Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 55 seconds

higher educationI recently attended BBCon (Blackbaud’s annual user conference) in Orlando, Florida where the company made several significant announcements. While there I had the opportunity to sit down with Tim Hill, President and General Manager, Higher Education Solutions, and Tiffany Crumpton, Director of Marketing, Higher Education Solutions They explained how the company has increased its focus on the higher education marketplace and how it expects to bring advantages to its customers in this segment.

Blackbaud’s  recent structural change brings individual market segments into focus as it assigns separate business units to vertical markets, and Hill is leading the higher education vertical that expands on the company’s existing K-12 vertical. The K-12 segment has hundreds of private K-12 schools as customers with over a million unique logins each month, and the software that runs them is the basis for its higher education system. While there are similarities between K-12 and higher education environments, Blackbaud recognized it needed to customize the software to make it precisely fit the needs of this market.

Both the K-12 and higher education offerings have been built on Blackbaud’s Sky architecture that leverages cloud based facilities and provides scalability. The offering allows customers to choose just a few functions from the list of available features, or as many as their environment requires without having to install different software.

No stranger to higher ed
Blackbaud has long been involved with colleges and universities in their fundraising efforts. They compete in the CRM (customer relationship management) space with the likes of Azorus, Campus Management, Intelliworks, Oracle,, SunGuard Higher Education, and others but the new offering that broadens their offering beyond the CRM space may put them ahead of competitors. The newly announced Education Management portfolio adds more student-focused management efforts that the company expects to dovetail with the functions available to its existing advancement department functions. The Education Management Suite helps institutions with attracting students, enrollment, maintaining a student information system, the system of record, learning management, and student success analytics.

The company sees the addition of these utilities as rounding out and expanding what it can offer to campuses, helping them to become more involved with their students before and during their years on campus, then follow them after graduation. As a fundraising platform these additions make sense because more information can be gathered earlier in the students’ lives, providing a fuller profile as they become more valuable as donors.

Integrated offerings
Higher education facilities have options with regard to software vendors to manage their operations. It’s common for a school to have multiple applications and systems operating at the same time to address different functions. That split in function typically means a single school works with multiple vendors that may or may not integrate into a cohesive set of data. Hill explains, “A school can now come to one vendor and buy multiple solutions that all work together. They are all integrated together and that delivers a better total cost of ownership. Over time, we’re going to be the less expensive solutions provider versus point solutions that require integration.” If Blackbaud is able to fulfill this vision ahead of its competition and deliver a full compliment of functions at competitive pricing it may well be the system of choice for higher education institutions.

Being able to draw on a single integrated set of data makes sense for almost any environment because having multiple views of the same data delivers consistency without the need to migrate and translate data between different systems. It’s also faster to deliver insights from multiple perspectives.

The Stewardship Management abilities also available in this release give institutions the ability to easily communicate with donors. “What is traditionally done with pen and paper,” says Crumpton, “is now available through our system. Communication can be done electronically in more real time to let donors know how the students are doing who might have been funded by their scholarship.” Linking donors and students with ongoing and current updates is a good example of the use of a fully integrated offering.

Blacbaud’s approach of creating vertical business units to address the specific needs of different business segments can be seen in its approach to the higher education marketplace. The addition of education management rounds out its existing fundraising offerings and can make a difference for campuses looking to update their management systems. The fact that Blackbaud is investing in migrating all its systems to its Sky platform puts the company on track to reduce its development costs over the long term by leveraging a common set of core applications to address vertical market with programs and features tailored to each market’s needs.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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