Top tips to prepare your institution for SaaS transition

Moving from on premise to SaaS doesn't need to be a complex or lengthy process if you carefully prepare the way.

Changing expectations, global competition, an increased focus on student experience, and more recently, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are all driving tertiary institutions to rethink their service delivery models. Now more than ever, any time, anywhere access — which only a SaaS solution can truly offer — is critical to business continuity.

However, when speaking with TechnologyOne higher education customers about the advantages of moving to our SaaS Platform, one of the concerns often raised is how to make the change. Many of our customers have been using our ERP solution for well over a decade, and fear that it will be a complex process.

Those who have already made the transition know that is not the case. It can take between four weeks and a year – but the majority of our tertiary education customers achieve it within just eight weeks. We have a well-defined and documented transition process to take you through – along with proven methodologies for meeting this deadline.

Certainly, there are things you can do in advance to make the change faster and more seamless. Here are five ways to prepare for the transition in advance – starting with the most important one of all...

Engage the business

Before transitioning, it is critical that you have a clear picture of your key business and system processes within your tertiary institution. We’re not talking about the IT side of how your ERP solution runs; this is about how your institution uses it every day, month, quarter or year.

To facilitate, it is essential to engage a senior executive as your project sponsor. They will help link you up with other key users across the institution early on in the process. There are two main areas your multi-disciplinary team must be totally across before transitioning to SaaS:

Understand your interface inventory

Which is all the ways in which your system interacts with others. It includes Application Programmable Interfaces (APIs) as well as sources and destinations of data, supply chain communications protocols and many other possibly hidden links that users rely on. The longer your ERP solution has been installed, the less likely all these interfaces are to be fully understood. Some may only be used annually. You will need to refactor these interfaces for SaaS, so it is essential you investigate and document them.

Define your top ten end-to-end processes

And this must be done by business stakeholders rather than IT. These top ten will be the most critical – payroll, accounts receivable and the like – and they must be clearly documented so you can prepare test scripts to simulate them for testing when your data arrives on the cloud but before you go live. Yes, we do offer high-level generic test scripts for common processes, but not everyone does things the same way.

Tidy the house

An IT team pre-transition task is to ensure your ERP solution is currently running as smoothly and burden-free as it can – by getting rid of any unwanted baggage before setting out on your journey. Have a look at your custom reports… any named ‘test_1’ or ‘Jim_test_3’ can probably be deleted. The rule is, if you don’t know what it is, find out, then delete it!

Also resolve any software errors while still running on premise – such as unwanted background jobs or database query fail warnings. If you can’t eliminate them in house, ask us to help you solve them. That way, you won’t be moving existing errors across to your new SaaS solution.

Reduce customisations

Some of our higher education customers, especially the longstanding ones, have developed custom reports to meet very specific needs. However, over the years we have created a number of new reports and workflows they may not be aware of – and we believe we’ve covered pretty much all bases now.

The SaaS version of our solution ships with all standard reports and workflows, which it is best practice to use. Yes, you can migrate customised reports across if you wish – but we recommend you first look to see whether you could instead use one of our standards. The advantage is that they run on a global code line, so patches and upgrades are automatic.

Make your authentication cloud friendly

Legacy authentication systems are typically on-premise focused, and there are now newer best practice ways. The industry standard is Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) – a framework for authenticating and authorising users that can support multiple factors beyond username and password for additional layers of access security – such as tokens and fingerprints.

You must ensure your existing authentication is SAML-compliant well in advance because, if it isn’t, there will be a lead time involved in designing and deploying a new one.

Network planning and performance tuning

Another thing to be planned well prior to transition is your network configuration. Your ERP SaaS solution will be located at a highly secure public SaaS provider, which may require you to upgrade the internet links to your various locations. This can take some time to organise from carriers.

With regards to bandwidth requirements, we can advise based on the number of users at each of your campuses. Network latency must also be within acceptable limits, if users are to retain the same (or better) response rates than they do with your on-premise solution.

Keep exploring

Ready to learn more?

To take advantage of the opportunities SaaS ERP can offer your institution, complete the form to speak to a SaaS transition expert.