"We at ULTIMIT Advanced Turnkey Solution are proud to be part of yet another successful story. And we thank Arab American University for their commitment and dedication to make this implementation a Success."
The Arab American University in Jenin has made a highly successful transition to a modern, unified business environment, thanks to Microsoft Dynamics AX. The move has allowed the growing institution to shake off the legacy of its previous finance and procurement set-up, which was split into separate modules from different local vendors, and which made full control and visibility of finance and workflow difficult to achieve.
A commitment to education quality
Founded in 2000, The Arab American University (AAU) in Jenin is the first private Palestinian university. AAU provides quality education for students from different parts of the region. Collaborating with California State University and Utah State University, AAU aspires to be a leader in higher education by serving the educational needs of its students within a dynamic learning atmosphere that inspires innovation and personal success.
To help achieve its goals, the university aspires to an enterprise-class information technology infrastructure that runs efficiently and serves the needs of 9,000 plus students, supported by a combined faculty and administration complement of 800 other staff.
However, number of challenges were hindering this aspiration. “We had grown in our first decade with locally provided business modules for our finance, purchasing and warehousing needs,” states head of technology, Bahgat Ayasi. “But while these had sufficed for our first stage of growth as a University, we needed a more functional, enterprise-class system for our future expansion.”
Ayasi and his team report, for example, on the fact that the legacy and bespoke applications were from different vendors, not fully integrated, and functioning as separate isolated silos, therefore were difficult to support and maintain. In addition, data was often duplicated making efforts redundant and information unreliable. A big problem was the mismatch of transacting currency between each application. “A purchase order could start in one currency, be worked on in another, and finally settled in a third,” he recalls.
At the same time, “many business functions were not even covered by the software, requiring extensive manual processing at key points within operation,” Ayasi says. Another headache was end of fiscal year accounts, which always entailed a lot of work between reconciling balances and performing manual adjustments. Management never had full confidence in the reports as a result, he says, as stocks were completely enumerated. “Overall, we were dealing with legacy software and not the kind of modern, functional business software platform the university and its students really deserved.”
To improve the situation, Ayasi and his team decided that it was time to step up and enter the world of enterprise resource planning (ERP). “We carried out an extensive research process, as we wanted to get this right the first time,” he recalls. “We looked at all the major offerings, including Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. Over a wide range of criteria and resulting from deep analysis, Microsoft Dynamics AX quickly emerged as the best bet for all we needed to do: fully automate our business processes, and simultaneously rebuild our entire information flow infrastructure.”
Ayasi contracted for implementation, training and support ULTIMIT Advanced Turnkey Solutions, a successful local Microsoft partner. ULTIMIT carried out a carefully phased approach of the new system functionalities throughout AAU. The client’s journey entailed incorporating Dynamics functionality into everything from accounts payable and accounts receivable to general ledger, budgeting, fixed assets, cash and bank management, project management, all the way to accounting, inventory and warehouse management, and bill of material. As a result, Dynamics AX modules are now firmly at the center of a steadily increasing set of the organization’s business workflows.
Procure-To-Pay – across the entire organization
Now that Dynamics is fully embedded into his processes, how has AAU benefited? Ayasi says that the contrast between the pre-ERP situation and operations now could not be clearer. “It’s given us a new lease of life,” he enthuses. “In terms of return on investment, this has more than repaid our expenditure on the product.”
How is that manifested? On an organizational level, Ayasi sees the process as one of digital transformation, with empowerment of employees perhaps being the most significant. “With the achievement of full P2P (procure to pay) status, our finance, procurement and materials teams all have a full, secure, and highly visible digital method of working that protects our transactions in a very deep way,” he points out. In parallel, he adds, data accuracy, data validation, and data availability have all been radically improved too, approaching 100%, he believes.
“Another major pay-back of the move to Microsoft Dynamics has been the almost total eradication of paper out of our workflow,” he adds. That’s being achieved by the improved IT environment the new solution has helped to create along with a move to full electronic document management, he is sure.
But what about at the team or individual AAU member level? The impact of taking ERP seriously for a Higher Education leader like Arab American is clear there, too. “At the user level, reports keep coming back that the applications people use every day, from Word to Excel, are so much more stable and reliable, now. Productivity has been raised, while at the important level of Finance, that department is so much happier that it has deep visibility into processes and knows the financial state of the organization.”
Putting Dynamics’ impact at the macro and micro level together, then, Ayasi is clear what AAU’s move to ERP will ultimately deliver. “This will make procurement and contract management work an order of magnitude more efficient than it was when they were struggling with the older legacy applications.”
Ayasi is confident that the original transformation vision has been achieved. “We wanted a unified way to process and control all our financial data, while leaving behind all the inefficiencies our previous systems were causing us. We can track our expenditure and budget much more accurately now; we have definitely managed that with Dynamics and the help of ULTIMIT.
“Moving to Dynamics was a big step for us, and is still a first for our peer institutions in the region. A big engagement, but we needed a transformation springboard, which is what we got.”
Reference: Microsoft Customer Stories