Implementation of the Enterprise Resource Planning at Towson University
Background of the Study
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a software system that allows an organization to integrate various applications to manage the business and automate myriad back office operations related to technology, services as well as human resources. Through ERP, the various organizational departments are integrated together into a single information bus that is capable of handling the particular informational needs of each department. ERP system was designed purposely to provide a wholesome, integrated organization’s resource to manage the business process seamlessly and effectively. In a nutshell, ERP systems provide the following benefits to an organization
Improve financial management
Improve the organizational output and insight
Provide quality reports and performance analysis
Currently, ERP systems have been enhanced to capture the total functionality in the organization and to be integrated with extra functions such as business intelligence and decision support systems (DSS). When organizations decide to implement ERP systems, they share a common objective; a fast and seamless implementation that does not interrupt business process with implementation system glitches. Experts contend that ERP systems are problematic and likely to eat into an organization’s budgetary allocations.
The success and or failure of ERP implementation largely depend on how the organizations handle the process. ERP implementation differs in several organizations due to majority factors such as goals, scope and resource availability. Having a good understanding of the critical success factors is critical for the successful implementation of the ERP system. Generally, this research would seek to unearth the critical success factors that ought to be considered in adopting ERP in a university setting.
Critical Success Factors Framework
Critical success factors (CSFs) refers to key attributes necessary for the success of a business enterprise. Moreover, CSFs can also be described as a section of easily identifiable operational objectives molded by the industry, the company, the manager, and the surrounding that assures the success of the of a particular organization. While many authors have researched on and documented on the success and failure of ERP implementations, most of them focus on inadequate areas of study, for example business strategies, and technological fit. The implementation of an ERP package is so complex and massive that it requires many years and millions of dollars to accomplish it. Additionally, the process requires farfetched settlement of an organization to reproduce the exact business process. Experts are of the view that implementing an integrated ERP system isn’t a technological activity but an “organizational revolution”. The key to success in any ERP implementation is effective preparations before commencing the process. ERP implementations conducted devoid of patience and proper planning will develop into corporate root canals, and not competitive advantage. Numerous issues must be looked into when implementing a comprehensive ERP system. Some of those issues are discussed below.
Critical Success Factors for ERP Implementation in Towson University
ERP Teamwork and composition
Team work and composition are critical elements during the life cycle of an ERP system. Experts affirm that the ERP implementation team should be made up of the best talents within Towson University. The Towson ERP implementation team should consist of people from different functions of the entire organization. The team should majorly be made up of the consultants and the internal staff from the university so that the internal staff acquire the essential skills required for design and execution of the project. The project team members ought to fully commit to the implementation of the ERP system. To facilitate collaboration and easy communication, the team should be located together within the Towson’s university premises.
Top Management Support
For successful implementation of ERP system at Towson University, top management goodwill is fundamental. While some people may perceive ERP implementation as easy as changing software systems, it’s rather a complex process that aims at repositioning the University and transforming its business practices. The process must therefore receive full approval of the top management and be aligned with the strategic business goals of the organization. Top management support of Towson University can for example achieved by attaching management bonuses to success of the ERP project implementation. The management must show full commitment to the project and willingness to allocate best resources to the implementation effort of the ERP. Top management can outline the expected strategic and tangible benefits, resources, risks and other elements through a business plan. The role of the proposed ERP system to the organization should be communicated to other employees of the University.
Effective communication is fundamental for successful ERP implementation in Towson University. Expectations at each stage of the implementation process ought to be communicated. Communication entails the official promotion of project teams and the announcement of project milestones to the rest of the organization. Employees of Towson should be prepared in advance for the changes that are expected with the ERP adoption.
Business Plan and Vision
A well thought out business plan and vision that states the direction of ERP project is needed during the project life cycle. The business plan will help employees keep focus on the business benefits of the project to be undertaken. The mission statement of the project should be directly linked to the business needs of the organization and ought to be clearly stated.
Excellent project management is critical. A member of the implementation team should be accorded the responsibility to drive success in project management. A project scope detailing the number of systems to be implemented, and the degree of business process reengineering needed should be defined. Proposed scope changes ought to be evaluated in terms of cost and time. Project should have milestones and timelines must be adhered to.
The commitment of the project sponsors is vital to drive agreement to manage the whole life cycle of the ERP project implementation. One individual from Towson University should be appointed in charge and the project leader must drive the project in the organization as a whole. The high echelon executive sponsor should have the authority to set the project objectives and legitimize change.
Appropriate Business and legacy Systems
This is beneficial in the starting phases of the ERP project undertaking. ERP implementation experts reaffirm that stable and successful business environment is necessary. Business and Legacy systems are important since these determine the level of IT and organizational amendments needed for success.
Change management Program and Culture
Change management is a major point of concern to many organizations involved in ERP implementation. Several companies fail to attain the projected outcomes, maybe because the organizations underestimate the impact of change management. The enterprise wide culture and organizational structure at Towson University should be managed, which encompass individuals, organization and culture would change. Townson University as an organization should possess robust corporate that is receptive to change. As part of the transformation management strategies, users ought to be heavily involved in the design and implementation of the ERP system.
Business Process Reengineering
The business processes of Towson University must be aligned to the new ERP system. Aligning the business processes to the ERP system implementation is imperative. A good number of ERP systems are built with inbuilt best practices. The organization must be ready to alter the business process to fit the software with marginal modifications. Towson University must keep a tight control on the on the modifications, as they are likely to lessen the application of the best practices and extend the scope of the project.
Software development, testing and troubleshooting
Software development, and testing is critical in the initial phases of the ERP implementation process. The final architecture of the ERP system must be designed before its implemented, considering the most vital requirements of the implementation. This would limit modifications and alterations at each stage of the implementation process. Consequently, to better address the needs of Towson University, other specialized software would be integrated with the ERP system. Troubleshooting the ERP system during implementation phase is critical. Stakeholders should collaborate with each other to resolve the arising software problems.
Monitoring and performance Evaluation
An ERP system is multifaceted and encompasses several checks and balances. The management of Towson University must be made to understand that in the course of ERP system implementation, anomalies may arise, and would disrupt the normal operations. It is therefore imperative to monitor the system performance to identify and eliminate any alignment setbacks that could have happened and were not obvious. The ERP implementation progress should be measured against earlier set milestones and targets. Reports for data assessment ought to be designed based on the established metrics.