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Project Spotlight: ERP for the Long Haul

Sarah Lawrence College's IT department celebrated a victory this fall when the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system it had been working on for two years was rolled out. Located in Bronxville, NY, the institution installed a Jenzabar EX ERP system to enhance services for students, faculty, administrative staff, and alumni. The college also rolled out VMware's virtualization software to support the new ERP and installed Cisco Systems' WiFi in all residential buildings on campus.

Sean Jameson, director of IT, said the new ERP system replaces an old IBM "green screen" system that was obsolete and no longer supported. "I was bringing people out of retirement to work on our system," said Jameson. "It was definitely time for an upgrade to a newer setup."

When shopping around for options Jameson said his team was looking for a stable, flexible ERP that could be easily customized and that would interface seamlessly with the college's other IT systems. It selected a Microsoft SQL Server-based solution that's currently in use across all campus offices, from admissions to alumni development.

Those departments use the ERP to access, update, store, and generate reports on the data kept in Sarah Lawrence's common database. Jameson said key benefits include improved access to student data, better management of the student registration process, and a new online portal that encourages interaction among faculty, students, and staff.

"Administrators and advisors have the information they need at their fingertips with this new system," said Jameson, "and are able to address student issues more efficiently than they did with our previous setup."

Jameson said the ERP rollout went well and attributed that success to the two years spent carefully planning and orchestrating the upgrade. "We didn't want technology to drive the project, so we took the time to do the self-analysis of all of our school's internal processes and how those processes were being handled," said Jameson. "We then looked closely at the business case for the ERP and came up with a smart way to approach the project."

Jameson and his team will turn to that approach again over the next couple of months as they continue to tweak the new ERP to meet the college's needs. "We'll continue to customize the ERP," he said, "and build on our new platform to make it fit with some of our older campus systems."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net.

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