ERP: More Than System Functionality
- By Kent Thomas, Jeff Morrissey
Although it is commonly understood that the implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system will take tremendous resources, time, and money, few IT leaders fully realize -- and plan for -- its impact and the potential opportunities it brings to their institutions.
At Missouri State University, we have a strong culture of strategic planning. Back in January 2007, as we began our 30-month process to implement the full suite of Banner administrative modules (Student, Financial Aid, Finance, HR/Payroll, and Advancement) and the complementary Workflow, Document Management, Electronic Data Warehouse (EDW), and Luminis integration platform, we believed we were well positioned for success. We had secured approval for funding and had strong support at the executive level. A Core Management Team (CMT) of twelve mid-level leaders was assembled to execute the plan, and the CMT worked with our IT Council on communication efforts to ensure the entire campus community was informed and could actively participate in the project. We are on schedule to successfully replace our core business application software by July 2009.
As we entered the final phase of our planning process, we realized that Banner would be an important component of our Enterprise Architecture (EA), but not the only one. To effectively build Missouri State's Unified Digital Campus (UDC) we needed to consider all of our technologies, people, and processes. We needed to rethink how our various software applications, policies, data standards, and overall architecture needed to change to support and integrate with the new Banner administrative system. We realized that we needed to think beyond just "implementing an ERP."
As part of our planning process, we spent considerable time visiting and researching numerous institutions to identify risks and benefits associated with other ERP implementations. It became clear to us that most institutions underestimate the financial and human resources needed for an implementation of this scale. More importantly, we found that most institutions fail to realize the potential opportunities created by the implementation process.
As part of our effort to maximize the benefits of our implementation and avoid some of the issues that arose at other institutions, Missouri State University engaged with SunGard Higher Education for a UDC Strategy & Assessment Service. The core of this service is the Enterprise Architecture methodology, which relates business activities, strategies, and priorities directly to the required IT infrastructure. Equally important, we have discovered unexpected benefits; unity of the campus community through strategic planning activities, clarifying and simplifying policies and processes, centralization of data and decentralization of access to that data, and professional development of middle level project managers who will undoubtedly become our future generation of leaders.
A key component of the Strategy and Assessment Service was the creation of a "roadmap" aligned to our institution's five-year plan. The roadmap documents our current and desired states, key success criteria for identifying when we achieve a target, and three detailed phases we will progress through to reach our desired state. To create the roadmap, we went through three planning processes. First we focused on formalizing documentation, inventorying all applications and related technologies used at Missouri State, developing policies, and doing research. Phase Two activities focused on training, and planning target architectures, prototypes, and pilot programs. Phase Three activities included project planning, phased implementation efforts, and tactical measures. All the activities are linked to, and are in support of, the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) previously defined in support of the university's five-year institutional plan. The roadmap helped us identify areas that will be directly impacted by our Banner implementation. For example, we defined how our network has to grow, how we can achieve a higher level of standardization, and what we need to do to support our remote campus in China. The process has also helped to reduce complexity and eliminate redundancies; this should help us reduce costs and reprioritize IT support for the campus community.
The delivery of an effective plan and the associated roadmap has been vital in securing the support of the upper-level administration and in gaining the confidence of the campus community. The roadmap has been well accepted because of its direct linkage to, and support of, Missouri State University's long-range plan and KPIs.
The roadmap links specific IT initiatives to the strategic goals and KPIs of the institution. Administrators can readily see how computing services, business applications, and the technology infrastructure support the institution's mission. It also illuminates the potential adverse impacts of failing to complete planned initiatives.
The roadmap also serves as an effective communication tool. Its straightforward design allows our administration to clearly see the linkage between our UDC and campus priorities and goals. It further allows internal constituencies to develop tactical plans in consonance with institutional goals. Finally, it provides a wonderful mechanism to explain our desired state to external constituencies.
The synergy of the overall effort was made apparent when we received notification this month from the Department of Education awarding our university a Title III cooperative grant. The grant, entitled "Missouri State's Unified Digital Campus Development Plan" will allow us to continue Phase Two of developing our UDC. The roadmap was a key component in explaining how the grant will help us maximize our current investment and expand services across our university system.
Implementing our Unified Digital Campus has been a tremendous undertaking. The functionality and services provided by the Banner system are far reaching. With effective planning and collaborative effort from all levels of our campus community and SunGard Higher Education we have found tremendous benefits thus far and expect many more as we finalize the initial phase of Missouri State's UDC.
Kent Thomas is an ERP project manager at Missouri State University.
Jeff Morrissey is an ERP project manager at Missouri State University.