Moran Technology Consulting

Maximizing ERP Lessons Learned in Higher Education: The Importance of Design

This article is part three of a ten-part series that will focus on lessons learned from decades of project and program management within higher education.

In the realm of higher education, ERP projects are not merely about technology; they are about transforming how institutions operate. Design is a pivotal phase in ERP implementation, setting the stage for success with the new system. Here’s how higher education institutions can maximize ERP lessons learned by focusing on key design principles.

“You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you have been.” – Maya Angelou

Understanding the past is essential. Don’t underestimate the value of mapping existing business processes. This foundational step provides crucial insights into current operations and highlights areas for improvement.

Identify Functional and Technical System Owners

Clear ownership is critical. Re-identify functional and technical system owners to ensure accountability and alignment. Establish or update your system inventory to better estimate the efforts required for remediation and integration. This step is fundamental in preparing for a smooth transition.

Seize the Opportunity to Design a New Future-State

Opportunities to design a new future-state don’t happen often. Engage the “right” people with the appropriate expertise, ensuring a focus on transformation and not just maintaining the old ways in a new system. Facilitation is key—effective facilitators can guide discussions, manage conflicts, and keep the team on track.

Thorough Documentation and Inclusive Design

Documenting and recording the design process is crucial. Make these documents available to others to ensure transparency and continuity. Include ample time to design the full end-to-end process; an extra couple of weeks in design can save months of testing and rework later on.

Set Clear Expectations

Establish clear expectations on the scope of the design process. Whether focusing on the vendor product, vendor product +1, or the entire process, be clear on how far you will go. Avoid the 80/20 justification of designing the easiest processes first and leaving the exceptions for later in the project. Critical end-to-end components must be included in the design to ensure a comprehensive solution.


Designing an ERP system for higher education is a complex but rewarding process. By understanding past processes, identifying key system owners, thoroughly documenting the design, and setting clear expectations, institutions can create a robust foundation for their ERP projects. Remember, the design phase is where the future state is envisioned—make it count. These principles will help ensure that your ERP project is not just a technological upgrade, but a strategic transformation that enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of your institution.

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About the author:

Christopher (Chris) Mercer has over forty years of experience in higher education, including the last twenty-five years consulting as an Executive Program/Project Director/Manager and other leadership roles.  Chris has managed or been engaged in more than four dozen programs\projects during his career.