Accurate predictions in stable industries are relatively easy. In Pittsburgh, home of Heinz, I bet we can predict the sale of ketchup “bottles” with high accuracy. The demand of Ketchup, like the demand of hot dogs, hamburgers, and French fries remains relatively stable, i.e., similar from year to year. Thus, predictability is easy. Same scenarios, different/continuous years.

Predictions in highly dynamic industries are challenging. Dare I invoke the day-to-day changes of our political environment? I guess… It’s a great example of when only half “the country” votes and the “leader of the free world” is clearly unpredictable. Predicting any outcome is a challenge.

The Most (un)Predictable Industry?

Our industry, Higher Education, has been anything but stable throughout 2019. What other industry exists that has the following?

  • The DOJ catalyzing change: Colleges and Universities are no longer held to the idea that recruiting students from other institutions is not allowable
  • A public uproar over a growing, nation-impacting issue: Student debt is now the second largest component of personal debt at $1.6 trillion
  • Scandalous activities that are tabloid worthy: Varsity blues paints a picture of an industry that is corruptible
  • An impending cliff in the industry’s “raw material”: Birthrates will drive college-aged high school graduates from 1.9 million to 1.6 million over a decade, alternatives to traditional education will continue to grow, and the big wanting to get bigger will lead to challenging times for the majority of institutions.

These sobering facts not only require agility and innovation, but they make predictions difficult. When the big picture creates fog over the landscape, the answer is to focus on the individual “customer.”

There are millions of college age and non-traditional students who have one thing in mind, “I want a good education that allows me to advance my position in life, be a productive member of society, and earn a reasonable wage (that allows me to effectively manage my debt).”

Each individual student can optimally thrive at a “few” institutions and as a result create the best path forward for themselves.

Removing the (un)

At Othot, we are proud that our 30+ partner colleges and universities use the Othot Platform to optimize their relationships with these individual students throughout the student lifecycle.
The Platform helps them enroll the best-fit students who will persist at the optimal net-tuition revenue and graduate more students faster than ever. As of 2020, the Platform will help schools engage with alumni in a very personal way.

The antidote to the woes of continuous change is focusing on the individual student, understanding his/her behavior, and optimizing the outcome for both the individual and the institution. Amazon is successful exactly because of this. They understand the individual. They continuously try to understand what products and services they can deliver to an individual in a seamless and satisfying way.

Can we imagine a similar situation in Higher Education? That is, the seamless delivery of services that make our students and alumni highly satisfied? Where the outcome is great placements for students with manageable debt? Those happy alumni are sure to be engaged.

The Year of Frictionless

My prediction for 2020 is that the adjective that will be on everybody’s tongue will be “frictionless.” How do we take the friction out of the equation? Frictionless means the easy identification of best-fit students who will persist where net tuition and projected debt will not be objections. Frictionless means that students clearly see pathways (that they can choose) to great post-graduate outcomes with manageable debt. Frictionless means that schools understand the connections that alumni have to their institutions and that they can catalyze personalized philanthropy.

I wish I could take credit for the “frictionless” concept. But I can’t. I owe that concept to Vikas Choudhury, a new friend that is changing the world of wireless communications (look him up). And I owe my growing intellectual curiosity of how to catalyze personalized philanthropy to Rich Bundy at Penn State. Thanks to both!

I am looking forward to 2020. Not only will Othot continue with its vision of providing the advanced analytics platform that is at the core of an optimized relationship between the individual and the institution, it will enable a frictionless student lifecycle.

Happy 2020 everyone!