The joint announcement by SunGard Higher Education and rSmart is significant for the higher education community.
SunGard Higher Education will be partnering with rSmart to provide the rSmart learning management solution globally.
SunGard Higher Education has many relationships with third party vendors providing a variety of solutions for customers. What's different is that SunGard Higher Education will be serving as the primary sales contact for their customers. They will deliver services as well as a migration path from other systems and will be delivering on the value of the rSmart solution.
This afternoon, I had the privilege of conferencing with rSmart executive Chris Coppola and SunGard Higher Education executive Fred Weiss. During our call they answered a number of questions that I'm sure many of our followers will immediately ask.
Chris and Fred agree that providing a solution for a lower total cost of ownership than current options is top of mind for higher education executives. According to Fred Weiss, existing SunGard Higher education customers are also asking for access to open source solutions that are integrated with SunGard Higher Education solutions.
Customers are asking for subscription-based alternatives and the partnership with rSmart gives SunGard Higher Education an alternative that they can consider. According to Weiss, the solution, "fits well with and is aligned with the open digital campus." Weiss continues, "It offers our customers choices, provides seamless integration and reduces total cost of ownership and allows for new business models."
rSmart executive Chris Coppola is no less enthusiastic, he offers that, "the partnership extends the the reach for the number of institutions that hadn’t considered Sakai and provides an option that will now be considered."
Both executives agree that it is important for institutions to have choice and that one of the choices should be a Sakai path where institutions are aligning with one another. Both Coppola and Weiss agree that it's a great vision for the future.
With the partnership, the ongoing role of rSmart will be for rSmart to focus on product development and contributions to the Sakai community. They will focus on building the "best platform available and the hosting of that platform".
The role of SunGard Higher Education will be to enable adoption and to resell the rSmart solution (presumably within its customer base). SunGard Higher Education will handle training, integration and configuration.
We have partnerships with other LMS providers. Those partnerships remain a choice for SunGard Higher Education customers. The partnership with rSmart "strengthens our teaching and learning solutions offering", according to Weiss. Weiss says, "We don’t actually resell any of the other solutions. We will resell this solution."
I asked why SunGard Higher Education selected rSmart and the Sakai solution over Moodle and MoodleRooms at this time. The response was, "We heard from customers that they wanted the direction from rSmart/Sakai. The solution is towards what customers have asked for."
The companies noted that they do not have any current customer "success stories" waiting to be announced. They anticipate that this announcement will generate new interest in the SunGard Higher Education community to utilize the rSmart solution. Weiss notes, "We will offer off the shelf integration between off the shelf CLE and the other parts of the digital campus. Will integrate with LIS 2.0 IMS standard. There are many benefits to customers including the management of the upgrade process", according to Weiss.
Both companies acknowledge that customer success is key. They cite existing customers that they have in common.
The news is significant for many reasons. SunGard Higher Education has made an announcement that is consistent with its stated objectives to support the open digital campus. SunGard Higher Education will re-sell a product that they have not acquired. They are closely partnering with a third party firm (which they have not done historically) and they pledge to provide support, implementation and migration services to a product that competes with its own LMS solution.
The company continues to surprise the community at (almost) every turn. This announcement is good for higher education whether you are interested in Sakai and open source or not.
The Tambellini Group