Category Archives: News

Colleges to share Oracle ERP system in effort to cut costs

January 15, 2018 TechTarget Article:

Private, nonprofit colleges are discovering they can reduce back-office IT costs by working together. Novel approaches are emerging to reduce the financial drain of ERP systems.

Three Vermont private colleges plan to share a cloud-based Oracle ERP system. It’s taking cooperation and agreement to change their business practices. But if it’s successful, the colleges expect to save millions in costs.

What Champlain College, Middlebury College and Saint Michael’s College are doing is rare for private institutions. But as more schools seek ways to control back-office costs, this idea may spread.

The three independent, nonprofit colleges did not have a history of working together. But in 2013, they formed the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium to examine sharing an ERP system.

“Private liberal arts schools and the education that they offer is becoming more and more unaffordable for many students,” said Corinna Noelke, the consortium’s executive director and a doctorate-holding economist who was director of special projects at Middlebury.

The consortium went through a request-for-proposal process and picked Oracle ERP systems. They will use Oracle’s Human Capital Management Cloud, its ERP Cloud and the Enterprise Performance Management Cloud.

“The schools discovered that they could really work together on one software platform, as long as it allowed them to separate the schools efficiently,” Noelke said.

The implementation begins this year. The three colleges are now using Ellucian systems: One is using Banner, and two are using Colleague. Two of the colleges ran the ERP systems on premises, and the third outsourced.

A goal for the three schools was to implement best practices in a SaaS environment and to take advantage of using shared services.

Using best practices “has nothing to do with your culture and nothing to do with your special niche as a school,” Noelke said.

Public colleges have long shared IT platforms

Public universities have long shared systems across the various campuses, but it’s rare for nonprofit, private colleges to share services, said Kenneth Green, the founding director of The Campus Computing Project, which runs a continuing study of the role of IT in higher education.

The Vermont colleges’ effort “is interesting and it is innovative, and it will be carefully watched,” Green said.

Back-office systems collaboration may be a growing trend in higher education. In a separate effort, over 100 smaller colleges recently banded together to collectively negotiate ERP pricing with major vendors.

“Why can’t we leverage our collective voices with you, the vendors, to get better pricing,” said Carol Smith, CIO of DePauw University and president of the board of directors of the Higher Education Systems & Services Consortium (HESS). This effort to negotiate as a group with ERP systems vendors began in 2016.

Most of the HESS Consortium schools have student full-time-equivalent populations of less than 8,000 and some only a few thousand students. But a goal of HESS is to give its members the contract negotiation clout of a large university system.

Transparency on ERP pricing is one goal

HESS is also working to normalize ERP pricing and services between vendors to make it easier for colleges to conduct apples-to-apples comparisons. The schools, some of which previously have gotten little vendor attention, hope that now changes. They are meeting collectively with their respective vendors to discuss their needs.

Instead of negotiating the ERP contracts independently, and then wondering whether they got a good price, Smith said participating HESS colleges will “feel confident” that they got the best consortium price for the ERP system.

The Green Mountain effort takes the idea of ERP collaboration a step further.

The consortium had four ERP candidates: Oracle, Workday, Unit4 and Campus Management.

In its selection, the Oracle ERP system gained the edge with its pricing, functionality and ability to set up a shared environment, Noelke said.

The Oracle ERP system architecture allows you to be in one instance and have three separate and distinct operations for each of the campuses. Employees at their respective schools don’t see information from other colleges unless they want to have a shared service. Each college will have independent user interfaces and data will be separated, but otherwise, they are operating on one platform.

“The architecture is very elegant and is really letting you be separate where you want to be separate, but also to come together where you want to come together,” Noelke said.

Configurations are being discouraged

The introduction of the SaaS platform is requiring the schools to make substantive changes to their business practices. They are holding workshops involving finance and HR and working with implementation firms. The schools may do some processes differently as they shift to a “best practices environment.” They are holding “process reimagine and redesign” workshops facilitated by CampusWorks Inc., and their implementation contractor is Hitachi Consulting for Oracle.

The basic premise is the schools will only customize configurations where needed, and the departments will have to make a business case for it. As soon as you configure differently between the three schools, it makes it harder to update the system, Noelke said.

The implementations will continue through much of the year. They will have to make “a million little decisions every day” with the implementers.

The three colleges expect to pay less with the Oracle ERP system. They have cut licensing costs by about 20% by acting together. The implementation costs are much less, because they are doing it together, Noelke said. This doesn’t account for long-term productivity gains helped by the elimination or reduction of manual, paper-based processes.

Over an eight-year period — fiscal year 2018 through fiscal year 2025 — buying software together and implementing it together at the same time is saving $20 million versus each school buying the software themselves and implementing it themselves, Noelke said.

Education systems require specialized software related to student needs, such as registration, class schedules and financial assistance. Oracle is developing a new student system using the knowledge they have on needs and requirements from the PeopleSoft product. This work is still in development. The consortium is likely to use Oracle’s approach, but will make a final determination once the development work is completed.

The motivation for these joint efforts is clear. At DePauw, Smith said she personally believes these types of collaborations among private schools will expand.

“We’re here to provide an educational experience for our students, so that they can be the best they can be,” Smith said. “I think we have to try to preserve every ounce of resources that we possibly can.”

Announcing Stakeholder Relations Strategist

August 14, 2017

I am happy to announce that Mary M. Lee has accepted the new position of Stakeholder Relations Strategist at the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium and will start early September.

Mary comes to us from Champlain College where she has been involved with the Consortium and has been an avid supporter from its start as the Lead of the Human Resources group. This group has already accomplished much by saving the Consortium members, Champlain College, Middlebury College and Saint Michael’s College, to date $2.5 million through group purchasing. Mary has also been a member of the Steering Committee for the Consortium Technology project which has just resulted in the purchase of new Advancement as well Human Resources and Finance Software for all three colleges. Since January 2017, she has been on the Board of the Consortium.

In her new position, Mary will support the Consortium and its member colleges in engaging its faculty, staff, and at times, students as we are making changes that touch every one of them such as through the implementation of Oracle Cloud systems for Human Resources and Finance. She will also work with future full and associate members of the Consortium to successfully on-board them.

After a distinguished career in the corporate world such as with IDX Systems, Burton Snowboards and National Life Group, Mary joined Champlain College in 2012 rising to Vice President of People and Technology. She received a master’s of science in administration from St. Michael’s College and holds an undergraduate degree from Trinity College. She holds certifications in Appreciative Inquiry from Case Western University, Compensation from WorldatWork and Human Resources from Society for Human Resources Management.

Mary is actively engaged in a number of community organizations and resides in Burlington with her husband and son.

Please join me in welcoming Mary to her new role. Mary can be reached at


November 2, 2016

At the Consortium we work hard – as witnessed by the many demonstrations we are all attending. We also like to play…


ERP Buzz Word Bingo
Slack methodology BI portal flexibility
chatbots cloud vision iterative Amazon
user boards seamless standardization agile configurable
methodology analytics dashboards mobile first multi-tenant
customizable success integration innovative Cloud

Presidents Give Update on ERP and Advancement RFP

October 27, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you know, the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium (GMHEC) was formed in 2013 by Champlain College, Middlebury College, and Saint Michael’s College. Our goal was to contain our institutional costs while increasing and/or adding value to our services. We are pleased with the partnership and the progress we have made so far, particularly in the areas of purchasing and benefits.  

We see opportunities to achieve the same objectives in our technology services. This past spring, we began exploring what is currently working well and where there are opportunities in the administrative systems we use for financial management, payroll and human resource management, student services and advancement.

We first met with stakeholders in these respective areas at each college, gathering data through surveys and listening sessions led by our consulting partner CampusWorks. Then, over the summer, we used the stakeholder data to design a request for proposal (RFP) that we submitted to a number of technology vendors. We selected seven respondents to come to Vermont to demonstrate their respective software starting October 25. Please see the GMHEC ERP/Advancement page for further information on the process as well as the schedule for upcoming demonstration days for these vendors.

By engaging with these vendors, each college can evaluate which technology solutions will best meet our needs, help us increase our service levels, and optimize our talent, similar to what we have done in other areas. It also allows us to learn about opportunities for improvements within our current systems. We are also reviewing where shared needs exist between the Consortium colleges, and determining whether there are opportunities to partner together.

We thank you for your assistance to date and encourage you to continue to be involved, engaged and supportive in this exploration.  

Please address any questions to Corinna Noelke, the Consortium’s executive director, or visit the Consortium’s website.


