Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for Schools
The education sector in South Africa is a dynamic and competitive one, especially in the private realm. Aside from facilities and top teaching staff, technology is the next pillar that sets schools apart from one another and can also give students a competitive edge. Enter the term EdTech, with is short for Education Technology. Educational technology not only can be used to facilitate student learning but can also be used to describe the efficient administrative running of the school. This is where we encounter the world of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for schools.
ERP is historically been the domain of the corporate and business sector, but increasingly the education sector has seen the major advantages to be had by embracing this technology in a school setting. The goal is to help schools plan how to use their resources and manage processes effectively and efficiently. Below we look at the major advantages and features available in the ERP world for schools.
Many ERP systems are adapted for the school environment that controls the financial side of the operation. Budget tracking, fees generation and collection, and also payroll, are important aspects of a business with which an ERP system can help immensely. Some school-specific ERP systems go even further than that and encapsulate virtually all administrative tasks in running a school! Below we look at some of the EdTech specific ERP features that are available.
Many school-specific ERP systems have a dedicated section for the family or a parent portal. It is a great way to give parents access to their child’s schedule, menu, and home communication. It is an efficient way for messages to and from the home to be tracked and allows for parents to seamlessly manage their own payment accounts. Monthly invoices can be seen and paid online, and variable costs such as school outings and after-school curriculum optional items can be selected and paid for online, negating the need for cash. One of the best things about ERP software is that it easily connects parents to teachers and school administrative teams, improving relationships and making communication as seamless as possible.
Be gone all the post-its and sticky notes! Now teachers, grade, and department heads can input their data such as spend and expenses directly onto the ERP system, and view their budget expenditure and any outstanding administrative items in real-time! Teachers can derive great benefit from a school ERP system because it can minimise the administrative load on them, freeing up time for what they really should be doing: teaching! From marking attendance records to uploading student reports, a school ERP can automate a variety of administrative tasks.
Email, SMS, and Alerts
Keeping parents, students, and teachers all timeously informed of changes, events, fundraisers, and even urgent school closures, is a difficult task. Sending notices home with students is notoriously unreliable, not to mention the waste of natural paper resources. Much like a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) module in a more standard ERP system, a school ERP system manages your communication with the various stakeholders in the school environment. These systems send out emails, texts, reminders, updates, and also absenteeism reports in a completely automated fashion. They also log communication records for long-term issues or discussions. Whether it be sending out personalized emails and messages or setting up notifications and alerts, you can always reach the right parents, staff, or students quickly and efficiently.
Billing & Invoicing
Like any other organisation, be it for-profit or not-for-profit, it is vital to make sure that expenses are matched against income and that it is all properly and legally recorded for governmental compliance. Schools increasingly face budget cuts and financing issues, which means any expenditure must be justified. Understanding the needs of the school at every level and for every stakeholder in the school is necessary to fully understand the needs of the school. A school’s financial survival depends on how well it is managing the billing and payment process. A comprehensive billing system is essential to manage errors and have a clear overview of what has been paid and what is due.
A good School ERP system should also allow online, secure payments through a payment gateway so that parents can pay their fees directly to the school’s account through PayPal or credit card. Combining payments can also be helpful, making each family its own account and linking students of the same family onto one invoice. This can greatly simplify the process for the family while allowing admin staff full visibility of the payment status of various aspects of the family account.
Timetabling is one of the backbones of the school environment. It is also one of school administrators’ greatest headaches. Having a system that helps to design the timetable is invaluable. Having access to teachers’ schedules also helps schools stay organized and on track. An appointment scheduling tool is vital when managing multiple teachers, students, and activities. A school ERP software also allows users to schedule lessons ad hoc days, as well as assign locations and facilities bookings for the school. Being able to manage students, staff, and facilities movement in one automated system saves on time and errors in the corridor!
The days of a simple automated accounting system for the school ‘books’ are gone. Now full ERP systems are adapted for the educational environment, and some systems go even further by offering ERP systems developed specifically for the education sector, with features that are unique to that setting, but invaluable for the backbone for many educational institutions.