The fifth ‘S’ — Strategy

As a member of the Kuali Foundation Board (the ‘Board’), I hereby provide my thoughts on the impending direction of proceeding with the commercial entity, KualiCo. For about the past two years, the Board has been diligently pursuing the question of the long-term sustainability and growth for Kuali in general, asking the question “Where’s the stampede?” That is, why are not many other institutions embracing and using Kuali systems now that they are proven by cost-efficient implementations? Why is the adoption so low, the rate of growth so slow, and why is adoption maybe even stalled?

In the first decade, the Kuali community proved that we could develop and deploy big systems that give great value to our institutions. As Kuali enters its second decade, it is imperative that Kuali adopt a new model that assures its sustainability and growth as many more institutions consider both local and cloud-based systems. After almost two years of detailed and incisive discussions and contemplations, for Kuali sustainability, the Board agreed unanimously upon the need for the four S’es: Speed, Sustainability, path to a Suite, and Sweet (see the Kuali 2.0 blog I heartily agree with the need for each and every one of these imperatives. Unless we see all four of these realized, it is fair to question if Kuali can grow in ways that ensure long-term sustainability.

Kuali is near and dear to my heart personally and professionally, and to many individuals in our institution, and indeed to Colorado State University as a whole. Colorado State University would like to be an all-Kuali school circa 2020. After due deliberation, and after having given a great deal of thought to Kuali 2.0, I am firmly convinced that the only manner in which Kuali can succeed is with the formation of KualiCo, a bona fide commercial entity. I also firmly believe that Joel Dehlin, based upon his esteemed record of success at Instructure, his experience, his morals and ethics, and his expertise, is unquestionably the best person we could find to lead KualiCo. Thus, I am wholeheartedly and fully supportive of the directions of Kuali 2.0.

This brings us to the fifth S, Strategy. Sustainability is a strategic issue (“what do we do?”), and I believe we must embark upon the KualiCo direction, as quickly as we prudently can. This is a strategic imperative. Now, some insist that we have all of the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed prior to embarking upon such a new strategic direction, and in my mind this inappropriately conflates this strategic issue of embarking upon this initiative with the issue of whether every detail can be foreknown prior to embarkation. This latter issue is one of operations (“how do we do it?”).

I have seen numerous communications on this topic recently that we should not embark upon this without having the “how do we do it?” details in place, and I must completely disagree. There are too many details to address, and we are the wrong ones to address them. Now is the time to form the best KualiCo we can, hire the best person to lead that company that we can, trust them to work out the details, and GO!

Why now? Certainly Kuali Student and Rice need to be accelerated. Certainly, we need multi-system oversight across all of the Kuali products (the portfolio-ness that we have been discussing in the community), certainly we need to evolve as quickly as possible to a superior user interface. Certainly we need to adopt the most modern, agile, productive programming environment. Certainly, we need to head in the direction of multi-tenancy, with an interim step of multiple instances under the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. I opine, certainly, we need to move now. Strategy!

Thus, I am now of the mind that we should get past this issue of “if” and “how,” and turn our attention to what can we all do, each and every one of us, to embrace and assure the success of Kuali and KualiCo. This is exactly the approach CSU took when CSU went live on a pre-release version of KFS software July 1, 2009. Going live with KFS was a strategic decision for us, and we trusted that the details would emerge and be addressed, and so it was. Thanks to the Kuali Community. Let us strive to re-engender that sense of Community as we together move forward with KualiCo.


Patrick Burns

Patrick Burns

Colorado State University