Blog

Higher Education Innovation In Action

  • ERP Systems – A Conversation Starter

    by 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

    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.

    Budgeting

    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

  • Credentials Explains: What is Section 508?

    by Kate Heider, Technical Writer | Dec 08, 2016

     
    Section 508 is an amendment to the U.S. Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires federal agencies and their contractors to make all electronic communications and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. It’s also the first federal law to detail best practices for website accessibility.[1]

    Although public and private universities and their vendors are exempt from the Workforce Rehabilitation Act itself, many states have adopted 508 standards in laws that govern higher ed.[2] Even voluntary compliance is considered good practice among schools, as an estimated 11% of undergraduate students and 7-8% of grad students are disabled.[3],[4]

    Accessibility Standards

    Accessibility standards set forth under Section 508 cover a wide range of technologies, from computer hardware and software to telecommunications products and the Internet. The long list of standards includes:

    •  Teletypewriter (TTY) compatibility with telecommunications equipment
    •  Caption decoder circuitry built into television screens
    •  “Tactilely discernible” keys and controls for users who are blind
    •  Preservation of accessibility features and user settings (e.g., screen contrast and brightness)

    For websites in particular, Section 508 outlines sixteen rules for things like input controls on forms, text rendering, screen readers, site navigation, and color coding. Eleven of these rules were taken from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendation: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).[1]

    Proposed Update

    In 2015, the United States Access Board, which is tasked with authoring federal accessibility guidelines, proposed an update to Section 508 to reflect sweeping changes in technology over the past 15 years and to incorporate criteria from latest version of WCAG.[5]



    [1] Web Accessibility Standards. (2016). California Dept. of Education. Retrieved from http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/ws/webaccessstds.asp 
    [2] Higher Education, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508. University System of Georgia. Retrieved from http://www.usg.edu/siteinfo/higher_education_the_americans_with_disabilities_act_and_section_508     
    [3] Fast Facts – Students with Disabilities. (2016). National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=60   
    [4] Data Sources: Graduate Students with Disabilities. (2011). Council of Graduate Schools. Retrieved from http://cgsnet.org/data-sources-graduate-students-disabilities         
    [5] WCAG 2.0 Conformance. (2015) Section508.gov. Retrieved from https://www.section508.gov/content/build/website-accessibility-improvement/WCAG-conformance   

  • Credentials Explains: What is PCI DSS?

    by Rose Addison, Manager of Documentation & Training | Dec 01, 2016

     
    PCI DSS stands for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is a set of requirements designed to safeguard and preserve a secure environment that limits credit card exposure. It is pertinent to all companies that store, process, and transmit cardholder data.1

    The PCI DSS Standard was founded in 2006 by major credit card brands and is administered by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). Organizations handling credit card transactions in the aforementioned manner must be in compliance with the standard and provide proof of validation annually, based on the volume of transactions handled.2

    Compliance is performed by way of either a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) or Report on Compliance (ROC), which is created by an external Qualified Security Assessor (QSA).3 Again, the number of annual credit card transactions determine the necessary method required in order to obtain and provide proof of compliance.

    The standard is made up of six major requirements, each broken down into two or more components totaling twelve topics.4 These topics are broken down even further, encompassing over 200 specific criteria that must be constantly maintained by regulated organizations.5 The PCI SSC updates and releases its compliance standards frequently, as security threats become more and more advanced each day. 


     
    1 PCI. (2016). PCI SSC Data Security Standards Overview. PCI Security Standards Council. Retrieved from https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/pci_security/standards_overview
    2
    PCI. (2016). PCI Security. PCI Security Standards Council. Retrieved from 
    https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/pci_security/ 
    3 PCI. (2016). Assessors & Solutions. PCI Security Standards Council. Retrieved from https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/assessors_and_solutions/
    4
    PCI. (2016). Maintaining Payment Security. PCI Security Standards Council. Retrieved from 
    https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/pci_security/maintaining_payment_security 
    5 PCI. (2016). Requirements and Security Assessment Procedures. PCI Security Standards Council. Retrieved from https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/documents/PCI_DSS_v3-2.pdf?agreement=true&time=1479247950272

  • Customer Service in the Digital Era: GreatEST Expectations: Part Two

    by Thomas D. McKechney, CEO | Nov 09, 2016

     
    Customers today are operating in a totally new way. They have more power now than ever before as social media services provide communication outlets for every opinion. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, you name it… we’re no longer limited to word-of-mouth.

