Updating Your ERP System at a Higher Education Institution

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in higher education are typically built on three pillars: human resources, student information, and financial management. Integration with ERP systems is often quite complex.

Colleges and universities often have a lengthy list of home-grown software and applications, many built by students. There might be a small program that was built by a graduate student to handle grading in one department and a legacy piece of software that is used in place of ERP inventory management for higher education in procurement, which might include spreadsheets as part of the workflow. All of this makes ERP integrations‚ÄĒand updates‚ÄĒchallenging.

IT leaders and procurement teams have their hands full making sure any ERP system fulfills the IT needs of their academic institutions, prioritizing seamless integration, privacy, and cybersecurity, and managing costs and risk. Yet, many colleges and universities are running outdated ERP systems that negatively impact efficiency and user experience.

Why Update Your ERP System?

ERP systems can have long lifespans, but many of the legacy systems in use today are past a realistic end of life. These platforms do not support modern tools, such as automation, self-service, mobility, and rich data analytics. As such, legacy systems force users to create workarounds that slow down workflows by adding to their complexity. For example, rather than using an ERP system for inventory management for higher ed, each department might keep its own inventory levels and reorder, spending money that could be saved using a centralized catalog with preferred vendors that offer significant discounts.

Why Update?

  • Better support of emerging technologies like AI, advanced analytics, robotic process automation (RPA), and IoT to drive innovation
  • Streamline workflows for simpler navigation, search, and actions to save time and effort
  • Enable mobile accessibility with student portals and faculty or staff apps
  • Improve satisfaction and productivity across the institution
  • Get real-time insights from customizable analytics and reporting for decision-making
  • Lower costs by reducing manual processes and scaling with cloud platforms

Key Considerations When Upgrading Your ERP System

Get Stakeholder Buy-In

Build consensus among campus leaders on the reasons for change before kicking off an ERP upgrade. You will want to address key concerns upfront and tailor your communication to showcase the benefits of updating.

Evaluate Your Needs

Conduct a detailed review of current vs desired future states and capabilities based on the input you receive. This helps assess gaps and identify the best-fit ERP solution. It also helps with getting buy-in from users who may be hesitant to change to a new system or process.

Data Migration Planning

Ensuring all of your data is migrated to a new system is crucial and typically the most complex part of an ERP upgrade.

One of the key benefits of an ERP system is providing a comprehensive view of data that everyone can trust. There must be careful planning to avoid loss of data integrity and make sure that data is moved out of silos and connected to provide a comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date accounting. For example, those spreadsheets still in use for ERP inventory management for higher education? That information and workflow must be taken into account and tied into the ERP system or eliminated as part of the workflow.

Training and Communication

Provide extensive ERP training at all stages, accounting for new roles, processes, policies, and technologies. Realize that you will encounter resistance from some users at some levels. Change does not happen quickly in higher education, and many will favor legacy systems even when they know there is a better and faster way to work.

Change management will be an important part of updating your ERP system.

Budget and Procurement

You will need to define your direct and indirect costs, including contingency funds, for a successful update. You will also want to identify timelines and milestones as you evaluate vendors during your sourcing and procurement process.

Not all ERP systems are designed for the unique requirements of higher education, so you will want to do your due diligence and dive deeply into capabilities.

Leverage Cooperative Purchasing Agreements

Whether you are focusing on an ERP system for inventory management for higher ed or looking to modernize your entire ERP platform, E&I Cooperative Services can help. As the only member-owned, non-profit procurement cooperative focusing exclusively on education, we help members find the right fit for goods and services.

Leveraging the bulk buying power of 6,000 members, E&I Cooperative Services has competitively solicited contracts that are tailored to the education sector from industry-leading brands‚ÄĒproviding significant cost savings.

View available contracts from E&I Cooperative Services.