In this four-part series, CampusLogic CEO Gregg Scoresby and Utah State University CIO Eric Hawley continue their discussion about tech in higher education, from a CIO’s perspective. Hawley explains USU’s early adopter mentality, gives insights on how IT departments work to partner with business units, offers tips for technology vendors, and shares his top 5 vendors. Read on for part three: What EdTech vendors should keep in mind.
Eric: Be familiar with the problems they’re trying to solve for within specific verticals. I also like vendors who take an all new approach to solving problems. Clayton Christensen talked about the Innovator’s Dilemma back in 1997, and it still holds true—innovation can redefine industries. Up-and-coming innovators are hyper-focused, dedicated to solving a problem, and propose different, sometimes radical, new ways of doing things. They can look at old problems in new ways that legacy systems just can’t match.
Gregg: Why do you think the legacy systems struggle to keep up?
Eric: As Christensen points out, sometimes they’re just not as agile, and have a harder time shifting into new ways of doing things. Their ability to do something amazing and efficient right out of the gate is often hampered by their structure and size. Over time they’ll begin to innovate by acquisition, meaning they lose the ability to do something amazing, efficient, and new to solve a problem right out of the gate. They’ll add more and more products, make them more complex, or buy other companies and try to wrap those assets into existing products. It can get weighty.
Gregg: So you’re a fan of startups?
Eric: I’m a fan of startups that started at square one with a new idea, meaning they don’t have all that baggage we mentioned earlier. Things can be a little rougher in the start, but in the end I find their products to be more refined, designed, and less Frankenstein-ed.
Gregg: What are your top 3 tips for EdTech vendors selling to colleges and universities?
Eric: Listen and understand: Listen to the problems we’re trying to solve, and understand our roadblocks. Be relevant: If you think you’ve got something that can help, great. But be relevant. If you’ve got one solution, you can tend to see everything as a nail—that’s a major issue with ERP providers. Don’t jack our prices up: Be price-consistent. ‘Loss-leader pricing’ that gets us in the gate but then leads to big surprises come contract renewal time lose our trust.
Gregg: Makes sense. Hey, I’ve been thinking. Indian cuisine from a gas station. What other great gas station food have you had on your travels?
Eric: We just got a surprisingly great Cajun/Creole place that appeared (like magic!) in the back of the Tesoro Best Stop gas station on the north end of town. MayMoes. These folks fly in authentic Po’Boy buns straight from Leidenheimer Baking Company in New Orleans.