Updating Your ERP Management at a Higher Education Institution

Whether you are upgrading your ERP inventory management for higher education, launching a new ERP system, or updating components, a successful implementation requires proactive steps.

Step One: Assessing Upgrade Needs

Before deciding on a major upgrade, institutions should thoroughly assess their current ERP capacity against strategic objectives and inventory management pain points. Common reasons for wanting to upgrade include:

  • Hardware/software reaching end-of-life with no vendor support
  • Siloed inventory data across academic departments
  • Lack of mobile or self-service options
  • Difficulty tracking items like lab equipment, electronics, and office supplies
  • Poor visibility into cost breakdowns and ordering patterns

A detailed analysis will also help ERP inventory management for higher education uncover less obvious gaps, such as missing analytics around inventory turnover rates, item expiration, maintenance schedules, asset depreciation timelines, and real-time valuation.

Step Two: Ensuring Readiness

Upgrading or switching ERP systems touches many stakeholders, so gauging organizational readiness is crucial. For example, science and engineering departments may require specialized inventory features compared to administrative units. Central receiving and facilities teams depend on material management daily.

Consider measuring readiness levels and openness to change through surveys and focus groups to highlight training and change management needs. Incorporating user feedback in the digital transformation design process can alleviate concerns and foster adoption.

Step Three: Budgeting and Resources for ERP Upgrades

While licensing comprises a major share of upgrade costs, institutions must widen their scope to cover all implementation and ongoing expenses, including for project management, consultants, data migration, custom development, training, additional IT infrastructure, and support.

Digital transformation is neither cheap nor easy. There are legions of stories about organizations that spent millions of dollars only to find out their efforts did not achieve the desired results. Colleges and universities must plan carefully, anticipate ancillary costs, and work with professionals they trust to budget effectively.

Step Four: Updating Business Process Documentation

An upgrade offers the perfect opportunity to fix outdated inventory workflows. For example, adopting electronic management, eProcurement solutions, and increasing standardization between departments can help ensure success.

One example would be to have stores and central receiving outline ideal handling for items from ordering to replenishment to retirement based on the latest practices and technology—allowing custom system configurations to match.

A best practice would be to form a cross-functional team across logistics, procurement, finance, and key higher education departments. Probe for bottlenecks and performance issues through the lens of future needs. Identify policy or procedure improvements independent of system constraints, then refine functional requirements for the implementation roadmap. Such collaboration promotes integrated perspectives and creates better end-user buy-in.

Step Five: Implementing Cloud-Based Upgrades in ERP System Inventory Management for Higher Ed

Any digital transition today requires mobile access for users, such as procurement teams working remotely or as part of a hybrid workforce. Cloud ERPs also support scalability for fluctuating university needs—like cataloging high volumes of equipment for a new project.

Inventory management gains from cloud ERP specifically include:

  • Real-time inventory tracking across locations
  • Centralized item data clean-up and governance
  • Instant record updates after stock counts
  • Automated reordering and cost lookbacks
  • Dashboards monitoring transactions, usage, and trends
  • Self-service for lookup and requests

Step Six: Strategizing Organizational Change Management

Beyond workflows and data, ERP upgrades significantly impact users and cultural habits. Strong change management ensures teams adopt and utilize new inventory capabilities rather than retreat to spreadsheets.

User training must go beyond technical functionality to include underlying process changes—explaining how these changes directly benefit departmental objectives. Users will likely need both general and role-based instruction plus readily accessible help resources after the go-live date.

Step Seven: Procurement

After all of this behind-the-scenes work has been completed, it is finally time to evaluate suppliers and solutions. By comparing features and functions, pricing, and terms, colleges and universities can find the right fit for their workflow.

This is where E&I Cooperative Services can provide a significant advantage for higher education. As the only non-profit, member-owned purchasing cooperative that focuses solely on the education sector, E&I Cooperative Services has competitively solicited cooperative purchasing agreements tailored to the needs of higher education.

Leveraging the aggregated buying power of its 6,000 member institutions, E&I Cooperative Services can negotiate better pricing and terms than colleges and universities can negotiate on their own. Through these buying relationships, E&I Cooperative Services suppliers often offer special incentives beyond price breaks, such as rebates for purchasing or additional services customized for educational institutions.

Step Eight: Selecting, Launching, and Improving

You are finally ready to make your selection and launch. Training will be key to getting users comfortable with the system. Encourage open discussions and feedback to identify bottlenecks or concerns early on and set aside time to deal with them effectively.

A Proven ERP Upgrade Methodology

Using this proven ERP upgrade methodology can enable a smooth transition and help avoid mistakes during your digital transformation.

To learn more about how E&I Cooperative Services can help your higher ed institution, see the benefits of membership and search available contracts.


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