Spreadsheet Versus School ERP Systems – Which One Wins?
Gauging the efficacy of spreadsheets and school ERP systems
Why do we need spreadsheets or School ERP systems?
Educational institutions like schools and colleges run on efficiency and consistency. Having an organized set up is key to ensure their successful running on a day to day basis. One of the ways to remain organised on an ongoing basis is to use tools and resources that help people keep track of the various processes currently running in an organisation.
To rely on one’s memory or the presence of a single person in charge of execution demonstrates a lack of forethought and accountability. Documenting the execution of processes helps maintain a record of completion that can be referred to at any time. This sort of record or tracking mechanism is also useful for educational institutions that are constantly dealing with multiple stakeholders at any given point of time. Stakeholders like parents, especially, are a key part of the educational process, but often have limited information due to their lack of immediate presence at the physical location of the educational institution. A tracking mechanism that a parent has access to, however, will help them maintain a good connection with the going on’s at their ward or child’s school. It also helps build relationships between the educational institution, teachers, and parents, since it ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards a goal. The need for tools and resources is thus apparent for an educational institution looking to integrate with its stakeholders.
For most educational institutions starting out with streamlining their processes, spreadsheets seem like the obvious solution to building a method around documenting processes. They are easy to understand and use and most people are familiar with them.
Another, more advanced solution is to use software dedicated to school process management – like a school ERP system. This robust software was built for educational institutions and are tailored to its needs. They also usually have multiple other purposes and can be used as enterprise resource planning software, tracking software, learning management software, etc.
So how do educational institutions gauge what tools and resources they need? Is it all trial and error or is there a method to the madness?
All actions that carry a financial outlay must be considered thoroughly before any spending decisions are made. In most cases, it would be pragmatic to consider one’s budget, the needs of the school — including the size of the student body — current system of functioning, an appetite for change, ease with technology, and capacity for training and onboarding before choosing a tool or a resource. This line of thinking also applies to the purchase of tools and resources for the school, whether it be a rudimentary spreadsheet software or a dedicated school ERP system.
How do spreadsheets help?
Spreadsheets (or if we go by their proprietary name, Microsoft Excel sheets) are an easy way to organise vast quantities of information in a clearly accessible fashion. We discuss in detail below the many pros and cons of using spreadsheets for the purposes of documentation of processes and their execution.
Why do people choose spreadsheets?
Why do people choose school ERP software?
Familiarity of interface
A key advantage of using spreadsheets is that for most people – even Luddites – the spreadsheet user interface is familiar to them. This means that users are not put off by something new that they have to master. Instead, they instinctively start using the spreadsheets to keep track of the various processes and tasks they are involved in.
Not feasible for multiple users or large groups
Spreadsheets were meant to be single user applications. Applying version control works for smaller teams, but for a large educational institution with multiple stakeholders, version control usually fails, making it infeasible to use for larger teams. It is also difficult to use this application in tandem with other people – often times it throws up errors when being used by multiple users, slowing down work processes instead of facilitating them.
Accessibility is high
Most educational institutions have an educator licence which makes spreadsheet software low cost and accessible to them. This software has also become ubiquitous across offices and institutions, making it very accessible to most people and also making it compatible with most desktop hardware. Finally, the ease of use also means that multiple stakeholders with various skill levels would find this an accessible software to use.
Not accessible for everyone
With multiple hardware configurations, operating systems and software preferences, finding a common spreadsheet software choice that works for everyone can be a nightmare. While conceptually, they may all be the same, purchasing a restrictive program that works only under some conditions is prohibitive. Instead, a dedicated school ERP system that is commonly used across gadgets and devices and platforms and operating systems is a better choice – even switching platforms does not reduce familiarity.
The free or very low cost to use
Since educational institutions have low cost or free licences to use proprietary spreadsheet software, most systems would come pre-installed with it. Alternatively, since spreadsheet software has been in use for decades, low cost or free versions are easily available in the market and even online. For instance, when Microsoft’s Excel software cannot be accessed, people often use Google Suite’s Sheets application as an alternative. The low cost makes it an attractive option for educational institutions deciding between spreadsheets and a school ERP system.
Robust software built for schools
Unlike spreadsheets where one relies on multiple workarounds to match an existing school process, school ERP systems match institutional processes at schools exactly making them a breeze to use, School ERP systems do not require users to jump through multiple hoops to replicate school specific functions. Instead, school ERP software represents exactly what it is that a school does.
Recap: Make your school smart through school management system
The final verdict – Why school ERP system is ultimately the right choice for you
School ERP systems are flexible, robust, dedicated software that work across devices and platforms addressing the specific needs of all stakeholders in the educational ecosystem while still being easy to use. Sure, a spreadsheet might be cheaper, but its lack shows up in the many workarounds and time-consuming processes it demands simple functions like admissions management or fee receipt generation.
Think of investing in school ERP systems as a one-time investment in the long-term efficacy of your school – the software was built to suit your school’s specific needs and requirements, making it the perfect companion for your school’s running. Spreadsheets are a mere workaround that ultimately is too cumbersome for the trouble. In a debate between spreadsheets versus school ERP systems, the school ERP system thus emerges a clear winner.
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