Cloud-based ERP part of holistic IT strategy at Michigan college

Baker College partners with Jenzabar to solve ongoing IT challenges
By: | Issue: December, 2014
December 23, 2014

Baker College is the largest independent not-for-profit college in Michigan and one of the ten largest private colleges in the country, with over 28,000 students across nine campuses, multiple extension campuses and an online program, including its flagship campus in Flint. Managing institutional data and IT systems at such a large college could be challenging in even the best situation, but until 2013, the college was using a cumbersome system developed in-house, which made things even more difficult. “The system that we had required our IT staff to spend most of their time working to keep up with federal regulations,” says Jacqui Spicer, chief information officer. “So it was difficult for us to develop or provide anything innovative to the institution from an IT standpoint.”

The homegrown system also lacked some key components, Spicer says. “Our HR system was outside of our ERP, we didn’t have a CRM, and we didn’t have a great way to analyze retention. Reporting was a struggle, because it was so difficult to get data out of the system. In some cases it paralyzed the institution because we couldn’t make crucial decisions.” It was decided that the institution needed a better strategy, one that took advantage of cloud-based software and IT services. “We wanted a solution that would help us be more strategic, instead of just working to meet regulations and maintain software,” says Spicer.

As part of this strategy, it was determined that a cloud-based ERP would best provide for the needs of the college. “We invited constituents from across the institution to be part of the RFP process,” says Baker. “We had roughly 800 people attend what we called ‘ERP Days,’ where two vendors showcased their products, and then we used a governance committee and had ‘super users’ from different departments provide feedback. Because so many people were involved, we had a tremendous level of buy-in and everyone was excited to move forward.” After this process, in 2013 it was determined that Jenzabar provided the best solution for Baker.

Jenzabar’s flexible and modular ERP system, JX, is designed to drive performance across all campus departments, providing data and analysis tools for offices including enrollment, financial aid, academic services, finance, human resources and advancement. Jenzabar JX provides performance insights to help nurture constituent relationships, and integrated data access is available anytime and anywhere for authorized users, promoting collaboration, user satisfaction and efficiencies throughout the institution. “It makes such a difference to have a solution that we don’t have to worry about or maintain,” says Spicer. “Jenzabar manages, maintains and updates the system. On a services side, we don’t have to worry about meeting regulations at all. Now we can focus on providing innovative services and solutions, and take advantage of functionality we never could before. For example, we implemented the Jenzabar Enrollment CRM and Retention CRM in addition to the ERP system. Those are solutions we would never be able to develop in-house, so ultimately these tools benefit us as an institution and our students as well.”

Spicer views the Jenzabar implementation as a crucial part of a more effective, cloud-based IT strategy at Baker. “Our plan for the future is to provide innovative IT services and solutions to our constituents, without managing and maintaining commodity products like homegrown software or local servers,” Spicer says. “Our partnership with Jenzabar is an important part of our broader, more holistic IT strategy.”

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