Deciding when to upgrade an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a balancing act for higher education institutions. Switching too early wastes money and time when the current system still functions. However, delaying an upgrade can negatively impact operations, especially as the institution’s needs grow.
So, when is the right time? Here are some of the key signals that indicate change is needed.
Colleges and universities may effectively track basic functions with older ERP software. However, as an institution expands and the amount of data grows, the ERP system must advance accordingly.
If strategic plans require more complex course scheduling, grant management, compliance reporting, or higher ed ERP supply chain management, many legacy systems fall short. Upgrading provides an ERP system aligned with institutional growth. For example, a university expanding its online degree programs may need to upgrade its student information system and learning management system capabilities to support fully online registration, advising, and instruction.
Can your ERP system easily handle spikes in transactions, data, and users? Cloud-based systems provide flexibility, allowing computing power and storage to scale on demand. On-premises ERP may require significant infrastructure investments to support growth, slowing the rollout of new capabilities.
For instance, a college undergoing a major enrollment increase may experience lags in registration, admissions, and other processes during peak periods if the ERP cannot scale. Higher ed supply chain management in ERP becomes increasingly more challenging in today’s uncertain economy with inflationary pricing.
Mixing niche applications with an outdated central ERP leads to disjointed workflows and “data disputes.” Two people looking at what they believe is current data may come to completely different conclusions. Old systems tend to have data silos, especially in a higher education institution that has grown its tech stack over time and continues to use many legacy systems. It is easy for data to be out of sync.
With an upgraded platform, data flows cleanly, providing accurate insights for decision-making. For example, with consolidated and connected systems, the procurement office can track purchase orders against budget allocations in real-time, streamlining higher ed ERP supply chain management.
Faculty and staff waste time when an ERP system lacks simple search or requires inefficient processes. With hundreds of users, small inefficiencies compound rapidly across an institution. A modern interface with ERP automation accelerates common tasks like expense reporting, budget lookups, and inventory management. For example, professors could wait days for budget transfers or reimbursements from an outdated finance system. Simple approvals take longer across poor workflows.
Antiquated systems directly impact service levels for students, parents, and suppliers.
Financial aid processors without instant access to relevant records cannot resolve questions quickly. Paper-based application reviews delay admissions decisions. Supply chain delays can impact campus services like food delivery or facilities work orders. Procurement teams can struggle to get accurate inventory counts, resulting in ordering mistakes or shortfalls.
An updated ERP improves everyone’s experience through better data access and process automation.
Remaining on unsupported software leads to rising expenses for custom patches, integration workarounds, and consultant fees aimed at keeping outdated systems running. This can get expensive quickly if you have staff turnover and incoming IT teams do not have experience with your legacy systems.
At some point, the cost to upgrade is less than the continued upkeep of old solutions not aligned with institutional needs. IT resources get diverted towards maintenance rather than more strategic initiatives.
As higher education institutions look to upgrade outdated ERP systems, supply chain management and procurement areas are ripe for improvement. Many colleges and universities still rely on paper-based processes, limited supplier integration, and manual oversight of purchasing. This increases costs through inefficiencies and maverick spending while reducing transparency.
Modernizing supply chain capabilities within an updated ERP platform can streamline processes for procurement teams. This can include transitioning to eProcurement with electronic purchase orders, implementing contract lifecycle management for better compliance, and leveraging data analytics for better spending decisions.
Institutions can accelerate an ERP upgrade and supply chain improvements through cooperative purchasing contracts. E&I Cooperative Services offers more than 150 competitively solicited contracts across functional areas like facilities, IT, and more. By leveraging E&I contracts as part of an ERP integration, higher education organizations gain instant access to preferred pricing and suppliers without running their own resource-intensive bids.