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Conclusive Systems vs. the “big guys” 2016-12-28T16:23:42+00:00

Over the years we’ve been more and more successfully making the case that we provide a superior degree audit system, with superior support, at a small fraction of the price the “big guys” charge. After all, why would any school want to spend 4 to 10 times (or more) as much for a demonstrably inferior system? So, on this page, our goal is to save you vast amounts of money and time (both initially and over time), while increasing your student retention and reducing student time to graduation.

This page contains a lot of information, but we have carefully organized it to enable you to focus on your specific interests and considerations.

We have provided a heads-up comparison chart between Advisor, DegreeWorks, and U.achieve®. Then, below that, you can find our responses to the most common issues about choosing between a small vendor and one of the “big guys.”

First, let’s look at some fundamental purchasing considerations.


Fundamental Purchasing Considerations

This is a cost and TCO issue that is typically not weighted heavily enough by selection committees. The “big guys” do not have an appliance delivery model, so you will either host with them or provide your own hardware (according to their specifications). So, first, when you compare prices, be sure you are comparing apples to apples.

If you are looking at hosting, then the vendor is fully responsible for the system. That is an easy apples-to-apples comparison. However, most schools prefer to have on-site hardware, and that arrangement makes it much harder to get a true apples-to-apples price comparison. And, if you are going to be hosted, it is easy to miss the fact that you are usually going to be charged much, much more for that service. We don’t increase our price at all when we host.

Conclusive Systems cuts through the difficulties by providing a dedicated appliance containing the Advisor system. Most schools want a production and test instance, so we send out two appliances. Your IT staff literally have only this to do: assign two public and private IP addresses for each appliance, rack the appliance when it arrives (we even include the rails), plug in two network cables and two power cables (which we also supply), and then let us know that the system is installed. From that point on, we do everything else, including power the system(s) on. And from then on, the systems are wholly managed by us. Your IT staff do not have “yet more systems” to deal with! Instead, the reliability, performance, and security of the systems are entirely our responsibility!

When the other vendors hand you a list of specifications and install discs, the finger-pointing games begin! You are responsible for every aspect of installing and bringing the system up: hardware, operating system, libraries, third-party libraries (such as COBOL), and the degree audit system software itself. You are then taking on the ongoing maintenance chores, such as: patching, updates, conflict-resolution, security, backups, and endless performance tuning. All of these processes create opportunities for things to go wrong, and when they do, the other vendors’ first question (even if only by implication) in response to your support request will be: “What did you change/break?”

The difference in support-relationship is really hard to overstate!

The “big guy” vendors really have an unsupportable delivery model. The fact is that they are forced to offer support for a system that is not truly “theirs,” so they are forced to “do the best they can” with supporting a moving target. Thus, they necessarily have to start each support request by trying to understand “what you did” that caused the problem. This model necessitates an almost adversarial relationship: You want support, and they don’t want to be held responsible for something that was not their problem.

The contrast between that model and ours is indescribable. Because Conclusive Systems wholly manages the system, and we provide a self-contained, dedicated appliance, the very nature of customer support changes. There can be no “finger pointing,” because we are responsible. Period. And, because of our real-time monitoring of our systems, we detect and resolve problems before a customer even notices a problem 99% of the time. So, with Conclusive Systems, support requests are never about “the system.” The system just works!

Support requests are instead more like consulting, where we answer questions like, “I’m trying to set up a new requirement in which we only want to allow 20 credits of this particular sort of professional/technical course. But those courses have all sorts of different prefixes. Can you give me some ideas of the best way to set that up?” And we love to be “consultants” and answer questions like that. There is nothing adversarial about your relationship with us, which completely changes the tone and nature of turning to us for support!

Finally, the cost considerations are vast! Perhaps you have deep pockets and a basically unlimited budget for system hardware. Probably not. What is certain is that, with the “big guys,” you will not know at the start of the implementation exactly what you will have to budget for hardware.

Here is just one email we recently received from a school that went with one of the “big guys” but now regrets it and is turning to us. We wish that this was an isolated email, but it is not! So, caveat emptor.

Hello.

My name is ——- ——-. I’m a developer with ——- ——– ————– who is currently leading their degree audit system upgrade. We’re going from DARs to uAchieve. I’m sure you’ve heard the names. At any rate, the process has been far more painful than it should be. As such, I’m starting to look around while at the same time talking to the bosses about the possibility of branching out and exploring other options.

In other words, I view this email as an initial contact in which I hope to learn more about your product. Do you by chance have any videos or online demos of the product working? I’d like to see what it can do. It might help fuel my discussions.

To be totally transparent, I’m not sure whether politically we are already locked into uAchieve. I’m going to continue to investigate this from my side… But, I wanted to see what other vendors had to offer. We have already spent so much on the hardware alone that it is becoming mind-boggling!

Thanks!

