We are pleased to have an opportunity to share with you the reasons we feel the TBR has a great need to move as quickly as possible to a RDBMS supported ERP system and to highlight some of the issues associated with such a move. Please ask questions as we go, stop us at any time if we say something that you do not understand, or if you additional questions about the issue or comments that you wish to contribute.
The reference for much of what we will present is a large study of ERP systems in higher education that has just been published by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (EDUCAUSE is the professional organization for information technology in higher education). The study covers the period between July 1995 and June 2002. It represents survey results from 480 institutions, in-depth telephone interviews with 40 executives at 23 institutions, discussions with 25 university and consultant experts, and six in-depth institutional case studies (259 institutions in the study had implemented at least one ERP module during this timeframe). This quotation from that study sets the context for our remarks quite well we believe. It is important to understand that these systems interact with and can help to shape the organization culture of the institution They play a role in the allocation of resources They provide the interface for faculty & student interaction with the core administrative activities of the institution They provide the conduits for meeting student needs and services And they enable decision makers straight forward access to data and information & facilities for communicating to the entire institution.
A RDBMS provides the fundamental building blocks for all modern digital based administrative systems. It enables the use of very sophisticated digital tools in ways that cannot otherwise be employed which enables: Very complex systems to be built utilizing relational tables rather than hard computer code. This, in turn, makes it far easier to make certain types of changes in the system and makes it easier to implement upgrades and routine maintenance. The utilization of a single database for the entire system rather than separate databases for each module of the system. Thus data are input once rather than being input by different units in different places creating the certainty of data errors and inefficiencies in how data and information are analyzed and retrieved. Far more useful data access tools making it much easier to access data, to do cross-functional data analysis, and to maintain and do longitudinal data analysis thus providing multi-year reports with integrated data from different modules—important to executive officers, the chancellor’s office and the TBR Board. Much better data integrity and data security via the use of user authentication and the definition of levels of data access privileges. This is because a RDBMS interacts with middleware (rapidly developing software coming out of the Internet2 initiative which will soon make it far easier to “connect” between different institutions and share data and information with very high levels of security not now possible). Definition: A relational database management system is a suite of software that is designed for a single purpose: to store data for applications and to manage the data storage so the application programs do not have to worry about the data management aspects of programming. An RDBMS does all the input/output management of data.
Advantages of a RDBMS can be summarized as services, services, services! Students and faculty can interact with the system 24X7, something that both of us are increasingly asked to provide and that as we offer more and more online courses is mandated! Such systems are far more client driven since much of the data may be either directly input or updated by individuals themselves rather than by a clerk (which has been demonstrated to significantly improve the accuracy of the data) and since much of the information that is generated within the system applicable to a person is directly accessible by that person anytime, anywhere from a common computer browser. The ease of access and the heightened analysis capabilities usually mean that decisions are made after better data and information have been assessed. Routine changes are easy and quick to make thus the system is more flexible both for those who use it functionally (the registrar, finance, etc.) and for clients (students, faculty, administration, etc.). As already noted it is easier to maintain since many changes can be made by changing a table rather than writing code and because the methodology used by computer programmers and technicians are far more standardized in a RDBMS. Due to the flexibility of the system it can more easily be “customized” to address the uniqueness of a particular campus without writing code.
We do have challenges in moving to a RDBMS: It will require a more sophisticated IT staff to implement and operate: a DBA and perhaps a DA, relational programmers, and more operations technicians. It will also require more sophisticated functional office personnel: With a single database functional decisions must be coordinated across office boundaries where they typically have been made in a silo environment. This will mean that more people will need to understand the basic operation of the entire system (This enhanced understanding should contribute to better overall decisions). Typically there is a 12-18 month learning curve before maximum advantage is gained. The nature of the SMO will have to be altered somewhat: TBR-wide data will be provided through a TBR data warehouse rather than by accumulating it as done today. Smaller campuses lack the technical expertise and depth of personnel to run a RDBMS thus TBR will need to provide “help” in the form of DBAs, perhaps a data center, etc. In turn, larger campuses already have more sophisticated IT staffs than TBR and will not need the involvement that has been evident to date.
An ERP system is built upon a RDBMS and takes advantage of its capabilities to provide: The digitized administrative rules, algorithms, and processes for functions such as HR, SIS, finance, fund raising, etc. The various “modules” are integrated either via one single database (SCT) or with linked databases (PeopleSoft) which enable, for example, a specified address to be exactly the same wherever that data element is used within the system. A modular structure which means that additional administrative functions (3 rd party vendors) may be integrated in a reasonably straight forward manner. This is especially true with 3 rd party vendors that have “partnerships” with the ERP vendor; it is common that “releases” are coordinated and all software is jointly tested by the partners prior to release. Industry-specific solutions based on “best practices” in key administrative areas are perhaps the major contribution of ERPs over prior RDBMS supported administrative systems (The “best practices” contribute to the ability of an institution to successfully compete in today’s higher education sector). These “best practices” are further enhanced when institutions engage in “process workflow” and/or process redesign as they implement an ERP.
