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School ERP Systems

School ERP Systems

School ERP

A School ERP is a single software managing all aspects of schooling without redundancy and proper inter module data exchange. The data is managed centrally. The moment we think about school automation we think of multiple software, one for fee, another software for library and so on. Carefully looking at the school we will easily conclude that a educational institute is a complete city within itself. We have functionality starting from HR to finance and a lot of other issues. From school inventory, tuck shop, examinations we have to manage a lot. So trying to implement automation individually leads us to dealing with multiple software and multiple vendors and a situation where we have basically manualised our school system with computers.

ERP, or enterprise resource planning systems, are in place at many schools, colleges and universities, and many more are considering going with ERP in the future. The promise of ERP is that it will integrate disconnected business operations such as student administration, human resources, and financial systems that have been previously handled by disparate legacy systems, while satisfying the need for real-time, on-demand information.

Using the Web, new ERP platforms can not only help streamline university business processes for school administrators, but also for students, faculty, and alumni. Using their own PCs, these constituents can access their own data, look up their own grades, register for classes, and apply for financial aid through the ERP system. Staff can apply for new positions and access their employee records without having to visit human resources.


A typical web enabled school ERP

Connecting the ERP system to a portal pushes the data and applications even closer to the user, eliminating many interim steps, shifting some of the work burden from the provider to the end user.

So far, ERP sounds like a great idea. Yet, converting to an ERP system is a bit like building a new house to replace an old bungalow. You know you need it, and you can imagine how much more functionality the new house will have, but the old house is paid for and hard to give up. Plus there’s bound to be disruption during the building process and of course some surprises along the way.

So the first principle of ERP is: expect the unexpected. According to William Shepard, director of applications integration and development for Cleveland State University, what people expect from an ERP implementation does not always match reality. “When you think of expectations and reality, remember these two words: reduction and increase,” says Shepard. “Everyone thinks they’ll save something–people, costs. The reality is that you usually don’t.”

Many schools don’t anticipate the costs they’ll incur in training and hiring staff. The transition to a new software platform may be a difficult adjustment for some employees. According to Dave Wasik, director, enterprise applications services for the University of Akron, “Unless you spend extra money on staffing, you won’t be able to take advantage of what ERP can do. Training is expensive, but it’s more expensive not to train.”

Ultimately, ERP changes the institute’s entire approach to both handling information and serving users. “ERP forces you to change your fundamental approach to problem solving,” says Shepard. He also recommends providing support during the transition. “You have to transform your staff,” he says. “It may be helpful to provide some remedial training for them, so that they’re trained for the systems and software they’re going to have to handle.”

Keep in mind, also, the cost of outside consultants or partners. While these can be expensive, they can also be invaluable, says Dave Swartz, CIO for George Washington University. Swartz recommends spending the money to get the expertise you need. “Recognize that they [the vendors] are your partners. You have to choose a partner that will step up and knock out any problems that come up.”

Still, it’s the CIO or system manager who has to decide what roles to give to in-house staff and what to hire out. Project management is critical to successful implementation. Some institutions may feel more confident hiring an outside consultant with previous experience in implementing ERP systems. Other institutions may want to lead the project from within.

An investment in ERP is one of the most expensive IT investments an educational institute can make. Overall costs in the tens of millions are typical. Despite the costs involved, it is wise not to spend too much time watching the bottom line. This is a big project, and it makes little sense delivering something cheaper and faster.


A community-wide view of Education Technology

Also, expect the maintenance costs and upgrade costs to be high. They are very expensive and often underestimated.

Given that adopting ERP is such a daunting proposition, one might wonder if it’s necessary. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply avoid the whole thing? What’s going to happen to institutions that don’t move to ERP? They’ll lose market share. Students will look at the school and ask why they’re not offering what other schools have.

The consensus is that the benefits to the institution outweigh the costs. Once you get the basic infrastructure in place, ERP makes adding on third-party software much easier. It’s easy to bolt on a voice response system or credit card management system. ERP forces you into a new architecture—client/server—and makes you do some relational housekeeping. That can benefit an organization enormously.

George Washington University took advantage of the ability to build onto their ERP system by installing a new online housing system this year, which allows students to match themselves with a roommate and find a room on campus. The system, something like an online dating service, won an EDUCAUSE award for best new application.

