Higher Education Innovation In Action

ERP Systems – A Conversation Starter

Josh Hoagland, Vice President Jan 11, 2017

We’re all very familiar with the term ERP, or enterprise resource planning, and the need for this technology, but let’s face it, ERPs weren’t built with Higher Education in mind. Generally speaking, ERPs originated in the manufacturing and production planning environments and have expanded to new markets. They’re no longer solely used for manufacturing, inventory, order management, and human resources. Today, ERPs benefit colleges and universities across the country as schools use them to access accurate and current information, improve workflow and efficiency, advance controls and provide audit trails, and offer easy-to-use Web interfaces.

Vendors these days have come to realize Higher Education is a HUGE market and they’re finally trying to recognize the sensitive and specific requirements our culture demands. On one hand, we are special. We need to be able to access accurate and sensitive information, while supporting all internal and external applications, and while maintaining security… on the other hand, we’re not the rare and delicate flowers we sometimes imagine ourselves to be.

We’ll post our ERP Best and Worst Practices soon, but first let’s discuss some common threads that arise when the ERP discussion begins.


Planning for the implementation of an ERP solution is critical. Like any project, start by evaluating your needs. Come up with a solid list of requirements, then refine the list. Recognize not everyone’s needs will be met and oftentimes staff may try to fit current solutions to old problems with the new ERP solution. New practices and standard operating procedures will arise from implementing a new ERP. Make sure you’re welcome to change and your staff is too.


Once you know what you need, the next big factor is money. There are lots of obvious costs such as the software and hardware, licenses, and maintenance, but what about the rest? You’ll need to consider additional hardware components, upgrades to current PCs, projected growth to your organization, consultants, project managers, training, labor, and much more. We find the highest ERP related costs are accrued in the associated labor with consultants and employee salaries.

Evaluating Options

Once you know what you need in your ERP and what you can afford, you can start figuring out what solution best fits the needs of your institution. For example, some solutions allow for more flexibility and modifications while others offer “quick start” solutions that may be more cost effective. Limiting customizations can cut down costs, although hard decisions will need to be made to determine the proper fit.

Whether you’re a smaller school looking to move from your legacy system to a solution-based ERP, or a larger institution, unsatisfied with your current ERP, we all recognize the need to incorporate best practices so that we can all work smarter, not harder.

ERP Best Practices
ERP Worst Practices