Using ERP and Construction Project Management Software to Realize a University’s Mission and Optimize Capital Project Delivery

by Melissa Berkebile | Aug 08 2019 |

To help manage their administrative and academic functions and stay ahead of the accelerating pace of innovation, universities and colleges are implementing ERP and other software solutions into their business operations, which have become essential to their success. 

The ERP is a global digital framework that integrates and simplifies business information into a database that can be used university-wide, as cloud technology becomes increasingly more attractive and as administrators become more comfortable with cloud risk management and data-protection protocols.   

ERP integrates line-of-business systems such as SAP, Sage and Oracle with vertical higher education applications such as courseware, grants management, fundraising, and student systems. 

Specific Higher Ed Applications in the ERP 
  • Automated fee payments and simplified admission processes
    ERP software takes the tedium out of fee collection, helping students to stay updated about their fee status through automated alerts.  
  • Centralized management system 
    Higher education institutions store an immense amount of data - not only about staff, faculty, and students, but also about other resources. An ERP solution will help the university to integrate all information in one place, and will make data management easier.  
  • Quick process management 
    ERP systems in universities provide real-time access to information, university-wide, which results in optimal control and strategic decision making. 
  • Enhanced resource management 
    An effective ERP software can put an end to manual maintenance of bulky resource databases. These solutions can track information in real time, and enable university administration to optimize operations, allocate resources, and seamlessly monitor the activities of the university.  
  • Data security
    The volume and sophistication of cyber threats require colleges and universities to constantly reevaluate and strengthen against cyber risks. Every university must protect the records of their current students along with those of researchers, faculty, and alumni, and store those records. An ERP allows it to be stored and backed up securely and safely.  

Managing Dataspheres

The deluge of data is growing fast. The total data in the world is expected to be 175 zettabytes by 2025. One zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. According to Seagate, dataspheres have three locations. 1) Core, which includes traditional and cloud data centers, 2) Edge, comprising branch offices and cell towers, and 3) Endpoints, which includes PCs, smartphones and IoT devices. Nearly 40% of information will be processed in the cloud. The investment required to manage, contain, study, and store one gigabyte will drop to 20 cents in 2020. 

From small colleges to large, complex research universities, the hunger for data and analysis of datasets needs to be managed properly in order to support the academic mission.  

An ERP improves access to real-time information, enhances workflows, streamlines processes, promotes open knowledge sharing, drives successful outcomes, provides advanced analytics, aligns with best business practices, establishes a foundation for existing systems, and integrates new systems - establishing an end-to-end business solution. An ERP creates a single point of truth for the president, board of trustees, executive committees, faculty, and students. 

For a university, data is the most valuable digital asset, and managing it correctly is a university imperative. Ready access to data is the keystone of research. Access to data allows for peer and internal evaluation, enabling universities to build their own strategies, policies, and decisions, and to identify gaps in higher ed. Everyone from the upper administration to staff decision makers are seeking actionable data. Data-driven decision making helps to establish goals, plans, and initiatives for capital building programs that align with the university’s vision.

Where does the confluence of long-range planning, project prioritization, and respect for the data meet? construction project management software.

The purpose of having project management controls is to reduce project risk and to meet the expectations of university administration and demands of developers, contractors, and suppliers. Processes and controls should be formally documented, fully implemented and standardized, effectively monitored, and continuously reviewed and enhanced. 

Construction project management software helps reduce turnaround time on review processes, eliminates rework and chaos, and provides real-time updates to those working in the field.  Most are cloud-based and mobile ready.

To manage the many moving parts of a portfolio of construction projects, the software can address bidding, change orders, daily reports, document and drawing management, financial management, meeting minutes, program management, progress photos, project email, punch lists, reporting, RFIs, scheduling, and submittals. The purpose of having project management controls is to reduce project risk and to meet the expectations of university administration and demands of developers, contractors, and suppliers. Processes and controls should be formally documented, fully implemented and standardized, effectively monitored, and continuously reviewed and enhanced.

Construction project management software helps reduce turnaround time on review processes, eliminates rework and chaos, and provides real-time updates to those working in the field.  Most are cloud-based and mobile ready.

Barriers to Change

Adoption. Typically, universities build incrementally over existing resources, as opposed to making wholesale changes. There’s also the issue of compatibility with current line of business systems, and the idea of technology obsolescence making an outdated investment.

Optimization. Many universities use Microsoft 365 apps, like Excel and Access, to streamline information and work across the university community. But university project managers may not fully utilize the functionality of Office 365 or use metadata to add context to their data in the short-, medium- and long-term. Creating, gathering, and manipulating data and files can quickly become disorganized.

Acceptance. Introducing technological changes into an organization presents a challenge with those who may not be as technically skilled. Communicating its inherent value, managing its implementation, and putting it effectively to work with end users can be an exercise in patience. Flexible implementation is key. 

Bringing It All Together

Often there is overlap of data being managed within a project management system and business applications within an institution’s ERP. Every software system contains a multitude of data. Duplicating data entry and processes can cost your employees valuable time. 

A solid API or data exchange should be created between the construction project management program and mainstream software systems. To create the data exchange, the data is defined, frequency of exchange between data and various systems is analyzed, and the data is mapped between systems - ultimately having the data pulled, updated, and dramatically displayed between the construction project management software and other existing systems. This eliminates information silos, and ensures that all users, university-wide, stay informed on the latest developments.

Conclusion

Creative learning and living spaces, revenue generation, enrollment, and demographics are impacting decisions and plans for new capital projects at colleges and universities. “Curb appeal” is a top criterion for both prospective students and faculty.

Administrators recognize that aggressive building plans represent several risks, which include timely project delivery and cost overruns. Many institutions have implemented cloud ERP solutions to run their operations more effectively, and to manage costs.

A construction project management software program is the cornerstone of a successful capital program, helping universities manage their spend and deliver their portfolio of projects. When a project management system is integrated into an ERP, a university or college’s vision and mission is achieved.

Melissa Berkebile is application development manager at VPO construction project management software. She oversees complex projects that require application development and integration with line-of-business systems like SAP, Oracle, and Sage.

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