School ERP verses stand alone applications

Stand alone software for school can not only be very difficult to manage but also can add a lot of redundancy in data entry and ambiguity of information within same organization. E.g. when a student takes admission we have to enter the name in various software that we are using like library, fee, examination section software and so on. So basically there is a lot of redundant work in this case. On the other hand there may be a case when a student already taken TC from the school is still reflecting in the Library software or the other software implemented for various other modules. In absence of a centralized software the procedure of getting clearance from various sections for the students still remains tedious and time consuming.

A properly planned single point integrated system can facilitate zero redundancy, inter module information exchange and thereby a lot of savings in the form of time and manual efforts. Given below is a comparison between school ERP and standalone software solutions:

Stand alone School software
School ERP
Redundancy of data entry No redundancy
Ambiguity of information as different software may show different values for same thing No ambiguity as the data is served from central location. Same logic of processing keeps away any such ambiguity.
No inter module communication. For example there will be no way for the library software to know if the caution money for the library is collected at fee counter for a particular student. School ERP systems are specially designed for inter module information sharing. Since all module use the same database and business logic all the modules can interact with each other seamlessly.
Data security is generally an issue with stand along software as the data base is directly accessible by the users. There are always chances for accidental or deliberate loss of data. Generally the data is only accessible only through the software interface in a controlled manner. The server is not in direct access of the users. So critical information is always intact.
Central backup for the entire system is not possible Backup can be managed centrally with a great ease.
Different approach and interfacing for different modules. Generally similar interfacing approach for all modules. Makes it easy for the top level management to interact.
Physical movement of data is required for reporting.

Multiple access point can eliminate physical movement of reports and other data.
The dependency level even for routine information is higher in stand alone applications. Routine information issues are generally available with required users without dependency.
No possibility for developing a common business logic. Runs on a common business logic for the institution.
Easy to implement The implementation period is a bit lengthy`
Low initial investment but higher recurring expenditure in terms of man hrs and usage of stationary for sharing routine information. Comparatively high initial investment but low recurring expenditure in man hrs and information sharing throughout the institution.

Points to consider while planning for your School Educational Resource Planning

Single Point Integration: It is advisable to go for a single software that handles the various schooling aspects for following reasons.

· Can save on implementation time.

· Single vendor interaction

· Inter module communication

· Low total cost of ownership

· Low or zero data redundancy

· Data security

Operating System: You can keep the following factors in consideration while analyzing the Operating System of the application.

· Cost of operating system used by the software specially in case of network operating system the cost may vary as the number of nodes in the school increase. In this case the open source technology like LINUX can be a good option.

· Vulnerability of viruses and security

· Ease of maintain.

Back End Data Base Management System: The cost of DBMS / RDBMS of the solution can also effect the total cost of ownership of the software. Network Based Data Base systems have both per user and one time payment options.

Redundancy of Data: A well-planned ERP system offers ZERO Redundancy of data for managing the various schooling aspects, for e.g., if a school is using library, fees, transport, health modules of the same ERP, then if the students have been entered in the Student record Cell then there should be no requirement of entry of student again n again in other modules The application must offers zero redundancy of data.

Hardware Requirements at Server and at Nodes: The implementation of an ERP system should be with minimum or no hardware upgrade in the existing setup of the school. Investing on server hardware is a good idea but upgrading the individual nodes can sometimes be very costly.

User Friendliness: Just the deployment and implementation of an ERP with hi-end features does not make it popular and successful, but what makes it successful is the user acceptance, its ease in working and simple yet powerful interfaces. Consider the interfacing of the software as one of the prime factors before opting for it.

Update policy and procedure: System Deployment, implementation and training, that’s not all. Since development is a continuous process and there are always some or the other updates which are required so a proper update policy and the process of updating the system is mandatory. Look into the following points

  • How is the process of updation ?
  • What is the typical size of the update ?
  • Does every update requires to be updated at every node, because this is too big to be handled ?
  • What is the possibility of remote administration ?

Data Security: Data Security is yet another important aspect which cannot be neglected. Whenever an ERP solution is implemented, steps which ensure data

  • The data should not be in the direct access of the users.
  • What is the security offered at the Database level
  • What is the security offered by the application itself.
  • Consider looking for user level security in comparison to group level security.

