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No Technology is an Island

April 18, 2016

Integration is a big part of getting the most out of all your software

A tech industry buzzword—like ‘big data’ or ‘the cloud’—is API. Application Programming Interfaces have been around publicly as early as 2000, but are now experiencing large amounts of growth, with some estimates as high as 50,000 public APIs.

APIs are what link independently designed systems—think of an API like an interpreter, bringing information from one system and delivering it in an understandable way to another system.

As institutions and enterprise IT move away from monolithic ERP solutions, we will see an expanding set of services, systems, and sourcing strategies. This will make communication between systems absolutely necessary as higher ed tech ecosystems grow more and more complex.

Kuali’s modular technology approach makes integration and APIs an important part of how we do business.

Combining old tech with new tech

With the advancement in technology moving faster and faster, it can be hard to keep up—especially when considering the investment into large campus-wide systems such as student information systems and learning management systems. The amount of historical data and functional processes these systems manage make them important fixtures in the various administrative roles of institutions. Upgrading or replacing such a far-reaching system is expensive and time consuming, so it has to be done right.

“It’s not like you can just take an ERP and switch it out in a weekend and be done with it. It’s a big system,” said Raechelle Clemmons, CIO at Davidson College. “It’s a big investment and it’s costly.”

Modular technology allows institutions to supplement these large, standard systems with additional functionality, enhance insights and provide more opportunities to collect new data. These kinds of abilities have the potential to make a huge impact on agility, allowing institutions to respond quickly and intelligently to changing market forces. But all of this data and functionality isn’t as valuable as it could be if it’s not able to connect with a SIS or LMS or the HR and Financial components of the ERP. These systems are the source of truth, so separate banks of data aren’t as powerful until they are combined and compared with this larger systems.

“Data governs the institution. We make decisions on it, we make not only tactical but strategic decisions on it, and you need to have the data accessible, you need to be able to get to it, and to get the analytics out of it in a timely manner,” said Garret Yoshimi, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at the University of Hawaii.

Designing with integration in mind

Because Kuali focuses on modular technology, we know that our products must integrate with other systems on campus. Because of that, integration capabilities are baked into the code. We’ve put the time and thought into API best practices when it comes to security, design, testing, and documentation so the products themselves are ready to connect.

If technology isn’t designed with this in mind, in order to integrate with other systems, code must be customized, or on-campus IT teams have to work with the vendor’s customer service in order to gain access to their APIs. Or third-party integration companies are hired to do this work for you. Either way, it requires a long collaboration process and a significant investment of time and money to make it work.

Our software is designed to be API-ready, so integration can take place as a part of implementation. No custom coding, no third-party integration work.

Integrating technology is an important part of today’s software. And using software that is designed to integrate with what you’re already using will give you smoother administrative processes, more data insights, and the communication you need to make the institution run.

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