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Avans University of Applied Sciences

Who is Avans University of Applied Sciences?

Avans is a Dutch University of Applied Sciences formed in 2004. Avans employs over 3,000 people and offers a curriculum of more than 50 study programs to over 35,000 students, at multiple locations throughout the country. 


In this customer success story, René Schenk, Lead Architect, explains how Avans has been creating value for its students by developing innovative educational solutions, while improving the organizational structure and internal collaboration. The use of BlueDolphin as the main Enterprise Architecture tool has supported the teams in designing their value chain model Value4Education – the foundation for aligning its core capabilities with the supporting business operations.

The challenge

Avans’ main objective is to deliver the most valuable education to its students, who have expressed a need for increased flexibility, free choice, and self-development throughout their education. Moreover, continuous developments and digitalization in the professional market result in changing skill requirements for (future) employees.

Avans is innovative in matching its vision and approach to education to these changes. “We plan to grow from a supply-driven, to a demand-driven form of education,” says Schenk. “We are continuously expanding on the possibilities for students to plan their own educational journey. That requires intensive digital transformation on multiple levels and over several years, from IT process and application management to redefining our internal organizational structures and policies.”

"BlueDolphin helped us bring all information together in one repository and generate the insights to design and manage the process.”

René Schenk, Lead Architect at Avans University

Why BlueDolphin by ValueBlue?

The complete transformation project required comprehensive insights into the definition of study programs, and the software and data management to build the programs and make them available to the students. At the same time, functionality was needed to manage the journey that every single student makes, from the first enrollment to the diploma.

When Avans started the initiative five years ago, the board decided that Enterprise Architecture was to be the leading vessel to direct the entire transformation and appointed Schenk as Lead Architect. “Initially, we chose Bizzdesign as the EA management tool, but due to the large number of non-architectural users in the projects, we switched to BlueDolphin about three years ago. BlueDolphin offered much easier-to-use collaboration functionalities, and the free shape and custom image functionalities are highly appreciated by users for navigation and storytelling purposes.”

In addition, the connectivity with existing data sources and the integral survey functionality made it easy to quickly collect and maintain all relevant information, relations, and dependencies. “This was a huge advantage,” says Schenk. “Considering the large scale of the transformation (multiple locations, hundreds of applications, accelerated digitalization of processes, and various policies for both students, teachers, and the organization), the information was scattered over many different departments. BlueDolphin helped us bring all of it together in one repository and generate the insights to design and manage the process.”

The approach

Avans created the value chain model Value4Education. The model starts with Strategy & Governance, the starting point for the three core value chains: Education, Research and Knowledge Development, and Business Operations. Each chain has its own Architect, Product Owner, Lead Developer, and roughly 50 people in development teams.

Schenk’s teams started by gathering information on their principles and processes first, followed by mapping the digital infrastructure and processes for the departments in a second phase. “The value chain model makes it possible to integrate data and tools, systems, and applications,” says Schenk. “For instance, it enables us to clarify what tool we use in which process, how we store the correlated information and make it available, and how we can share data between the various tools automatically.”

Value4Education value chain model Avans

Avans’ value chain model Value4Education, created using BlueDolphin


Avans builds their educational information systems themselves using Mendix, so bespoke software can be offered to the organization in the primary processes. This provided more control over the innovative approach to the curriculum and further digitalization of the student journey, thus aligning IT with the organization.

The results

The team uses BlueDolphin to connect the organizational goals and objectives in a visual way to business processes, capabilities, and underlying applications and data flows. “Based on these insights,” Schenk says, “we modified the organization so that all people and activities per value chain are now combined in the same organizational structures, with much more effectiveness and agile, result-driven collaboration as a result.”

The quality of the collaboration between stakeholders, such as business owners and agile development teams, is improved due to the comprehensive way BlueDolphin connects goals and means to realize them. The free-shape storytelling functionality allows users to easily navigate and create dashboards and models describing exactly what needs to be done.

BlueDolphin is actively helping Avans create a common ground and standardized way of working. The Architectural integration between the different ArchiMate layers and processes has helped the teams make clearer agreements. Process flows are downloaded in PDF format and shared on Avans’ intranet, making the information and policies accessible to more people within the organization.


What’s next?

Avans isn’t the only educational organization that has embarked on this transformation journey. Other universities and colleges throughout the Netherlands have adopted the innovative approach as well. Avans, being the first to have started, is front runner in the process and advises the other organizations.

The collaboration with other educational organizations is catered by sharing building blocks describing how capabilities are created, and how business value and products and services can be realized. Together, they’re building the new form of education through Enterprise Architecture, both for the students and the organizations alike.

Success stories

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