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Transformational ECM V: For-Profit Education (Part 2)

April 27, 2011

Last post I started to take a look at how enterprise content management (ECM) is transforming for-profit education providers. I began with an overview of the for-profit ed space, because although most folks have heard of it, it’s not as well-known a vertical as CPG, financial services, insurance, etc.

With that done, I want to turn to look at some of the particular ECM needs of for-profit ed providers and how fostering better content management practices can help transform these organizations.

Growing pains

The biggest challenge facing for-profit ed providers is growth, whether organic growth or growth by acquisition. Over the last six or seven years, for-profit ed has experienced huge growth, and while this is obviously a good thing, it brings significant challenges.

  • Operations – scaling to keep pace with growth is difficult, from back office functions like HR and accounting to front-office functions like enrollment, financial aid, or curriculum development
  • IT – not only is scaling existing systems a challenge, but integrating new systems from acquisitions can quickly overwhelm even a mature technology function
  • Personnel – the difference between for-profit and traditional educational cultures is vast—when a traditional educational organization is acquired and becomes part of a larger for-profit organization, sparks fly and change management is a daunting task
  • Student experience – large for-profit ed providers are typically a patchwork of content sources, delivery platforms, and service organizations—and if this makes things difficult for employees, you can imagine what it does for a consistent, quality student experience
  • Curriculum development – on the one hand, large-scale acquisitions give for-profit ed providers more content than they know what to do with, but on the other, they also have to build agile, effective curriculum development functions to allow them to move into new markets before their competition

ECM solution areas

Although the challenges for-profit ed providers face as a result of their rapid growth don’t have a single solution, there are some significant ways that ECM can contribute signally to how organizations face these challenges.

  • Structured Authoring and Publishing – to enable a workflow driven authoring process that leverages modular content creation and reuse, author once – publish many, and multiple-channel output
  • Enterprise Collaboration – to enable virtual teams, distributed expertise management, and knowledge sharing
  • Workflow/Advanced Case Management – to digitize, automate, and streamline core processes, both transactional (e.g., application, enrollment) and knowledge worker (e.g., financial aid decision-making, grading, customer service)
  • Document Management – to improve how documents are created, managed, and accessed across the organization
  • Portal – to provide user communities, discussion forums, and alternative feedback channels for employees
  • Socal Media Integration and Community Development – to provide user communities, discussion forums, and alternative feedback channels for students
  • Customer Communication Management – automate, standardize, and optimize how providers communicate with students across all channels

Real-world examples

For-profit ed providers are addressing these ECM solution areas in a variety of ways. He’s some of the real-world solutions I’ve seen in my travels.

  • Centralizing the management of student records using paperless, straight through processing and an enterprise image repository
  • Streamlining student on boarding and management with self-service web tools
  • Standardizing the curriculum development process with an authoring platform
  • Creating virtual “student unions” with online community tools
  • Creating communities of expertise to connect SMEs across the organization, whether in home office (such as curriculum developers or tech leads) or campus functions (guidance counselors or instructors)

The final word

The for-profit ed market, as breakneck as its growth has been, shows little signs of stopping. As this market continues to expand, and providers continue to grow organically and through acquisition to gain and maintain competitive advantage, they’ll be under increasing pressure to streamline their operations. The ECM solution areas I’ve outlined above, along with other enterprise domains like CRM and ERP, will be central to their continued success.

While I muse on what the next transformational market in this series will be, I’d love to hear from folks out there—thoughts on for-profit ed? Other perspectives on how they’re using ECM to transform their business? Is there something I’ve missed?

Jump in and share your thoughts with all of us and let’s get the conversation started!

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