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All you need to know about ERP in education

ERP systems offer a wide array of features and are complex--smooth implementation in education requires preparation for IT teams.
By Igor Efremov, Head of Recruitment, Itransition
July 28th, 2022

ERP systems offer a wide array of features and are quite complex--smooth implementation requires preparation even if IT teams opt for a cloud solution

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions help companies coordinate the work of various departments by integrating all the necessary information within one shared database. While ERP systems are traditionally associated with manufacturing, they now support organizations in multiple sectors, education included.

As the digital transformation in schools, universities, and other educational institutions is picking up the pace, ERP adoption is gradually increasing, and this trend is forecasted to continue.

Migrating resources, training your staff, adopting a framework built on a centralized database — these are just some of the challenges that await you on your way to embracing ERP. Overcoming these difficulties is well worth the effort, but it requires expertise. Read on and learn about the benefits of ERP for the education sector, along with a few adoption tips.

One centralized solution, many benefits

The applicability of ERP in education is based on the idea that learning institutions share many similarities with enterprises. Although education is a unique field with specific traits, this assumption is to a large extent true.

Here are some commonalities that attest to the applicability of ERP systems in the educational context:

  • Time is an invaluable resource in any industry. Through automation, ERP systems speed up day-to-day tasks, from payrolls and procurement to fees and admission. Automating error-prone processes help institutions avoid wasted time resulting from human inaccuracy in accounting and administrative work.
  • Similarly important is the flow of information. With ERP, all the vital data is collected in one place and structured for maximum ease of access. The staff can effortlessly track inventory, purchases, attendance, teaching progress, and more indicators. Built-in communication tools enhance the cooperation between students, teachers, and back-office managers. Additionally, the digital document format ensures higher safety and compliance standards than traditional paper-based records.
  • No business can thrive without flexibility. Whether you manage a kindergarten or a university, you can customize your ERP system to meet the unique requirements of your institution. Your new platform can be integrated with pre-existing solutions such as Microsoft Office or Google Workspace for a smoother transition. Or, if needed, it can be custom-made from scratch.

Education ERP in action

A thoughtfully built educational ERP system facilitates interactions between students and the school or university. Let’s see how an ERP can help you manage a hypothetical learner who wants to enroll at your institution.

  1. First, they submit an application via a web form. Based on the information provided, the platform automatically creates the student’s personal profile. Your staff can now communicate with the applicant internally or using their contact data.
  1. The database also stores other useful details, such as application status, student’s guardian, education history, and even photos. All that to make students easier to reach and identify.
  1. With ERP, application documents are attached to students’ profiles. As all needed data is always just a few clicks away, student registration becomes seamless and instant.
  1. If the submission is accepted, the student can choose preferred elective courses online. They don’t need to fret over the obligatory ones — these are handled automatically.

These examples only scratch the surface. With time, you’ll discover even more advantages of ERP — but first, you have to deploy it.

Navigating the ERP transition: cloud or on-premise?

The first matter to address is choosing ERP software in the cloud or running it locally on in-house servers. The choice of deployment type is not only about where the data is stored. The location has several far-reaching consequences.

First and foremost, cloud solutions don’t involve an upfront investment in costly server infrastructure. This significantly reduces implementation costs when compared to on-premise hosting. Additionally, going to the cloud eliminates the need for having an in-house IT team to set up the ERP on-site. For all the same reasons, the ERP platform is easier to customize and maintain when hosted in the cloud.

Moreover, by removing physical servers from the equation, the cloud-based ERP heightens security and reduces the risk of a data breach. Secure gateways, authentication, custom user permissions, and other safety measures will ensure that sensitive data is well- protected.

In on-premise solutions, institutions are fully in control of their data and resources. However, with more control comes greater responsibility for keeping the system going and dealing with any crashes. In contrast, in cloud ERP solutions, the software is provided as a service and the product provider handles infrastructure maintenance.

Last but not least, the cloud offers unparalleled user convenience, especially for non-technical personnel. All data and features can be accessed remotely and from any device, which is particularly beneficial considering the rising popularity of distance and hybrid learning.

Things worth noting

Since ERP systems offer such a wide array of features, they are quite complex. Because of that, smooth implementation requires preparation even if you opt for a cloud solution.

Two crucial factors to consider before ERP deployment are the size and structure of your database. Large institutions such as universities use heavily configured applications tailored for a specific purpose. For them, the transition to an integrated ERP system may take longer and usually proceeds in phases.

Here are a few best practices to follow to ensure that the entire process runs smoothly:

  • Prioritize moving mission-critical data and high-impact systems. They will benefit the most from the security and flexibility offered by the cloud.
  • Allow time for training and educating your employees on using the new solution before it’s implemented. This will give them enough time to get familiar with the new system and address any possible difficulties and concerns.
  • Remember that due to their architecture, not all on-premise systems may be suitable for migration. If that is the case, consider the hybrid model. Although the upfront cost may be higher than pure cloud, this investment will pay off in the long run.
  • Migration is a great opportunity to integrate any fragmented data structures. By the same token, you need to make sure that the coherent architecture won’t be disjointed after the transition. Pick a cloud provider that uses a consistent set of technologies and solutions and supports innovation.
  • Implementing an ERP is a large-scale operation. As such, it involves unforeseeable expenses. Ensure that you have a 15-20 percent contingency budget to offset possible delays and additional development costs.
About the Author:

Igor Efremov is Head of Recruitment at Itransition, a Denver-based software development company.

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