One of the world's leading private education providers, Study Group International, is in the process of rolling out Pegasystems' BPM cloud solution for student enrolments, which is part of a strategy to automate ageing systems in preparation for future growth.
When I attended Pegasystems' annual user conference in Washington DC in June, one of the (few) criticisms I had was that I felt that the company was going a little too soft on their approach to cloud. This was something I put to CEO Alan Trefler at the time. He responded by saying that Pega is fully ready to take on any demand for cloud as and when the company's client base is ready to there. He said:
I think we have recently accelerated the push to cloud. Last year we introduced full multi-tenancy, which is a useful thing to have, but franklythat’s more for the vendor than it is for the customer. It decreases cost. We have been really dialling up the cloud because customers seem more open to it.
Historically if you think about our customer base, companies like JPMorgan Chase, they are so big they’ve created their own private clouds. So in those situations we run on their cloud, we just don’t run on the public cloud, because they don’t perceive that they get a particular cost advantage.
But now that we are looking to open up the market (focusing more on mid-size companies) the cloud is going to become an increasingly important part of our business and I think we are very well equipped to go forward.
So, when Pegasystems got in touch recently and said that they had a customer that was willing to talk about a new Pega BPM cloud roll-out, I thought it only fair that I eat my words and find out more about the project.
Dave Reeve, chief information and technology officer at Study Group International, explained how the company has been struggling in recent years to manage its student applications and enrolment processes, due to an in-house developed system that is incredibly labour intensive. He said:
Reeve said that Study Group has a cloud-first policy when it comes to deploying new systems and has already made use of the cloud elsewhere in the business. He added that he opted for Pega because he has experience of working with them in the past and knew that the software did what it said on the tin. Reeve also said that he knew Pega could handle a quick roll-out - Study Group will go into production in Q4 this year for the first phase of the project, with a view to complete in the second quarter of next year. Reeve said:
Study Group is one of the leading private education providers and our role in the world is to enable international students to further their role in the global economy by accessing Western education. We take roughly 50,000 students a year from about 145 countries and facilitate them through university entrance processes and foundation courses so that they can then go on to attend mainstream universities in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and North America.
We have a lot of different university partners that we place students with and run programmes across the world - so matching up the students to their desired outcome, to the right institution, ensuring they have the qualifications, that they meet all the enrolment criteria and have all the right visas is a very complex process.
This was very labour intensive, even though we had enabled it with some systems capability – the in-house system captures all the information itself, but the actual business process side of things wasn't well automated and requires a lot of effort.
What we wanted to do was get to a place where we could free up the mechanical process and automate as much as possible.
I think it was always clear that we wanted to use a cloud solution because we have a global deployment and so we wanted the ability to be able to deploy the solution irrespective of geographic location.
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Reeve said that his main concern with the ongoing project is making sure that he gets the testing right, ensuring that all the business rules are set up correctly, making sure that things are being processed how they should be and having the right level of quality assurance in place – but he added that this is true when managing any complex business process.
However, Reeve believes that once the cloud solution is in place, this will allow Study Group to scale effectively.
We continue to grow and we expect to continue to grow in student admissions over the coming months and years - so being able to do that without having to linearly scale our staff is a big benefit for us.
But more importantly its making sure that our focus is on the student outcomes and freeing up the staff from the mechanical processes to allow them to use their intellectual horsepower to focus on making sure that they are getting the right outcomes for the students.