We built Populi to give small colleges an information system that fit them properly. Homegrown might fit the budget. Enterprise might fit some of the functions. Neither really fits the needs and proportions of schools that need good information but don't have resources to lavish upon it. Many of our customers have migrated over to Populi from homegrown systems, and have been reaping the benefits. Central Baptist Theological Seminary, of Plymouth, Minnesota, came over after using one of the big systems for several years. We spoke with CBTS' Registrar, Eric White, about the experience. The short version: "It's gone very well," said Eric.
Eric took the position with CBTS in 2002. As Registrar, he had more contact with the Seminary's outdated enterprise information system than anyone else at CBTS. Fortunately, his background in IT and basic programming equipped him to deal with it. So for several more years, he made the system work for their admissions and registrar offices. But it was challenging. “Their database was messy, and the vendor was very slow with development...” Eric told us, “...not to mention, customer support.”
For instance, “Online registration almost worked.” Eric said, “Students could register for courses online, and the system produced an enrollment spreadsheet that could be uploaded to the database itself. But the file upload never worked and we had to enter the data by hand. And that effectively eliminated the benefit of having students register online.”
Degree Audits were as pleasant as unanaesthetized dentistry. Eric put it simply, “I wonder sometimes if our old system was built for K-12 schools. Degree audits would have been easier with a pen and paper than to make the system do it.”
Eric explored the options to make the software work for the Seminary. The software vendor sold an upgrade that would have ameliorated some of the issues, but there was a pretty big catch. “An IT department is expensive, and that is what it would have taken to implement the upgrade.” With the system too old and clunky to work for CBTS—and too costly to update—Eric took a look at the other systems on the market. Of the systems that might have worked for the Seminary, most of them were in the six-figure range, and thus were out of the question for CBTS.
But when he saw Populi, Eric saw something that fit CBTS' needs and budget. “I found Populi to be very user-oriented, and the database—well, you guys know what you're doing. And what's more, it was in our price range." Populi's price wasn't the only cost-saver—since it's hosted off-site, the Seminary didn't have to figure in any ongoing expenses for new IT hardware or personnel. Implementation fit the bill, too. Populi staff imported the legacy system's databases, cleaning up and simplifying the bloatier parts of the database, at no extra charge to the Seminary. The result was a lither dataset in a much more usable system than before.
Eric has been very pleased with Populi. One reason is that it just works—the online registration and degree audits, for instance, don't make him do all his work over by hand. Another is the customer service. "It's a really easy system to use, so I don't have to request help that often. But when I do, I’ve been impressed with the support and the quick turnaround on my requests."
Cleaner data, easier workflows, lower costs: CBTS' experience illustrates how small colleges can get a better fit with Populi.