- Guest Columnist
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What Makes an ERP Early Adopter?

We are in an awkward place with our ERP systems in higher education. The three big players (Oracle, Workday, and Ellucian Banner) have not completely gotten their product lines ready for the cloud. All will likely get there in the next year or two, and the landscape will change, or at least become clearer. Banner is still working on their cloud strategy while providing SaaS to some clients. Workday is deploying their human resources (HR) and financials (FIN) systems to some early adopter higher education clients. Oracle is also moving some schools to the cloud with their HR and FIN offerings. Both Workday and Oracle are working hard on their student administration products, with plans to fully roll them out in the next year or so. Partial functionality is already available.

So what are colleges doing as all of this activity continues? Some are sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the student administration cloud products to be completed and even mature. After all, who wants to be first? In the meantime, they are moving to the cloud with smaller, less mission critical applications, like email, the LMS, medical records, customer relationship management (CRM) or even storage. Oracle has given their large customer base until 2027 to move to cloud, so sitting and waiting for the dust to settle is attractive to many colleges.

There are early adopters of both Workday and Oracle who are jumping in with HR and FIN. I recently spoke with David Gregory VP/CIO at the Berklee College of Music. They have committed to what they call “One Berklee.” They have started the adoption of HR, Financials, and the Workday student system. They will be live on HR in early 2019, the Finance product in June 2019 and the Student system in 2020. When asked why they chose to make a move now, rather than wait until the Student system was more mature, Dr. Gregory said “our vision is toward the future, not the past. We offer programs online, on premise, through MOOCs and operate centers globally. Our environment is complex and growing.” Berklee merged with the Boston Conservatory of Music in 2016. The impetus to move to a new “data centric” IT organization was at least partially influenced by the merger. When asked why Berklee would move to Workday when the Student system is still under development Gregory replied: “We did an exhaustive review of our options and found that we share Workday’s vision for the future.” The move to the cloud provides what is needed at Berklee now, and it will provide the flexibility to build their future.

The University Of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) has run a mixed ERP environment for years. They operate Oracle/PeopleSoft for HR and financials, and the Ellucian Banner product for their student administration system. Their financials system was overdue for an upgrade, and they wanted to enhance their reporting capability in all areas, so the time to move to the cloud seemed obvious. Dr. Peter Murray, VP/CIO, felt that “Upgrading the financials system on the on-premises platform and then moving to the cloud in a few years would require two hops and double the cost.” UMB decided to bite the bullet and move to the Oracle cloud now. They expect to be live in late 2018. They are also adopting Oracle Platform as a Service (Paas) and building out a data warehouse solution that will provide contemporary reporting and dashboards for financials, and later HR and student administration. “The change will be significant to end users, but the enhanced reporting will make it worth it.” The Oracle solutions will prove to be more economical than going with another vendor, and they estimate that moving financials to the cloud will save approximately 33% over running financials on site. UMB expects to select an HR product vendor this year and start that project in 2019. They will upgrade the Banner student system to version 9.0 and continue to run it on campus for a several more years before moving this system to the cloud.

The early adopters of the cloud at Berklee College and UMB have decided to start with HR and Financials, but have much bigger plans. In both cases, necessity pushed them forward, but they feel confident that this is the right move for their institutions and are well aware of the need for effective change management and inclusiveness. These are exciting times for the early adopters and those who know that they will be traveling the same path in a few short years.

Still not sure about moving your institution to the cloud? Check out this short video from Lenovo on “4 Things You Need to Know About Cloud.”


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tambellini Group. To express your views in this forum, please contact Katelyn Ilkani, Vice President, Client Services and Cybersecurity Research, The Tambellini Group.

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Columnist: Jerry Waldron - Guest Columnist
A partner in the Mid-Atlantic practice of Fortium Partners, Jerry Waldron has 30 years of technology leadership experience within higher education. Rising through the ranks in various colleges and universities from early roles in academic affairs to multiple seated CIO positions, Mr. Waldron has become a trusted advisor to campus leadership, serving on multiple councils and advisory boards as a top expert in his field. His work has been featured in multiple conferences and publications.