Written by: Harold George, General Manager
Deploying an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is an expensive proposition, not just in terms of licensing dollars and maintenance, but in terms of dedicated resources and time. All too often, higher education institutions get dazzled by vendor promises and hype, but these companies fail to come up with a viable long-term (or even short-term) solution.
To help higher ed institutions increase the odds of a successful ERP deployment, we came up with a checklist when considering a new ERP solution.
1.Predictors of Success –Major enterprise-wide software selection requires strong executive leadership and a willingness to provide necessary staff and resources to facilitate a well-informed decision process. While IT is important, the role of IT lies more in support of the functional operations. In today’s cloud/SaaS software market IT’s primary role will be supporting integrations with ancillary systems and providing complex reporting and analytic support.
2. Project Organization – The project organization will define who is doing what, and how each of these functions will interact with one another. You will need a steering committee of executive leaders active in the conversations. The steering committee will provide a strategic perspective and ensure the integrity of the evaluation process, as well as identify potential issues and solutions along the way. The functional evaluation teams will need to participate in all aspects of the software evaluation process. The teams should include IT support staff, administrative staff, faculty, and potentially student representatives. Also, each functional team should have one or more team leads to assist in organizing and ensuring teams complete tasks along the process. Team leads should be key staff members who are highly respected and knowledgeable in the team they will be leading.
3. Consider Long Term Strategy – Utilize business process review to effectively manage your long-term strategy. You should identify key business processes that cut across institutional silos. During the review of business processes, you will define a new ideal business process for each area reviewed. The “ideal” process should be used to develop the requirements by which future ERP solutions will be evaluated. The potential future ERP solutions should focus on the future state of requirements. As “ideal” processes are defined it is important to remember these key takeaways:
- Technology alone cannot solve process problems.
- Business process review sets the trajectory toward ideal processes.
- Implementation of the “ideal” process will form the foundation for upcoming change management during the implementation of the new ERP solution.
- The “Ideal” process will never be successful without institutional consensus.
4. Educational Demonstrations – Utilize education demonstrations when an institution has not had exposure to the newer enterprise software solutions. These are typically done before the issuance of the RFP and are meant to inform the institution’s staff about the newer technology features that are now available such as chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. These new technology features will enable and help automate more efficient business processes.
5. Consider a Modified RFP Document – Consider the development and issuance of a “request for proposal (RFP) document” which complies with your institution’s procurement rules and establishes the critical factors that vendor proposals should meet. It should also include information regarding the current environment of your institution and identification of third-party applications that will require potential integration. There are 10-15 key criteria your institution can define to quickly narrow the vendor field. Criteria could include:
- Adherence to your institution’s standard general terms and conditions for procurement.
- The vendor must provide a complete suite of ERP modules desired by your institution.
- Financials information systems (FIS) include budget, planning, finance, procurement, grants, and cash management.
- Human capital management and payroll (HCM) including applicant tracking, employee onboarding, employee profile, position management, deductions and benefits management, talent management, employee evaluation, salary management, and payroll.
- Student Information (SIS) which includes recruiting and admissions, curriculum course, and schedule development, registration and academic records, student educational planning, Guided Pathways, program and degree audit, student accounts receivable, and financial aid.
- Enterprise customer relationship management (CRM).
- Integrated document management capabilities.
- The product should be in production in a similar environment to that of your institution.
- References for successful implementations of the proposed software.
- The product has a robust and clearly outlined product development calendar.
- The product must be SaaS-based or on-premises.
- The product must employ a specific set of technologies, for example, Microsoft or Oracle.
- Identification of all third-party products that are required.
- Ability to integrate with county systems where the district is fiscally dependent.
RFP’s that contain a laundry list of functional and technical user requirements do not provide enough clarity on vendor solutions. Remember that vendors will lean towards responding positively to all requirements so as not to be eliminated. Use interactive vendor demonstrations to evaluate the detailed functional requirements.
6. Use Vendor Demonstrations for Evaluation –The business process work results in the development of desired, future state requirements. These requirements are then translated into scripts that vendors are required to follow to demonstrate their software’s ability to meet these requirements. Each vendor demonstration is typically conducted over several days and will involve the key stakeholders from each of the functional areas. The script documents are used by the participants to evaluate and compare each vendor’s product.
From the future-state process map, requirements are identified, and demonstration scripts are developed. The goal is to ensure that vendors demonstrate their product(s) based on your institution’s desired future state rather than on current processes.
- Discussions with these evaluation teams on the results of all business processes will develop the desired future state requirements for the new ERP system.
- These requirements are then translated into demonstration scripts that vendors are required to use to show the product’s ability to meet these requirements.
- Each vendor demonstration is typically conducted over several days and will involve the evaluation teams from each of the functional areas.
- The script documents are then used by the participants to evaluate and compare each of the vendor’s products.
- The results of the product evaluations are summarized and then reviewed by the appropriate executive group.
7. Project Management and Implementation – Does the software vendor provide project/change management and implementation services or, do they use certified implementation partners? You need to determine if you will use a single RFP to include project/change management and implementation services or, will you issue a separate RFP once the software vendor is determined? Several approaches can be taken to evaluate third-party implementation partners.
8. Pricing – A request for a pricing proposal is issued after the vendor demonstrations. This allows your institution to determine which modules and services are required to best meet your needs. You should always consider internal project costs for implementation, and a review of standard contracts and license agreements are important for your legal team.
SIG’s experience using this approach typically provides the following advantages:
- There are a limited number of vendors serving the higher education community and the critical criteria in the RFP allows an efficient way to narrow the field to qualified candidates.
- The RFP allows compliance with procurement rules and moves the process quickly from RFP to scripted demonstrations.
- Developing large sets of user requirements and detailing them all out in an RFP document does not produce meaningful information useful to selecting vendor solutions.
- Vendors responding to detailed functional requirement questions will attempt to answer affirmatively to all the requirements so as not to be eliminated during this phase.
- The scripted demonstration process is very effective in providing institutions with an objective comparison of competing vendor products. It also fosters ownership of the final recommendation by the staff participating in the demonstrations.
- The entire procurement process is the beginning of change management for the institution.
SIG has led hundreds of successful implementation projects, so if your institution is struggling to cover all necessary elements, we’re here to help!