If you want to be responsible for the system and thereby pay and pay and pay, and have an adversarial relationship with your vendor, then you have two big options to choose from. But if you would prefer to keep the vast majority of that money for other purposes and enjoy a truly supportive relationship with your vendor, then there is only one choice, and we look forward to truly serving you.

Although any entire degree audit system revolves around your degree requirements, most schools really don’t understand what is involved in actually “codifying” their requirements into a degree audit system.

For example, every school has “requirements” that are really human-interpreted on the fly, yet somehow the degree audit system must capture the “intention” behind the typical way a school interprets such requirements.

Another example is that between divisions or departments or faculties, there are often differences in how GPAs and transfer-courses are calculated. Perhaps a student taking a major through one department has transfer courses included in the GPA calculation, while if that same student takes a major through a different department, transfer courses are not included in the GPA calculation.

There are literally countless examples, and, collectively, we call all of these considerations “your institutional DNA.” This DNA literally defines your existence as an academic institution, and it needs to be accurately and completely captured by the degree audit system. Indeed, the accuracy and usability of the system ultimately rests upon how your degree requirements are represented in the system.

Schools looking at degree audit systems are typically interested in “features” and look-and-feel considerations, so schools usually don’t recognize how fundamental of an issue it is that the degree requirements be entirely accurate and easily maintainable into the future. So, we would emphasize here that there is literally nothing more important in your purchasing decision than how the system represents your institutional DNA!

This consideration includes several elements: ease-of-use, accuracy, and maintainability. In short, with both CollegeSource and Ellucian, there is a compromise between two “poles”: easier-to-use at the one end and more powerful/accurate at the other end.

In your demos, you will find that U.achieve® is quite easy to use, but scratching much below the surface many schools find that it lacks the power to accurately and completely codify the degree requirements of many schools. By contrast, DegreeWorks has a great deal of power, but it’s point-and-click user interface (that Ellucian emphasizes in their demos) is really just a “wrapper” over its proprietary programming language, and you will have to learn and use the programming language to actually take advantage of the system’s codification power.

Only with Advisor do you get all of the power of a programming language (and much more!), but without any programming whatsoever.

Furthermore, among vendors, only Conclusive Systems is so confident that we can easily, accurately, and completely capture your institutional DNA that we have always included entering one academic year of degree requirements as a standard part of our installations. And our installations are always fixed-price with nothing “extra” or hidden. So, with Conclusive Systems alone, you know for certain what the installation will cost and that you will have a fully go-live system with all of your degree requirements accurately represented!

The single biggest “buyer’s remorse” problem emerges during installations and during the first couple of years, as the true costs of the degree audit system become clear. We have heard it again and again from our customers that came to us from one or the other of the “big guy” vendors: “If we had known from the start what it was actually going to cost us, we never would have gone with ———– in the first place.”

The biggest reason why schools engage in laborious RFPs and a costly selection process is that the actual costs of these enterprise systems are almost impossible to tease out. The “big guy” vendors obfuscate, and they also legitimately cannot know some of the costs in advance. That is just a function of their systems-design and business-models. So, both by design and by legitimate necessity, the “big guys” are unwilling/unable to quote you fixed-price figures for huge swaths of the installation and five-year TCOs.

What will hardware cost you? Well, who knows? It’s like a car: speed costs money; how fast do you want to go? How much will it cost you to go even “fast enough”? All such questions are wide-open spaces. Nobody knows until you start implementing and trying to live the system.

Not so with Conclusive Systems. We will provide the hardware as part of installation in the form of a dedicated, self-contained appliance that just works and performs beautifully. We guarantee next-day replacement if there are any problems. We update the hardware (at our cost) as better hardware becomes available. What vendor besides Conclusive Systems ensures that at a fixed price you are always on up-to-date, top-flight hardware? Nobody.

What sort of process will it be to enter in your degree requirements to get a go-live system? Well, who knows? The vendor doesn’t know your degree requirements, and you really don’t know what it will be like to use the vendor’s system to get them entered. How many compromises can you live with and still call it an “accurate” system? What’s it going to be like for your staff to maintain those requirements over the years?

Will the vendor give you a fixed-bid to take responsibility for entering your degree requirements during implementation? The “big guys” either won’t, or they will quote you an insanely high price! They have no idea, so their only option is to refuse to quote or to quote so high that they could make a profit even while spending years on the project.

Not so with Conclusive Systems. We don’t know your degree requirements intimately, but we know our system, and we know what it can do and that it will easily and quickly get the job done. So we are happy to include entering your degree requirements as part of our fixed-price installation quote. Conclusive Systems is alone among degree audit vendors in that aspect of installations. We have always included this all-important aspect of getting you a go-live-ready system, and we have always provided this service as part of our low, fixed price.

