Frequently Asked Questions — Brandon University ERP

1. What is an ERP?

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a very large software package that can manage most of Brandon University’s administration and records.

Currently, Brandon University relies on a collection of custom-built or licensed software to manage our needs, especially in student records, finance and administration. Many of these legacy programs are outdated, and they do not work well together. Not only is this frustrating for all of us who use these tools, it also means that BU is not as effective as we should be, and we are inefficient when compared to other universities.

We want Brandon University to be a leading university of choice for students, faculty, and staff among its peer post-secondary institutions. Improving the student experience is one of the University’s primary goals as we seek new ways of providing better service.

We are exploring the move to an ERP, which means we would use the same, modern tools as other universities do to:

  • Recruit, admit and register students in classes
  • Input and track student grades, marks and degree pathways
  • Process tuition payments
  • Manage our accounting and budgeting processes
  • Maintain alumni and donor connections
  • Administer payroll and benefits
  • And more…

An ERP would mean a technical upgrade with built-in support for mobile devices and web applications and would replace BU’s custom-built software. An ERP can help us eliminate many of our inefficiencies and workarounds that have built up here over the years. A fully integrated ERP would bring BU up to current industry standard for post-secondary education, meeting the expectations of today’s students, faculty and staff, and ensuring our systems remain current for years into the future.

2. We’ve been managing with the current system. Why can’t we improve it to meet our needs?

Some of Brandon University’s legacy systems were programmed in-house as far back as the 1970s and have been updated in-house since then. They no longer meet the standards of what’s available and used by the vast majority of North American universities and colleges.

Our existing processes are inefficient, in some cases requiring a lot of workarounds or manual effort to meet existing needs, for example to communicate data between different areas that use different software. This leads to delay and errors, including outdated or conflicting information, as well as taking up time and effort that could be used to better support students and the BU community.

Also important to note is that the staff who were instrumental in developing the software system originally, and who have maintained and updated it over the years, are nearing retirement. While other staff are somewhat familiar with the system, we know it is not wise to continue with the current system if more efficient and modern solutions are available.

A new ERP system will allow Brandon University to meet current expectations, including real online registration, and will grow to accommodate our future needs.

3. What will students be able to do with a different system that they cannot do now?

Improving the student experience is one of the University’s primary goals as we seek new ways of providing better service and students will see some of the more dramatic changes. A full ERP system will streamline the entire process of applying to Brandon University, choosing and registering for classes, and obtaining a degree. It will be easier to become a student at BU, easier to be a student, and easier for alumni to stay connected with BU.

  • Students will have a streamlined application, admission and registration process including the ability to track their live status.
  • All student processes will be accessible online and through mobile devices.
  • Students will receive automatic and timely communication at critical points of their experience beginning as a prospective student and continuing on even as alumni.
  • There will be better transparency around student fees and tuition payments.

4. What will faculty be able to do with a different system that they can’t do now?

Currently, faculty most often interact with the system in relation to student registration and the assignment of grades. A new system will help faculty improve the student experience:

  • The online student registration process will be more streamlined with fewer electronic registration requests being held up for manual processing. This will allow faculty to have access to more accurate “live” course enrolment data.
  • There will be more flexible options to manage course prerequisites, registration, and enrolment. For example, faculty would be able to reserve a designated number of seats in a course for students in specific degree programs/majors.
  • Approving registration will be more efficient.
  • There will be much more accessible and integrated student record information, including unofficial student transcripts available online.
  • There will be opportunity to offer non-traditional and/or emerging academic programming such as stackable credentials, certificates that can be “attached to traditional degree credentials, etc.

Faculty will also see improvements to some financial and administration tasks:

  • Travel and expense claims will be modernized and include online approval capability. This means you will be able to check the status of your claim.
  • There will be more information available in the financial system to give you greater ability to manage your research accounts.

5. What will staff be able to do with a different system that they can’t do now?

Staff in different areas will see different changes depending on how you currently use the system.  An ERP will allow many staff to focus on the core responsibilities of the student experience and supporting the institution. Many manual processes will be automated and we will be able to take advantage of new opportunities.

  • Staff will be able to use the system to send students automatic and timely communication at critical points of their experience beginning as a prospective student and continuing on even as alumni.
  • The system will log important communications that can be accessed by multiple departments to see what was communicated when and by whom.
  • There will be analysis that is more robust and reporting of data, including student and financial related information, which will allow for new insights and historical tracking.
  • Travel and expense claims will be modernized and include online approval capability. This means you will be able to check the status of your claim.

6. What will stay the same with an ERP?

Brandon University will remain focused on supporting students and the mission of the University in the community. An ERP would be a new software system to allows us to refocus on those core roles. Much of the day-to-day at Brandon University will be the same:

  • Classes and coursework, including Moodle, would not change, with the exception of registration, enrolment and grade management
  • Existing interoffice communication and email would not be affected by the ERP, although an ERP may introduce streamlined options for sharing information that is currently done through email or other means
  • Payroll and benefits would not be any different with an ERP
  • Payment types accepted by the University are not expected to change

An ERP would be a big change, and it is expected to improve many inefficiencies, but much of what we do at the University would stay the same, and no software can eliminate every source of friction.

7. What happens if we don’t change the system?

Choosing to do nothing has the benefit of familiarity, and of immediate cost savings, however it comes with significant risks. As our legacy code base continues to age, Brandon University will continue to fall further behind our post-secondary peers. We will be unable to match the seamless experience offered at other institutions for students, for faculty and for staff. This will make it increasingly difficult to recruit students, professors and personnel.

By staying with our old systems, Brandon University will continue to expend higher-than-average amounts of time, effort and money on inefficient and manual processes.

Eventually, we will still need to fully overhaul our legacy system. Current IT staff strongly encourage moving to an ERP.

8. When is this going to happen?

This is a multi-phase project. Selecting and moving to a new system is a large and very complicated series of tasks, that have to be done while the University continues to operate. We expect a full transition could take 5–7 years, including the selection process, which is starting now. Once a possible solution is identified, in fall 2019, the BU Board of Governors will consider whether and how to proceed.

  • Phase 1 begins in the New Year, kicking off the project with preparatory informational and planning workshops, and with a review and assessment of our current and envisioned information systems.
  • Phase 2 will take us through spring and summer, 2019 and will help us define and articulate how we want to be working (our envisioned “operational processes”) to best achieve our goals of student success, effectiveness, and efficiency.
  • Phases 3 and 4 start in the fall of 2019 and will help us formally articulate our needs in a Request for Proposals, carefully and systematically review the potential candidate solutions, and recommend an ERP to the Board of Governors in the winter of 2019-20 that best meets our needs.
  • A future Phase 5 (if an ERP is approved) would assist us in planning and managing the ERP implementation and the conversion of data from our existing systems.

We expect this process to be fully transparent and to engage all impacted and interested University constituents, as it will have a major impact on all of us and on our ability to deliver effective services to students, faculty, and staff.

9. How much will it cost? How will the University pay for this?

There are two costs to consider: the one-time costs of obtaining the ERP, and then ongoing costs to run it. Depending on which of the available products we choose, the one-time costs could be between $3.5 million and $8 million. This is expected to be spread out over 7–10 years. We expect to be able to fund this through new revenues, including enrolment growth. Ongoing costs to run an ERP system are expected to be about $500,000 per year, which we propose to fund with a small $5-7/credit hour fee.

10. How many jobs is the University cutting as a result of the move to an ERP system?

None.

The University is not cutting any jobs, and moving to an ERP is not expected to reduce staff. An ERP is a new and different tool for you to do your job in a different way and more in sync with the rest of the University.

11. We’ve looked at this before, why is this time different?

An ERP has always made a lot of sense and it’s true, we have looked at this several times in the past. However, the expense has always been too significant to move forward. As ERP vendors use more current technologies in delivering their product, systems are becoming more affordable. At the same time, the costs to maintain our existing system continue to rise.

12. Who are Campus Works?

CampusWorks will guide and assist the University in these efforts.  They are a higher ed consulting and services firm with nearly 20 years’ experience partnering with colleges and universities throughout Canada and the US. CampusWorks embraces a collaborative approach, centered on student success and rooted in “systems thinking.” This approach begins by creating a shared understanding of the project’s strategic objectives and results in solutions that have institution-wide buy in and impact.

CampusWorks is noted for both its vendor independence and its high-levels of expertise and experience in the full range of ERP solutions. CampusWorks will not promote any vendor’s solution, but rather will help us select the solution that best meets our unique institutional needs, informed by their broad knowledge of best practices and higher ed trends.

13. What do you need from me?

Students — Tell us about your experience of accessing information at Brandon University, from when you first applied, through admission and today. Tell us what it’s like to plan your course schedule for each term, what you experience when registering for and paying for your courses, what it’s like to access information about your student record (course grades, academic standing, timetable, etc.), and anything else that will help us understand your experience.

Faculty and Staff — Tell us what is currently causing you grief with the current BU software systems you use in your role, as well as your ideas and suggestions for improvement. This is the best time to give feedback about what’s frustrating you or works poorly. We need to know that an ERP will be the best possible fit for BU to address these concerns.

We encourage faculty, staff and students to give detailed feedback:

  • Town Halls are being held in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of January.
  • CampusWorks will be on campus in early February, to host faculty, staff and student workshops.
  • CampusWorks will be conducting targeted assessments in key areas.
  • Use our online feedback form at BrandonU.ca/ERP or send via email to ERP@BrandonU.ca.

Any recommended solution will be presented to the Board of Governors for approval before moving forward.