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Finding Your Focus: Level-setting Priorities for ERP Implementation Success in Higher Ed

Private and public higher education institutions have faced rapid, continuous change over the last 18 months. Many academic institutions put project plans on hold and are now facing increased urgency to move to the cloud. Institutions seeking to execute on digital transformation plans need to assess their data, business processes, appetite for change, and strategic goals to determine proper timing, activities, and communication for transformation projects, the largest of which is not the actual technology, but the change to how work gets done.

When migrating to the cloud, there are three main focus areas to drive implementation success: people, process, and technology.


People are the most important asset in any change initiative. Higher education institutions know they need technology solutions that automate processes and enhance the student experience, but are the individuals managing admissions, student services, finance, human resources, and other institution functions ready for change? As part of the pre-implementation planning process, incorporate change management assessments and tools to determine readiness to move to the cloud and the strategy for a seamless transition.

Start top-down: Executive sponsorship and buy-in is crucial when making broad change such as a new enterprise resource planning system in the cloud. The executive team will set priorities and the scope to enable the vision for the future. A dedicated project leader whose job is to successfully manage the project start to finish and prepare the organization for change is necessary. The project manager will lead the team of subject matter experts (SMEs) in required areas for effective communication and collaboration through go-live. Organizations that settle for new employees or whoever might be available for their project team, versus individuals who know the systems and processes, will proportionally suffer.

Communicate early and often: Transparency is key in large transformation projects. Any type of change, even positive change, can cause a dip in productivity if not communicated correctly. Leveraging change management before the project kicks off will set your team up for the best chance at project success and user adoption. Use a variety of communication methods, town hall meetings, focus groups, and feedback surveys to measure where additional support is needed and how the workforce is responding to new ways of working. Continue communication efforts throughout the project, and post-go-live for reinforcement and resilience.

Support the project team: Check in with your project team, both on a team and individual level, often. Ensure they have the proper information, tools, motivation, and support to complete the project without burning out.


Process excellence is the combination of business analysis, organizational change management (OCM), analytics, and process design. This combination of processes helps map out your current systems and business processes and unlocks operational efficiencies within existing or new technology. Identify your institution’s goals and what processes can be automated. Conduct interviews with end users focused on specific functional areas to document operational needs and areas of improvement. Look at what systems are currently used and what data needs cleansing before migrating to a new system.


Along with process bottlenecks, determine where your current technology has functionality gaps and where it makes sense to take advantage of the vendor’s best practices and innovations. ERP problems fall into four categories: the software, the installation, how it is used and where the organization is not using it, and missing out on benefits as a result. Understanding where the problem occurs will help determine how to avoid repeating it with a new system.

Once you determine what problems you want to avoid, time to evaluate what process improvements your new system can bring. In addition to the traditional back office functionality, ERP systems built for higher education can offer additional value out-of-the-box to increase student success while keeping costs down. Talk to your vendor about their product roadmap, ensuring it aligns with your institution’s future goals.

Implementing a new ERP system is a large-scale change and one that will remain with your organization for a long time if chosen correctly. The process for making a change to one of the most mission-critical technology investments can be long and complex, so it is important to ensure you select the right transformation partner as carefully as you select your software. The implementation, project team, contract terms, and how change is managed are all factors for success. If you are thinking about migrating to cloud ERP, remember the focus areas that will lead your journey to success.

Transformation on your priority list? View this on-demand presentation to level-set your goals and make the process smoother, from pre-evaluation to post-implementation.