Scalability in terms of features and expansion in area: Scalability in terms of adding systems is important as schools keep adding systems and new features to the system.

Online interfacing of application: In the present scenario and with the rapid expansion and effectiveness of internet reach schools sooner or later opt for using internet based features and sharing information on net with parents and other users.

  • Make sure that the system offers no duplicate entry of data to be shared on net.
  • Make sure that the data on net is secure and personalized
  • How effectively the software can use your bandwidth.
  • It is good to have the online features working on your school’s web site.

Dependency on connectivity: Opting for a totally internet based solutions can sometimes be an over enthusiastic decision. Schools can’t afford to stop over crucial working if the connection is not working so make sure that the system is not fully dependent on connectivity

Market Overview

The changing market landscape in education, in particular the increased competition for students and the emergence of for-profit education institutions, is forcing many schools to develop and employ new IT strategies in order to maintain and grow their market presence, product portfolio as well as the company’s market strategy and positioning within the education market. Key findings of a study conducted by IDC in March 2005 show that:

· IT spending among education institutes is on the rise. IDC estimates that education institutes spent over $4.5 billion on IT in 2005 and forecasts that number will rise to $4.9 billion by 2009. Software spending will rise from $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion during the same period.

· Key drivers in this market include a desire to refresh or migrate current technologies, technology integration, data protection, enhancement of the classroom experience, and development of an enterprise IT infrastructure for research and collaboration.

Education is a dynamic marketplace. Historically, "competition" in this market referred to students attempting to secure admission to highly regarded institutions. Increasingly, however, the institutions themselves are competing to attract students and create a compelling value proposition for their own brand of education. Meanwhile, a growing number of students are participating in higher education on a part-time basis (up to 40% for some institutions), many through non-traditional programs.

This trend, along with the emergence of for-profit education institutes and online or distance-learning programs, has changed the market landscape and forced many institutions to develop and employ new strategies in order to maintain and grow their market presence.


Both traditional and non-traditional students are approaching their education with a higher degree of information and technology literacy, which translates into heightened expectations that the institution will be technology-enabled. These "Net Gen" and "Gen X" students are using a range of devices and applications in their personal lives and expect much of their educational experience, and the management of that experience, to be delivered via the Internet.

Over the past 20 years, many institutions have developed separate applications and databases to manage activities such as student recruitment, student registration, university finances and billing, human resources, course management, and alumni interactions. But maintaining separate systems makes it difficult to track whether a student who was contacted seven years ago and heavily recruited by the university is the same student who eventually attended, graduated three years ago, and is now an active and contributing alumnus. Universities in this situation face important decisions about what to do with their legacy enterprise systems, since many desire to upgrade and integrate their systems to enable better data sharing.

When dealing with legacy applications, institutions often have two choices:

· They can upgrade their applications and hire systems engineers to develop a standardized system architecture for data consolidation.

· They can migrate to a new architecture that includes integrated modules engineered to meet their requirements, but with less customization.

· There is no single correct approach. The decision of whether to stick with existing systems or migrate to an integrated modular system depends on the complexity of the existing applications and how much it might cost to further customize and integrate them.

In many education institutes settings the return on investment (ROI) and cost-value assessment usually go beyond the price of software and/or services. Institutions must develop a strategy around their use of information technology to ensure that IT decisions align with their overall goals. Many institutions want to leverage their technology investments to achieve institutional gains in other areas such as operational efficiency, student life-cycle management, and business intelligence. Benefits gained from an integrated system may outweigh cost factors when the ROI is vetted against an institution’s strategy for continuing viability and commitment to its constituencies.

Current Educational IT Spending Drivers

· Schools have delayed updating their systems in recent years, but they now seem ready to do so. About 73% of IT managers surveyed by IDC listed refreshing or migrating their current technologies as a top concern for their organization in the coming year. In contrast, the national average for all industries is 53%.

· Schools tell IDC that their strongest decision criterion for IT investment is whether a new system will fit with their long-term vision and strategy for sustainable growth. Eighty percent of IT managers said this is the case, while ROI was a distant second at 19%. Projects that can achieve both are considered very attractive and have the potential to become high priorities.

