How to Develop Beneficial Ed Tech Partnerships

Creating mutually beneficial relationships

Higher ed institutions rely on partnerships with many ed tech vendors across campus. But how does a college or university leader develop the most beneficial partnerships? What does a healthy partnership between a solution provider and an institution look like?

In this web seminar, presenters discussed some strategies and best practices for getting the most out of partnerships with ed tech vendors. The vice president for operations at Spartanburg Methodist College in South Carolina and the director of academic affairs at D2L described the key differences between healthy and unhealthy vendor relationships, and provided tactics to help any institution better engage with ed tech vendors.

Speakers

Christopher Sessums
Director of Academic Affairs
D2L

Trey Arrington
Vice President for Operations
Spartanburg Methodist College (S.C.)

Christopher Sessums: Doing business in higher education can be tricky. It can be strange. It’s not like doing business anywhere else.

With so many ed tech solutions available, a lot of ed tech companies are vying for your attention and vying for your business. With so many solutions on the market, how can institutions remain innovative and competitive, and serve students and faculty and alums well, while getting the best of the latest technologies? Collaboration is key, especially with trusted allies who can make all the difference between just getting by and exceeding your expectations.

What’s the best way for institutions to develop partnerships that are mutually beneficial? What should a healthy partnership between a solution provider and an institution look like?

Trey Arrington: Growth can be tricky. Yes, we’re growing, but we don’t want our expenses to outpace our revenue. So it’s important that we find partnerships that work well for us, that are efficient and that are effective.

Christopher Sessums: What are some of the things that guide your decision-making process when selecting a vendor?

Trey Arrington: We want partnerships that are mutually beneficial—as equal as we can get in risk and reward for both parties. You want a partnership in which you’re getting something out of it and it’s important enough to the vendor that they’re getting some return as well. You want to be important to that vendor.

“Do your research on the vendors. This is especially important in this climate where a lot of the legacy vendors have not adapted well for the changing environment in higher ed.”

Do your research on the vendors. Understand who they are. This is especially important in this climate where a lot of the legacy vendors have not adapted well for the changing environment in higher education. And if you’re looking at startups, be sure they’re financially viable.

Talk about shared goals. Talk about what their goals are as a company. Let them know what your goals are as an institution. Empathy and flexibility go hand in hand. You want a partnership with a vendor that has some flexibility so that you can change course slightly when needed or change course greatly when needed.

Christopher Sessums: What advice would you offer a colleague about how to vet a potential ed tech partner?

Trey Arrington: Look at whether the relationship will be transactional. You want a partner that’s willing to share in the ups and downs. One of the best ways to find that is to talk to some of their current customers. Also, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, I want to have a conversation with the owner of your company.”

Personality matters. Does this company reflect the ethics and the personality of your institution? Be sure they understand who you are and the struggles that you have, and make sure that they align with you in that manner. Maintain transparency and communicate effectively. Be open; be honest. Don’t hide anything about yourself from that partner, and certainly try to keep that partner from hiding anything from you. That’s how you set your best and your most honest and effective goals—by being completely transparent.

Christopher Sessums: What suggestions do you have for sustaining a good working partnership?

Trey Arrington: Trust but verify. There is absolutely nothing wrong with holding people accountable. That doesn’t mean that you’re mistrustful. That doesn’t mean that you want to keep a thumb on something. But when you’re in the role of signing contracts and building partnerships for your institution, you have to own it.

Also, regardless of how daunting the contract can be sometimes, know it from front to back. Make sure that all the things you talked about with the friendly salesperson are in there. Then, put multiple eyes on it. Send it to the CFO and to a couple of faculty members. You only control things as long as your signature is not on that contract. As soon as you sign, control is all in that document. So hash things out because you usually don’t get a do-over.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit UBmag.me/ws071119


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