MySAP: ERP for Education

Enterprise resource planning, also known as ERP, is an administrative management system that integrates all facets of a business—planning, human resources, payroll, accounting, and marketing—on a common software platform. On a campus, ERP would also include curriculum tools and student services.

Although these functions are often handled by separate campus systems that don't necessarily communicate with one another, ERP provides an integrated solution within which all facets of an organization and its data can interoperate.
Most of the big ERP firms market products for higher education, including SCT Corp., SAP AG, PeopleSoft Inc., Oracle Corp., and JD Edwards. For the most part, these vendors have taken a corporate solution and refashioned it to fit the specific needs of the nonprofit academic sector.

In mySAP Higher Education & Research, SAP's solution for colleges and universities, a core ERP back-end
solution is combined with a Web-enabled front end called mySAP.com. The core comes from SAP's solution for business and industry, and includes customer relationship management, e-procurement, financial accounting, business intelligence, and human resources. SAP anticipates moving the entire product onto the Web at some point, ultimately offering customers a choice between the traditional setup and Web-based service.

MySAP Higher Education & Research integrates with SAP's standard business operations tools to support research, teaching, and learning, as well as core campus administrative functions. According to Malcolm Woodfield, president of the SAP Public Services Business Education unit, SAP plans to roll out three components of mySAP Higher Education & Research in 2002: campus management, distance learning tools, and grants management.
Campus management enables student application processing, timetable and individual study plan development, class registration, and self-service portals. This product also supports curriculum development and provides tools for exam preparation and student assessment.

The new distance learning component, called SAP Learning, will support asynchronous learning and training by providing a shell that customers can populate themselves. SAP Learning will manage content delivery, course auditing, fees, registration, and add/drop functions.

Note, however, that SAP is not in the content development market; although its systems can work hand-in-hand with content platform providers to integrate content, SAP d'es not plan to compete with their content development focus. SAP Learning is an outgrowth of SAP's successful training tools, which have been completely reconsidered to fit the academic environment.

MySAP Enterprise Portals are a key part of the package. The solution simplifies the configuration of portals and also handles basic functions such as registration, security, personalization, and incorporation of content and services.
The solution uses role-based access, enabling entry only to those systems for which one has authorization. For instance, role assignments permit students to plan their spring course schedules, but not to access the schedules or grades of their classmates.

MySAP also provides tools for managing grants and facilitates project management, forecasts the required resources, and ensures that projects follow their intended schedule. Program management is integrated with the financial accounting and reimbursement functionalities so that everything tracks together.

So far, the majority of SAP's clients in higher education have been at top-tier schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, although the company says its market share at all levels is growing.

Along with its position in the commercial market, SAP touts its customer service record in higher education, claiming that all of its implementations in colleges and universities have come in on time and under budget.

Keeping in mind the cultural and organizational differences between academia and the corporate world, SAP looks for ways to integrate its core solutions to fit the customer.

To do so, SAP works with a client and a business consultant partner to develop a road map for applying SAP to the particular institution, looking for efficiencies, at both the macro and micro levels, along the way. Such efficiencies may include flattening internal hierarchies, streamlining processes, and simplifying records management.

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