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ERP Trends: Strategic Success With Modern K-12 HR and Finance Software

By David Edwards posted 12-07-2022 03:42 PM


Disruptions forced change throughout every aspect of K-12 education in recent years. The primary focus was keeping students learning despite health and safety disruptions, like building closures. But many schools and districts found it nearly impossible to keep day-to-day operations going. Even as they found a way through every challenge, there’s a real sentiment among educators and leaders that it’s time to move K-12 finance and HR operations forward. For many, the exposed vulnerabilities combined with available federal funding are catalyzing change.

Three phases of ESSER funds released by Congress give schools and districts the chance to act now and realize the benefits for years to come. Modernizing finance and HR technology can help streamline operations, improve efficiency, and provide actionable data insights for all decision-makers. The first phase became available in the early days of the pandemic, while the second and third phases were passed later. The largest was ESSER III, which passed in March of 2021.

However, of the $122 billion released to schools, only about 15 percent was spent as of October of 2022. That leaves billions of dollars on the table that schools have until September of 2024 to spend. The clock is ticking, but there’s still plenty of time to profoundly impact education to help better support students today and into the next generation. 

Modernizing finance and HR technology can help streamline operations, improve efficiency, and provide actionable data insights for all decision-makers. 
PowerSchool partnered with Hanover Research to learn about school and district investment trends in K-12 finance and HR software. 98 percent of respondents said they intend to increase or maintain their current level of investment in modernizing their ERP system over the next two to three years. A third of those planning increased investment said they plan to increase it by more than 50 percent. We think this reveals a real intention by schools and districts to direct a sizeable portion of remaining ESSER funds toward modernizing finance and HR systems, also called enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Comparing the Hanover Research findings to the strategic focus areas outlined in the PowerSchool Education Focus Report: Top District Priorities and Shifts in PK-12 Education, it’s clear to see why. 

Bringing K-12 Finance and HR Together with a Modern ERP System 
ERP systems help districts manage resources and personnel with more efficiency and flexibility. Generally, this means combining finance and HR operations to simplify processes and help teams work better together. It also means aggregating data across various sources within the district for actionable, big-picture analytics.

Data housed within a single system is also easier to secure. Rather than keeping it in separate systems and connecting it via third-party apps with varying levels of cybersecurity, a single system gives you more control over your data and its security. 

Businesses have relied on ERP systems for decades, but in K-12 education, finance and HR traditionally remain siloed. Modern systems built especially for the needs of schools and districts are changing that. Additionally, finance and HR professionals with business backgrounds often advocate for ERP modernization as crucial to achieving strategic goals.

Specifically, an ERP system can help with organizational excellence and efficiency and building an exceptional workforce, two strategic focus areas outlined in our Education Focus Report.

Integrating Data Systems to Simplify Workflows 
Finance and HR teams tend to rely on much of the same data. Housing it all together in an integrated system can save teams countless hours by eliminating duplicate data entries. Instead of teams separately entering a new employee’s information, for example, that information can automatically input via the applicant tracking system. If changes to that information need to be made, they sync instantly to eliminate redundant edits and ensure accuracy across systems.

Teams can also work better together with unified technology. Rather than request and wait for data or files from another department, finance and HR staff can quickly and securely access what they need and keep processes moving. This can help ensure new hires get their first paycheck on time, for example. When it comes to planning and budgeting, integrated data provides easier access and reliable information for finance teams, school and district leadership, and community stakeholders. Unified technology also assures that staff can only access information their role is entitled to, thereby ensuring data security.

Accessing Meaningful Data to Support Decision Making 
Seamless data lets analytics and visualizations show the whole picture, helping teams make more informed decisions. A modern ERP system can aggregate finance and HR data. This centralization means teams can factor more information into every decision.

Simplifying decision-making further, a modern ERP system also gives teams role-based dashboards. Instead of a sea of data, this puts the most pertinent information right up front. For example, a hiring manager sees the essential data details for their day-to-day tasks, while a superintendent might see higher-level district-wide information.

Meaningful data is digestible. It lets teams use systems to their advantage rather than languishing in a state of too much data and not enough time to decipher it. With technology that aggregates big-picture data and then presents it in understandable terms, it becomes the fuel that drives change and improvement toward strategic goals. Greater understanding helps teams set reliable benchmarks and accurately gauge improvements over time. It also helps make communicating progress to stakeholders easier. When improvement is needed, meaningful data and benchmarks give people the information they need to adjust and move forward rather than risk repeating unsuccessful strategies.

Speeding Up Hiring and Onboarding to Support Staffing 
Faster hiring makes all the difference in a competitive labor market. By simplifying processes and minimizing manual tasks, a modern ERP system makes it easier for HR teams to post positions, make decisions, and extend offers faster than nearby districts. Even when matching the salaries of competing employers is a challenge, moving faster can ensure you put an offer in top candidates’ hands first—a priceless advantage. 

Integrated systems also minimize data entry during the onboarding phase, helping HR staff members meet their onboarding deadlines, ensuring new hires are prepared for their first day, and minimizing time-sensitive payroll issues. In short, HR teams can put more of their time and energy into welcoming and supporting new hires instead of sweating due dates for forms. It’s one of the ways integrated, modern technology supports the human side of an organization. 

Simplifying Administrative Processes to Support Educators 
The benefits of a modern ERP system go beyond finance and HR teams. A system that automatically syncs data, digitizes HR forms, and provides easy online contract signing and evaluations paperwork saves time for everyone. For teachers, that means more time to focus on their students instead of completing HR and payroll tasks.

A simplified onboarding experience gives new teachers more flexibility and lets them complete the process faster. They’ll have more time to prepare for their first day, connect with other educators on staff, and become a part of the school’s community.

Additionally, an online system that enables self-service for HR tasks relieves the administrative burden on talent managers. When teachers and staff can easily edit their personal information, retrieve benefits information, or pull payroll statements, they get what they need faster. This ease of access frees them to do what brought them into the profession: teach their students. 

Modernizing Finance and HR with a Single Solution 
K-12 finance leaders in many schools and districts continue to advocate for ERP solutions like those used in the business world. In many cases, these leaders bring career experience in business and finance to their new role in education. They know the benefits of using modern technology to simplify processes, improve accuracy, provide data security, and help everyone focus more energy on supporting student success.

However, needs and challenges unique to education mean not just any ERP software will do the job. Choosing a solution built for education helps ensure you get a system with the flexibility to adapt to changing compliance requirements, school and district financial management, and payroll and talent management complexities. An end-to-end system that integrates with your HR software and student information system (SIS) can help accelerate your finance and HR management into the future. 

Dave Edwards, M.A.Ed., is a 25-year K-12 veteran and currently serves as an Education Solutions Director with PowerSchool, an OASBO Platinum Sponsor. He can be reached at 916.513.9249 or

This article originally appeared on the PowerSchool blog as Finding Strategic Success by Modernizing K-12 Finance and HR Software.” It features insights from some of the latest education studies, including PowerSchool’s own original research. We publish it here as a guest post for OASBO blog readers, courtesy of PowerSchool.