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Decision Inc. implements Adaptive Insights at GetSmarter

Decision Inc. supports the GetSmarter short course business in a unique Adaptive Insights implementation that offers end-to-end planning, budgeting and reporting for its marketing functions.

Johannesburg, 13 Dec 2019
Read time 4min 00sec
Nkululeko Makhanya, Engagement Lead at Decision Inc.
Nkululeko Makhanya, Engagement Lead at Decision Inc.

Decision Inc. supports the GetSmarter short course business in a unique Adaptive Insights implementation that offers efficient, end-to-end planning, budgeting and reporting for its marketing functions.

As illustrated in the viral “10-year challenge” meme circulating on Facebook earlier this year, a lot can change in a decade.

Not only has physical technology been updated, but how we use it has changed as well.

When connection speeds were slow, and computers were desk-bound and expensive, having access to one, along with access to the Internet, was a luxury reserved for school projects and e-mailing distant family members. Similarly, graduate studies and academic advancement were reserved for the fortunate few with the funds to support the cost of their extended studies as well as the physical relocation to a campus.

With the introduction of mainstream access to distance education, individuals started to become empowered to take their education into their own hands, often working during the day and studying at night. Over the past decade, organisations such as 2U, Inc. (also known as 2U), a global leader in education technology, have changed the landscape completely. Through its GetSmarter short course business, 2U partners with prestigious international universities, such as Cambridge, Oxford and MIT, to power short courses that individuals can access without ever leaving their homes.

Reaching one million professionals

GetSmarter aims to change the lives of one million professionals. This requires a great deal of proactive marketing and advertising to increase awareness and interest in the variety of courses on offer. Various strategies are used, depending on the course’s target student, which allows for a set advertising spend (adspend) to be allocated to a course.

Managing adspend to ensure a profitable course without compromising service

To ensure that each short course is profitable, the GetSmarter teams need to make sure that the adspend per course is aligned with the estimated number of students per course. 

Jason Lu, VP of Finance: Analytics and Budgeting at 2U, says the GetSmarter team worked with Decision Inc. to "implement a model whereby we can put in the amount of spend and assumptions, and it tells us how many students and how much revenue we would be likely to get out of our spend".

Based on the number of assumptions, a percentage of interested students transition to become actual students. They are then allocated to the specific course, and the overall revenue per course is calculated based on a range of factors, such as course price and number of students.

Time-consuming manual processes with the capacity for errors

As with many businesses, when GetSmarter started in 2008 with one course, managing the adspend return was easiest to do with spreadsheets. One team was responsible for consolidating all the spreadsheets with the relevant data in order to report on the revenue values per course.

However, as the business grew, Lu said the manual management of this task became "clunky, quite difficult to maintain, and a risk to the business".

Adaptive Insights offers end-to-end planning and budgeting

As a 2U brand which uses software-as-a-service company Adaptive Insights and which has seen the benefits that the software provides, the GetSmarter team partnered with Decision Inc. to streamline the reporting and free-up time for the team to play a more strategic role in student acquisition, with the aim to reach the 2030 enrolment targets.

Combining the skills and expertise of both the Cape Town and Johannesburg Decision Inc. teams, with the support of the tech-savvy GetSmarter team, the entire implementation took place over the course of two weeks. 

"Having the team on site bringing expertise and teachings was valuable," says Lu. "The Decision Inc. team were instrumental in thinking through challenges.”

Work is currently in progress to set up for 2020, with new courses and exchange rate assumptions to be included. Decision Inc. will carry on offering continuous support with quick turnarounds.

Unique project: using Adaptive Insights to measure advertising spend returns

Typically used to calculate and report on group financial reporting and the like, Decision Inc.’s opportunity to implement Adaptive Insights on a project as unique as this (measuring marketing adspend and student uptake assumptions per course) has demonstrated the flexibility of the solution. By utilising tactical "out-of-the-box" thinking and being willing to implement a strategic change, the GetSmarter team are well on their way to achieving their goals.

2U, Inc.

Eliminating the back row in higher education is not just a metaphor–it’s our mission. For more than a decade, 2U, Inc., a global leader in education technology, has been a trusted partner and brand steward of great universities. We build, deliver, and support more than 250 digital and in-person educational offerings, including graduate degrees, professional certificates, Trilogy-powered boot camps, and GetSmarter short courses. Together with our partners, 2U has positively transformed the lives of more than 150,000 students and lifelong learners. To learn more, visit #NoBackRow

Decision Inc. Financial Planning and Analysis

The Financial Planning and Analysis (FP & A) division at Decision Inc. is focused on making budgeting, forecasting, consolidation and management reporting more efficient and accurate for their clients by combining superior technical skills and financial knowledge with industry best practice to consolidate strategic and operational information.

Editorial contacts
Gloria Malan
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