College of Music Orchestrates Success With APIs

A major challenge for colleges and universities is managing various IT systems and ensuring that students, staff, faculty and others can connect to data effectively. At Berklee Online, the continuing education arm of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the task had become increasingly challenging.

A homegrown IT system built in 2003 had become unwieldy, and managing data had become a headache. “It had become difficult to support important tasks, including registrations and managing students working on online degrees,” recalls Luke Stevens, director of technology and CTO. “We required better systems to handle processes, including degree management.”

At the heart of the problem was a need to connect disparate legacy IT systems. The development team found itself devoting significant time and resources to the task. In some cases, integration projects required several weeks.

 “We realized that we had to find a better way to connect IT systems,” Stevens says. “The total cost of ownership related to managing, operating and connecting all the systems and data had become significant.”

About two years ago, Berklee turned to integration solutions provider Jitterbit to introduce a more agile and flexible IT environment. The solution offers Application Programming Interface (API) libraries that simplify connection points without generating code.

Tested a Cloud-Based Solution

The school first tested the cloud-based solution for student registration information and found that it was able to rework the code and tie key data into other critical systems in only four days. From there, the school expanded the use of the integration solution to various other systems, including Salesforce.

“All the data about our students, their courses and their experience with us lives in our legacy database,” Stevens explains. “Jitterbit Harmony serves as a hub within a hub-and-spoke model that makes data about our students available in Salesforce and other applications.

“Today, an advisor can assist students and help them find the right classes or right programs without having to leave Salesforce. We are able to use leading-edge CRM features and maximize student engagement, while maintaining our legacy database and minimizing the time spent on building our own software and solutions.”

The approach delivers other benefits, as well. For example, users no longer have to log into multiple IT systems to accomplish various tasks. “That is a huge timesaver, and it’s far more convenient,” Stevens points out.

In addition, the university can now keep data in sync and accurate across a variety of systems— something that presented a formidable challenge in the past. In some cases, staff manually copied and pasted data.

Finally, the integration framework allows business users with little or no knowledge of technical coding and IT issues to build production instances that move data between systems as necessary. They use drag-and-drop scripting and dashboard tools to accomplish those tasks.

“We have taken a huge step forward,” Stevens reports. We are saving time and using staff resources far more efficiently. We now have systems and data under control and we are better equipped to face the challenges of today’s business environment.”

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