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Extending the Life of Your ERP for Smarter Operations

Andrew Daniel

Andrew Daniel
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Many school districts across the U.S. are facing increasing enrollment due to rising and shifting populations while much of their budgets and resources remain the same.

While there are major advancements in nearly every type of technology for the K-12 market, school administrators and IT departments have to make selective choices about which technologies will have the most impact in a school or across an entire district. Often that means that learning and other classroom technologies will take budget precedence over infrastructure IT investments such as replacing an aging ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

Typically, the cost of investing in a new ERP solution equates to much more than simply just purchasing the new system itself. Funds are required for licensing, training and implementation, and then re-examining existing systems that integrate with the new ERP to ensure they still can work together and appropriately communicate. But, for administrators and IT, the pressures of managing more with less financial resources means determining how to reinvigorate their central hub of data – the ERP – to work smarter in order to manage the growing complexities of the school district.

Often, making smaller, strategic investments with third party solutions can help extend functionality within the current ERP ecosystem for a fraction of the dollar amount and without the headache of making a sweeping change. Small expenditures for technology tools like enterprise content management and business process automation solutions that bridge older green screen apps can breathe new life and extend the value of an existing ERP. Let’s take a closer look at how this can be accomplished.

Conduct a Performance Audit

Before ripping out and replacing your entire ERP system, take time to conduct an overall audit of your ERP and overall business process automation, as well as back office systems to determine what is working and most importantly where there are inconsistencies. Where are the greatest chances for errors and reduplication of efforts? For instance, are different users in varying departments re-entering the same data such as employment records or purchase requisitions? Identifying overall strengths and weaknesses can help determine a long-term, strategic approach to increasing operational efficiencies.

For many school districts, important operational processes such as expense and travel reporting, employee onboarding and contracts management, and purchasing and AP approval are still manual in nature, resulting in mountains of paperwork and multiple sign-offs before an action can be completed. Third party integration solutions that yield front-end efficiencies while capturing, sharing and distributing critical operational data should be considered.

Improving Communication Between Departments

On a typical day, accountants, payroll clerks and school administrators are the heaviest users of the ERP system, as they are writing checks, balancing books and managing employment contracts, etc. The challenge occurs when they try to communicate with their population at large in the district, or conversely, the population tries to communicate with them. Intrinsically, ERP systems were never designed to serve as a communications hub and with the rise of forms and regulations, solutions like business process automation, e-forms and content management systems are critical to managing communications across departments within a district.

Forms and requests are rampant and generate loads of extra paperwork including managing employment contracts, leave requests, continuing education forms, field trip requests and requisition forms to buy new items. School districts that still use old-fashioned, paper-based systems to create, print, distribute, manage and archive forms and requests end up wasting a significant amount of time and resources.

For one school district in Northeast Georgia, purchase requisitions were a huge headache prior to integrating enterprise content management and business process solutions into its existing ERP. With the old process, employees were required to complete paper-based forms from finance when purchasing supplies, furniture, books or technology.

The information captured would then be manually entered into the ERP for processing. As there were no linked systems or electronic files, finance had to print the completed form, fax it to the vendor, copy it and file it into a physical folder. In addition, there was no way to view and determine if there was a corresponding purchase order.

With the new third party enterprise content management solution, the entire process is virtually paperless, as it stores and links data and e-forms into the ERP and matches vendors automatically for future requests.

Maintaining Compliance in Paper-based World

New and existing compliance regulations with state and other entities have become more complex for schools to manage as content and data sources have increased across districts. When re-examining the current ERP ecosystem, it is critical to look for third party integration solutions that offer a secure central repository, as well as a robust workflow solution to access, archive and properly distribute content across departments.

In addition, security and audit features should be a key consideration so personal information is always safeguarded and critical documents are not misplaced or lost.

Extending the life of your current ERP – which was likely a sizable investment at the time – with third party solutions can dramatically change the way a district’s business operations are run and breathe new life into your existing investment for a fraction of the cost.

See the published article here.