What will it cost you to maintain and support the system over time? With the “big guy” vendors, this is just wide-open spaces. With Conclusive Systems, you pay one, low, fixed annual license/support fee; and that fee covers everything! Unlimited training, a wholly-managed system, patching and updates, backups, monitoring… everything. We alone can quote you a five-year TCO that you can look back on in five years and say: “Conclusive Systems nailed it. There were no surprises.”

Our installation price is all-inclusive. Our annual license/support fee is all-inclusive.

No surprises. End of story.


Heads-Up Comparisons

Headings are links >

Company Philosophy

Conclusive Systems exists to serve. We say it again and again, and it is not marketing hype (as all of our customers will enthusiastically attest).

We are academics, and we have dealt with the “big guys” ourselves when we have been on the purchasing side of the table. We now exist to offer an alternative to their way of doing business.

We price and support our products with you in mind, not shareholders or suits in corner offices. Winning and sustaining your enthusiasm is what drives us!

Ellucian is a huge, publicly-traded company that necessarily exists to maximize profits for shareholders and satisfy the demands of suits in corner offices.

Your school is really nothing but another commodity on a balance sheet. You exist in Ellucian’s mind strictly and entirely to divert part of your revenue stream to theirs.

Their “service” (such as you can get it) will always revolve around providing “just enough” to “keep you,” rather than awesome enough to make you enthusiastic. And, they know what’s involved in bringing up one of their systems, so they know that the huge time and expense expenditure you invest makes you unlikely to abandon them just due to their terrible customer support.

In short, Ellucian is not about you. They are about shareholders, and you are just another line item on a balance sheet somewhere.

CollegeSource is another big company that exists to maximize profits and satisfy the demands of suits in corner offices.

As with Ellucian, you are fundamentally a commodity, a line-item on a balance sheet somewhere. Their goals concerning you revolve around profits rather than your actual needs, and their strategic decisions necessarily revolve around maximizing profits.

So, you will always find that the compromises you are forced into with CollegeSource emerge necessarily from their core operating philosophy.

Do you want to be just another line-item, or would you prefer to actually matter to a small company that exists to serve you because that is really what matters?

Right here, at the level of company philosophy, you are making that very decision.

Pricing

We don’t play the hidden-costs game. The price we quote is entirely and all of our charges to bring Advisor live. Our pricing is and always has been all-inclusive: We enter one year of your degree requirements for you, we supply the hardware, we provide onsite training (and unlimited web-based training), and much more… in short, there are no extras or gotchas!

We do not answer to suits in corner offices or shareholders looking to maximize profits. We exist to serve academia, being former academics ourselves. We have been on your side of the table, and we know what it’s like trying to make sense of our (now) competitors’ approach to pricing and real costs.

Conclusive Systems exists to cut through all of the obfuscation and treat you as we wish we had been treated when we were customers ourselves.

Will they give you a fixed bid for entering your degree requirements? Will they quote you a single installation price that is all-inclusive and then stand by it (with no “extras” for opaque items, like: consulting, travel, training, third-party licenses, and more)?

Ellucian is a huge, publicly-traded company that answers to shareholders and suits in corner offices. Profit is why they are in business and what drives their every decision. Your school is just another commodity on a balance sheet. And Ellucian’s high and opaque pricing reflects their company priorities.

Will they give you a fixed bid for entering your degree requirements? Will they quote you a single installation price that is all-inclusive and then stand by it (with no “extras” for opaque items, like: consulting, travel, training, third-party licenses, and more)?

A typical U.achieve annual fee alone costs more than an entire Conclusive Systems Advisor implementation!

CollegeSource is a big company that answers to suits in corner offices. Profit is why they are in business and what drives their every business decision. Your school is another commodity on a balance sheet. And CollegeSource’s high and opaque pricing reflects their company priorities.

Services

When you purchase the Advisor system, you are partnering with the one degree audit vendor that can honestly say that it is in business entirely to serve academia. We don’t exist to make a ton of money; we exist to serve. And all of our customers will enthusiastically tell you that this is not marketing hype.

Need help configuring a degree requirement in the system? We love to serve! Send us an email or call us, and we are quick to respond and answer your questions. We’ll even set up a screen-sharing session on the fly and work side-by-side with you to be sure that we are on the same page. Other vendors often call this “consulting” and charge extra, but this sort of support is what we live for.

Have a question about why a course is not appearing on the audit as you thought it would or should? We love to serve! We are a phone call or email away, and we respond quickly.

Need some additional training for a new staff member, or just a refresher? We’re a quick phone call or email from setting you up with a web-based training session customized to your specific questions.

And our all-included services go far, far beyond just typical “support.”Advisor is the only wholly-managed, truly SaaS degree audit system available. We monitor our systems in real time, so we know about (and fix) issues before they become issues. We provide all the updates and patching. We handle all the backups. Your IT staff barely have to lift a finger. We handle everything, so that your Advisor system just works.

