ERP System Implementation in Higher Education: Things to Consider

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are used by organizations to manage and integrate important parts of their business operations. When established and used properly, they become a crucial tool for streamlining operations, improving efficiency and providing a bird’s eye view of your organization.

Implementing a new ERP system in higher education is a transformative initiative with a decades-long impact. It requires strategic planning and comprehensive consideration of various factors for successful implementation and alignment with institutional goals.

Assessing Readiness and Planning

The journey begins with an institutional readiness assessment. During this stage you’ll evaluate current IT infrastructure, administrative processes, and alignment with strategic objectives. Understanding the institution’s capacity for change (including staff adaptability and cultural readiness) is crucial for a smooth transition.

The reality is that some departments or entities affiliated with a higher education institution may not share the desire for a new system, new processes, the resulting increase in transparency, etc. In some cases, the new ERP system is not a fit for them due to unique functionality or regulatory requirements. The readiness assessment will help surface these exceptions, allowing the opportunity to weigh the options and make decisions prior to project kickoff.

Strategic Budgeting and Resource Allocation

Budgeting for ERP implementation extends beyond software costs, encompassing hardware upgrades, training, data migration, and maintenance. Allocating funds for implementation consultants and external data management vendors is required; the work from these parties typically costs far more than the ERP software itself. Internal resources must be designated to manage the project, liaise with vendors, help design new processes, perform testing and coordinate internal efforts.

Dedicating Internal Resources

Allocating dedicated internal resources for an ERP system implementation significantly impacts their existing job responsibilities. These staff members often find their regular duties competing with new ERP-related responsibilities.

To mitigate this, consider adding staff or redistributing workloads to ensure the smooth functioning of regular operations while also dedicating sufficient attention to the ERP project. Typically, many of the added staff are consultants who help with the heavy lifting during implementation and roll off once the new ERP is live and stabilized.

Documenting Current Business Processes

Sometimes leadership questions the value of documenting the existing business processes, reasoning that the new ERP system will replace the current process with more desirable workflows, making current processes obsolete.

However, documenting current processes is essential for identifying areas for improvement and ensuring the ERP system properly handles all necessary operational requirements. Involving stakeholders from various departments is a best practice and helps ensure the system meets diverse institutional needs.

Additional Considerations for Transitioning to Cloud-Based ERP Systems

In addition to the above steps, higher education institutions should plan for the migration of applications and their data, perform a comprehensive security analysis, and establish a data governance program.

Engaging Leadership and Change Champions

This final consideration is designed to mitigate project risk and (increase your project team’s sanity). Leadership support and change champions are essential for navigating business process changes and workload shifts. Engaging a change champion early in the process is crucial for focusing on change management, identifying blind spots, and ensuring transparent communication.

To leverage the support of leadership, consider forming an ERP system governance team of top c-level leadership. This team will oversee the budget and steering committee and can help promote the project, resolve issues and address needs.

Implementing a new ERP system in higher education involves readiness assessment, strategic planning, budgeting, process documentation, data and security analysis and a solid governance program. Focusing on these key areas while engaging leadership and change champions, will help ensure a successful implementation that aligns with your institution’s goals and enhances operational efficiency.

Reach out to your higher education CPAs and consultants at James Moore for help. We’ll guide you through the entire ERP implementation process, from assembling your project team through deployment.


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