ERP_CDE_2016-02-22If school districts want to be effective, they must embrace the efficiencies that technology offers.

As the market has done with businesses, it too is forcing school districts to be more efficient with their time and resources while achieving better results. To do this, districts have to improve their overall enterprise resource planning (ERP) process. District staff members are shouldering new burdens as a result of an increased focus on cost containment and reporting transparencies. They now have to report how changes improve student progress and control costs, whether they’re adopting new technology, teaching methodologies or evaluation systems. This is becoming the new normal, which means that districts need to be smarter about automating data access and integrating data into reporting processes.

The good news is that some tools can help. As businesses have known for some time, technology can reduce the guess work and speed up decision-making by putting pertinent information in the right hands. In addition, new processes and support mechanisms derived from technology can supply the right information in a timely manner so that leaders can make better decisions.

This means that school districts must have a total business solution that will streamline the “business” of education. With this solution, districts must be able to achieve:
•Efficient and automated processes
•Flexibility and adaptability to evolve as the district does
•Visibility into information that helps them make better decisions
•Anywhere access to useful information for everyone who needs it
•Affordability and sustainability

A fully configured ERP system for school districts involves many, if not all, of the following functions:
•Financial reporting and analytics
•Revenue management
•Fund accounting
•Endowment accounting
•Budgetary control and commitment
•Asset management
•Grants management

Each of these functions has many layers of complexity, yet a sound solution can maximize data utility while minimizing complexity. It will also offer less of a burden to the district and its users. When complexity is inevitable, ERP tools must become more robust and intuitive so decision-makers can access the information more effectively.

Specifically, these systems must allow each component to work together to maximize the use of data that is common to all applications. They must simplify data access within their applications and collectively across the entire ERP platform. Functionality should involve:
•Acquiring a more complete and accurate picture of the entire district
•Equipping executive staff, principals and others with relevant, contextual financial insights— available on any appropriate device
•Providing internal governance, applying consistent controls and reducing risk
•Embracing organizational, process, and reporting changes with limited disruptions
•Providing a consistent and easy-to-use interface for all users

Many good ERP options available today can provide these solutions, some of which focus on specific areas while others provide a complete integrated package. In evaluating the best solution for a specific district, it’s critical to understand how well all data inputs can be integrated into outputs that meet district requirements.