An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system brings together finance, human capital management (HCM), and asset and inventory management into a unified system for higher education. Centralizing your data in a single place helps you manage your academic institution more holistically and saves time compared to manual processes and disconnected data.
This is especially important for ERP inventory management for higher education, used for balancing budgets, procurement needs, and available inventory.
As colleges and universities update or upgrade their ERP systems, however, some common mistakes are made that degrade performance and hurt efficiency. Even after spending the time and money to upgrade, users are left with a jumbled system that does not meet their goals. Here are some of the more common mistakes to avoid.
Many universities have legacy procurement and inventory management systems that predate modern ERP platforms. Attempting to integrate these older systems often proves challenging or impossible due to technological limitations. For example, a legacy inventory system may lack APIs or data formats that can sync with the newer ERP system.
Without proper integration between these critical systems, universities face disconnected data streams and siloed workflows.
When the procurement system cannot share real-time inventory data with central financial reporting, supply chain managers lose visibility into spending commitments and variances. Meanwhile, accountants may record inaccurate liabilities if purchase order details fail to transmit across systems.
Given the high costs of implementing a university-wide ERP system at once, many institutions take a staggered roll-out approach across departments. However, leaving legacy systems in place for some functions while upgrading others risks creating partial data sets and system capability gaps.
For instance, the facilities department may start using the new ERP system inventory management for higher ed to manage work orders and vendor contracts. However, the purchasing department relies on a legacy system without modern reporting. This could prevent inventory stock levels from automatically updating when supplies are procured via the old system. Consequently, supply chain managers only see a fragmentary picture of inventory balances and turnovers.
College and university ERP systems have complex validation protocols, access controls, and routing workflows that cross multiple departments. When informal changes or exceptions happen without proper oversight, it creates cascading issues down the line.
For example, a facilities manager may change an inventory reorder point without formal sign-off or without updating the data in the central reporting system. When the procurement team places orders based on outdated metrics or uses data outside of the ERP system inventory management for higher ed, it can lead to over-ordering, stock-outs, and budget overages.
Implementing strong validation controls and change management for all ERP transactions is crucial.
While ERP systems contain massive datasets, higher education institutions often realize too late that critical metrics were left out of the central data warehouse and reporting tools. In terms of procurement, common omissions include contract start and end dates with suppliers, real-time visibility into orders and deliveries, and inventory quality reports that track expiring or defective items.
Without easy access to these types of metrics from a unified dashboard, teams are forced to rely on time-consuming manual processes to gather intelligence.
ERP systems are only as effective as the data governance policies that determine what gets captured and monitored.
ERP systems at academic institutions have robust data access security protocols enabling certain users to run reports while restricting widespread access. However, access controls that are too rigid can create information bottlenecks.
For example, only a select few procurement analysts may have access to inventory trend reports or contract spending dashboards in the ERP system. If end users in other departments need to view that data, it slows down the entire process and results in additional queries.
IT leaders must evaluate permission schemes in the ERP system to balance security with enabling operational effectiveness through wider data transparency. The right access controls fuel collaboration and innovation.
To save money compared to extensive ERP licensing, universities often have internal IT teams build custom modifications and extensions. However, these one-off additions risk becoming obsolete whenever the core ERP system is updated. Custom modules also contribute to technical debt that only specialized programmers can maintain. If those programmers leave the organization, the university faces critical continuity gaps.
Whether you are looking for a new ERP system, looking to update your ERP, or seeking ERP inventory management for higher education, E&I Cooperative Services can help. E&I Cooperative Services is the only member-owned, non-profit sourcing cooperative that focuses solely on the education sector. We offer a broad portfolio of competitively solicited contracts from industry-leading suppliers, leveraging bulk buying power to create significant cost efficiencies—at no cost to buyers.
View available contracts at E&I Cooperative Services.