Education system is a crucial factor to every nation in regards to development. It is a powerful tool in eradicating inequality, poverty and forms the basis of economic development. In this regard, governments are giving a lot of effort in the educational sector and advancement of school activities. For these school activities to be made simple and processes smoothen it is important to have an automate school management system in place.
A typical school management system comprises of modules like record attendance, student registration, exam transcripts and report generation, time table preparation and other school management functions such as finance, human resource and so on. Automation is the use of technology to digitize activities of an organization in order to enhance effectiveness and efficiency. Digitization entails converting the manual activities like exam mark entry, report for preparation and many other activities in to computer processed activities. However, in many government schools, such systems have not been implemented and therefore, this proposal suits these schools. (ALBADRI, 2013)
School Management Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is business process management system that allows a company to use a system of coordinated and integrated application module to manage the organizations’ functions and automate many back office activities related to services, technology, and human resources. (Gunasekaran & Shea, 2010).
Selection Process of ERP Application
Accuracy and adherence to details are the only things to consider when selection an ERP software. Making the correct selection of an ERP system will enhance the school’s operational activities because data-driven functions will be automated. Business can be damaged if implementation of ERP is not done in the correct way.
Choosing a correct ERP application is no just about considering the features that will enable one to manage the organization processes but one has to go through a formal process explained below:
Requirements Research- At this phase what the school desires from an ERP is established. This will aid in deciding if the system fits the school.
Requirements Gathering- When assessing the school needs it should be noted that greatest advantages of ERP depend detailed analysis of data accurate and thorough reporting abilities and several process digitization functions.
Assess the current school operations and the way ERP application will suit them. For instance, does the school require an automated system to support use of mobile phones.
Consult with employees and especially the top management who can involve and motivate school workers in the implementation process.
Do an analyses of how school operations could change as well as forms in which ERP abilities can enhance school management and operation.
ERP Selection Considerations Based on System Requirements
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications are very important tools to any institution and affect every part of the daily operations. ERP helps n controlling the day-day activities of an institution including record attendance, student registration, exam transcripts and report generation, time table preparation and other school management functions such as finance, human resource and so on. There are numerous ERP applications available in the market and it is very critical to any institution to make sure that they elect the right ERP for their daily operations. The following guideline will help one identify and choose the correct ERP system:
Vendor’s reputation- the following aspects should be considered when contrasting ERP software and the various vendors that offer them to see if the can be the best choice for the institution: the changes that vendor has done to its organization in the recent years, the most current products of a vendor and what it desires to develop in the coming years, the length of time the vendor has been in the industry and the understanding it has about it, if the vendor has enough expertise in offering ERP solutions to institutions of the same type and size, the direction the vendor has for its business in future and if the vendor is likely to go on with it current models through the ERP platform’s lifetime. (CRUZ-CUNHA, MIRANDA & GONCALVES, 2013)
Technologies Offered by ERP Solution- The following factors should be considered when comparing ERP or when performing processes of software selection: turnkey or customization of ERP solution in the company and exclusive organization processes, execution of technical requirements in an organization, scalability and adaptability of the solution in response to increasing number of users or in data, the swiftness of the product and its effect on the consumers, and possible assistance for multisite or multi-firms’ platforms working with multiple activities.
System’s functionalities and usability- present challenges faced by an organization and which would be minimized with the ERP system should be considered. Also the ERP system’s abilities that would lead to accomplishment, and the one to be used should be evaluated. If possible, a demonstration should be arranged to analyze the easiness of usability of the platform by consumers, and if the platform enables them to perform their daily duties. In addition, enquire on the existence of extensive documentation or availability of help documents to help users with challenges they face and determine the interface of ERP with client relationship management.
Cost of ERP- evaluation of cost and appropriateness of the services it provides is very important. One should first find out if the cost is a one-time payment or it is a subscription that requires payment after some interval. From this the institution can decide if it can afford the system based on the cost and yearly maintenance and upgrade cost. After the cost assessment is complete, estimate of the system return will be worth more than the input cost. (FERRAN & SALIM, 2008)
The kind of support and training offered- The following factors should be considered when analyzing the training and support provided by the vendor: successful deployment of ERP by the vendor, organization processes that will lead to streamlined transition to the application of new system, availability of training to members of the company during and after process installation, and provision of in-house assistance or outsources to another organization.
Vendor Selection Criteria
Informal Enquiries- When choosing a vendor, the following should be considered: the vendor’s product should be working with existing systems, confirm if the vendor has enough experience in the particular field which will improve the success index of the system and make sure that the vendor clearly has your organizational needs fully in mind. (GRABOT, MAYE?RE & BAZET, 2008)
Technical Validation- Once the organizational requirements and request has been sent to the vendor, the school can now start comparing and contrasting the available ERPs in the market.
