Lessons from the field – implementing cloud at Southern Illinois University | Unit4
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Lessons from the field – implementing cloud at Southern Illinois University

from  December 21, 2021 | 3 min read

Exploring real-world lessons and best practice advice from a recent successful cloud implementation of Unit4 ERP at this public research university.

A fresh ERP implementation isn’t easy – especially when you’re dealing with migrating from an established legacy system to the new world of the cloud.

To help you understand what the process of cloud migration looks like for a higher education institution when it occurs successfully, we spoke to our customers at the University of Southern Illinois at this year’s X4U.

Our discussion covered a wide range of topics germane to a cloud migration – including everything from keys for success to common pitfalls and the preparation and alignment necessary to make the move smoothly and effectively.

Here’s a few of our favourite points from the discussion:

Before you migrate, have a clear idea of why you’re migrating…

Goals are a key component to the success of any project, and knowing your goals requires knowing what problems you’re trying to solve, and what challenges you’re trying to overcome.

In the case of Southern Illinois University, a cloud migration was intended to strengthen the institution’s posture across three main areas:

Disaster Recovery: with multiple systems both on-prem and off managing the university’s back-office functions across HR, Finance, and other operations, and their core functional needs (e.g. student management), different areas of the institution were poised at very different levels of readiness to implement data and system recovery in the event of a major disruption.

A unified cloud solution would be a real asset here, with a single unified standard of disaster recovery in place across all functional areas.

Knowledge gaps in IT administration: fragmented systems means fragmented data – and sometimes the whole institution being held hostage by outdated or inadequate infrastructure in one area interrupting workflows in others. Realizing that no one person had a clear handle on their entire operational IT estate, the university decided that unifying their systems in the cloud would improve both visibility and efficiency.

Security: as an institution entrusted with the personal data of thousands of students, Southern Illinois University understood the need for a robust security framework, and also understood that a modern public cloud provider is one of the best options available to provide it.

A successful implementation is a matter of preparation and collaboration

The university attributes their implementation of their new cloud solution to their willingness to both interrogate whether cloud was the right solution to their challenges, and to their willingness to work together with Unit4 as a vendor to decide how best to structure the process.

The project depended on close collaboration between a core IT team and several dependant functional IT teams, alongside a Unit4 customer success manager – covering everything from costs benefit analyses to personnel requirement assessments, and the technical, functional, and logistical requirements of the project – right down to planning the best month of the year to begin the process in order to minimize disruption around core periods of activity (such as auditing and student onboarding.)

The three key “dos” of cloud implementation

  1. Communication and collaboration – if nothing else, overcommunication is the way to go. What your teams don’t know can hurt them – so make sure that everyone is aware not just of the possibilities and capabilities of everyone involved, but has a clear idea of the whys and hows – and that everyone has adequate time to test, figure out what is and isn’t working, and iron out the kinks.
  2. Make sure your test plans are fit for purpose – test every part of the system from edge-to-edge so you can be certain that when you go live, it’s going to work as it’s supposed to so the people who rely on it to do their jobs don’t experience any disruption.
  3. Make sure you’re ready for the process before the process starts. The one major stumbling block the university encountered in the planning phase was a lack of knowledge around cloud, its workings, and how to correctly scope the project. Ensuring your administrators have at least an idea of the scope of the project will make the entire process easier (although we’re glad to hear that our consultants stepped up to the plate to help with the learning curve!)

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