Donald J. Laackman
President, Champlain College

Laurie L. Patton
President, Middlebury College

John J. Neuhauser
President, Saint Michael’s College

Consortium decides on Semi-Finalists for ERP and Advancement RFP

October 4, 2016

In the fall of 2015, the Member Colleges of the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium saw the need to embark on a project to determine what could be the next generation Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for each college. The Steering Committee, with members from each College, selected yesterday the semi-finalists for both the ERP and the Advancement RFP which were issued on August 10, 2016.

Six companies submitted proposals for a new Advancement system. The three semi-finalists who will demonstrate their product at the end of October, are:
– Blackbaud
– Oracle
– roundCorner / Salesforce

Seven companies submitted proposals for a new ERP system (covering Student, Finance and Human Resources). Four-semi-finalists where chosen to demonstrate their products at the end of October:
– CampusManagement
– Oracle
– Unit4
– Workday

More information about the project can be found here.

Coffee, Water and Condiment Contract – W.B. Mason

September 1, 2015

Dear Colleagues:

The Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium (GMHEC) members Champlain College, Middlebury College, and Saint Michael’s College, are continuing efforts to obtain cost savings for the three institutions while adding benefits for all. Recently, GMHEC went through a request for proposal for coffee, water and condiments.  We received four proposals. After reviewing and vetting the proposals through a detailed process, we awarded the contract to W.B. Mason thus lowering the prices that were previously available on W.B. Mason.

The contract gives the Colleges at least 15% savings on coffee (Green Mountain Coffee k-cups at $10.24 and rental of coffee machines is free) and up to 58% on condiments with a 2 year price guarantee.  Using W.B. Mason for both Office Supplies and Coffee/Condiments simplifies ordering for you and streamlines the payment process for Accounts Payable.

Anyone who needs to order coffee, water or condiments but does not yet have an account with W.B. Mason: please contact Fran Estes at Champlain College, Matt Curran at Middlebury College and Janet Post at Saint Michael’s College.

Please note: For water coolers, Middlebury College is staying with Misty Meadows to support a small, local, family-owned business. If you need a plumbed in water cooler, W.B. Mason is the vendor of choice though as Misty Meadows does not provide them. More information on Misty Meadows can be found at Middlebury College’s purchasing website.

New Office Supply and Paper Vendor – W.B. Mason

March 6, 2015

Members of the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium (GMHEC)—Champlain College, Middlebury College, and Saint Michael’s College—are continuing efforts to obtain institutional cost savings while also adding benefits.

Recently, GMHEC requested proposals for office supplies. We received five proposals, and after carefully reviewing and vetting them, we selected two finalist: W.B. Mason and Office Depot (formally OfficeMax).  We then requested W.B. Mason to give a presentation, since using this company would be a change for two of the institutions.  We invited colleagues from the academic, purchasing and sustainability offices of the three institutions to attend the presentation, which included information on value-added initiatives, ease of website use, delivery options and customer service. It also allowed participants to ask questions related to product ordering, reporting, and best practices.

After witnessing the successful presentation and going over of the overall contract terms, members of GMHEC recommended selecting W.B. Mason for all three institutions.  W. B. Mason provides the lowest market-basket pricing on the products we order and offers a paid internship to one student for each school per year. We also considered the overall service and ease of website use.

Champlain College and Middlebury College have now implemented the W.B. Mason contract, as has the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Middlebury in D.C., and the Language School offices at Mills College.  Saint Michael’s College’s account has been updated to the new pricing.

To sustain the low prices we negotiated, we will now place all office-supply orders through W.B. Mason only. The accounts with OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples, and Palace Art have been closed.  And we ask that you don’t use other vendors, such as Amazon, Costco, or Walmart.

Anyone who needs to order office supplies or paper but does not yet have an account: please contact Fran Estes at Champlain College, Matt Curran at Middlebury College and Janet Post at Saint Michael’s College.

First Consortium Win: J.P. Morgan purchasing card contract

July 1, 2014

The Consortium is announcing it’s first win: J.P. Morgan Chase was selected as the purchasing card (p-card) provider for the three member colleges. Middlebury College and Saint Michael’s College already had a relationship with J.P. Morgan Chase. A new contract provided for better rebates for both colleges and extended the relationship to Champlain College which to that point did not have a purchasing card. The purchasing card managers of Saint Michael’s College and Middlebury College were instrumental in helping Champlain College implement their purchasing program. This exemplifies another great benefit of the Consortium – collaboration.