Technical Evaluation Scorecards- Evaluation scorecards are very crucial factors when choosing an ERP system. They extensively and perfectly assess the functionalities of ERP systems and helps the school to narrow down it list of vendors. After the list have been narrowed, the school should request for live demos from the selected vendors. It is very crucial and necessary to see ERP system in action and it is logical that a reputable vendor won’t hesitate on performing demo on their system. Apart from demos, ask for a documentation that describes how the ERP will meet the school operational and management needs. Some of the details that vendors should consider critically include:
Implementation of Software Phases- It is said that approximately 61 percent of Enterprise Resource Planning implementation are lengthy than expected. Executing Enterprise Resource Planning software in phases will boost activities without interfering with the flow of business. It will also enhance training in different phases, as such most of the organization are able to operate ordinarily as one department or area is concentrates on acquiring knowledge on how to utilize and maintain the ERP. (KATS, 2013).
Handling of Technical Problems-One bug can clear out a whole program. The organization should identify ways in which the vendor manages faults and service interference. If the dealer provides inclusive troubleshooting instructions, the organization’s IT division can find solutions for problems without the assistance of the vendor.
Training management- The organization should analyze two situations; the need to develop and offer training to it employees or provision of training by the vendor. The company should determine the cost of training. Success will be achieved if the cost of training is minimized and effectiveness is maximized. ERP software will benefit the organization if people learn how to use it in the right manner.
Software and Hardware updates and replacements expenses-discovering any enclosed cost is one way of managing the expenses versus advantages of ERP software. During an ERP trial, the organization should determine the likelihood of hardware replacement and the time frame. Enquire on operations involved in so as to make decisions on whether to manage in-house or by the dealer. In addition, investigate the cost needed to update the software. (LEON, 2008)
Software Features for inventory and logistics management- Several companies think that minimizing the total time that employees use on inventory and shipping occupation can significantly improve effectiveness. The organization should determine whether the software can provide warnings if inventory is stocked wrongly or if a specific item is low. It should also determine whether the software is able to automate calculation of the most cost- effective shipping methodologies based on the destination of the shipment.
Human Resources Department Module- A perfect Enterprise Resource Planning will assist in monitoring an employee from day one of employment. Managing to access payroll, procedures and policies, training systems, and timesheets in a centralized place can maximize productivity of those in the human resources division. (MCIVOR, 2010)
Mobile Capabilities of the Software- It is important for the ERP to be approachable away from the office if the organization functions in several offices or if sales staffs travel frequently. The easiness of mobile interface and the benefits acquired from this approachability should be evaluated. Enquire on the safety of the software when accessed from mobile gadget.
Lifespan of an ERP- The average lifespan of an ERP is approximately 7 to 10 years. The organization should determine the durability of an ERP while working for the company so as to estimate cost for upgrades and growth prediction.
ERP software can handle everything that’s happening in several departments of an organization together using less manpower. During an ERP software trial, ensure right questions are asked to make sure that accurate capabilities needed by the organization are owned by the ERP.
Contract Negotiation and Close- After choosing the vendor, quote acquisition, evaluation of the proposal and completion of case review, negotiation of the contract commences. Negotiations should be approached confidently, equipped with the business requirements, needed ERP effectiveness and financial limitation.
This method allows easy identification and selection of the correct ERP system. Although this may take time and involves intensive labor, the selection process of an ERP may be profitable.
Ways in which ERP Improves School Efficiency
process Automation- achievement metrics and estimation are important in analyzing the progress of a business and also helps in creating future objectives. However, as an organization grows, it becomes hard to make manual calculations on profit ratios, sales margin, among others. ERP influences a magnitude of automation to the organization by permitting employees across the company to view shared information without necessarily maintaining manual records. This also allows creation of synchronized reports on major organization metrics. (PARTHASARATHY, 2010)
Improved Workflow- Workflow is made better, all processes and access are simplified via user-friendly interfaces, staffs are enabled to acquire needed information for operations. ERP eases employee’s duty either through custom or standard reports extraction or formulation of presentation reports, thus maximizing productivity.
Streamlining of Processes- The principle goal of any ERP is to merge all the operations of an organization into one platform. Several organizations face problems of data storage in multiple platforms and systems. Centralizing of data and creation of means of accessing the data influences greater effectiveness within a business (as well as adding to) data, ERP contributes to greater efficiency within a business structure.
Simplicity in Business Accounting- an increasing business will fight with its accounting processes if they have either manual accounts or if the HR departments, accounting, finance and sales lacks access to shared information. Financial summary and daily accounting will specifically need more time and hard work which can be minimized with the application of ERP. Employment of ERP to merge and evaluate financial information will increase productivity of the employee and minimize delays.