We exist to serve, plain and simple. We provide everything to keep your Advisor system running accurately and amazingly fast, all for a low and all-inclusive price.

For enough money, and waiting long enough, you can get services from Ellucian. What will those services ultimately cost you? Who knows?

Consulting? Sure! They will be happy to charge you for “extra” help.

Training? Absolutely! They will be happy to charge you for “extra” training.

Entering in your degree requirements for you? Are you kidding? And at a fixed price? Come on!

On-the-fly screen-sharing sessions to answer your questions? Good luck even getting in touch with somebody at all. And if it’s called “consulting,” it will cost you.

Problem with the system? They start by pointing the finger at you and asking you what you broke in your latest patch or update.

Wholly-managed system? No way! Your system is your problem, and you pay and pay and pay to manage it and self-support it. And that means that Ellucian really can’t support it. After all, they don’t know what you’ve really done; it’s not really their system.

And the bottom line, really, is that Ellucian exists to churn out profits, not to serve academia. That core priority is reflected in all of the “services” you will get from them.

For enough money, and waiting long enough, you can get services from CollegeSource. What will those services ultimately cost you? Who knows?

Consulting? Sure! They will be happy to charge you for “extra” help.

Training? Absolutely! They will be happy to charge you for “extra” training.

Entering in your degree requirements for you? Are you kidding? And at a fixed price? Perhaps, if you have a lot of money.

On-the-fly screen-sharing sessions to answer your questions? Good luck even getting in touch with somebody at all.

Problem with the system? They start by pointing the finger at you and asking you what you broke in your latest patch or update.

Wholly-managed system? Nope! Your system is your problem, and you pay and pay and pay to manage it and self-support it. And that means that College Source really can’t support it. After all, they don’t know what you’ve done to it; it’s not really their system.

And the bottom line, really, is that CollegeSource exists to churn out profits, not to serve academia. That core priority is reflected in all of the “services” you will get from them.

Support

Our customer support is the best in the academic market! Period.

We do not have a “ticketing system,” and we never will. You will never get a canned, automated message back from us, because those messages signify nothing but that your support request just fell into the black hole of typical ticketing systems. Instead, you just drop us an email, and we respond within an hour. That’s right; no typo.

We are contractually obligated to respond within four hours, and 99% of our support emails are answered within one hour. And that means answered by a live, native-English-speaking person… probably the very person who oversaw your installation and knows your system intimately.

If you call, you reach a live, native-English-speaking person. You do not get some ridiculous voice-menu-tree: “Press 1 to continue in English. Press 1 if you are seeking billing support. Press 2 if you are seeking technical support…. Press 9 if you are ready to shoot yourself in frustration at how hard it is to actually talk to a human being who knows what they are talking about!” There is no such thing, and there never will be at Conclusive Systems!

And for our one, low, annual license/support fee, you get:

  • Live, real-time consulting about anything Advisor-related. Anything.
  • Unlimited web-based training.
  • Amazingly responsive turn-around to your support requests.
  • Continuous, real-time monitoring of your systems’ performance, health, and accessibility.
  • We handle all of the updates, patches, backups, and everything else system-related. Advisor is not “one more system” your IT staff have to manage.
  • And much more.
  • We are all academics ourselves, and we know what it is like to sit on your side of the table in such purchasing decisions. We treat you like we wanted to be treated when we were on your side of the table.
If you have had an Ellucian product and tried to get support for it, then we do not need say anything more here! You have already experienced what Ellucian calls “support.”

If you have not had an Ellucian product, then you owe it to yourself to ask around among other Ellucian customers. It is worth asking some pressing questions:

  • What is the typical turn-around time from when you start a trouble ticket until you get an actual resolution of the problem?
  • How often is the “support” communication really about you “proving yourself innocent” regarding the problem?
  • How often do you waste your time “escalating” a support request until you can (finally) get a response from somebody who knows what they are talking about regarding your system?
  • How often have you needed support that Ellucian called “consulting” and then required more money from you?
Like Ellucian, CollegeSource is a big company that necessarily “parts out” support requests to a whole tree of people behind a ticketing system.

If you already have a CollegeSource product, then you know what “support” means to this company. If you are not yet a CollegeSource customer, then it is worth asking around to see what existing customers think of the “support” they get.

Like Ellucian, CollegeSource is about profit, and that means spending as little as possible on your needs. The net result is the same as with Ellucian and presents the same slate of questions.

  • What is the typical turn-around time from when you start a trouble ticket until you get an actual resolution of the problem?
  • How often is the “support” communication really about you “proving yourself innocent” regarding the problem?
  • How often do you waste your time “escalating” a support request until you can (finally) get a response from somebody who knows what they are talking about regarding your system?
  • How often have you needed support that CollegeSource called “consulting” and then required more money from you?

