The Houston Independent School District faced the same management challenges encountered by many large urban school districts: a wide variety of incompatible information systems, reliance on multiple manual processes for transferring data between those systems, and no way of looking across systems to find redundancies or business process problems.

The school district decided to improve operations in key organizations, consolidating business applications onto a common platform with a centralized, enterprise-wide administration database. The district worked with SAP, using its enterprise platform for education. HISD broke even on the project in about five years, with an anticipated 10-year ROI of 151 percent, officials say.

Broken down, this equals:

• More than $3 million in labor savings and warehouse cost reductions in food services;

• More than $5.5 million in savings on labor, paperwork order reductions, fewer vehicles kept in inventory, and improved maintenance in Fleet Operations;

• $5.7 million in reduced headcount and other savings in Administrative Operations; and

• $52.3 million saved in labor, bulk purchases and negotiated cost savings, inventory reduction, and eliminated waste in Materials Management.

To make such an implementation work, educators and administrators should take certain steps, HISD managers say. Like Kirk Kelly of the Hamilton County, Tenn., Department of Education, they suggest that stakeholders be engaged early in the process to help identify goals, including annual reporting requirements. They also suggest appointing a “project champion” at the highest levels of administration. Such a person can be valuable in making sure the project has adequate resources and that individual departments are on board and remain committed.

Team training is also an ongoing need. Work up a communication plan and stick to it to keep all stakeholders informed of progress or issues, HISD suggests.

—J.N.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura