More than “Going Live”: Achieving Institutional Transformation through ERP Implementation
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems—that is, any or all combinations of financial management, human resources (HR)/human capital management (HCM), and student information systems (SIS)—are an essential tool for managing assets and operations across higher education institutions. These systems help institutional leaders and staff streamline business processes, enhance operational efficiency, and access data and reporting that can be critical to institutional decision-making. However, their complexity and the fast-changing needs of higher education institutions often lead to ERP systems that are misaligned, overly customized, and costly. Many institutions are now considering ways to modernize and streamline their ERP solutions to help address these challenges and costs and are undertaking the daunting task of selecting and implementing new ERP systems.
As this study finds, institutions need—and want—to set their sights higher than just an ERP implementation and "go live" as the measures of success. While respondents highlighted numerous understandable reasons to pursue a new ERP, they also noted extensive preparations and critical factors for success. The work that goes into the preparations helps drive momentum to bring about institutional transformation.
This study draws on survey and interview data from key higher education stakeholders to not only examine the practical challenges and opportunities of implementing an ERP but also consider the broader implications of these systems as they relate to the institution's overall transformation and success in achieving its mission.
- ERP implementations are often more about the people than the technology. ERP implementations depend on effective relationship management and communications to ensure meaningful stakeholder engagement and adoption across the institution.
- Planning and skills in change management are required to ensure ERP project success. Change is difficult, especially when it involves optimizing business processes in preparation for a new ERP. ERP implementation strategies should intentionally focus on how to effectively manage change across the organization.
- ERP implementations cannot just be IT projects. While IT supports significant aspects of an ERP implementation, institutions must ensure continued, meaningful involvement and input from a broad set of stakeholders (e.g., executive leadership, staff, communications, business managers, functional leaders, and users) to achieve intended outcomes.
- Each institution's ERP journey is unique. Customizations and designing future business processes are among the hurdles new implementations face, requiring each institution to identify and embrace its specific needs, priorities, and definition of success.
- Current and future staffing needs will significantly impact the ability to achieve a timely implementation with minimal staff burnout. Staffing solutions, including backfilling roles, are essential to provide staff with the support they need and to minimize stress and burnout.
- ERP implementations should be aligned to the institution's overall mission and transformation goals. Implementations with clear connections to the institution's mission and aspirations are more likely to find lasting and meaningful success.
Access additional materials on the ERP Implementation Research Hub.
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© 2023 EDUCAUSE. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.
Sean Burns and Mark McCormack. More than "Going Live": Achieving Institutional Transformation through ERP Implementation. Research report. Boulder, CO: ECAR, June 2023.