Degree Requirements

With Advisor’s Requirements Manager, you get the only tool on the planet that enables any school to accurately and completely reflect its actual degree requirements, it’s “institutional DNA.” No compromises!

You get all the power of a proprietary programming language, but with a point-and-click interface. And our interface is not just a “front end” to “cover” the underlying programming language. Our Requirements Manager is all there is. And with it, you can easily and quickly codify degree requirements of any degree of complexity!

Oh, and as part of our standard installation, for one fixed installation price, we always codify one academic year of your degree requirements for you!

DegreeWorks requires your staff to learn a proprietary programming language. Sure, there’s a point-and-click front end that they will demo for you. However, what you have to press them to find out is that the point-and-click interface is really just a superficial wrapper for their proprietary programming language, and that to get anything even slightly “complicated” done, you’ll have to drop into the programming language after all.

During any demo with Ellucian, be sure to ask: “At what point does your point-and-click interface fail to get the job done, forcing us into your programming language?”

And notice that online job listings for DegreeWorks clerks require them to know/learn the “Scribe” programming language, as well as SQL. And even with all of that, DegreeWorks still can’t codify your degree requirements as completely and accurately as Advisor.

It’s a better user interface to manage your degree requirements than DegreeWorks, but the tool lacks the power to codify “complicated” requirements. You trade “prettier” for actual power.

Consequently, if you have any “complicated” degree requirements, you are forced to dramatically change your “institutional DNA” to comply with the limits imposed by the tool itself.

System Speed

No other degree audit system is within an order of magnitude (literally) of the Advisor system’s speed. Advisor averages upwards of 30 audits per second in batches/reports, and self-service audits are effectively instantaneous. It actually takes web browsers much longer to render the audits than it takes the Advisor system to run them!

We say, speed is a feature, because when a system is as fast as Advisor, the speed itself enables entirely new approaches to audits, planning, and overall advising. So, the Advisor system has many features that could only work as they do because of the underlying system speed.

For example, our groundbreaking approach to planning/scheduling allows students to plan/schedule courses side-by-side with an open audit and watch the audit refresh instantly based upon their activities. Students create academic plans and schedule courses by completing an audit in real time, so they know when they have a complete path to graduation by watching that last green check mark appear at the top of their audit!

Advisor has reports that no other system has, because only Advisor can run the quantity of audits needed to produce them. For example, our program completion report tells you which students are within your specified courses/credits thresholds of achieving any degree/major/certificate you offer! For some schools, this means millions of audits, and only Advisor is fast enough to run such a report quickly.

And, something that is often overlooked: A fast system is a used system! People very quickly get tired and even stressed by waiting on a slow system. By contrast, Advisor is so “snappy” that it is a pleasure to use… so it gets used. What-if scenarios are actually worth doing, because they are fast. Planning is a pleasure, because students can see the detailed results of what they plan in real time right on their audit. Moving around between pages is fast. In short, the entire system just feels good to use. So Advisor really was designed to be the hub of your entire advising program.

Speed is a feature, and only Advisor has it.

First, the speed of the system is your problem. Speed costs (hardware) money. How fast do you want to go?

Second, no matter how much hardware money you throw at DegreeWorks, it will never be close to as fast as Advisor. We have been told by many customers that the DegreeWorks application is bloated and inefficient, written with legacy code, and difficult to “tweak” and maintain.

And these reports correlate with our own experience. Some of our own staff have been the system administrators of a DegreeWorks installation, and we can attest first-hand to the vast difficulties and expenses in getting DegreeWorks installed, integrated, and “tuned” to have even minimally acceptable performance. Speed is certainly not a feature of DegreeWorks!

And what speed you can get from it comes at your cost. It’s your hardware, what you’re willing to spend on it.

That is a far cry from how Conclusive Systems provides you with a dedicated appliance that just works and is ridiculous fast at all times. And you never have to lift a finger to keep the system running optimally.

And problem it is!

Both DARS and U.achieve® are notorious in the academic community for being “painfully slow.”

We’ve been told by some of our customers that during their CollegeSource demo, the presenter would click a button to “submit” an audit request, and the (demo!) system would just churn for 20 minutes to produce the audit. During that time, the session would be locked, so that browser could not even be used. The presenter would gloss over this ridiculously slow performance (on a demo system!) by smoothly saying, “Now, while this is running in the background, let me use another browser to show you other things about the system.”

But picture yourself as a student or an advisor who has a pressing need to look at the audit. Picture yourself trying to do what-if scenarios. Picture yourself trying to engage in academic planning. Reporting? Just wow.

If you even have to ask yourself the question, “How long is too long to wait?” then you are considering the wrong system! A slow system is a system people will ultimately hate to use, and a slow system is one that is limited by its sluggishness in the sort of approach it can take to crucial tasks.

