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Innovation Comes From People, Process and Technology

Jordan Harbor

Jordan Harbor
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“Innovation comes from people, process and technology - not just from the arrival of new technology.”

As one of our key takeaways from a recent CEUG conference our team attended in Vancouver, I’ve spent much of the last few weeks thinking about this phrase. And with thoughts of innovation firmly on my mind, I’ve been noticing several news articles lately, related to the rise in cloud outsourcing both outside and within the education market.

Before we get to the cloud, I’d like to first take a step back and share one example that keeps coming to mind when I think about innovation emerging from people, process AND technology. I should warn you, I’m a bit of a car nut. So, please pardon my peculiarity, but …

  • Just over 100 years ago, Henry Ford revolutionized the manufacturing world with the development of the moving assembly line. By bringing the work to the worker, this innovation allowed Ford Motor Company to boost the productivity of its specialized teams of employees - greatly improving the speed by which cars were being assembled. In fact, the amount of time required for final assembly decreased by over 75%, as Model T production grew from 82,388 to 585,388 in just four years (1912-1916). Over the same four years, consumers saw automobile ownership become much more affordable with a 40% drop in sticker price. (100 Years of the Moving Assembly Line, Ford Motor Company)

Recognizing, however, that we’re well outside the realm of the automobile industry and rather far removed from five-dollar workdays and the assembly of vehicles by hand, I wanted to briefly discuss some observations on modern-day innovations within the education marketplace.

Colleges, universities and K-12 districts/schools are steadily embracing new, cloud-based technologies as alternatives to on-premises deployments. With budget constraints driving the need to explore ways to boost ROI and assess integrating additional systems, institutions are opting for the increased security, scalability and cost-effectiveness of cloud-based, SaaS solutions. As the education-focused provider of document management, e-forms and workflow solutions, we’re seeing this prove true - with over 90% of our YTD go-lives choosing to deploy in the cloud.

At the same time, software providers are continuing to advance their cloud offerings and create or renew partnerships with major cloud services/platforms to make cloud migrations more convenient and less costly for their customers. For example, just over a week ago, SAP announced a new three-year deal with Microsoft and its Azure cloud division.

While the company already had existing relationships with Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services, the partnership was created in response to customer feedback about the difficulty of moving from an on-prem deployment to the cloud. But by shifting focus from own-brand cloud solutions to Microsoft Azure, SAP reported expansion of gross margins, revenue and operating profit.

So, not only are educational institutions recognizing that their futures lie in the cloud, but major software providers are realizing that entities like Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services are key in secure and cost-effective cloud hosting. In economic theory, that’s called specialization.

Now for institutions seeking innovation to support staff and students in their day-to-day, enterprise content management (ECM) solutions - like Etrieve by Softdocs - are proving to be quite valuable. Available to be deployed in the cloud, Etrieve combines document management, electronic forms and workflow to digitalize common business processes and bring the work to the worker more quickly AND more efficiently.