Organization Transparency –in any organization, data and information are extremely important business properties. Safety and integrity of data is extremely essential to make sure that crucial organization information is handled and viewed by the right people. Although the data is managed safely, authorization on access of data should be granted to specific individuals in an ERP. Also, crucial data can be managed at a unified platform while updates to such data can be performed by one or more permitted individuals. As such, duty based system influences transparency and safety of ERP. (REYNOLDS, 2010)
Elimination of Redundancies-One of the major challenge with a decentralized information management system is the constant appearance of repetitive data. Redundant data is information reproduced twice, which can cause to discrepancies and disorientation down the line. It's a common challenge with organizations that possess multiple information storage platforms and is a thing which can be corrected with the employment of ERP.
ERP Security Risks
Unpatched Software- failing to update software and applying patches is a safety issue, but ERP programs are at specific threats because complication reduces speed of both identification and employment of patches. Therefore, various ERP systems go unfixed.
Poor Configuration- Another security threat is poor establishment and configuration of the ERP system. Many occasions, organizations permit free access for cyber-attack by establishing the system carelessly without acknowledging its security. Lack of knowledge that ERPs even newly deployed one have safety weakness that leaves organizations vulnerable to both external and internal risks. These exposures from improper configuration can involve unclosed ports, access parameter references that are open or concerns that come up from custom-code exposure built into a system. (SHTUB, 2009)
Outdated user interfaces- due to long lifespans of ERPs the user interfaces remain dormant for a long time thus, the interface will look just the way it came from the vendor. It also doesn’t blend in with the fast evolving technology and technique. It moves slow and makes it vulnerable to web
Insufficient Access Controls- control access to data for manipulation is very important security mechanism in any ERP. It should only allow authorized users to access specific part of data and failure to this pose a major security threat to the school operation and any other business or organization.
Denial-of-Service Attacks- when integrity of data is compromised the entire institution is compromised. Threats that may cause possible shut down of processes is the worst. Cyber criminals focus their energy to ensure that data is not available to an institution when the get access to the ERP application.
Fraud- mischievous employees pose a noticeable threat to the ERP system like fraud. Fraud can differ from embezzlement of funds to adjusting working hours of employees. Enterprise planning tend to have a powerful outside defense but vulnerable internal security. (VAMAN, 2007)
Mitigation of Data Security Risks
Regardless whether you selected a desktop or cloud based ERP application, the crucial and the most important factor to keep is to ensure security of the host of all the institutional data and processes.
For a desktop ERP system it is important to put in place a team that helps to maintain and manage the system while that of the cloud, it is the concern of the vendor.
The ERP should support system logging so as to identify and detect any malicious activity within the system. That is, in case there is any unauthorized access then it would be easier to identify. (WORSTER, WEIRICH & ANDERA, 2012)
The technical team should conduct permission and rights review given to workers regularly. This is very important as it make sure that data is handle carefully and in the right manner by employees and is only accessible to authorized users
Including security features such as network filtering as in the internet service provider and keeping an eye on the ordinary threats from both external and internal traffic will aid in decreasing the risks that the system face.
The school management ERP offers a number of advantages including; it helps the school management to raise their productivity level and minimizes time needed to manipulate school data. Secondly, it enhances interaction between students, teachers and other school stakeholders thus, reducing work load by a greater percentage. It facilitates digitization of paperwork resulting to meeting the objective of paperless governance. It facilitates communication and sharing of information among the various school departments and facilitate management of the institution from anywhere as the system is integrated as one. Full computerization enables implementation of informed decisions in coordinating the several school components like staff and student registration, generation of timetable, fee management, and so on. It enhances students to learn technology deeper and more crucial, for SaaS-based technology, it offers for expansion, modification, integration and coordination to makes sure that institutions are controlled and managed with the most sophisticated abilities. It aids to reduce expenditures and cut on man power needed and makes the school operation and processes really easy.
By deploying the school management ERP software, the institution will aim at enhancing education quality, meet the aspired academic objectives within a defined period of time and cost criterion. The final objective or result is that all the stakeholders including school board, teachers, employees and students emerge out victorious
To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of school ERP, listed below are some of the recommendations: ensure that all the major stakeholders are engaged in making the institution improvement curriculums because education is the key to development. To ensure ease of information access from platforms such as web applications can be established further by including extra reports needed by the school management. Platforms as such will increase stakeholders taking part in decision making processes.
Also the institution should consider hosting their ERP on a cloud-based platform. this is because cloud-base vendors and suppliers are well prepared when it is the issue to do with data security. This means that they make sure dedicated equipment, devices, and practices are all concerned with the security of the data they are handling. In case the school management is apprehensive on the cost of implementing and ERP system security, then I propose that they choose cloud-based ERP as it suits them best.
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