    Consumers, young and old alike, expect turnaround time to be almost instantaneous. They often have a plethora of choices too. This means, if the user’s expectations aren’t met, and quickly, they’re hopping right on over to the competitor. Think of it like this: you don’t like the way the receptionist at your nail salon speaks to you? On to the next one. Can’t find free shipping on your online order? On to the next one. Don’t like your shrink’s delay in response to appointment requests… on to the next one.

    We deal with this “on to the next one” approach in Higher Education as well… Desirable classes need to be offered NOW. Once a session is over, grades need to be officially posted NOW. Transcripts need to arrive NOW because that killer job prospect wants it NOW. All these expectations got us thinking: there’s a lot that’s out of our control; what can we control to ensure our customers are happy? The answer is stellar customer service! And we’ve got that covered…

    We know customer service is key to success so we posted a poll in our September newsletter asking for your top customer service priority. We’re not surprised by the findings because we practice these characteristics in our customer service call center daily. Take a look at the below infographic for our results.  
     

    So what does all this mean? Honestly… your customer service skills had better be on point! Or, a better plan, let us take the calls out of your office for you!

  • A Registrar’s Guide to Making the Most of Higher Ed Conferences

    by Mindy Starcher, Vice President | Nov 03, 2016

     
    It is conference season!  My last few weeks have been filled with travel to a number of excellent state ACRAO conferences, and at each one of them I was thrilled to see so many new members! It got me thinking about all of the conferences I attended as an assistant registrar and how many doors those types of things have opened in my career.

    Much has changed since I was on that side of the booth – the topics, the technology, and the attendees themselves – but the one thing that remains the same is that association conferences are still an important resource for registrars, both personally and professionally. With that in mind, here are a few quick tips for making the most of the experience, whether it’s the annual AACRAO meeting, a state ACRAO, or an event sponsored by another organization.

    Get Involved

    There are at least two easy ways to get involved in an organization and at their associated conference: join a committee, or volunteer to present.

    Join a committee

    Whether you’re working on the local arrangements committee, helping with exhibitors, recruiting new members, or helping to plan the program, committee participation is fun, and it’s a great way to connect to an organization while meeting people from across the state or country who are doing what you’re doing.

    Committee participation doesn’t require a huge financial or time commitment. Among the state association conferences, for example, much of the committee business is conducted via email or web conferencing. And committee work is a lot less stressful than getting up on a stage and speaking in front of a crowd.

    [Related post: Conference Strategies for Introverts]

    Volunteer to present (or find someone who can)

    That said, if you’re comfortable with public speaking, why not offer to lead a presentation or join a panel discussion? Think about your area of expertise, or a topic that interests you, and either volunteer for it yourself or suggest a colleague you think would be perfect for the role.

    Whichever path you choose, the biggest benefit to you is visibility: when it comes time for an association to nominate their executive committee, they’ll look for people like you who’ve been involved. And this, in my experience, can pay big dividends throughout your career.

    Plan Ahead

    Even if you choose not to take an active role in a conference, you should plan your schedule in advance to maximize your time there. Most organizations post an agenda on their website a couple of weeks before the event. You might even look for sessions your colleagues back home are interested in – you can attend for them and bring notes and session materials to share when you return.

    Have Fun

    Whether it’s a Paint & Sip event, a treasure hunt or costume party, the social gatherings are where the real networking happens — don’t ever skip them! They provide a casual atmosphere where you can make some real connections, and they’re an opportunity to discuss the latest big topic in higher ed or the day-to-day challenges you face in the registrar’s office. Chances are, your peers are facing those challenges too and might even have some advice to offer. Best of all? You’ll come away with lifelong friends and contacts.

    Pay It Forward

    To keep the momentum going after the conference, be sure to reach out to the people whose business cards you collected or who introduced themselves to you in the coffee line. If you don’t have an immediate need for a particular contact, pass his or her card along to someone you know who does. Take lots of notes and if you attend a session you really like, and don’t be shy about asking questions or introducing yourself to the presenter afterward.

    Another great way to pay it forward is to write about your experiences for the department blog or newsletter, or share what you’ve learned with colleagues who weren’t able to attend.  Industry conferences are about so much more than professional development, which is often the first thing to go when budgets are cut. The information gained and the contacts made are invaluable to registrars and ultimately benefit our industry as a whole.

    Happy conferencing, and I look forward to seeing you next time at the Credentials booth!

    Upcoming conferences we will be attending.