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Enterprise Solutions

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->The term “Enterprise Solutions,” scheduled to be the topic for thisissue of T.H.E. Journal, though usedfrequently last year, is less in vogue this year. It usually referred to theintegration of administrative systems, primarily with the help of an outsidevendor. Choosing a vendor was of utmost importance. It had to be one thatoffered a comprehensive list of high-performance, industry-standard,Web-enabled management tools and integrated services for successful andcost-effective implementation. A number of educational institutions areinvolved and results have been favorable, but many did not materialize aspromised. In addition, not using in-house personnel in many cases caused illfeeling and morale problems.

 

Administrators are rethinking how and what information isneeded for decision making. Newer and better tools are available. For example,increased reporting capabilities, better tracking of requisitions and purchaseorders, and sharing of data across disciplines and departments are moreefficient due to faster access of information. Electronic procurement softwareto streamline purchasing, slash costs and manage information more effectivelyis available. Supplies can be ordered from the desktop, with rules such asamount of expenditure authorized for each user built into the system. Purchaseregulations are automatically routed to the appropriate individual for approvalin the central processing department. School test scores are recorded alongwith absenteeism to determine historical data, which are searchable online byauthorized users. We are creating a culture of information sharing, and it isnecessary to support administrative and management functions using newapproaches for collecting data. These functions are given the label ofadministrative applications, data warehousing and e-business.

 

Administrative applications refer to the combining of datafrom scheduling, personnel, transportation, student records, etc. Students aredemanding personalized services based on their needs and interests, such ascourse registration, financial aid information, help from advisors, and soforth.

 

“Data warehousing” refers to gathering the data in one placeso one’s time is spent analyzing the data, rather than finding it. Datawarehouses are large repositories of information available for “mining.” It isa technology popularized by retail chains like Wal-Mart, where the status of anindividual order, its delivery or a historical summary can be determinedimmediately. It is Web accessible to end users through a standard Web browserfrom any location, and it can accommodate new data types and interfaces. Ineducation, for example, it provides the immediate benefit to automate thegeneration of reports mandated by state and federal governments. Putting thepieces together and building a data warehouse is in its infancy in education.It requires consensus on what information can and should be shared. The need toproceed slowly in its implementation has been noted.

 

The term “e-business” came about as a result of the use ofthe Internet by the business community. In education under e-business,rethinking of purchasing, library services and financial services is occurringdue to electronic operations. Educause has recently published a book titled The E is for Everything — E-Commerce,E-Business and E-Learning is the Future of Higher Education (Copyright June2000, by Jossey-Bass Publishers). It states: “Educational policymakers andinformation technologists may share a confusion over the growing andundisciplined evolution of language to describe what is known variously ase-business, e-commerce and so forth. In general, the term e-business refers tothe application of information to the organization of an organizationalmission. In particular, e-business assumes the application of Internet,extranet, intranets and the World Wide Web to an organization’s process anddelivery systems. Increasingly, e-business assumes the integration of thesetechnologies with a variety of related technologies (data warehousing, datamining, intelligent agents and so forth) to replace physical processes that canbe accomplished over networks” (pp. 2, 3).

 

It is hoped that the increased availability of onlineinformation resources is leading to more effective administrative andmanagement decisions. However, installing and keeping a complex administrativesystem running efficiently is no easy task. Administrators need to understandthe limitations and capabilities of the system, whatever it is called, as wellas the real cost of staff time, training requirements and unanticipatedimplementation costs. All members of the education community must be able tofunction comfortably in this electronic age. There are no well-establishedprocedures to follow.

 

It is believed that e-business will grow as institutionsseek to provide better services and expand their offerings. According to theGartner Group, an IT research and consulting firm in Stamford, Conn., onlinebusiness transactions will rise from $75 billion this year to $3.7 trillion in2004. Education will surely be a big part of this market. Educators must beready.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome JimSchneider as our new Managing Editor. He has been with T.H.E. Journal for three years and has recently assumed thisposition with the resignation of Bill Willis, who left T.H.E. to explore his interests in other fields. We wish Bill goodluck in his new endeavors. We also look forward to working with Jim and knowthe readers of T.H.E. can count onhis expertise and willing cooperation.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.

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