News Column

What Casper College is Doing About the Broken ERP System

May 29, 2014

By Tanya Roscorla, Converge



May 29--High licensing and maintenance fees have driven colleges to consider alternatives to traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Casper College in Wyoming is moving to open source alternatives that could cost them up to 50 percent less than proprietary software.

The broken model

This Wyoming College is trying to be a good steward of its money, particularly when it comes to IT. With 4,500 students and 160 full-time faculty, the fees that the IT department had to pay for ERP systems took a toll on its budget.

These systems require steep licensing and maintenance fees, not to mention implementation fees.

"The whole ERP licensing model in general is broken, so we've kind of started to stick our toe in the water trying to evaluate what tools are out there," said Kent Brooks, IT director at Casper College.

The open-source response

By looking at open source alternatives, the Wyoming college could stand to save both money and time. A company called Vivantech packaged Kuali software developed by universities and built it on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform to make implementation easier on colleges. Instead of paying licensing and maintenance fees, colleges pay a flat subscription rate for cloud-based software.

Casper College automates workflow and manages the research grant process through the company's Ekualiti Rice and KC systems.

Both the IT and human resources departments drink tea every week and talk about changes to paper forms, including software request, and accident and tuition reimbursement forms that travel around campus. By moving to the digital realm, the college will have a better audit trail, eliminate the paper shuffle around campus and get signatures on forms much quicker.

It's also made the IT department rethink its approval process and who actually needs to sign off on software requests.

"Why is that there? The real reason it's on there is because that's the way it's always been done," Brooks said.

Along with workflow automation, the college is starting work on how to make the grant writing and reporting process go more smoothly. Until now, researchers would spend six hours writing reports and two hours actually writing grants. With new software, they could turn that around and write grants for six hours a day while only spending a few hours on reports.

For grant writers, "it was love at first sight," Brooks said, "there's no other way to describe it."

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