· After experiencing a few lean years, IT spending among education institutes is on the rise. IDC estimates that education institutes spent over $4.5 billion on IT in 2005 and forecasts that number will rise to $4.9 billion by 2009. Software spending will rise from $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion during the same period.

· Network security and identity management are mounting concerns for education institutes. Data protection is becoming a paramount IT priority, with several well-publicized compromises in network security reported in recent months. Access and usage policies are becoming increasingly complex in the face of institutional liabilities for how a network is being used. Institutions also are improving their ability to address business continuity and disaster recovery planning.

· Education institutes are increasingly utilizing the Internet for delivery of educational services. Not only are online and hybrid models being used to service the traditional student, but the proliferation of non-traditional programs continues to drive the market for electronic delivery of services with a satisfying student experience. Institutions also are looking to technology to enhance the classroom experience through multimedia, available and accessible content, and other innovations such as classroom "clickers."

· The development of an enterprise IT infrastructure for research and collaboration has begun to take hold as the digitization of library materials, distributed computing, and multi-institution initiatives broaden the role of education institutes as content providers and content managers in the information age.

Clearly, IT spending is robust within the higher education market space, and data sharing needs are prompting universities to re-evaluate their enterprise applications.

Vendor Consolidation

In the past few years, the number of student information system vendors serving education has dropped by half, while the degree of uncertainty for customers has at least doubled. The pressure has been especially intense for vendors marketing to small institutions, which face the greatest challenges in managing support, development and marketing costs. After merging four small ERP vendors with its Internet portal business, Jenzabar streamlined its actively marketed product line down to two ERP suites. However, it is struggling with the post-merger transition. Two venerable product lines, the Exeter Student Suite and ABT PowerCampus, were acquired by Systems and Computer Technologies (SCT). At the top end of the market, PeopleSoft dominates the research university space, but SAP's more distant entry will set the stage for a battle royal to win over any institutions that have not committed to a vendor or are ready for a switch. Although the presence of these new entrants will partly reverse the trend toward consolidation, vendors will find the best growth opportunities in under-served regional markets in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Business Basics, Not Technology, Leading the Way

Vendors' plans to rewrite core applications using next-generation technologies have moved slowly. SCT quietly shelved its much-promoted relationship leverage solution project, preferring instead to add functionality and improve integration within current products. Datatel's next-generation product is years from completion; a plan to add Microsoft SQL Server support to its Colleague line will take priority. PeopleSoft version 8, which now brings the company's Internet architecture to its human resources, student and financial products, is an exception to the rule, but its enhancements relate more to presentation and technology tools than to applications features. Jenzabar is adding business intelligence and integration capabilities to its line, and the entry of Oracle and SAP to the student market may provide some technological excitement. However, for the foreseeable future, education ERP suites will be in an evolutionary — not revolutionary — mode. The most ambitious new capabilities will appear in peripheral products such as portals and analytical tools, rather than in core applications.

Gradual Progress Toward Education ERP II

Although the pace of technology change has slackened, education administrative suites are still moving toward ERP II functionality, extending the internal enterprise focus of traditional ERP to include process integration and external collaboration. One key component of ERP II — vertical-specific functionality — is already present in education suites in the form of student administration systems. Vendors are working on improving integration capabilities, notably through portal development or alliance, although tools for collaborative commerce are moving more slowly because of limited customer acceptance. Rising interest in consortial ERP arrangements will provide a new incentive for vendors to support extra-institutional collaboration, but even institutions that stand on their own will look to the vendor to help manage an increasingly complex set of business issues while keeping the technology demands as simple as possible.

The Continuing Domination of Local Deployment

Despite much vendor hype (and hope) about application service provider (ASP) delivery, no ERP ASP product has gained a foothold in higher education. Most education institutions will continue to seek an integrated suite from a single vendor that has established strong relationships with course management vendors, portal vendors and other software vendors whose products enhance the suite.

The Higher-Education ERP Magic Quadrant shows that the most important factors in choosing an ERP vendor are those represented in the Magic Quadrant — completeness of vision and ability to execute. Nonetheless, it's also important to remember that the Gartner Magic Quadrant can be used at most to assist enterprises in making selections, not to replace an institution-specific evaluation. It isn't always best to pick a vendor in the Leaders quadrant, or wrong to choose from the niche players — the decision depends on the institution's mission, business processes and vision.

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