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How to Efficiently Extend Your Card Office Capabilities

The benefits of a SaaS-based transaction system
University Business, August 2017

Institutions today are being asked to do more and more with less and less. That might make sense from a business standpoint as it makes them more profitable, but it risks burning out and stressing out employees. 

This web seminar described the value a campus card transaction system deployed through SaaS can bring to an existing card program, how it can help extend the reach and capability of the card office, and how a SaaS-deployed system can redirect the efforts of the card office team so they can focus on what matters most.

Jordan Rich

Solutions Engineer

Blackboard Transact

With a SaaS offering, gone are the days of necessary scheduled outages and patching a campus card server residing in your server room.

Eliminating the infrastructure and system maintenance costs associated with the typical client-server campus card processing system, a SaaS transaction management system service can deliver state-of-the-art performance without the operational cost and complexity of traditional campus card models. Many services are professionally hosted and managed clients, eliminating the need for dedicated or shared resources for system database administration, technical support and many other card program operations.

This lighter footprint approach processes any number of combinations of dining plans, flexible spending, declining balance toward value, and other specialized accounts or purses for any campus point-of-sale devices. That includes off-campus as well. IP-based or mobile readers are installed on campus and communicate through a secure, encrypted format back to your network. That transaction is processed in the cloud for authorization, all without the heavier client-server setup.

Browser-based cardholder and administrative interfaces offer campus personnel the ability to make changes on the fly from any device without needing to visit a specific PC or desktop that has a card program application installed on it. It is far less resource-heavy on campus personnel than a traditional client-to-server card system.

Advantages of SaaS

You should also expect to rely on high availability and on-demand scalability as your demands for the campus card grow. Additionally, moving your transaction system to the cloud should not eliminate your ability for new offerings in the future, whether that’s adding a new meal plan or an accepting location. SaaS offerings can also boost your campus card program with mobile terminal applications for accepting transactions away from the typical encrypted mortar sites, such as the possibility of an athletic event and taking transactions on the fly at a home football game, or even offering that picnic in the quad where you want to debit the meal units.

How can a SaaS transaction system extend the reach and capability of your card office? With a multi-tenant approach, partners can offer standardized support, which is an effective component of any transaction system. That would typically include infrastructure management, integrated card production, cardholder care and many additional things, such as a managed merchant network. Removing these tasks or burdens off of campus personnel, or offering this type of approach to campuses without an established card office, is a clear value-add to a SaaS approach.

One of the components of managed services is securing systems and completing annual audits to ensure that compliance is met. The value of having a PCI level 1 service provider is paramount because if campuses are willing to offer online value or online deposits via credit or debit card, they want to be sure those transactions are secure.

SaaS removes the maintenance of a heavy client-server footprint and a local data center from the campus network, to a professional data center with a 24/7/365 network operation team. The campus ID team and the card office no longer need to worry about keeping the back end up and running, patched, backed up and compliant. In the event of a system outage on campus, there is no longer the need to respond and get the local card program system up and running again.

Implementation models 

What about the card office folks? This setup varies by campus. If you don’t have a card office in place or even want to extend the reach of an existing card office, some providers will offer customer service options. One offering that Blackboard has that’s unique is the most comprehensive and capable cardholder care service solution on the market, featuring an expertly staffed customer service center trained to support your program. As a managed services provider, Blackboard also provides comprehensive service and support for client-operated auxiliary and third-party merchants, either on- or off-campus.

For on-campus accepting locations, a SaaS access system should meet, if not extend, your cardholders’ access to applications such as dining, vending, retail, bookstore, laundry, print and copy, or other applications. Ideally, a SaaS system should not limit your partner integrations. Campuses should not compromise on functionality or plan offerings when moving to a SaaS model.

Important considerations

The final piece I want to touch on is card production, as it’s likely this function will still remain on campus in some shape or form. Even if a card program offers pre-printed card services, you still need a place to process replacement cards in case of loss. Where the stations reside can vary; we often see the card office at the IT help desk, and even in some cases a campus security office.

It also may be prudent to consider different card designs for different types of cardholders. For example, some campuses will have student, faculty and staff cards render in a horizontal layout, while other cards (such as community members or contractors) will render in a vertical layout and possibly a different color scheme so the card immediately stands out.

Another factor to consider with card production is ensuring the transaction system is updated in real time or near real time when credentials are reissued or updated. You want to be sure that your cardholders can use that card at accepting locations right away.

ISO number generation is another important consideration—it’s a more secure way to issue cards. Each number can be completely random in its assignment. 

The cardholder can simply receive the next available 16-digit number versus a typical incremental change in the lost card code. Additionally, using ISO numbers aligns your card program with the widely used international standard for the card and account numbering.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit www.universitybusiness.com/ws052417

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