– Jim Chilton, CIO, Cengage
“In under two and a half years, Cengage has saved U.S. students almost $200 million on course materials,” stated Jim Chilton, CIO of Cengage.
“But why does this matter?” He elaborated, “Education, and the opportunities it brings, should not be just for those who can afford it. Anybody who wants to learn should be able to do so. This sentiment is the fabric of Cengage and one of the primary reasons I joined the company.”
The pivotal program behind the savings is Cengage Unlimited, a subscription-based service that includes 22,000 e-textbooks, as well as digital learning materials and study guides. For a fixed fee of just $120 per semester, or $180 a year, students have access to 22,000 products, including e-books, online homework access codes, and study guides for one price, no matter how many materials they use. The subscription also includes free access to college success and career support; including activities in resume-building, financial literacy, time management, and more.
Chilton recalled, “As part of the launch, I visited a school in Florida and heard two students talking about how they would buy one book between them and then they would pick classes so that they could share the copy; this was the only way they could afford to attend community college! By offering a flat fee — lower than the price of a single textbook — we are able to make course materials accessible for a significantly larger number of people.”
He added, “There is a massive amount of technology involved, but the most important thing is how it impacts peoples’ lives.”
For Chilton, one of the key differentiators for Cengage is how well the company does in taking care of its customers. He commented, “Customer service is something that we are really proud of. We put in place technologies that enable us to engage students in a way that is most comfortable for them.”
The global COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented opportunity for faculty and administrators to embrace and create valuable online learning experiences. In response to the shift online, Cengage responded by offering students free access to Cengage Unlimited, which includes all the company’s e-textbooks and digital courseware for the Spring 2020 semester. “We were able to assist hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of professors,” Chilton proudly stated.
Under Chilton’s leadership, there has been a major evolution of the Global Technology Solutions (GTS) team — a group tasked with developing the business systems foundation on which Cengage builds its market-leading education offerings.
Chilton described, “The GTS paradigm is all about driving efficiencies in operation while delivering innovative, superior products for our customers. We’re always seeking ways to optimize our investments and redirect any resulting savings into the transformational projects that really make a difference to our learners.”
An example of the GTS philosophy involved the company’s legacy JD Edwards (JDE) EnterpriseOne ERP system. Despite being a core application for Cengage, maintenance was becoming increasingly burdensome. “We didn’t want to spend millions of dollars to move to a current version in a legacy platform but needed to continue to ensure the platform remains reliable and cost-effective.
As a global company, Cengage is exposed to endless changes to the individual tax laws of every country in which it does business; having tax, legal, and regulatory updates included in the standard support agreement was on Cengage’s wish list as well.
A member of Chilton’s team raised the possibility of transitioning to independent, third-party support for JD Edwards. “We immediately saw that we could get differentiated coverage at a significantly lower price point,” acknowledged Chilton. “It was refreshing to engage with a company that is really motivated and enthusiastic to go above and beyond to provide the needed support and help solve our problems. This was the catalyst for the switch to Rimini Street.”
Chilton reflected, “I see Rimini Street as being this stable of very talented and experienced engineers that clearly know the Oracle product. The responses to our questions are exactly what we need: fast and on target. They are prepared to go as technically deep as required to resolve an issue, in fact, including troubleshooting within our custom code.”
With the financial and resource savings accumulated across Cengage, GTS has delivered multiple critical-path initiatives for the company, including the subscription engine, a product data model, an HR system, and several e-commerce platforms. “There is absolutely no doubt that the savings we’ve amassed from making the switch to Rimini Street have contributed to our transformational projects and moved us closer to our goals.”
Summing up, Chilton remarked, “Rimini Street is great to work with, just fantastic. We are spending less money and getting more value. It has been a joy to witness the benefits we’ve had from our partnership.”
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