Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Next generation of ERP systems for colleges and universities

Our campus went live with the PeoleSoft (now Oracle) suite of products in 2003 and 2004. Like most campuses we had our bumps early on. After all, ERP systems change the culture, not just the technology. As we sit in 2012, I have to wonder what will come next for College data management systems will look like. The current systems, although only few years old, are already old looking and their functionality does not satisfy new and growing needs of campuses. If current leaders in this market space don't adapt, I think we will see new players, soon.

Here are a few things that I think need to be in the next generation of ERP systems:

1. The ability to customize the look and feel of pages needs to be building. Now, adding branding, chaginging fonts and the location of data boxes is hard or not possible. This makes the current systems look almost "legacy" like when compared to other interactive web sites. Campus portals for example, should be able to be consistent with the universtiy brand and "moderized" as needed, without effecting functionality.

2. Mobile is here and is not going away. Just as campuses need to develop a strategy for presenting their image on mobile devices, ERP providers need to format pages for mobile devices. It is early in the game, but pushing this task off to third party vendors adds to campus expense. Since we know that mobile will not go away, vendors should have plans to build this into to the base product. BTW, I do not think that all of the ERP functionality needs to be in mobile format. Starting with the parts of the system that students and faculty deal with would be great. Back office staff will likely continue to do their work in the back office.

3. Security needs to be easier to manage. For the past several years we have had to dedicate almost one entire FTE to managing security and provisioning. We have since automated this process ourselves and reduce this time to about 10% of an FTE. It can be done.

4. Reduce the anumber of third party tools that are needed for reporting, refunding, electronic payments, eTranscripts, admissions applications, judical management .... . The list goes on. These are all areas where many campuses are using third party solutions with, again, more cost for products, integration isses and personnel costs. Not all functionality can be built in, but if someone can build a product with most of this, they will be the new leader in the market.

5. Build in things like a work order system (in Financials), an event room scheduling system, and maybe even HR contract automation. This would be real "value add". Again, the new leader will have most of these.

6. Lastly, think hard about a cloud solution. Data centers are expensive to run and staff. Many small or medium size colleges would probably like to phase out most of their data center activity over the next 5-10 years. It has to be affordable, secure, and with great service levels and tools.

Off the soap box for awhile. The College ERP market is getting dated fast. This is a problem, but a great opportunity for the next big thing. Check out WorkDay for a glimpse of the future. They work only with HR and Finance, but the model is here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Bring you own device" hit campus years ago

Over the past few months we have been hearing a new buzz phrase on the IT scene. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the newest phrase. This means employers, schools, universities, and restaurants should all have networks which are open, secure, robust and ready for anyone to jump on and use the network with their own PC, tablet, Smart phone or whatever. At first, as a consumer, I thought this would be a new and great thing. As a CIO on a college campus it hit me that we have done this for years. We struggle with the secure and robust parts, but we do pretty well. At my campus we have 8,600 students (3,400) living on campus. We also have about 1,000 and an unknown number of visitors for conferences, lectures, camps and hundreds of other things.

Over 99% of our students own laptops and about 75% own Smart phones. Tablets are still not often seen, but I am betting that about 20% of the students have these as well. We will know more after our spring survey. So what does BYOD mean to a campus? Well, at my campus we have been building in security at multiple leves -- from the device to the core of the network. Of course we have firewalls, packetshapers, network access control systems, and steer students to free virus protection and malware software. In order to run a "clean machine" we suggest that everyone run their virus protection and malware software at least once a week. Our HelpDesk provides lots of online documentation to try and educate the campus. Still, BYOD adds problems and expectations. We are in that kind of world now. Always open, ready, easy and secure. Gotta love it if you are in the IT business. Here are some tips for students and others who want to BYOD to get your work done wherever you might find a hotspot.

- read any authentication instructions available or ask someone how to get on. Most "Open Systems" still have you sign in. Even McDonald's has a process. You can ususally get to these by just loggin on and opening your browser. If you are a student and this does not appeaer, call your HelpDesk. Some older operating systems can be tricky and sometimes you have to select your wireless network from a list. On a Windows PC you can usually see the list by clicking Start> Settings > wireless networks.

- Run the newest operating system you can. This would be Windows 7 for most comptuers; Apple OS 10 Lion for Mac users; and iOS 5 for Apple mobile devices. Android has so many options, I would checking the web or your device manufacturer for details.

- Run your virus protection software at least once a week. If you are a Microsoft user you can get Microsoft Essentials for free. I also recommend a full scan with Malwarebytes every week. This is also free.

- Check you hard drive and see how much space you have left. If you are using Windows, a quick way to do ethis is to click Start>Documents>My documents>view your C: drive by selecting from the list of options (see black arrow to the far right of "MY Documents"). Once you are here, right click and select Properties to see your drive capacity. If you have little hard drive space left your machine could run slow. If so, follow the next step.

- Most college students now have Microsoft Live or Google for their campus email system. These come with lots of cloud storage. MS calls it the Sky Drive, not sure what Google calls it. Move all pictures, music and videos to the cloud. Now it's safe and backed-up should your computer die. This will also create lots of free space for work.

These are just a few tips to help you BYOD and to help your computer's performance. Hope this is not too much information. I came across another blog with a different perspective on BYOD, OnLine You might want to check this out for more information. Best of luck BYODing.