What Open Universities Australia did to enact a complete business and technology transformation



Open Universities Australia (OUA) has chalked up its first student enrolment growth in 15 quarters and slashed the time it takes to on-board learning providers following a business transformation and overhaul of its technology ecosystem.

OUA head of design, build, test and implementation, Srini Nori, told CMO the decision to throw out the old and move into the new was triggered by a board-led change to strategy at the online learning marketplace.

Having spent several years disrupting learning through digital capability, the organisation found itself stretch from tertiary courses into vocational education, education administrative services and corporate training. This has also resulted in fragmented and manual processes across systems, including its Salesforce CRM, service and marketing cloud instances.

The decision was made in 2016 to focus solely on higher education and exit other businesses. OUA today has 13 university partners and serves about 350,000 students.

“This meant a significant change to the entire ecosystem, organisation and the technology landscape,” Nori said in an interview during the recent IBM Think event in Sydney.

“The tech was built was built for the previous strategy, which was five different businesses… and the landscape was very different. We realised we had to simplify the landscape in order to focus on higher education.”

The ambition was to develop a unified platform and place where students could find degrees and courses quickly and easily, while also giving providers the ability to better pinpoint and engage such students seeking further education. Another pain point OUA hoped to alleviate was the process of on-boarding universities.

“We needed a platform where both could come together; where we could engage and remove friction between students finding degrees faster and commencing their learning programs, and universities bringing their learning products to students to quickly,” Nori said.  “Simplification was our key strategy.”

Having made the decision to transform its entire technology stack, OUA set a hard deadline of the end of 2017 to go live in order to be able to address enrolments in Q1, 2017, its busiest time of year. On average, 60 per cent of business is done during this quarter.

To help, the organisation recruited six external partners, including IBM Bluewolf, Avanade and base2 services. Each was chosen for its specialist expertise in software as well as education domain knowledge, Nori said.

“We knew we needed a few things from a technology perspective,” he continued. “For example, Salesforce was the right platform, so we needed a partner to bring out the best of that technology, but who also understood education and could bring in expertise from a broader industry perspective. That was the reason why IBM Bluewolf was chosen.





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