And, like DegreeWorks, both DARS and U.achieve® depend upon your supplied hardware. Again and again we ask the pressing question: Speed costs money; how fast do you want to go? It’s on you to decide how much you can spend on hardware. Will it be “enough?” And, again, if you even have to ask such questions, you are considering entirely the wrong degree audit system!

Only the Advisor system gives you insanely fast audits and system responsiveness, and only Advisor does that for a single, fixed price that is a small fraction of what you’ll pay just for the U.achieve® software alone! With Advisor you get the hardware, the software, and the complete, “just works” system for one low price… and that gets you insane speed that leaves the “big guys” just shaking their heads in amazement.

Total Cost off Ownership

With the Advisor system, everything is a known quantity. There is nothing hidden, obscure, or difficult to forecast.

Because there are two costs to the system, installation and annual license/support, and because these two costs are low and all-inclusive, what the system itself will cost you is entirely determinate! Thus, you can know what the Advisor system will cost you, both immediately and over time.

The only other significant factor in TCO is what you will spend on staffing to deal with the system. There is necessarily a certain “open-endedness” about trying to determine what a particular system will cost in this sense. However, with Advisor, even that cost is dramatically reduced compared to the “big guys.”

Comparing just system costs, as we’ve discussed on this comparison page, there really is no comparison between Advisor and the “big guys.” Not only does Advisor just cost much less, but only with Advisor can you actually know what your costs will be!

Here is what you know for sure with Advisor:

♦ No hardware costs; we provide appliances and keep them optimal.

♦ Almost no IT costs; Advisor is a wholly-managed system.

♦ Minimal degree requirements maintenance costs; Advisor is the most powerful and easy to use on this all-important aspect of a degree audit system.

♦ No “consulting” costs; we don’t charge extra for “consulting,” as we just call it support and include it in our low annual fee.

♦ No training costs; we offer unlimited web-based training and screen-sharing sessions.

♦ No third-party and other system costs; Advisor uses no for-pay third-party libraries and has no other hidden system costs.

Advisor will simply save you time, money, and all of the typical hassles of a degree audit system. TCO of the system is low and known, and the traditional extra and unknown costs of such a system are radically minimized or entirely non-existent.

DegreeWorks is notorious for being an expensive system. And it is the “gift that keeps on taking” in terms of TCO!

Not only can you not have confidence in how much the whole thing is going to cost you from the start, it turns out to be literally impossible to figure it out. In fact, significant sections of all RFPs are devoted to the utterly futile effort to get a TCO figure nailed down. And the effort is futile even if you grant Ellucian that they are doing their best to be forthright rather than intentionally obfuscating.

Here’s what you will discover with DegreeWorks:

♦ Unknown costs for hardware; this is entirely your responsibility, and you cannot know in advance how much you will actually need to have even minimal performance.

♦ Unknown IT costs; you are entirely responsible for the care and feeding of your DegreeWorks system.

♦ High and unknown degree requirements maintenance costs; your staff will learn a programming language, and keeping your requirements current and accurate will be troublesome and time-consuming!

♦ High and unknown consulting costs; what is thought of as “functional help” often costs extra, and you have no idea how much of it you will need.

♦ Ongoing training costs extra, and you have no idea how much of it you will need.

♦ DegreeWorks has many high and unquantifiable costs related to libraries, system maintenance, and performance tuning.

Just providing any degree audit system is a benefit to your students and advisors. But it is not at all demonstrable that DegreeWorks is a net gain in terms of costs.

While Advisor will actually save you money, the same cannot be said of DegreeWorks.

U.achieve® is typically less costly than DegreeWorks, but that certainly doesn’t make it inexpensive! And it suffers from the same TCO problems that DegreeWorks does.

♦ Unknown costs for hardware; this is entirely your responsibility, and you cannot know in advance how much you will actually need to have even minimal performance.

♦ Unknown IT costs; you are entirely responsible for the care and feeding of your u.achieve® system.

♦ High and unknown degree requirements maintenance costs; your staff will fight with a “pretty” but compromising requirements management module. So keeping your requirements current and accurate will be troublesome and time-consuming!

♦ High and unknown consulting costs; what is thought of as “functional help” often costs extra, and you have no idea how much of it you will need.

♦ Ongoing training costs extra, and you have no idea how much of it you will need.

♦ U.achieve® has many high and unquantifiable costs related to system maintenance, and performance tuning.

Just providing any degree audit system is a benefit to your students and advisors. But it is not at all demonstrable that U.achieve® is a net gain in terms of costs. While Advisor will actually save you money, the same cannot be said of U.achieve®.


Small vs. Big Company Considerations

Really?

Just because a company is big doesn’t mean much of anything. Have you ever heard the line, “Too big to fail?”

What that line really meant (as we all found out) was that the government opted to (ie: we the people were forced to) swoop in and bail out giant corporations that were not there for us but were there only to maximize profits.

