Facing growing demand for education as well as rising cost pressures, universities and schools should be looking at modernising their business systems to streamline administration, improve financial transparency, and better manage relationships with key stakeholders such as funders, students, and parents.
That’s the word from Keith Fenner, Senior Vice President for Sales at Sage ERP Africa. He says that many educational institutions across South Africa and the rest of the continent are labouring with old, inflexible technology or relying on manual processes to run their educational institutions. The result is that they are not running business processes such as financials, billing, human resources, asset management and stakeholder relationship management as efficiently or effectively as they could, adds Fenner.
“The education sector is one that has a massive economic and social impact, so it’s critical that it operates to its maximum potential” he says. “Many schools and most universities are also often funded partially through government and philanthropic support, meaning that it’s important that they can be transparent about how they allocate resources.”
Fenner says that educational institutions could achieve significant return on investment (ROI) by putting in place integrated ERP solutions that automate aspects of their business such as HR and recruitment, students’ records, financials, stakeholder relationship management, and asset management. Senior administrators could benefit from having a single view of information stretching from academic performance and HR performance through to fund allocations, revenue collection, and asset management, he adds.
This could not only help them save money and improve performance by cutting down on manual data capture and paperwork. It could also empower them to make better strategic decisions about their institution’s future, he adds.
For example, they could flag problems such as weak fee collections early or make more accurate budget forecasts.
Also important is the way that a robust ERP system paves for the way for educational institutions to use the web, smartphones and other platforms to interact with students and other stakeholders, says Fenner. Given that today’s students and schoolchildren are growing up with technology, it’s important to use technology to build relationships with them, he adds.
One example of an educational institution getting ROI from ERP is MAD (Make A Difference), a non-profit organisation founded by former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar. MAD offers full bursaries to academically talented young leaders, from Grade 8 until completion of tertiary education.
MAD are implementing the Sage ERP X3 and Sage CRM business solutions to streamline their business processes, enhance relationships with stakeholders, and improve their access to reporting information.
Sage ERP X3 will enable MAD to streamline administrative and reporting processes so it can grow without having to add overhead costs in terms of administrative staff and IT costs. “We think this benefit is a real win in educational institutions,” says Fenner. “They should be directing their funds towards teaching, not back-office work.”
The solution will also allow MAD to replace its Excel spreadsheets with an automated platform for reporting to corporate partners on its use of their bursary funding as well as the academic, sporting and other achievements of scholars on its Individual Education Programme.
The Sage CRM software, meanwhile, will give the organisation the ability to more efficiently and effectively track and manage relationships with scholars, donors, corporate partners and other stakeholders. Together, the ERP and CRM functionality will give MAD’s financial, events, marketing and education teams a single consistent view into their stakeholder relationships.
Says Fenner: “We’re expecting a great deal of growth in the ERP space in education. With the pressure to do more with fewer resources and to become more business-like in their outlook, institutions are embracing technology to become more efficient and more focused on the needs of their communities.”