Ovum urges IT vendors to stress customer satisfaction and expand learning management tools in higher education solutions

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Improving efficiency and customer satisfaction is top of the agenda for higher education institutions in the next 18 months, according to Ovum's 2013 ICT Enterprise Insights. Sophisticated constituent relationship management (CRM) strategies and strongly negotiated learning management systems (LMS) contracts will be key focuses, but a lack of interest in cloud computing may hold back some institutions in achieving these objectives, warns Ovum.

In the largest survey of senior IT executives ever conducted – Ovum's ICT Enterprise Insights* – the global analysts reveal  that CRM has been widely adopted in higher education, with just 10 percent of institutions not currently using a CRM solution, driving a need for more pervasive and innovative strategies to differentiate themselves.  Meanwhile, over 50 percent of institutions intend to replace their LMS solution within 24 months, suggesting a potential game of "musical chairs" as incumbents are switched out in favour of innovative new providers.

"The role and priority of online learning is evolving rapidly, as are institutional expectations for functionality and service," says Navneet Johal, analyst at Ovum. "To secure their position in the market, LMS providers must be quick to expand their platforms to seamlessly incorporate compelling features such as social media, video, analytics, and other learning objects, keeping customer satisfaction high and prices low."

Ovum's ICT Enterprise Insights also shows that very few higher education institutions are using cloud-based computing for core enterprise applications, with under 20 percent reporting that they were using an on-demand delivery model.

"A myriad of factors is holding institutions back from moving core applications to the cloud, the absence of viable solutions in some cases, the questionable return on investment from switching out existing solutions, the difficulty of supporting highly customized solutions in a hosted environment, and even lingering (albeit somewhat irrational) doubts about security," comments Johal. "However, there may be some enterprise applications where cloud computing will be necessary, and vendors that are able to help institutions understand the differences are more likely to succeed."

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