How Universities Integrate Systems to Create a Seamless Digital Experience

January 30, 2020 Andrew Hawthorn

Creating a seamless digital experience for Gen Z and millennial students is a top priority for universities and colleges. Digital-native students expect the information on campus to be as easy to access as social media, retail websites, and other Internet services.

The stakes are high. If universities fall short of high student expectations for on-demand digital interactivity, they risk setbacks in recruitment, retention, and reputation.

Yet for many higher education institutions, improving the digital experience is a struggle. These improvements require connecting a multitude of systems, and that’s difficult for IT teams that rely on custom coding and ad hoc integration tools that are slow, costly, and not easily extended across multiple projects.

To solve this challenge, universities are turning to Boomi's low-code, cloud-native integration platform, as highlighted in a recent Boomi webinar, Building the Connected Campus With Boomi.

This 45-minute recorded webinar, featuring IT professionals from the University of Massachusetts and Brigham Young University, delves into integration issues that confront many universities. The webinar also presents how these two universities are using Boomi’s unified platform to build connected campuses.

“We’re moving to a much more data-driven and real-time environment to offer students the services they expect nowadays,” said Scott Szajna, digital integration program manager at the central IT office at UMass, which has more than 75,000 students. “Being able to tie systems together is improving the student experience, and the employee experience as well.”

To learn how colleges and universities around the world are using the Boomi Platform, visit our higher education industry webpage.

UMass Centralizes and Speeds Integration

As recently as 2018, each IT team at UMass’s five campuses had its own integration technologies and techniques. “Each campus having its own integration tools made it very difficult to share code or knowledge with each other,” Szajna said. "It was extremely costly to constantly develop custom solutions, and as people left, we had no way to support some of the custom integrations in place.”

To alleviate those pains, UMass looked to centralize integration across all the campuses and the central IT office. University decision-makers unanimously selected Boomi after evaluating leading integration vendors during a six-month procurement process.

UMass's centralized approach with the Boomi Platform has proven to be far faster, more efficient, and less costly. “With all the campuses using Boomi, if we do an integration with Salesforce, we can easily componentize and share that code, and share knowledge and experience,” Szajna said.

In one initiative, UMass consolidated student recruitment marketing and lead management into a single system encompassing all campuses. That’s improving the process across the university and speeding engagement with prospective students.

“Rather than doing file transfers, whereby the lead wouldn’t get a response for a day or two because you’re waiting for a batch job to run at night, this is real-time,” Szajna said.

BYU Aims for a Single Source of Truth

Utah-based Brigham Young University (BYU), with nearly 34,000 students, began its Boomi-based integration strategy by mapping the various software components it had in place. The count came to a remarkable total of 950, according to BYU software engineer Brad Reneer.

“We have lots of creative people doing creative things — and creating data silos all over the place,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, but we’re optimistic we can make some improvements, and Boomi is part of our strategy for that.”

In one case, BYU has six student systems oriented for prospective, applying, current, and alumni students. It also has three separate learning management systems (LMS), including Moodle, Campus, and a homegrown application.

“If a student is using each of those LMS systems, they don't want to be updating the same information in every system,” Reneer said. “To make things better for students and faculty, we have to have a single source of truth for data.”

In one use case, BYU is connecting standalone procurement and maintenance systems for physical equipment (projectors, computers, etc.) in its classrooms. Previously, this data had to be moved manually between the two applications.

“With Boomi, we’re tying those two systems together and using APIs," Reneer said. "As soon as a piece of equipment is installed, that information is moved into the other system as well.”

To learn more about how Boomi is helping UMass and BYU, watch the Building the Connected Campus With Boomi recorded webinar.

Boomi Ease of Use Accelerates Adoption

The challenges faced by UMass and BYU are familiar to webinar moderator Chris Wessells. He's a senior higher education specialist at Dell Technologies who formerly served for 12 years as CIO of University of San Diego.

“At the University of San Diego, we experienced many of those challenges with data silos,” Wessells said. “Institutions that have implemented the Integration and Flow components of the Boomi Platform are minimizing or eliminating antiquated processes and making the student experience better.”

According to Szajna, UMass is looking to Boomi Flow's workflow automation development technology to share information that students and employees enter on a web page (e.g., a license plate number for parking privileges) with back-end systems.

Szajna has been gratified to find that Boomi’s easy-to-use, low-code configuration environment makes it ready accessible to UMass IT professionals who don’t specialize in integration.

“It's quickly growing, not only in the amount of integrations we’re doing, but in the people showing interest in Boomi,” Szajna said. “We just had someone from the web team get certified in Boomi and now they're using it for their department's needs. We have PeopleSoft developers getting trained on Boomi and writing integrations.”

Boomi's ideal blend of ease of use and capabilities for complex integrations was a top reason why UMass selected Boomi over other offerings.

“Boomi had all the functionality we wanted,” Szajna said. “It's the right balance between low-code, meaning you can quickly do simple integrations, and the ability to do more complex integrations by writing JavaScript or SQL if needed.”

Engaging Students as Integrators

At BYU, Reneer saw a similar uptick in interest after using Boomi to connect NetSuite, PeopleSoft and ServiceNow. Once word of success with Boomi spread, his team began receiving requests from business and IT stakeholders to connect various systems.

Reneer's team now includes a student who’s using Boomi to develop integrations. "The student picked it up very quickly, is very productive and is a huge asset to our team," Reneer said.

Reneer added that BYU has traditionally offered students hands-on opportunities to work in development. But in the previous integration environment, that proved difficult. Learning all the frameworks, databases, and coding could take a student a full year.

"We couldn’t hire seniors because by the time they figured out how to be productive, they’d be graduating,” Reneer said. “But with Boomi, it’s just so quick ... it’s so much easier.”

To learn more about how Boomi is helping UMass and BYU, watch the Building the Connected Campus With Boomi recorded webinar.

To discuss how Boomi can help you address integration challenges at your institution, contact Boomi experts in your region.

About the Author

Andrew Hawthorn guides marketing initiatives in education and retail. He's a passionate visionary and accomplished marketing leader with 20 years of experience driving success for large enterprises, higher education institutions and early-stage start-ups.

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