digital natives expect seamless and innovative experiences online and on campus. To provide next-level experiences, universities must address their integration and distributed workforce challenges.

Higher Ed has long operated in silos. Advancement offices, registrars, and admissions have vastly different technology needs, so it makes sense they leverage different SaaS. And while constituents need change across the student lifecycle, their connection to a university doesn’t. They see the institution as a singular body and expect a linear experience every step of the way. Add on faculty and staff needs, and you’ve got a web of SaaS and on-premise technology keeping universities operating. Trouble is, IT teams struggle to maintain and connect these disparate systems. 

Universities have invested heavily in SaaS and custom applications, so migrating to a fully PaaS or IaaS infrastructure isn’t an option. Higher Ed IT must design enterprise architecture that enables its different stakeholders to leverage the tools they need while finding a way to connect disparate applications and data to ensure they’re providing seamless student, employee, and faculty experiences. Oh, yeah, and they need to do that while managing their current workload. 

How can an IT team manage all these competing demands?

We believe the key to driving a true campus 360-view and seamless experience hinges on shifting IT from project deliverer to technology enabler. The disparate demands of advancement, faculty, registrar, and admissions aren’t going to change. So IT must change. 

When Georgetown approached Appirio with this exact challenge, we knew the solution needed to go beyond CRM and point-to-point integration. To truly achieve Georgetown’s vision, they’d need to shift from delivering disparate projects to enabling their different user groups through centralized data and custom interfaces. But how?

Here’s how we did it

Enter MuleSoft. By introducing middleware into the integration strategy, Georgetown and Appirio were able to create a scalable solution that provided staff with the data they needed to be successful, enabling IT to shift from project deliverer to data deliverer. With MuleSoft, we helped Georgetown change both their technology AND their operations through three key focus areas:

  1. Data centralization
  2. API-led design
  3. Microservices architecture 

Take a peek at how these three focus areas are helping Georgetown IT win with MuleSoft:

From project delivery to technology enablement
As the amount of technology grew within Georgetown, IT’s bandwidth to manage SaaS updates, integration maintenance, and custom application roadmaps dwindled. Essentially, IT became a blocker for moving innovation forward. But with MuleSoft, Georgetown was able to cut back on maintenance through the creation of a centralized data point. Rather than managing lots of integrations, they are effectively now managing one. 

By aggregating all student data to one location, they’ve created a singular student API that different teams - registrar, grad schools, advancement - can all tap into to get the specific data points they need to keep their initiatives moving. 

In addition to enabling non-IT teams, MuleSoft’s centralization of APIs and data helped cut down on IT’s workload by:

  • Centralizing rules management: Logic and validation rules can now be managed across systems within MuleSoft.
  • Securing IT governance: Because data is managed centrally, IT can govern disparate systems while allowing teams to make specific updates that IT used to manage.
  • Reducing API maintenance: MuleSoft maintains thousands of enterprise APIs, so when software makes updates, MuleSoft makes updates to ensure APIs still work.

API-led design creates a seamless experience 
A top priority for Georgetown was to create a consistent experience for applicants, students, grad students, and alumni. Georgetown prides itself on creating a home for its students and alumni. They knew that their digital platforms needed to provide that same great experience their campus offers. But Georgetown was facing an increasingly common issue: SaaS had enabled their different departments to create great digital experiences -- great, but disconnected. 

By moving to an API-led architecture, they were able to achieve consistency across their technologies while simplifying system management and maintenance. With the help of MuleSoft, they could create custom Student and Alumni interfaces that deliver relevant,  consistent experiences and up-to-date information no matter which portal users access.

Accelerate the shift to microservices and scalable infrastructure
Lastly, MuleSoft helped shift their architecture from monolithic app dev to microservices. This shift to modular component development will enable them to continue to scale as the needs of different departments and different user groups evolve. 

Struggling to keep up with the ever-growing Higher Ed technology ecosystem? MuleSoft and an integration strategy could be the keys to helping your team create better worker, student, alumni, and faculty experiences. Click here to talk to one of our experts and learn how Appirio is partnering with Higher Ed to drive value. 

About the Author

Shaki Krishnamoorthy

Shaki Krishnamoorthy is the Senior Director, MuleSoft & Einstein Analytics at Appirio. She is a certified Salesforce and Mulesoft Consultant and an experienced technology leader with over 22 years' experience in IT. For the past 10 years, Shaki has been delivering solutions in cloud computing technologies, including, Amazon AWS, Cloud-enabled BI platforms like Einstein Analytics, QlikView, Microstrategy BI, and integrating data with EAI products including Informatica, Boomi, Mulesoft and Talend. Shaki has presented at Dreamforce the past 4 years and Salesforce World Tour events in Washington DC, Tokyo 2018, and Connexion, Atlanta.

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