Often times, one of the duties of the Vice President of Finance for a higher education institution is to lead in its efforts in the streamlining of its financial and related management reporting systems, as well as assist in the evaluation of academic and administrative technology planning. This duty and the encompassing project related thereto will be a major undertaking. It will most likely require the formation of a special project team consisting of various departmental leaders at the institution who will provide much input before a final recommendation is made to implement a change to the financial and related management reporting systems.
A project report containing a timetable for implementation with due dates of completion for each phase of the project undertaking should be formally developed and approved, most likely by the President and Board of Trustees of the college or university. Because of the time and effort required for this undertaking, including a concerted effort and embracement by the Team Members required for a successful implementation, this project will most likely be completed over a number of months.
The following information will assist you in your endeavor to streamline the financial and related management reporting systems at your college or university. This information covers the various capabilities of software/IT solution based systems and products that have been developed and available through solution providers. Much of this information and the items noted should be considered in identifying appropriate software/IT solution providers who will assist you in meeting and serving the needs of the academic and administrative offices of the college or university.
In presenting this information, I am not advocating any specific software/IT solution provider or what route for a revitalized financial and management reporting system for a college or university for their specific undertaking. But, as more research and investigation is performed as a Team effort, I am sure you will be able to identify a very good provider, with a great history, with great platforms of products and resources, and someone who is very much up-to-date on meeting the needs and demands for your institution; not only today, but for years to come in assisting you in your desire to continue to grow and prosper.
The key steps and processes noted in this article will provide you with information for identifying the “types of features, resources and capabilities” you will want to consider in deciding what types of changes may be needed in order for you to streamline the financial and related management reporting systems at your institution. The following is the information for your consideration.
Identify Leading Software/IT Solution Providers
A potential list of candidates of leading providers of software, strategies, and services for higher education institutions will need to be compiled. You should identify providers that have been providing these services over an extended time period, with a proven record of providing solutions that have given colleges and universities the power to meet all of their academic and administrative needs.
You will identify software/IT solution providers that have developed and continue to improve and enhance their software, and combined with their experienced professionals, have a successful record of implementation, cost-effective operation, with a record of setting a clear path to future growth for colleges and universities across the nation.
Ideally, identifying providers who maintain a singular focus on higher education may give them a unique perspective on the industry, allowing them to plan for changes and ensuring their clients have the technology, knowledge, and strategies to be leaders.
The Software/IT Solution Providers Must Have Exceptional People
At every level of the company and across each department – from product development, to support, to consulting, to services, to their leadership team – the software/IT solution provider you choose to work with must have people in their organization who are truly committed to partnering with their clients to maximize their success.
Vibrant Client Community
You should identify software/IT solution providers who have a strong active client list. Their client list should represent a community that is one of the most active and engaged in the industry, demonstrating consistently high levels of customer involvement and satisfaction year after year. You will want to make sure they utilize customer advisory boards to help shape the future of their products and services.
Broad and Deep Product Portfolio
The software/IT solution providers you identify should have a family of integrated, proven, and innovative products that caters to the needs of academic and administrative offices across the entire campus and throughout the student lifecycle.
Strong Financial Position
The software/IT solution providers you identify should be on solid financial footing and have a strong balance sheet. They must take a long-term perspective, valuing customer satisfaction and enduring client relationships. You should make a determination, if it makes any difference to you, if the software/IT solution provider you select is a strong privately held company or a publicly held company. Something you will want to consider is that many publicly held companies chase quarterly earnings targets and change ownership frequently, and when this occurs there can be problems with continuity of services; whereas a long-term strong privately held company will most often continue to remain a stable partner with their clients and they can be relied upon to remain committed to their client’s best interests.
Cost of Ownership
In your search for the ideal software/IT solution provider, you should identify organizations that provide the most advanced, innovative, award-winning solutions for higher education, delivering exceptional value with the best total cost to benefit of ownership to the college or university.
You should research, review and consider the following types of solution suites to have in place at your institution in your pursuit to streamline the financial and management reporting systems of the college or university.
Software, Strategies & Services for Higher Education
The software/IT solution providers you identify in your search must offer technology solutions empowering colleges and universities of all shapes and sizes to meet the needs of their students, academic, and administrative departments – serving the entire constituent community.
The enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems must be flexible, customizable, fully-integrated, and designed to help drive higher performance across the campus and beyond. The ERPs must leverage robust functionality and simple controls so that the school operations can be streamlined and optimized from the back-end to the front-end of its operations. The ERPs you employ must give the performance insight you need to nurture critical relationships with constituents. Ideally, data access should be available anytime and anywhere for any authorized users. Integrated data will promote collaboration, user satisfaction, and efficiencies through-out the college or university. Most likely you will be focused on the following areas in streamlining the financial and related management reporting systems:
Continuing Education & Workforce Development
You will need to have a software/IT platform for continuing education that is designed to help the institution streamline, simplify, and optimize the everyday tasks of operating a profitable continuing education and workforce development program, including:
You will want a platform that is easily deployed that can be integrated with any ERP system or can be used as a stand-alone solution.
You will want to ensure you are always able to have readily available reliable data so you can make better decisions. The software solution should provide a full range of options that can revolutionize the way you manage your operations and develop strategy.
You will want the availability of analytics that will provide configurable dashboards, alerts, reports, and analytics, so the college or university can gain the insights needed to succeed across all aspects of their operations.
A Need for Information That Covers the Complete Student’s Life Cycle
You will want a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that will allow the college or university to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time engaging with their prospective students and their families. It must be a recruitment tool that keeps the institution focused on students – and on track with enrollment goals. The platform should contain features such as:
Having the ability to utilize predictive modeling techniques to assist the college or university in identifying students who need intervention, while there’s still time to turn them around would be a tool to have in streamlining the management system. Having a system in place that will automatically issue an alert through the workflow process when an attrition risk factor appears on a student’s profile, thereby alerting the relevant administrators that intervention is required, would no doubt be an excellent retention tool to assist the college or university’s students in succeeding. Some of the benefits of having this capability would be:
Having a web-based fundraising solution that’s flexible, easy, and designed to help the institution meet their campaign goals can streamline and simplify management of campaign and donor activity for both major gifts and the annual donations that the college or university depends on. It should be able to assist everyone in the fundraising team – from administrators to managers and solicitors; so everyone can work smarter and more efficiently. It should be able to be used as a stand-alone solution or as part of an ERP solution to:
With the deployment of eLearning tools, the instructors at the college or university will have the ability to offer more dynamic, engaging learning environments and develop creative learning spaces that engross the students. Having a Learning Management System (LMS) that integrates completely with the administrative system will provide the institution a seamless data exchange and up-to-the-minute information. Some of the benefits of having this type of Learning Management System in place will be:
Because students today are on the move – and having a desire to attend a school that provides them the convenience of online and mobile applications that will keep up, you will want to work with a software/IT solution provider that can deliver portal, mobile, and social media solutions that will keep users engaged with the institution throughout the entire student life cycle. Some of the benefits of portal, mobile, and social media solutions would be:
Also, having Customer Relationship Management (CRM) components available for use in a portal solution should allow you the opportunity to tailor user access to key information based on different user roles, such as:
Using a Single Vendor as the Software/IT Solutions Provider
As part of your desire to streamline your financial and related management reporting systems you will want to work with a technology partner providing the most innovative and comprehensive software suite available. This would probably be best if the services are provided from a single vendor who will also provide strategic and operational services to maximize the return on this technology investment by the college or university.
A Team of Experts to Assist the Institution in this Endeavor
You will want to make sure the software/IT solutions provider has the capability at every level of their company and across each of their departments – from product development, to support, to consulting, to services, to their leadership team that are a Team of Experts whose individuals are committed to working with the college or university to maximize their success. This would cover all areas of the project, such as:
An Actively Engaged Client Community
The software/IT solutions provider should have a client community that is one of the most actively engaged in the industry, demonstrating consistently high levels of customer involvement and satisfaction year after year. Ideally, they should utilize Customer Advisory Boards that help shape the future of their products and services, and encourage and support a host of opportunities for interaction and collaboration, such as Regional User Groups, Annual Meetings, Advisory Groups, etc.
Cloud computing is a way to increase capacity or add capabilities without investing in a new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software.
Software as a service (SaaS), sometimes referred to as “on-demand software” is a software delivery model in which software and associated data are centrally hosted on the cloud. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a web browser. SaaS has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including Office & Messaging software, Management software, CAD software, Development software, Virtualization, accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), management information systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), invoicing, human resource management (HRM), content management (CM) and service desk management. SaaS has been incorporated into the strategy of all leading enterprise software companies. One of the biggest selling points for these companies is the potential to reduce IT support costs by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to the SaaS provider.
According to Thomas McHall of the Gartner Group, it was estimated SaaS sales in 2010 reached $10 billion, and were projected to increase to $12.1 billion in 2011, up 20.7% from 2010. The Gartner Group estimates that SaaS revenue will be more than double its 2010 numbers by 2015 and reach a projected $21.3 billion.
Whether you are looking to leverage the cloud for operational efficiency, cost savings, or business continuity, you should to look to a software/IT provider that has a solution to ensure your success. Ultimately, you should choose a hosted application that fits your needs best in one of the following:
On the ideal digital campus, every administrative and academic office matches the technological sophistication of its socially-networked students. The digital campus leverages innovative technology to operate at optimal efficiency and the lowest possible cost, resulting in the highest possible return on investment. The digital campus leverages the most effective tools available, including software and services, to achieve its critical goals for enrollment, retention, and advancement. And, at every initiative, the digital campus ensures that its technology investment is aligned with its institutional mission and goals. For colleges and universities today, the digital campus is a superb model for achieving institutional success in our new century.