Marty Harris, and Principal Consultant at Nintex partner Ignia is a valued Nintex Virtual Technical Evangelist (vTE).
vTEs are accredited members of the Nintex community recognized for their expertise with Nintex technologies. They represent Nintex and their partner organizations to help customers get the most from their experience with the Nintex Platform.
We sat down with Marty to learn more about his role as a Nintex vTE, Ignia’s Smart Campus technology, and automation in higher education.
1. Can you explain a bit about what Ignia does and your role within the organization?
Firstly, thanks for featuring me in the blog!
Ignia is Australia’s premier Gold Partner Microsoft consultancy, with a focus on digital innovation and intelligent technology.
I’m a Principal Consultant at Ignia and a Nintex vTE, with a technical focus on process automation, collaboration, and information management. I work to maintain relationships with partners like Nintex and Microsoft, and provide services like technical support for our sales processes, quality assurance for delivery engagements, technology strategy with key clients, and guidance for continuous improvement across the practice.
2. As a Nintex vTE, what activities do you participate in and how do you engage in the community?
My main Nintex ‘claim to fame’ is that I built Print to PDF functionality in Nintex Forms for my clients, and Nintex ended up incorporating the capability into the product.
I also very much enjoy my roles as a Nintex vTE and a Partner Technology Solutions Professional with Microsoft, I’m a co-founder of the Perth Nintex User Group, and I present at various events like xchange and Office 365 Saturday.
3. Ignia developed “Smart Campus.” What exactly is a smart campus and why is it important?
It optimizes the way that institutions target prospective students and engage with students throughout their entire journey to alumni. To achieve this, we bring expertise and technology offerings across five pillars of campus management:
- Digital Student Journey
- Connected Workplace
- Connected Campus
- Smart Student Tools
- Data Insights
This approach brings ongoing improvement to the student experience and strengthens the value of student relationship to the institution.
4. What is the biggest struggle you typically see higher education institutions facing today?
A growing trend here in Australia, and globally, is that institutions are seeing their funding come under increasing pressure in a highly competitive environment, so the critical focus is in attracting and retaining students, particularly in the international market. There are a lot of elements that drive this, such as institution rankings, marketing, lifestyle considerations, and student support, especially during the first year of study.
Increasingly, institutions are looking to differentiate from their competition by offering students some kind of unique experience or edge, and rapid developments in the digital world present great opportunities for innovation.
5. How do modern technology and automated processes help educational institutions to differentiate themselves?
Students these days are digital natives who use technology across all aspects of their lives, and there is a desire and expectation for this to continue in how they interact with each other, with educators, and with their learning institution.
Automation increases opportunities for self-service management of studies and administration, at any location, on any device, and provides further opportunities for students who might otherwise be hampered by language or time zone barriers.
Furthermore, automation allows educators and administrators to offload time-consuming tasks so that they can focus on high-value activities that improve student outcomes.
6. What kind of processes do universities typically leverage smart campuses for? What is the result of updating these processes?
Recently we’ve developed a safety-focused mobile app and chatbot that allows students to register their travel intention, and then automatically track their progress using Wi-Fi and GPS so that if the student deviates significantly from their plan without telling the app that everything is OK, we can notify campus security and provide real-time location updates. This is a great example of using reasonably simple technology to make a genuine difference in people’s lives.
Other student scenarios are also prime for automation, like applications and acceptances to make joining a university a seamless process, and applying for special consideration, which gives students opportunities and confidence in managing their studies during difficult times, when they are most at risk of leaving.
And then there are the never-ending paper forms. Digitizing these documents allows requests to be handled faster and more accurately, as well as the cost savings associated with reduced manual handling.
7. How will students and staff benefit from digital transformation?
Students become far more engaged in their studies and lifestyle because they are connected with relevant and timely information, in a personalized manner.
They are more likely to be connected with guilds, study groups, and social activities, which are shown to greatly improve retention. And, of course, their learning outcomes are enhanced by the improved educational services that digital technologies offer, such as augmented reality.
Educators become empowered to deliver courses more effectively through teaching tools and collaboration services, such as virtual whiteboarding and co-authoring of class notes. Queries from students that are high volume but low value can be answered by conversational agents, and processing of paperwork can be automated where feasible, freeing up time to focus on students and learning outcomes.
The institution itself benefits because its message and value proposition reaches more students, educational outcomes are improved, student experiences enhance ranking and reputation, and the operational efficiencies brought by automation allow limited funds to be used to greater effect.
8. Do you have any advice for educational institutions looking to digitally transform their processes?
Firstly, it is important to not try to do too much at once.
Start with a small number of core, high‑value processes which can quickly demonstrate the impact of digital transformation. The challenges and learnings from these initial wins can then improve the next round of transformations, and you can then build momentum with confidence because you’ve already delivered value.
The student needs to be at the center of the transformation, and it should focus on people, interactions, and outcomes, rather than on technology.
Finally, make sure you put the right team together. You’ll need a blend of user advocates, business analysts, technical resources, and partner expertise. And of course, you’ll need the right platforms – like Nintex!
9. How does Nintex technology fit into Ignia’s Smart Campus?
Across the five pillars of Smart Campus, there’s a huge range of opportunities to utilize Nintex.
Across the Digital Student Journey, there is a range of trigger points such as course and unit application deadlines, term dates, exam dates, and graduation. At each of these points there’s information to be collected in forms, processed by business logic, approved by stakeholders, and then distributed to people and systems.
In the Connected Workplace, there are great automation opportunities for provisioning and managing accounts, creating collaboration spaces, approving documents, enforcing regular content reviews and updates, whilst adhering to regulatory and legislative compliance.
For Connected Campus, we see a range of exciting IoT solutions which are constantly generating data that can feed into workflows to notify people of corrective or preventative action.
Smart Student Tools is where Nintex Mobile allows custom-branded solutions that target common student scenarios, like the safety application and special recognition request that I mentioned earlier. This is where we are seeing a lot of uptake of chatbots for keeping students informed about what is happening at the campus.
Nintex Process Intelligence is great for Data Insights, aggregating the data from all of institution’s automated processes, providing insights that drive better decisions about the students, and determining how the institution can best allocate its resources to meet strategic goals.