Technology has become a necessary tool for enrollment-related activity. It is necessary to deliver effective student services as well as to provide actionable intelligence, such as the dashboard reports needed to inform strategic decision-making. This need exists in a dynamic environment where the technologies we use are constantly evolving, as are the expectations of service from students, faculty and staff.
Given these realities, decisions about whether to update or enhance current enrollment-related technology, or to implement new technology, are inherently part of an institution’s success. In fact, administrative/enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and their associated issues of cost, staff development, user training, business process modifications, and regulatory compliance were chosen as number two in importance for the strategic success of institutions among the issues ranked by information technology leaders for 2008 (Allison et al., 2008).
Key Concepts for Successful Implementation
When existing technology no longer enables the institution to meet its needs or to keep up with its peers then the implementation of new enrollment-related technology must take place. However, the idea of implementing new technology either an entirely new ERP or an add-on enrollment-related solution can be perceived by staff as a daunting and unpleasant task. This is especially true for those who are not part of the information technology unit or who currently use technology strictly as a tool to complete clerical functions. Even when staff supports the change in technology, finding time to complete the required steps, while keeping up with ongoing workload, is a major challenge.
In order to be successful, any technology implementation must be carefully planned to minimize any perceived negative impact on staff and/or daily operations. Successful implementation of enrollment-related technology hinges on factors similar to managing any significant organizational change, such as a clear vision of the end goals, a champion for the effort, systemic buy-in from cross functional areas and the development of a realistic timeline to name a few.
Phelps and Busby (2007) described implementing a new system as similar to remodeling a house in that there are typical questions such as, “Where can you upgrade or make things easier, or Why not put in new plumbing and electrical systems since you have already ripped down the walls?” Before making a enrollment-related technology purchase questions like those listed below should be thoughtfully addressed.
- What is our budget for purchase, implementation, support and maintenance?
- What functional areas are going to be impacted by this change in technology (e.g., admissions, records, registration, institutional research, finance)?
- What business processes are we trying to change and improve with this new technology and why?
What other business processes will be effected?
- Do our current processes need to be reviewed for relevance to the end goal and the new technology?
- What is our customization expectation?
- How much training is needed for staff to use the new technology?
- Will we be able to extract the data we need from the technology for our operational and regulatory purposes?
- What is the timeline for the implementation and does that timeline conflict with operational business cycles?
Once you have answered the questions listed above and selected an enrollment-related technology, there are seven additional questions derived from Nah et al. (2006) which are critical not only to a successful implementation, but also to an institution’s overall enrollment efforts. These questions include:
- How will this technology enhance the institution’s ability to fulfill its strategic plan?
- Is the institution’s level of preparedness for the operational and cultural changes that will result from the implementation adequate?
- Is there a clear communication plan regarding the implementation with all stakeholders?
- Are those involved in the details representative of all of the business areas impacted by the new technology?
- Are the institution’s governance structures supportive of the change and is the team leadership for the project given an appropriate level of authority and responsibility to get the job done?
- Is there a clearly defined scope and timeline for the project?
- Is there adequate technical expertise (both in the operational unit and in the information technology unit) and infrastructure to support the new technology?
Throughout the implementation phase the focus is primarily on “going live”. However, “going live’ is not the end of implementation. As in any planning process, the next step is to focus on honing the deployment. This can include; examining functionality that was not initially implemented, re-examining perceptions that drove the initial implementation decisions, re-examining the institution’s business processes and business paradigms, as well as sharing and collaborating with other institutions who have previously implemented similar systems.
The environment of higher education is constantly changing as a result of both internal and external factors and changes in technology. As a result, the honing process is not limited to the period immediately following implementation, but really represents a continuous cycle of activity. As such, successful enrollment-related technology implementation will continue to be best served by using a holistic approach from the selection of a product to the end of its lifecycle.
Given the many inherent challenges, institutions often struggle with selecting and deploying enrollment-related technology or find that the implementation did not provide the desired results. In many cases, external consultants are brought in to address the issues. The best consultants are able to address both the business practice and technology aspects of the project. The consulting experience may include policy review, staff interviews, business process mapping, organizing technology demonstrations and follow-up training. One of the advantages of using an external consultant to help select, implement or refine enrollment-related technology is their objective, external perspective, which includes the benefit of observing best practices at other institutions. AACRAO Consulting is uniquely positioned to provide consultants with extensive functional experience and different institutional types as well as technical expertise.
Allison, D., DeBlois, P. & EDUCAUSE Current Issues Committee (2008). Current Issues Survey Report, 2008. Educause Quarterly 31(2): 14-30.
Fui-Hoon Nah, F. & Delgado, S. (2006). Critical Success Factors for Enterprise Resource Planning Implementation and Upgrade. The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 46(5): 99-113.
Phelps, Jim and Busby, Brian (2007) Service-Oriented Architecture: What is it, and how do we get one?
Educause Quarterly 30(3): 56-30.Swartz, D. & Orgill, K. (2001) Higher Education ERP: Lessons Learned. Educause Quarterly 24(2): 20-27.
Written by Wendy Kilgore, Director of Research and Managing Consultant for AACRAO Consulting.
Download this paper here: Ensuring a Successful Enrollment-Related Technology Implementation