By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—When future IU Southeast graduates get their first jobs in accounting, marketing, human resource management, supply chain and operations management or other business fields, there’s a good chance they’ll need to know how to use an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
Thanks to Ranida Harris, they’ll be ready.
Over the past four years, Harris, associate professor of management information systems, has partnered with the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance (DynAA) to successfully integrate the company’s leading-edge systems into her curriculum, helping IU Southeast’s School of Business to become the first and only institution in the Louisville metro area to offer this advantage to students.
Now Harris has leveraged her experience in a scholarly paper on teaching the ERP implementation process that has been accepted for publication in the “Journal of Integrated Enterprise Systems.” This past weekend, she received a First Place Instructional Award for the paper at the Microsoft DynAA conference in New Orleans, La.
Journey to the cloud
ERP and many enterprise systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM) systems are ubiquitous in the world today, as organizations of all shapes and sizes apply advances in computing to keep close tabs on all aspects of their operations.
From buying a cup of coffee or clicking on a digital ad to making a cell-phone call or applying for a home loan, consumers interface with these systems on an everyday basis. Virtually every transactional activity yields data that can and will be marshaled to help shape large scale fulfillment processes.
But these systems are also vital to the internal functioning of companies. From accounting and inventory to finance and workflow, ERP systems provide information that drive decision-making, accountability, and transparency.
“If an organization has an ERP system, every single person in the organization will touch it in some way,” Harris said. “So it is crucial for students to understand how these systems in various capacities work together and how they impact everything in the organization.”
In Harris’ courses, students in the supply chain and information management concentrations learn the functionalities of ERP systems and business intelligence integration. One goal while designing the curriculum was to find or create a software learning platform that would give the students some degree of hands-on, real-world experience.
Several options proved cumbersome and expensive. Then Harris learned of the Microsoft Dynamics product that could be hosted in the cloud. With help from University Information Technology Services (UITS), the software could be deployed for the classroom use at relatively minimal cost.
Microsoft Dynamics competes internationally with software products from SAP and Oracle. It offers wide-range of comprehensive software packages with established industry reputations and strong partner companies providing support to client organizations. Microsoft Dynamic Sure Step is the recommended implementation strategy that breaks the process down into phases such as diagnostic, analysis, design, operations and more.
In order to gain access to the software, Harris applied for and was accepted into the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance (DynAA) program, a partnership between Microsoft and university educators around the world who use the company’s Dynamics products in their classes. Through the program, Students many have access to all the Microsoft Business Solutions packages, including Dynamics AX, Dynamics CRM, Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV. In order to implement Dynamics AX in the classroom, Harris applied for the Microsoft Educator Grant Program and received access to Microsoft Azure, a fast-growing, industry leader in cloud-based infrastructure. She then deployed the system, learned to manage the virtual machines and much more, investing untold time and effort to bring the package into the classroom.
The partnership not only provides students with a full range of agile ERP at the speed of the cloud, but also confers a thought-leadership role upon IU Southeast as the Louisville area’s pioneer in this collaborative.
Big payoff for students
Harris believes that using the platform in class delivers an advantage to students who will graduate knowing how to use an essential advanced workplace tool.
Students reap immediate benefits, including exclusive access to online training, resources, software and service passes. In 2015, students received Microsoft Azure passes amounting to $6,000. These are used to access Microsoft Dynamics AX running on the Azure cloud platform, Harris said.
So far, student reaction to the training ranges from positive to ecstatic. According to a survey, Harris’ students found the software exercise reasonable and relevant to their careers, with some finding direct connections to their prospects.
Providing thought leadership
For Harris, participating in the Microsoft DynAA is about more than access to software. It’s about carving out a position of thought leadership for the School of Business and IU Southeast in a dynamic, professional partnership with one of the world’s most influential companies, in a way that directly benefits students.
Harris’ paper, coauthored by Harris and colleague Todd Schultz of the Hull College of Business at Augusta University, details the process of teaching ERP implementation with Microsoft Sure Step.
The recognition of this scholarly publication affords the possibility to integrate the world-class software in a college classroom, both in collaboration with School of Business colleagues at IU Southeast – in marketing and management, for example, and with others in non-business fields. Harris hopes that the paper will provide a template to other instructors worldwide seeking inexpensive yet robust tools to deliver real-world skills to students in search of a way to set themselves apart.
“Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft DynAA partnership provide exciting opportunities to our students and university, and I am thrilled to see how well the program has been received and the progress we have made in just a few years,” Harris said. “I very much look forward to expanding the program in a way that will benefit our students in the long run, narrowing the gap between what we teach in college classrooms and what employers expect in the workplace.”
Homepage Photo: Ranida Harris (second from right), associate professor of management information systems, receives the First Place Instructional Award alongside co-author Todd Schultz of the Hull College of Business at the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance conference in New Orleans, La. They are joined by Carol Mannino (l), associate professor of accounting at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Katie Hasbargen, Ph.D. (r), program lead, Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance.