- Colleges have resumed long-term technology projects that had been paused because of pandemic-related disruptions, coinciding with an increase in institutions picking new systems for managing human capital and finances, according to recent research from the Tambellini Group, a technology advisory firm.
- Finance system selections rose 63% in 2021 over the previous year's figures, and human capital management system selection increased 67%, according to the report, which is based on data from 4,300 colleges and universities.
- Institutions are also facing market pressures to replace their technology systems, leading to a surge in investments in modern cloud infrastructure.
The report reveals a shift in how colleges are approaching new technology system purchases. While many institutions held off on these investments in the early days of the pandemic, some finally had the bandwidth to resume long-term technology projects a year later.
It also shows heightened interest in investing in finance and human capital management systems, which help colleges manage their budgets and their employees, respectively. The Tambellini Group found more colleges selected new finance or human capital management systems in 2021 than in any year since 2015, according to Vicki Tambellini, the firm's founder and president.
"The pressure that institutions face is increasing," Tambellini said. "The challenges that they're met with, some of them have to be addressed with technology infrastructure — not all of them, of course — but some of them can only be addressed by improving their system."
Like companies nationwide, many colleges are dealing with an increasingly remote and hybrid workforce. More than one-third of Boston University's roughly 6,100 staff members, for instance, have been approved to work remotely for at least part of the week, according to a November post from the private nonprofit university.
"To retain workers, it's something that higher education is grappling with," Tambellini said. "But in order to do that, there's some systems that have to be improved."
College officials also found they needed more real-time information and reporting to make adjustments to their budgets. The pandemic hammered undergraduate enrollment, which was 6.6% lower in fall 2021 compared to two years earlier, before the pandemic started. Institutions have also grappled with unexpected hits to their auxiliary income streams, for example when they had to close residence and dining halls due to COVID-19.
"CFOs needed to make a lot of different adjustments to their financial assumptions," Tambellini said. "So they want more sophisticated budget and planning tools tied to their financial models."
In addition, the report said institutions are increasingly using different vendors for different systems. In the prior three decades, for instance, 85% of colleges selected the same vendor for their finance, human capital management and student systems. But that was only the case for 46% of vendor selections in 2021.