Degrees of trust: Why higher ed reads up on software consultants

higher education transformation

When it comes to working with higher education organizations, there are a number of common challenges that ERP consultants regularly face. Whether implementing ERP systems, finance systems, or other industry-specific software, transformation projects for higher education businesses can share common problems – from effectively communicating with existing users about the need to change the system, dealing with nested sets of historic solutions within historic solutions, and migrating data for such a vast organization in the most efficient, easy way possible.

These issues are all valid reasons that any project may struggle, consultants and implementation specialists agree that they’re universal issues that every implementation can face – regardless of sector, size and scope of the project.

Higher education (HE) implementations have their own set of difficulties too, however.

Full of highly lucrative contracts that are both high-value and long-lasting, the HE sector is set to give any ERP consultancy a solid foundation of revenue. Winning the tender for a large reimplantation or upgrade project is an opportunity for any salesperson to boost their standing.

And herein lies the crux of the issue.

Higher education is understandably cautious

Universities and HE organizations have become highly cautious about making changes to their ERP systems. As a sector, HE is very communicative, with regular meetings between senior figures from universities over the UK. This has meant that when there have been examples of ERP consultancies overpromising, under-delivering, failing to achieve what they promised, or even not solving the customer’s problems, HE organizations will communicate that misgiving with their peers and the unease rapidly spreads.

This has engendered a greater caution toward ERP consultants, a fear of change and a lack of trust – one that means that although higher education organizations may need upgrades and overhauls to the systems, many are reluctant to take the plunge. Any project as expensive and extensive as an ERP upgrade can only go ahead if all the people making the final decisions and writing the cheques have faith and trust in the process – and right now, there’s a distinct lack of trust from the HE sector.

Earning degrees of HE trust with consultants in-the-know

Finding consultants who work most closely with higher education institutions and have themselves got experience working within universities can be the best way to escape to avoid that nightmare project failure scenario.

We get it, it sounds cliché. But knowing the industry idiosyncrasies so well, these kinds of consultants will have experienced implementing ERP systems and upgrades from within, and will have often fought the hard battles against external sales consultants who weren’t listening to their needs and demands, or those who were over-promising. That, in addition to having had the difficult challenge of tasking consultants who refused to offer the appropriate aftercare required during the bedding in process.

In this, lies a unique understanding and empathy of the trust gap that so many HE businesses suffer from.

Using their first-hand experience of those painful installations and unhelpful consultants, these industry veterans can become the very thing they wished they had access to – attentive, open-minded consultants who work closely with the organization to get the job done to as high a standard as is possible.

A call for wider consultancy change

In a sector where trust can appear to be at a premium, it is vital that all consultancies, from the ‘big names’ of ERP implementation in the UK through to the newest company on the scene, promote openness and transparency with the HE market.

For many IT departments, especially those within HE organizations, an ERP implementation is one of the most expensive projects that they will be involved with. Ideally, these projects are only commissioned once a software generation – and as such can only be started with the utmost certainty. If we want to make the decision makers sure of their choice, and happy to move forward with a project, we must be willing and open to be vetted by our potential customers.

It is perfectly ok to be vetted, and it is becoming more of a norm when working with HE organizations. Whether it be through case studies or even through a small amount of work completed for the client, a ‘try before you’ mindset is not to be balked when a company is going to be committing to a large-scale ERP implementation with a high cost attached. Proving to an organization that you have nothing to hide and are very happy to be evaluated will do a great deal to ease the customer and engender greater trust between all parties.

These insights and recommendations come directly from the views of consultants in the industry, from their experience being on the ground and at the coalface within HE organizations. Hopefully, it inspires some brilliant people to bridge the gap. Digital transformation is here and necessary but we need the tools and the how to be answered in the best way for the HE industry. This is essential for us all, as ERP suppliers as a whole, because it will allow us to do our part in assisting the academic research community in pushing society forward.

This is a sponsored article by Arribatec.