What Your Enterprise Can Learn From Education

Light bulb drawing on blackboard.

In 2011, PC’s were overtaken by iPads, other tablets, and smartphones in terms of total shipments from the manufacturer. There is simply no question at this point that mobile devices will be the key driver of all enterprise system development in the foreseeable future.

What that means is if we want to be next generation programmers, if we want to be next generation enterprise IT, this is what we need to learn. Mobile is the starting point and mobile is probably the ending point of all the systems development going forward.


It used to be always that when enterprise systems were made there was a typical waterfall model where you decided, “Okay, there’s a whole team that goes in, product managers go in, and requirement specifications are laid out.” All that good stuff happened, and then you built this whole massive, monolithic structure called an ERP system, or a CRM system, or a supply chain system. And you put that on the desktop of every single employee.

Those days are gone. The future, as educational institutions are now showing us, is that content is going to be generated, consumed, and absorbed as a part of the ecosystem within the enterprise in a very dynamic fashion. It’s not going to be because of a monolithic system that has a top down approach to disseminate content. Instead, content will be generated, and many of the people at the top may not even know how much collaboration is happening with that content within the system they’re adopting.

The pace at which these things are developing is furious. Just in the last 18 months, large education institutions have adopted systems from companies such as Pearson, SunGard, and Scholastic (some of which are our customers), in a very big way. They have changed the face of how people have been using these systems, and we’ll talk about some of the areas where that’s happening.

A good example of a company that’s become very adept at the conent itself and the way you have to deal with content, is Conover, a company that we work with that deals with special education kids.

In California, the cost of the school system is typically about $10,000 per kid. But for a special ed kid, the cost to the education system is anywhere between $20,000 to $150,000–per kid, per year. Cities and states are throwing huge money at the unique challenges of special education needs kids. But the systems that are given to them are still the same age-old systems.

That’s where Conover comes in. They’re delivering completely cognitively-researched systems for special education kids, offered on touch-based devices. As they’ve said in their own assessment, which we agree with, this is revolutionizing the entire industry and the way schools work with special education kids.

So you need to look at both the content and the consumer of that content, and see how mobile, or particularly touch-based devices, can really transform their ability to absorb and retain content. Conover is an important example because you’re not just saving a ton of money for the school systems, you’re also improving student retention levels by almost three times as much as they had before. It’s a tremendous benefit socially, as well as economically.

Not all examples are as visible. We’re also working with Scholastic, who just released a teacher dashboard that categorizes students by high achievers, medium achievers, and low achievers. So as a class session progresses, the teacher can visualize on their own iPad what is going on in the class. The class is already outfitted with iPads that are all connected and they’re able to see live how many of the kids in each group are performing around the benchmark, below the benchmark and above it. Because this is all happening live, at the source of the instruction itself, the teacher can adapt the pace of learning as needed. And they can actually give the right kids additional help as they go through the progress of the course.

Similarly, there are also dashboards for content delivery. The content can be dynamically tailored to specifically a kid, or a group of kids with the technology that is now available. The teacher can actually sit at what’s almost like a control center at their desk, and find out who’s absorbing what, and what content needs to be pushed to them. Each kid in the class may be actually working on different problems at any point in time, and that’s kind of the innovation that is going on in content delivery.

These are the innovations that enterprise must adopt with their own training programs. With the mass pace of change that’s taking place in many industries it’s no longer enough to rely on the tech school or university system to ensure that a student comes to a workplace “job-trained”. Enterprise will have to take on the burden of more training, and they must learn from the lessons of innovation in Education if they’re going to do it effectively.

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series on how education is driving changes far beyond the gates of colleges campuses.

Sudhir Kulkarni, is a Managing Partner at Sourcebits, and spoke at the recent Technology Symposium on the topic of “How Education is Driving Trends in Content, Collaboration, and Administration…and Why It Matters To Enterprise.”