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Special thanks to Ian Charmichael for this contribution

Higher education administrators grapple both with the costs and possibilities afforded by enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, a significant feat given an ERP software implementation’s sustained impact on the academic institution. ERP software applications integrate the data processing across the institution and automate administrative processes like student registration and financial accounting. However, an ERP software implementation stresses a campus under the best of circumstances. Depending upon the organization’s readiness to accommodate change, the implementation creates great turmoil or promotes sustained changes that help the institution better achieve its mission. As an ERP application implementation becomes a way of life rather than a project with a finite end, campus leaders are well advised to identify implementation best practices in order to increase their chances of success. How administrators can lead successful implementations, and what best practices they should use, was the focus of a recent research study. This article summarizes that survey of higher education chief financial and information (that is, chief technology) officers’ perceptions regarding ERP software implementation best practices.

Chief financial officers (CFOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) occupy leadership positions that are closely aligned with ERP software implementations. CFOs are accountable in managing the institution’s resources and oversee areas where the software is being implemented (e.g. accounting, budgeting, payroll, human resources) and often have to secure funding for implementation in other functional areas. CIOs are responsible for providing the technical guidance and infrastructure to support ERP software, including staff, project management and hardware.

Purpose of the Study
The study measured and analyzed chief financial and information officers’ perceptions of ERP software implementation best practices. What distinguished this study is that it measured selected higher education administrators’ perceptions regarding implementation best practices, as opposed to reporting anecdotal information. The topic was selected for study because campus leaders face significant challenges providing the financial and human resources required for ERP software implementations.

Study Methodology
Study participants consisted of 308 chief financial and information officers at 170 United States institutions accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Institutions at these levels offer doctoral degrees in at least three major academic or professional disciplines. The survey consisted of items constructed in question format and a series of statements to which survey participants were asked to respond by indicating their degree of agreement or disagreement using a Likert-type scale. After two mailings, the ultimate return of 163 surveys resulted in a usable sample size of 159 (a 53 percent response rate).

Study Findings
More than 50 percent of the participants indicated that they had ERP application implementation experience. Several respondents who had no ERP software implementation experience indicated that their institutions were in the early stages of planning for implementation. The majority had experience either with SCT/Banner or PeopleSoft, suggesting that the products supplied by these vendors have seen pervasive adoption by higher education institutions. Almost 80 percent of the respondents indicated that their institutions had established a separate budget specifically to track implementation project expenditures.

Best Practice Findings
Both chief financial officers and chief information officers ranked highest the statement regarding executive management’s sponsorship of the implementation project, which corroborates other research indicating that senior management’s backing is a key success factor. Executive management’s endorsement and support was viewed as an indispensable ingredient for project success, especially when the going got tough: The role of management in finding solutions through the problems and tension was viewed as critical. Executive managers should demonstrate sustained leadership and commitment to the project, or they increase the risk of diminishing its importance and wasting valuable resources.

CFOs ranked lowest the statement regarding the reassignment of project team members’ normal responsibilities for the project’s duration, which is troubling given its wide prevalence in the literature. Financial constraints often hamper management’s ability to backfill positions; some positions’ unique natures also discourage temporary staffing. However, not adjusting workloads means that employees juggle multiple priorities. This situation, coupled with extended working hours, may cause less than optimal results, staff burnout and staff turnover.

CIOs ranked lowest the statement regarding early initiation of the data conversion process from the prior software application to the new, which contradicts commonly accepted advocacy of early and frequent data conversion. Data conversion is expensive and very time consuming, and financial constraints may hamper realization of this best practice. CIOs are also reluctant to commit resources to data conversion until later, when system specifications have been finalized.

erp history Continue to next page of Higher Education Best Practices Review

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ERP Software Industry Focus

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ERP best practices reviewed:
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best practice

Executive Sponsorship

best practice
Backfill Project Team Roles
best practice
Early Data Conversion
best practice
Project Management Office
best practice
Project Team Composition
best practice
User Training Curriculum



erp industry



tags Tags:
erp definition
erp software best practices, erp application, enterprise resource planning software, hr, financial accounting, peoplesoft, oracle, cio, accounting software, cfo, higher education






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