More than “Going Live”: Achieving Institutional Transformation through ERP Implementation

More Than 'Going Live': Achieving Institutional Transformation through ERP Implementation. A study by EDUCAUSE and CampusWorks

Institutions need—and want—to set their sights higher than just an ERP implementation and “go live” as the measures of success. In this report, respondents highlight numerous reasons to pursue a new ERP, and detail extensive preparations and critical factors for success.


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Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems—that is, any or all combinations of financial management, human resources (HR)/human capital management (HCM), and student information systems (SIS)—are an essential tool for managing assets and operations across higher education institutions.

This study draws on survey and interview data from key higher education stakeholders to not only examine the practical challenges and opportunities of implementing an ERP but also consider the broader implications of these systems as they relate to the institution’s overall transformation and success in achieving its mission.

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Overview of the Current State of ERP Implementations

System Areas of Focus, by ERP Implementation Status
Bar chart showing the percentages of respondents in each group (committed, interested, completed, and implementing) who have focused their ERP implementations on each of the three types of systems (HR, financial, and student). HR systems are an area of focus for between 76% and 89% of all four groups. Financial systems range from 85% to 89%. Student systems range from 65% (for completed and implementing groups) to 89% for the interested groups.

ERP implementations vary across system areas. Among the respondents who have completed or are currently implementing an ERP, HR/HCM and financial management are the most common systems undergoing change.

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Getting Prepared: Pillars of Readiness

Challenges Institutions Encountered or Anticipated Encountering during an ERP Implementation
Bar chart showing the percentages of respondents in each group (committed, interested, completed, and implementing) who identified challenges they experienced or anticipate for their ERP implementations. At the top is institutional culture and readiness for change (identified by 72% of committed, 69% of interested, 60% of completed, and 44% of implementing). The other items on the list: leadership/staff resistance to change (49%, 66%, 54%, and 31%); misalignment between expectations and reality of new solution capabilities (45%, 58%, 51%, and 31%); unanticipated software limitations in new ERP (49%, 59%, 45%, and 31%); loss of staff expertise/capacity during implementation (55%, 53%, 45%, and 46%); cross-system integration challenges (68%, 61%, 39%, and 43%); miscalculation of time and effort for implementation (43%, 58%, 39%, and 39%); and exceeding budget, extra costs (49%, 76%, 36%, and 26%).

Understanding the variety of implementation challenges you may encounter can enhance preparation and reduce setbacks.

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Institutional Culture and Readiness for Change

Critical Implementation Success Factors
Bar chart showing the percentages of respondents in two groups, implementing and completed, who identified particular implementation factors and critical to success. Topping the list is institutional leadership support, cited by 75% of those implementing and 77% of those completed. The other items on the list: organization readiness (46% and 40%), sufficient budget (51% and 35%), staffing the project with the right skill sets (23% and 35%), selecting the right vendor/solution (31% and 29%), structured project management (16% and 22%), designing future state processes (15% and 16%), staff training (12% and 16%), willingness to adopt/deploy industry/vendor’s best practices (12% and 15%), and good legacy data plan (8% and 4%).

Institutional culture—specifically, openness to change and wide-scale coordinated projects—can have a significant impact on an ERP implementation’s success.

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Budgets, Costs, and Resources

Concerns about Budget Overruns and Extra Costs

An ERP implementation is likely to be one of the most expensive projects an institution will undertake. Institutions must weigh the substantial costs of these projects against their goals and strategic mission to determine if this investment makes sense.

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Action Planning at Your Institution

Rally a Network

We propose a series of next steps or actions you might consider taking at your institution, depending on where you are in your ERP transformation journey.

Learn more about action planning at your institution >