Is any “big guy” academic vendor really “too big to fail”?

Or is it really just big enough that it’s not really in business to truly serve you?

So, how big is big enough to be solid? It’s an odds game. And bigger companies offer better odds of stability… supposedly.

But the really big question is this: Even if the company is around, does that mean that it is going to continue to support the product it sold you?

In fact, these “big guy” academic vendors are big, answer-only-to-the-shareholders/owners monoliths that do not really care about your institution. To them, you are a profit-making tap.

And they perpetually do whatever they perceive to be in their interest, entirely without regard to your interests. And they prove this fact again and again.

Here are just a couple of examples (there are many!): Ellucian absorbed Sungard shortly after Sungard abandoned Bi-Tech, the ERP system used by dozens and dozens of schools. While at Walla Walla University, our present Director of Customer Support was forced to engage in an emergency migration from Bi-Tech to something else, anything else, as Sungard informed her (and other Bi-Tech customers) that it was abandoning that system within a few short years.

Sungard clearly didn’t care about its customers and simply used the product abandonment as an opportunity to do hard-sell tactics to get abandoned customers to move to its very expensive Banner system. Schools that couldn’t even begin to afford Banner were pushed toward Sungard’s PowerCampus instead.

Abandon and then upsell. Abandon and then upsell.

Oracle purchased PeopleSoft and then proceeded to abandon it. Only litigation kept PeopleSoft alive!

These big companies buy up competitors to bury them in an attempt to force customers onto their preferred high-dollar offerings. And just because a product has been around for a long time and has a huge installed base, that means nothing to these companies! Again, remember Oracle’s purchase of PeopleSoft.

The bottom line is that the “big guys” have the same core operating philosophy:

1) Take the market for all it will bear, plus 20% (or more). Then “make deals” down to the exact amount the market will bear, calling that a “discount.”

2) Buy out competitors and (often) bury those products. Monopolize!

And their “product support” consists primarily in market analysis to determine exactly when any given product should be replaced by another (that they purchased), and the steepness of the migration path this presents to the loyal customer is not even a consideration!

Thus, every time a school does the “safe” thing and supports one of these big companies, it chooses to squelch the smaller competition that is even attempting to keep these “big guys” honest.

Every time a school supports one of these big companies, it does so in the face of the fact that there is a superior option available at a fraction of the price.

Every time a school supports one of these big companies, it is very intentionally telling its students and other members of its constituency: “You can just pay more in tuition and other costs, so that we can purchase a product that is far higher priced than another, actually superior, product; and you will pay more just because we want to be ‘conservative.’”

And this also means that the “safe” and “conservative” school is really choosing to pour huge profits into the coffers of these companies, support the suits in the corner offices, support the company’s shareholders, and do all of this at taxpayer and student expense!

And all of this while the cost of higher education and the load of student debt has become a national scandal in the United States.

Think about it. If a company is charging 4 to 10 times (and more) what Conclusive Systems charges, and that for an inferior system that is not as well supported, you have to ask: Where is all that money going? And you have to ask: Who ultimately pays for those obscene profits?

Again and again we ask: Why would you spend much more to get much less?

By contrast, as all of our customers will attest, Conclusive Systems is in business to serve academia. We partner with our customers, rather than enter into a fundamentally adversarial relationship with them. We dedicate ourselves to continually improving what is already the best degree audit system available. We have been in business for over a decade, and we have only expanded our product line. We have never abandoned a product or a customer, and we never will.

Furthermore, we are a closely-held company, and we always will be. Knowing how the “big guys” buy up competition to bury it, there is no way that we would ever treat our customer base as a “commodity” that we could offer for sale just to enrich ourselves! We can’t even imagine the deal one of the “big guys” could offer us to sell out to their way of treating people.

We would not abandon our loyal and happy customers like that.

In short, we are genuinely here for you at a level the “big guys” can never be. And that’s because we don’t think about you anything like they do, so our priorities are nothing like theirs.

Our prices reflect real-expense realities rather than gleaning huge profits.

Our customer support reflects our core value of serving academia.

Really, your choice is not between the “risk” of a small company vs. the “safety” of a big company! Your choice is really between one way of being treated and another.

So, when you really assess the supposed risks, you are far more likely to be abandoned and mistreated by one of the “big guys” than by Conclusive Systems. So, is it really worth 4 to 10 times as much (at taxpayers’ and students’ expense) for the mirage of “safety,” when in fact Conclusive Systems can provide you a better system, better supported, and with a commitment to your interests that the “big guys” cannot match?

We think that the obvious answer is: No!

Yes, that’s true. But what does that really mean?

It is certainly nice to be able to reach out to other users, and that for a host of reasons. But with the “big guys,” the primary motivating factor for this “reaching out” is that you don’t get adequate support when you “reach out” the to company itself. So, in effect, the vendor expects you (and the other users) to sort things out for yourselves.

