ERP Systems are critical components in the attempt to create a competitive advantage for a particular Higher Education Institution or HEI. However, it is a costly endeavor. It is therefore important to look into a successful implementation project within an HEI setting for the purpose of developing a similar approach. The proponent of the study realized the importance of developing an appropriate organizational culture in order to support a complicated undertaking. It is also imperative to implement a strategy that calls for a gradual expansion of the ERP System before it is integrated into the Student Information System component of the project. It is also important to reject the offer of using government sponsore ERPs due to reliability and functionality issues.
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Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP is a generic term, a byproduct of an industry that gave rise to “integrated and multi-modules application software packages” that were created for the purpose of achieving cost-efficiency and the enhancement of multiple business functions (Soliman & Karia, 2015). Although the utilization of ERPs is nothing new, recent trends suggest the targeting of Higher Education Institutions or HEIs by vendors of ERP-based products (Elragal & Haddara, 2012).
As a result, HEIs must learn to adapt in order to retain a competitive advantage over other colleges or universities. Nevertheless, the suggestion to use government-sponsored ERPs is not a practical approach (Kumar & Gupta, 2012). After considering all related issues and implementation constraints, the best course of action is to use an integrated ERP system that utilizes open source software like Android-based technologies.
ERP Systems’ Financial Module Synching with SIS
Gordon Moore developed a theoretical framework explaining the fact that an ERP system, a product using computer-based technology creates a competitive advantage when it lowers its production cost over the course of its production history (Kumar, Ranjan, & Das, 2016). Thus, it is only a matter of time before administrators are going to see a decline in the ERP’s cost of acquisition and deployment.
The recommendation to use the system was also bolstered by the possibility of lowering the cost of the project through a partnership with the federal government. However, this suggestion was deemed impractical after the discovery that the federal government did not possess a sterling record when it comes to the cost-efficient utilization of ERPs. The Government Accountability Agency or GAO exemplifies the U.S. government’s austerity measures. The GAO submitted a report describing ERP projects that were behind schedule and highlighted projects that were expected rack up significant expenses beyond the initial cost estimates (Kimberling, 2012).
It is also important to point out that an HEI requires the utility of the ERP’s financial module, especially when linked to the SIS. The said financial module enables the efficient and accurate computation of student fees. The absence of a reliable ERP may allow for errors in the system forcing the students to pay beyond the required fee. In other words, the software eliminates repetitions or duplicates and updates the system on a regular basis.
In addition, it is possible to develop modifications or in-house written software that enables the ERP’s financial module to work with SIS in the context of scholarships and other incentives. Thus, the absence of a robust and reliable ERP system may result in the failure to provide incentives based on scholarships and other meritorious achievements. As a consequence, students are unable to lower the cost of education and eliminate certain financial burdens.
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Considering Cost-Efficiency and Affordability Issues
Consulting companies collaborating with ERP vendors are going to provide estimates that may form part in the bidding and acquisition phase of the project. It was discovered that an organization is expected to pay at least $1500 per user (WorkWise Software, 2017). The amount was computed using the requirements of a complex business model utilizing 30 to 45 applications (WorkWise Software, 2017). At the end, the estimated cost of implementing a robust ERP system is in the price range from $150,000 to $800,000 (WorkWise Software, 2017).
Using these estimates one can argue that a midsized HEI with 500 students may find it a challenge to pay for the additional cost of using an ERP system. The said HEI may have to charge $1000 in miscellaneous fees per semester. However, the project director already gave the go signal to source out the funding from sponsors so that students are not going to pay for anything in order to use the new system.
An ERP System Integrated into a Student Information System
The absence of specific features that made it impossible to integrate a government-sponsored ERP to an existing Student Information System or SIS was also a major factor in the decision to reject the offer to use government resources. Thus, it is prudent to look into a successful implementation project that showcased the viability and practicality of integrating an HEI setting that integrated an ERP into the school’s SIS. An in-depth study of an ERP implementation endeavor at “Agora University, a private co-educational HEI n the Midwest USA” underscored the value of using an ERP system synched to the student’s information database (Okunoye, Frolick & Crable, 2012, p. 128).
It is a good idea to study the university’s implementation effort, because the said HEI was able to remain in the “league of best universities without putting undue financial burden on the students and improving efficiency and lowering costs by improving internal operations” (Okunoye et al., 2012, p. 129).
One of the key insights gleaned from studying the Agora University case was the realization of the importance of an effective accountability framework. In this case, the President is supported by seven vice-presidents. It is interesting to note that a pillar of the organizational structure was given the responsibility to handle the implementation effort. It was the Vice President for Information Resources that handled the responsibilities related to IT-based technology.
