by Adam Bender

Study Group automates admissions with cloud BPM

Aug 06, 20144 mins
Business Process ManagementCloud ComputingEducation Industry

Study Group is moving its admissions process into the cloud as part of a larger strategy to move away from bespoke systems over the next two to three years.

“We’re moving from an in-house development environment to using much more off-the-shelf components to create our future IT landscape,” according to David Reeve, chief information and technology officer at Study Group.

Reeves told CIO Australia that he believes this approach is “much more scalable, much more efficient and [provides] much better time to market.”

The international education provider has begun implementation of a cloud-based business process management (BPM) platform from Pegasystems and is on target to deliver the initial release in the fourth quarter of this calendar year, Reeve said. The CIO said he hopes to complete the project before the end of the second quarter of 2015.

The admissions process can be a big IT challenge for any educational body, but it’s even trickier for an international and multi-institutional organisation like Study Group, Reeve said.

Study Group enrols 50,000 students per year from 145 countries. The organisation has partnered with a variety of institutions in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US to prepare students to take places in higher education centres with prestigious universities.

“If you were dealing with a single institution it would still be a complex process trying to match a student to their requirements, assess their capabilities to undertake the courses that they want to undertake, and [observe] the requirements from a government perspective for visa applications,” he said.

“When you multiply that by the number of different institutions that we’re lucky enough to partner with, that creates an order of magnitude more complexity in the process. From an IT perspective, supporting all of those different institutions with different sets of business rules becomes a very complex and intensive process.”

Making things even more difficult, rules like visa requirements change over time, necessitating updates to business processes, he said. Also, the number of students and range of countries they come from has been increasing every year, he said.

Reeve said he wanted to automate these processes using a business process management (BPM) tool so that admissions personnel can focus more on individual student needs and outcomes. After a competitive tender, Study Group chose a cloud-based BPM platform from Pegasystems.

“It takes what was quite a manually labour-intensive process that was supported by technology to being much more of a process that’s managed by technology,” said the CIO.

He said the BPM will provide a “considerable amount” of time savings for staff. In addition, Study Group will be able to better track and manage the process to ensure efficiency.

Reeve added that the platform will “build scale into the organisation so that it can continue to grow without having to scale resources linearly.”

Reeve said he was a Pegasystems customer in a previous job and was keen to include them in the vendor selection process at Study Group. He declined to provide names of alternative vendors that were considered, but said that Pegasystems provided the best speed to market and showed a high level of dedication to achieving Study Group’s goals.

Choosing a cloud BPM platform has allowed Study Group to get the project up and running quickly, he said.

“From when we confirmed the selection to actually starting the development process, there was no buying servers, putting them in racks and architecting them together. It was very clearly just turn it on, connect the right level of security and VPNs together, and then we were up and running.”

“It also gave us the flexibility to deploy the solution wherever we felt was best in the world to deploy it,” he said. “We were able to choose where we were going to put that solution without having to worry about acquiring data centre space or anything like that in those particular locations.”

Adam Bender covers business tech issues for CIO and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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