We think that’s terrible, and even the best users’ group is no substitute for the sort of responsive and reliable vendor support you should be getting from the vendor that should know your system. After all, you are paying for support!

Also, wouldn’t it be nice to deal with a system that was so well-designed and easy to use that you didn’t have nearly as many questions in the first place as you will with other systems? With Advisor, you have just such a system.

How much “security” do you feel from being among many other users? (See the previous item in this considerations list.) The PeopleSoft users ultimately convinced Oracle to keep PeopleSoft around. But the Bi-Tech users couldn’t convince Sungard (now Ellucian) to keep Bi-Tech around.

The bottom line is that these “big guy” companies are capricious, and being surrounded by lots of other users is really no help at all if your whole system gets abandoned by the vendor.

User collaboration? Yes, it’s a critical point. And all of Conclusive Systems’ customers are happy to collaborate with you. You don’t lose that when you go with Conclusive Systems. As one of our customers, on this very site you would be given a login, and you could communicate with other Conclusive Systems’ customers here or directly via their contact information. We have a wonderful group of people we are honored to call customers, and they have repeatedly shown that they love to share what they know with others.

Another point is that if “community size” is really a sweepingly significant consideration, then that means that it is impossible in principle for a “small” company to ever grow and successfully compete against the “big guys.” But small and healthy companies like Conclusive Systems are the very companies you want to have in the marketplace. We bring countless advantages to the free enterprise system, as we are able to do what big bureaucracies simply cannot do.

If it’s worth it to your selection committee to (at students’, taxpayers’ and/or constituents’ expense) spend 4 to 10 times as much (or more) for a slower, less accurate, and poorly-supported product just because it feels “more secure,” then who are we to stop you?

Of course that question sounds provocative, because we (as former purchasers ourselves, and having our own personal experiences with the “big guys”) think that joining the rushing lemmings is simply ridiculous, especially when it costs so much more.

Why would you pay so much more to get so much less? Does a larger user community really offset the countless downsides?

Of course, only you can choose what your priorities are. But we will say that you can join our user community and help it grow. And we’ll be right there with you, supporting you like nobody else, because you’ll matter to us like you simply cannot matter to the “big guys.”

It used to be commonly said, “Nobody ever lost their job for choosing IBM.”

But the irony is that the statement is no longer true of even mighty IBM!

And you are paying for that supposedly “conservative” choice on countless levels. So the pressing question is: Are you really getting what you are paying for?

As you well know, the money for such a system doesn’t grow on trees. And higher education is suffering unprecedented budget-crunches and downright viability questions like never before.

Your students pay for the system you choose with tuition costs, and these are ever-increasing and typically paid for with debt. Furthermore, tuition increases cannot keep pace with budgetary demands. Would your students encourage you to pay 4 to 10 times more for a demonstrably inferior system just because that is the “conservative” choice?

Your constituents also pay for the system via donations (if your school is private) and taxes (if your school is public). Would your constituents encourage you to pay 4 to 10 times more for a demonstrably inferior system just because that is the “conservative” choice?

The cost of higher education has become a national scandal in the United States, with countless articles appearing about the problem and its related epidemic of student-loan debt. But these costs can be controlled and even dramatically reduced, and Conclusive Systems is genuinely in business to contribute to that cost-reduction.

These enterprise systems are by nature expensive. But a degree audit system does not have to be even close to as expensive as the “big guys” charge for them. And your ongoing costs do not have to be even close to as high as they will be with the “big guy” systems. Conclusive Systems exists to provide the superior system at a fraction of the traditional costs.

It would be one thing if you had to pay huge amounts in order to purchase the best system. But you are not faced with that scenario. The best system (and demonstrably so) actually costs much less, both initially and over the long term.

It also might be justified to pay a higher price to choose an established company over a start-up. But you are not faced with that scenario either. Conclusive Systems has been in business since 2001, and we have steadily grown from our inception. We now have a solid installed base with a wide range of schools in the USA and Canada, including some truly “big name” institutions.

So there is literally no reason to cost your students and constituents much more in order to get much less, when you are not thereby purchasing commensurate “safety” by so doing.

Cost does matter, especially when with Advisor you really can enjoy the best system, best supported, at by far the best price.


There is no other degree audit system (for any price) that even approaches the Advisor system in terms of power, speed, and features. And, because Conclusive Systems exists to serve academia rather than fill shareholder pockets with profits, the best degree audit system on the planet is also by far the most affordable!

All of that, coupled with our legendary and immediately-responsive customer support, unlimited training, free consulting, and more….

Why would you pay much more to get much less?

You can use our contact form, or email us directly at info@conclusivesystems.com, and we’ll quickly get back to you to arrange a demo at your convenience and answer any questions.