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Student portals & -apps: “No success without focus”

During his years at StuComm, Frits Bor, Head of Business at StuComm, has seen many successful projects, but many less successful projects as well. A lot of factors influence the success of those projects, but one of those factors is more often than not decisive when it goes wrong: a lack of focus. “We all want more, and more, and even more. It is almost as if the airbags of your car are on the outside because there was not any room left inside. That is completely safe, right?”

In an interview with Frits he talks about, what is in his opinion, the key to success when working on a project for a student portal or -app. “Sometimes when I read a briefing for a market consultation or a tender, I am truly surprised and shocked even”, says Frits. “Are there companies that can really do this??? No, of course not! Nevertheless educational institutions tend to ask for the five-legged sheep. Instead they should focus on what their students really want, want they really need and how you can deliver that.”

Recognising needs

That five-legged sheep mostly consists of the one size fits all thought. The actual user, the student, is simply forgotten in the process. “Institutions often just think about what would be best for them. Simply one solution for smartphone, tablet and pc, with all the information, all the communication and all possible actions for both students and personnel. That is simply impossible”, states Frits. “I find it odd that institutions keep asking for a solution for both their students and their employees. For your students, you are the educational institution. For you employees, you are their employer. Those are completely different. The KLM does not inform their pilots on the departure gate through the passenger app, do they?”

“The five-legged sheep. Are there companies that make those?”

“You have to seperate the two and focus on the important things for both. On the one hand, there is the question of information: what information do you need to provide and where will it come from? On the other hand, there is the question of channels: through which channel do we do what? Only if you have the answer to those questions, you can focus while looking for the right solution.”

The choices

According to Frits, you have to make choices when you start a project. Based on the experience of others, you can make a lot of progress. “Market consultations are often pretty broad and I think that is a good thing. You meet with potential suppliers and find out what are the options. You should also talk to other educational institutions in similar situations: how have they come to a solution? You do not have to reinvent the wheel, so many have gone before you”, says Frits.

“Talk to possible suppliers and educational institutions in similar situations, you can learn a lot”

If you make the right decisions on time, there is a chance your project will be successful. If you do not, it can take a long time to get to where you need to be: “Some institutions still ask for the five-legged horse. Eventually someone says ‘sure, we can do that’ and they chose that company to work with. In the end, it becomes a complex and time consuming project that takes years, costs a huge amount of money and still does not meet the expectations.”

“Simply go with quality partners and let them sort it out. A company that has a great student portal does not always have a great smartphone app and vice versa. Look at the focus of the companies. If your supplier delivers both a portal and a smartphone app, chances are neither of them will meet your expectations. Rather go with two suppliers with solid products that will actually help your students”, Frits concludes.

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