Published: March 22, 2015 by Dr. Robert Boyd
The movement of administrative systems towards cloud-based solutions is swift and institutions are struggling to understand, train, staff and support appropriately. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are found throughout government and commercial enterprises and, in higher education, take shape as the financial, human resources and student systems that help administer the business of the university. For example, the ERP on a college campus is the software used in Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Records, Student Accounts as well as the self-service functionality which students use to view grades, apply/accept financial aid, review account balance, run degree progress reports, request official transcripts, and so forth.
Administrative systems moved from mainframe platforms in the 1970’s to client-server applications in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. By Y2K, the move was swift to internet-only applications and today ERPs are designed and deployed as cloud platforms providing both software and hardware solutions. LIS students need to be tuned into this rapidly changing infrastructure. Traditional support for ERP systems involved business analysts, software developers, systems and database administrators. In the cloud environment, much of the infrastructure work and server administration is handled by the vendor leveraging cloud-based resources across many industries to reduce operating costs for the institution while increasing revenue flowing to cloud providers. Depending on interests and abilities, LIS students may gravitate towards the new infrastructure work with a cloud provider or find interesting work understanding and applying solutions using configuration tools on-site in companies, hospitals, schools and government.
One of the more promising and powerful outcomes of cloud-based computing is the renewed focus on software delivery and use. Staff who support administrative systems presumably have more time to focus on business needs and applications now that much of the infrastructure work is handled by the cloud provider. In higher education, for example, the strategy can and should be providing convenient tools for students, faculty and staff to conduct their business on any device (mobile, tablet or desktop) using responsive design. LIS students develop the knowledge, skills and abilities to play a key role in this next generation of software configuration and application to gather requirements that meet business needs and help describe and deliver needed tools on current and emerging platforms and devices.
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