What is ERP Software? (And Why Your School Needs It)
One of the biggest problems with trying to add technology to your school or district lies in trying to understand what types of software are out there and how they can help.
Without this understanding, it can be impossible to overcome some of your school’s or district’s challenges.
One basic — but important — factor that keeps school officials in the dark about what’s out there is that there’s a lot of confusing terminology swirling around in the “EdTech” space. (For many, “EdTech” itself is an example of just such a confusing term; it’s shorthand for “Educational Technology.”)
There are many terms to sift through. Some are mere jargon words referring to abstract ideas, while others are legitimate names for common and important software.
In order to get you started, let’s look at a relatively straightforward EdTech term that is critical to K-12 business processes but that can sometimes seem complicated to EdTech newcomers — ERP.
What is ERP Software?
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning.
Put simply, ERP software (sometimes just called an Enterprise Resource Planner, or, “an ERP”) is software that manages business processes for a company, organization, or, in your case, a school/district.
So how do ERPs “manage business processes?”
The way it works is that ERPs feature multiple “applications,” or tools, that work together seamlessly to connect departments and bring the data from those various departments together into one database. Whatever task you need to complete — be it compiling a detailed year-end report or simply checking on the status of your Accounts Receivable — ERPs put all the information you need right at your fingertips.
Why Your K-12 School District Needs ERP Software
To understand the benefits of using a good ERP software, let’s look at the system’s main functions as they relate to K-12 school districts.
Automation is maybe the most helpful function of ERP software.
ERPs are designed to take many tasks and do them for you, especially tasks that you do regularly (every day, week, month, or year).
An example of regularly recurring work that a K-12 financial management ERP could do for you would be compiling a report of the money your school district spent last month. The ERP automatically pulls specific data from among all the applications within the system so that you don’t have to search for the information you need. Good ERPs even allow you to configure the regular reports so that they show exactly the information you want them to in exactly the way you want it shown.
So, as you can see, ERP software saves you time through automation, which in turn (since we all know “time is money”) will help your district’s financial bottom line, too.
Another function of ERP software is integration.
Integration basically just refers to one piece of software’s ability to “speak” to another piece of software. When the software from two or more separate departments (say, your school district’s Financial Accounting department and its HR department) work closely together by sharing data, your entire district becomes more efficient and more effective.
By using ERP software to automatically share information between HR and Accounting, for example, employees no longer need to enter numbers manually into computers more than once (if at all). Such sharing significantly cuts down on data-entry errors.
Plus, good ERP software solutions maintain your data in real time, meaning as soon as you enter information into the system, all connected departments immediately begin working from the updated data.
By improving the accuracy of your data, you’ll be able to approach every decision you make in your role with greater confidence.
ERP software also helps your entire district to stay organized, not just from department to department as we discussed under “Integration,” but also within each individual department.
Obviously, software in general will help your department to avoid relying on scattered papers, sticky notes, and simply asking your colleagues to remember to do something. But a good ERP goes even further.
As mentioned above, ERPs comprise multiple applications, or “apps” (essentially tools), and each app shares information with all the rest. So, for example, if you were to add a vendor account to your system in one place, the ERP then would automatically add that vendor to all relevant apps (Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger, etc.).
In this way, ERPs keep all your information organized, both overall and within the individual apps, which helps your department to become more efficient.
The Best ERP Software
In the end, the main benefit you get from a high-quality ERP software system (as opposed to generic ERP software) is that it will be designed specifically for your needs as a K-12 school district. After all, you don’t want to work around software settings that were built for a retail business or a non-profit organization.
Moreover, though, the best ERP software systems to consider are those that are versatile. So, beyond simply being designed generally for K-12 school districts, the best ERPs will allow you to configure the options in a way that works according to your specific needs as a uniquely individual K-12 school district.
When you’re able to set up your software for your school district’s unique needs, you essentially are setting up your district for success.
In fact, the ability to customize and configure is such an important feature when it comes to ERPs that we at Harris School Solutions have designed all of our ERPs so that they can be configured however makes the most sense for each of our clients.
Then, we took this alignment between ERP software and the unique needs of individual schools a step further.
We’ve built several different ERP software systems in order to more appropriately serve different types of school districts based on factors such as school/district size, location, and more.
See for yourself.