In addition, he also provided leadership in helping the university improve the teaching and learning environment through the efficient and effective use of technology and information resources (Okunoye et al., 2012, p. 130). The Associate Vice President for Information Resources managed the SIS component of the learning environment. The university’s Information System Services division was comprised of three main departments, and these are listed as follows: application services; client services; and technological services.
The Information Systems Services matrix provided a visual aide for understanding the integrated format of the ERP and the SIS. Thus, it was easy to perceive how the ERP system managed the information flow and other data management issues related to the organization while at the same time provided a dedicated resource for the SIS.
The second major insight gleaned from studying the said implementation model was the realization that the university built the system from scratch. In other words, there was no compulsive decision to implement a system that covers all the university’s needs. For example, the said HEI’s initial output was in the form of an ERP system that focused only on the administrative functions of the university. In this regard, Agora purchased and implemented the Vendor B 2000 suite of systems that was acquired from Vendor B Corporation (Okunoye et al., 2012, p. 134). Through the years, the core component of the ERP system was upgraded and expanded using server-based.
|Application Services||1. Programming support for Agora University and this includes the following computing systems: |
HRS or Human Resources
SIS Student Services
2. Supporting academic systems and departments
|Client Services||Provides computing support to the university’s faculty and staff for school-sponsored computers.|
|Technology Services||Provides support for the servers, data, network, Wi-Fi, and telephone systems. Provides support for the university’s IT-based infrastructures.|
Table 1. The three main departments under the Information Systems Services Division.
systems supplied by other providers (Okunoye et al., 2012).Third party suppliers enabled the organization to handle other functions such as, “financial aid, classroom management, and online instruction” (Okunoye et al., 2012, p. 134). In addition, the university’s Information Systems Services Division collaborated with representatives from Vendor B Corporation in order to develop customized modifications (Okunoye et al., 2012). Furthermore, the university officials encouraged the Systems Services Division to develop an in-house written program that interfaces with the Vendor B 2000 ERP variant (Okunoye et al., 2012). At the end, the university was able to gradually expand the old ERP system with upgrades and modifications that covered SIS needs.
The Agora University’s implementation effort enabled the proponent of this study to formulate a practical acquisition and deployment approach discussed in several stages of development and critical tasks. First, it is important to acknowledge the value of an ERP system integrated into the school’s SIS. Cost-efficient protocols are possible through the use of IT-based technologies interfacing with smart phone and other Android client devices. In other words, students and staff are able to access critical information when needed, and this is predicted to improve work efficiencies and reduce missed opportunities. At the end, students, administrators, and school personnel are going to benefit from the efficient use of resources.
The second most important commitment is to establish an appropriate organizational culture that supports the implementation process. For example, it is not prudent to delegate an important task to a person with little authority and a minor stake in the success of the university. Thus, it is imperative to consider the organizational component of the implementation process.
The third most important commitment is in the area of long-term growth and closely monitored development actions. It is best to build an ERP system from scratch focusing only on the administrative component of the organization. After six to twelve months, the gradual expansion begins to cover SIS needs. It was mentioned earlier that in the initial phase of the development cycle, the school is going to shoulder all the expense related to the ERP development and implementation project.
However, in order to sustain the development of the said project, it is prudent to find low-cost alternatives. One of the best ways to upgrade the system is to use open source software that is not only free of charge but also easily accessible by students and staff alike. The best choice is to use Google’s Android software, specifically the utilization of an app called Wireless Android. This system uses a “mobile cloud framework” for the system architecture (Nilofar, Sigappi, Soundarya, Valliammai & Kumar, 2016).
Thus, by using the Android client devices, such as tablet computers, smart phones and other mobile devices, the university’s faculty and staff are going have access to the system (Nilofar et al., 2016). They are able to add pertinent information related to grades, projects, and learning materials. Using the same set of devices, the students and their parents are also able to access the said information. However, the system is secure and the parents are unable to modify the contents in the servers.
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It is of crucial importance to let the students understand the gradual process of developing the combined ERP and SIS systems. Thus, those students without Android mobile devices may have to wait for a few weeks before modifications are made to allow access to different types of devices. In addition, it is also imperative to encourage the in-house writing of software that helps in the transition phase (Nilofar et al., 2016). Furthermore, the department handling the System Information Services component must work closely with the ERP vendor in order to develop upgrade and modifications that streamlines the process towards full integration and full implementation.
It is prudent to follow a conservative acquisition and implementation plan. It is important to allow the gradual expansion of the ERP system before it is integrated into the SIS. It also imperative to use a sustainable solution. Thus, the first phase requires the use of an ERP system that only focuses on the university’s administrative functions. This is followed by the use of Google’s Android software for the initial attempt to integrate the ERP system and the SIS.
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