Critical Objectives Reduce the risk of near-term obsolescence (our current systems are based on a 25 year-old architecture) Standardize institutional data & transactions Force a disciplined program of updates, modifications, & compliance driven enhancements. Position the institution for changes in scale (note coming upturn in students) Position the institution for externally inspired innovations in technology and/or processes (I2 is an example) Spread the cost of innovation across the vendors entire client base thus reducing the overall cost of innovation
This slide indicates the stated reasons for ERP implementation by those who had implemented an ERP module. The current SCT Plus Suite of TBR administrative software is based on an architecture that is over 20 years old We have great need to improve services to students (student & parent demands, competition, coming SACS accreditation visits, etc.) Some of us feel the need for institutional transformation—substantial improvement in efficiency and effectiveness of our academic & administrative operations). Both administrative and academic environments need modernization—administrative services, academic counseling, library operations, student learning, etc. Individuals, departments, schools & colleges, administrations, the chancellor’s office, and the board can profit from better management tools. Competitiveness is a real issues with senior institutions now, and we believe will soon be with community colleges. And 8. are really addressed in # 3. if it is implemented. In summary, those who have invested in ERP systems over the past seven years believe that they provide a robust, flexible, scalable, and reliable foundation for their institution’s core activities. (ECAR Study, p.85) Further, they believe the systems support the notions of adaptability, accountability, boundry-lessness, and integration. (ECAR Study, p.99)
We believe these to be our basic challenges: RDBMS & ERP systems are expensive; to implement just the three major modules the average cost per institution in the survey was $8.3M. Many of us, particularly the universities, have more than these three modules implemented. This relates directly to point number two. There are only two major ERP vendors, according to a recent major TBR consulting report, that can provide a complete suite of modules that would replace the functionality of what we currently have for the diversity of TBR institutions—PeopleSoft and SCT. Do we go to an open bid process? Enable PeopleSoft, SCT & others to bid on providing the RDBMS (if possible), consulting, and the ERP modules. Here we would count on the “marketplace” to ensure that we get a price that we could afford. Do we do a sole source bid to SCT based upon elements in our current contract). This would be called for if implementation costs for changing to another vendor substantially exceed costs for staying with SCT. Do we use vendor supplied consultants (for implementation, workflow analysis, process redesign, etc.) or do we also bid that process? A sole source bid to SCT would mean that we get all services from them—that is part of the current contract language. A process that would break out bidding on consultants would dictate a completely open bid process. Universities have a pressing immediate need to make this transition; some, perhaps many, of the community colleges do not feel then same urgency. Therefore some specified timeframe (5 years?) is probably need to allow all institutions to transition to whatever new system that is selected.
An ERP implementation would enable the TBR System to move from the silo based administrative structures and resulting bureaucracy of today to a new environment of ubiquitous, shared data within horizontal administrative structures and processes readily available via a data warehouse. Whatever the ultimate decision, institutions within the TBR need the capability (some of us immediately, others a bit later) to use vision and imagination coupled with the requisite enabling technology (RDBMS & ERP) to provide students from Tennessee the services they deserve that are fully competitive with what students in adjoining states enjoy—in many cases already enjoy. Thank you.
What are they and why do we need Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) & Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems ? Prepared for Tennessee Board of Regents Subcommittee Lucinda Lea, Vice President & CIO, MTSU James Penrod, Vice President & CIO, The U of M January 9, 2003
The Promise and Performance of Enterprise Systems for Higher Education, ECAR, Vol. 4, 2002, p.5.
Financial, human resources, student, and other systems provide the foundation on which the business of the higher education enterprise sits….they influence how:
institutional resources are allocated,
faculty and staff interact with an institution’s core business activities,
student needs for information and service are addressed, and,
decision makers interact with institutional information to formulate policies and decisions and to communicate with the institution.
Independent Consultants vs. Vendor based Consultants
ECAR, Vol.4, 2002, p. 37, 101. In the envisioned environment, information is ubiquitous and shared, and services are integrated and seamless, while data warehouse solutions and horizontal administrative structures and processes predominate. … With visionary and imaginative leadership educational benefits derived from technology-enabled increases in the effectiveness and efficiency of expert human intervention in the educational process.