Administrative Systems in the Short and Long Term

Sue Spies |

Tambellini Analyst

Top of Mind: Administrative Systems in the Short and Long Term
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Co-Columnist: Dave Kieffer, Vice President, Research, Large Enterprise Systems, The Tambellini Group

Requirements for administrative computing systems have changed in the last decade. Students, faculty, and staff now need the ability to easily and intuitively perform tasks and to view information on any device, at any time, from any location. Administrative offices need efficiency in processes. Decision-makers need access to data from multiple systems. Automation of repetitive processes is key to freeing up staff for more critical work.

Software vendors have responded to these changes in requirements by providing sophisticated, specialized solutions that improve and complement legacy human resources, finance, and student information systems. Modern cloud human capital management, finance, and student systems comprise enterprise resource planning systems. These software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP systems, in combination with best-of-breed solutions for learning management, student success, and advancement, among others, enable institutions’ missions and strategic visions.

Many institutions have started, and some have completed, their transitions to modern cloud ERPs. Institutions that have not yet started have been closely watching the progress of their peers and have observed the rocky beginning of cloud implementation start to smooth out.

Then came COVID-19, and everything changed—at least for the short term.

Institutions with active implementation projects underway are now working remotely to continue their efforts. Most deployments remain on track, even though project team members are often sidetracked with COVID-19-related activities for some period. However, many institutions that were in the selection phase and others that were contemplating beginning an assessment have paused those efforts. The budgetary impact of lost revenue and increased expenses has deferred uncommitted capital project funding.

Gaps and pain points of legacy systems were further revealed during the stress test that has resulted from the COVID-19 crisis. Reliance on highly manual processes has necessitated some staff who were under stay-at-home restrictions to return to their offices. System administrators were similarly affected. Data needed for flexible financial and budget planning around uncertain variables became less reliable and more difficult to find. Modifying existing system functionality to accommodate the crisis has required heroic actions, late nights, and significant changes to legacy platforms.

For those institutions desiring a move to a modern cloud solution, the long-term goal remains, and it eventually will need to be addressed. Financial constraints may prohibit moving forward with the actual selection and procurement of a SaaS solution in the near term. However, planning and preparing for the move to a cloud ERP can and should continue. Much work can be done to reduce the difficulty, risk, and expense of an eventual move to the cloud without the scale of expenditures that the actual implementation will require.

Over the coming months, Tambellini will share the kinds of short-term planning and activities that can be addressed during this period and that can greatly increase the success rates of projects that might not start for another one to three years. Tambellini will also provide details of the long-term planning and activities that are essential once institutions are able to commit to ERP replacement.

Here are general descriptions of the two types of planning.

1. Short-term

This involves activities that, ideally, are done in advance of an actual ERP implementation. Regardless of the timing, these tasks must be done in order to deploy a new ERP. For those institutions that have paused the selection and procurement process, engaging in these activities signals their intent to continue with the work. The momentum can be maintained in a meaningful way and can be critical to sustaining morale.

These activities also benefit institutions that intend to remain on legacy systems and can be done outside the context of an ERP implementation. For all institutions, they can help to address the gaps that have surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Examples of short-term planning include establishing data governance, analyzing integrations and third-party applications, and identifying gaps and duplications in current systems. These activities typically span six to twelve months.

2. Long-term

These are the activities that prepare for and replace the ERP and related systems and extend beyond the short-term activities mentioned above. Long-term planning includes establishing formal processes to review the current state of administrative systems and their impact on the institutional mission; performing risk/benefit analysis; determining resource (both human and financial) availability; and gathering requirements and establishing detailed steps for identified changes. This work can create the actionable plan for the move to a SaaS platform. The activities related to long-term planning can span four to five years.

Some activities must be done in sequence, and some can be done concurrently. For example, an inventory of third-party applications and identification of data sources should be completed, at least at a high level, in order to architect a data warehouse. Change management is an ongoing activity and will be adjusted to reflect needs that are identified during the planning and implementation phases.

As we move forward in our research, Tambellini’s publications will provide more details about these and other topics, including:

  • ERP Planning
    • Sequence and dependencies
    • Timeframe
    • Resources needed
    • Stakeholders
  • Establishing a Data Management Program
    • Strategy
    • Data governance
    • Reporting
    • Data repositories
    • Integration tools
  • Business Process Optimization
    • Alignment to organizational strategy and goals
    • Processes’ health and effectiveness
    • Options outside of ERP replacement
  • Application Inventory: Rationalization of Third-Party Systems
    • Evaluation plan
    • Funding strategies
    • Change management

Whether you have completed an ERP transition, are in the midst of a deployment, have paused an investigation, or are not actively seeking an ERP change at this time, the research on our roadmap will assist you with optimizing and strategizing around your administrative systems. As you consider your institution’s current ERP environment—both its strengths and challenges—you undoubtedly will think of additional topics. We welcome your ideas about specific items or areas of research that would be helpful to you and encourage you to submit your suggestions.

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Sue Spies |

Tambellini Analyst

Sue Spies
As The Tambellini Group’s Research Director of Enterprise Information Systems, Sue Spies authors and publishes research, assists in client engagements, and supports client services. Most recently from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Ms. Spies was the Director of Enterprise Information Systems, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and support of academic and administrative systems. Ms. Spies is an experienced panel facilitator and presenter covering topics such as custom solutions, code, and collaborative work with institutional research colleagues.

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