NTT DATA Business Solutions
Marc van den Berk | September 23, 2015

From gut feeling to projects! SAP CEC in Higher Education


Do you know the Taylor Swift fan story? A Short summary: Fan Stepanie twitters in tears she will miss a concert from her big idol. Taylor Swift with the help of an Airline Company who picked up the tweets, succeeded to provide Stephanie her best evening ever! @StephanieBe is the classic digital customer of today — she is digitally connected, socially networked and well informed. The Airline Company and Taylor Swift did a fantastic job in customer engagement!

Companies need to be ready to cater and support this new world customer. We at NTT DATA Business Solutions, asked ourselves how Universities are dealing with empowered students. With support of our Higher Education Business Consultants, SAP and me as ‘Evangelist’ in Customer Engagement and Commerce (SAP CEC), I started a journey. A short story…

First let me shorten the SAP Customer Engagement and Commerce portfolio (CEC). SAP CEC contains three solutions:

  • CRM (Cloud 4 Customer)
  • hybris marketing
  • hybris commerce.


On September 15th SAP announced to upgrade the portfolio to “Simplified Front Office”

SAP : “In today’s digital world, businesses need to connect the front office and back office in real time — linking people, products, pricing and customers together. This means that the new front office must go beyond the traditional marketing, sales and service automation functions and include integrated, real-time personalization, Web and mobile commerce, social customer service and more. Planned tools from SAP are envisioned to simplify the front office, helping businesses get a single, contextual view of their customers while giving each customer a consistent, personalized experience across all channels.”

So is this SAP offering relevant for universities at all? To answer this questions we did a market research, had several customer interviews and went through the process of a successful product development.

Trends in Higher Education

Before I will explain how we organized product development, let me share some market trends in Higher Education. There are several reasons why customer engagement and commerce is highly relevant to Universities:

  1. Growing competition. To keep and win market share an institute has to be competitive and attractive. A university needs deep, real time insights to be attractive and relevant during the complex and dynamic student journey; from prospective student to alumni.
  1. Lifelong Student Journey becomes reality. Adults are a lucrative market for universities – the target age is not only 18–25 , but 18–99. These students are generally older, and require flexibility to design their education around their job and lifestyle. Degree may even be spread across multiple universities.
  1. Empowered students. Many of today’s students are digital natives, and they expect their university to be able to keep up with them. Students go to universities to expand their knowledge – what kind of an image does it project if students are more technologically savvy than the institute they are paying to learn from? These digital natives are always on: they want information on demand, 24/7. They want to interact with the university on the channels of their choice. By simultaneously using many different online and social media channels such as twitter, blogs, email, mobile devices, etc. students have become all-important opinion formers and leaders – they become brand ambassadors for the university


In this highly competitive market and in today’s omni-channel environment where #lifelong learning is a trending topic, Universities should be using solutions to develop a real time dynamic student profile for better understanding. And yes, it would make sense if institutes look for agility in delivering the best cross touchpoints experiences.


How did we organize product development and how did we set-up the interviews?

We asked some customers if we could involve them in a Product – Market analysis. Our main question was: are these products relevant to Universities? They all agreed and had an open mind during the meetings.

So we organized a workshop session, invited several roles and explained on high level and step by step the solution. After a short discussion on the solution we asked the audience to score the solution on ‘relevance’ and ‘expect to investment in’. They could also write down suggestions and remarks. We really captured their feeling, their view on the solution!

Based on the first positive results we started developing, and are still developing, Higher Education focused scenario’s and examples. Internally, we take a step-by-step approach with transparent planning and deliverables. In this process we are helped by the market. In Request For Proposals, Universities are describing recruitment and engagement scenario’s which we have to answer.

Next steps: A white paper will be launched in October and other actions are planned

Over the last few months we had several very successful presentations and meetings with Universities that resulted in projects! Through amongst others an inspirational whitepaper named “Fly Like an Eagle – How Institutions for Higher Education Can Reach New Heights in the Digital Age” that will be published soon, we will positon SAP CEC in this market.

Supported by market signals, state-of-the-art solutions and very talented consultants, we are confident that NTT DATA Business Solutions will support many Universities in reaching their ambitious goals.
If you have questions on this topic, please contact Marc van den Berk

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