So you’ve decided to digitise the admissions process and now it’s time to consider your options. Do you utilise the expertise of the in-house IT team and build your own admissions software, or do you invest in an online cloud-based system?
In this article, we explore the benefits of both, and explain why in the majority of cases, SaaS cloud-based system is best.
You’ll probably have heard people refer to the ‘cloud’ in a technology context numerous times, but what does it actually mean, and more importantly, how does it work?
In simplistic terms, the cloud is the internet. Cloud technology has the ability to host a software platform remotely; it can be accessed with ease and used anywhere, unlike in-house solutions that have to have client applications installed on individual computers, and use VPN access to allow remote work.
The convenience of an online cloud-based system is attractive to businesses and institutions who have a global presence, also improving the workflow for employees who work remotely. It’s also the most convenient option for institutions that don’t have the resources or know-how to build and implement a bespoke platform from scratch.
“According to an IBM study, 60% of in-house projects fail to meet schedule, budget and quality goals.”
More and more universities are opting for cloud-based admissions software, or SaaS (software-as-a-service) as it is also known, for all their admissions and administrative needs. It is proving a popular new option.
Online admissions software systems are more cost effective than building an in-house alternative, and with technology advancing at exponential rates, it can be difficult for in-house solutions to keep up with the updates a cloud-based system would automatically implement. According to an IBM study, 60% of in-house projects fail to meet schedule, budget and quality goals.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits and setbacks of both options.
SaaS (cloud) admissions software: pros
Online admissions software is built by professionals who have years of experience in the admissions field; because most vendors have worked on a variety of projects, their product has been fine-tuned and is tried and tested. SaaS solutions will gather and merge requirements from several institutions, encapsulating best-practices in admissions. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Specialised software solutions have already been designed to cater for problems the majority of universities are looking to address, such as being able to collaborate on tasks and the ability to generate reports for specific admissions marketing campaigns. A key concern in an institution will force the software to expand its functionality, and cover that need.
Thousands of hours of in-depth data-driven research and development have gone into creating an online admissions software solution. At FULL FABRIC, we invest our full time, every year, to maintain and develop improvements to our ever-evolving system.
The time it takes to implement an online admissions software solution is significantly lower than if you were to ‘build your own’, because the product is essentially pre-built (and tweaked in accordance with the institution’s requirements and branding). Instead of taking years, it’s a matter of weeks.
Expert support and training are part of the package when purchasing cloud-based software. A team of specialist developers is responsible for implementing the software and making sure it is up-to-date and optimised. Experts will also offer ongoing training to all staff on how to use the admissions software to its full potential.
In-house admissions software: pros
The university has complete control over the software’s development timeline and can build in features and capabilities that fit with their institution’s specific requirements.
When building in-house, the university has full ownership of the software code and make adjustments when they need to, paying more attention to the most pressing issues.
The development team can build the admissions software around existing in-house systems such as the student information system. On the flip-side this will show the need for the integration of both systems, and creation of APIs.
SaaS (cloud) admissions software: cons
The university does not retain the rights to the software, and there is the risk of the vendor being slow to react to market trends or reluctant to adapt the software. However, all good online admissions software vendors will be aware of market trends and ensure your system is up-to-date.
There’s the chance that there could be potential integration issues with your current systems, though again, this depends on the vendor. A good vendor will have APIs that address the most common integrations needed and will have flexibility to integrate those that are not out-of-the-box integrations.
Online admissions software can be expensive initially, but it is likely to save the institution money and increase its ROI in the long run. It's a matter of weighing in the speed to adopt a new system versus slowly creating one that is adopted by the institution.
In-house admissions software: cons
Building an admissions software from scratch is a colossal task - it’s expensive and involves hours and hours of development and testing. As such, there is an increased risk of failure and de-bugging issues can be prolonged.
Even before building, clearly defining the project and specifications is a complex task that involves the attention of both operational and technical staff, using up valuable man-hours.
Projects of this complexity can end up taking twice as long to complete and end up costing three times the initial estimated budget.
Lack of expertise
Your in-house IT team might not have the skill set required for certain areas of development, which is understandable as they are likely to be involved in other projects. Likewise, the team might be too small; one or even two people simply won’t be able to cope with a project of this scale, especially if they have other responsibilities.
Another important thing to note is that over-reliance on one person or team can result in miscommunication or loss of knowledge - if that person leaves, are they going to train someone up thoroughly beforehand?
When it comes to admissions software, the general rule-of-thumb is that if you plan to invest more than £20,000 in your project, you don’t need a developer; you need a dream team!
An in-house solution may have little inherent flexibility and scalability, and unlike an online alternative, modular upgrades are unlikely to be available. There's a high chance of the system becoming obsolete during development!
Embracing the latest technology is paramount for universities who want to attract the best talent and create a memorable ‘brand’. The best way to do this is to invest in online admissions software that will unite and streamline processes and provide a solution that fully fits with your institution.
For more information on how cloud-based admissions software can streamline your admissions workflow, download our ebook: Developing in-house vs off-the-shelf software solutions.