Teams get to work
on bringing new integrated systems to U.Va.
day goes like any other for Alice Smith, an office worker at U.Va.,
as she updates the department's budget, sends the finished report
to her supervisor, orders supplies and approves travel requests,
among other activities. Except that a workload that might have
taken three days to complete now takes one or two. This dream
could become reality in the near future under the new Integrated
Systems Project. The streamlined process will save time (and
money) for other important tasks such as providing more and better
service to students, faculty and others, according to William
Randolph, project director for the Integrated Systems Project.
gotten the green light from the Board of Visitors in the fall,
the project became official Dec. 1. The $58 million overhaul of
the University's outdated information systems will replace them
with a state-of-the-art group of integrated software applications
that will provide the administrative foundation to carry the University
into its third century. The plan calls for implementing new systems
for finance, human resources and student services with Oracle
Corp. was chosen for its successful experience in higher education,
especially grants management, Randolph said. Other universities
using Oracle include Cal Tech, Stanford, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon,
George Washington University and Yale.
ISP includes a grants management program that has the potential
to greatly improve our ability to support the research enterprise
at the University as it expands and becomes increasingly interdisciplinary,"
said Vice President and Provost Peter W. Low. "We also are
anticipating a student information system that will facilitate
the flow of information on students from admissions through graduation
the ISP was not included in Gov. James Gilmore's budget, U.Va.
will keep trying to get state support and is proceeding with the
project, which will take at least five years to fully implement,
said Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget.
"This is a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous challenge,"
said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief
operating officer. "Over the next five years, we will be
replacing 24 different central information systems plus over 120
supplemental ones with integrated systems that facilitate the
entry and exchange of information between all parts of the University.
It will give us the tools to meet our objectives of increased
efficiency and effectiveness, improved customer service and better
ability to adapt to growth and change."
35 people are now dedicated to the project, some of whom are with
KPMG, a consulting firm experienced with Oracle software that
is helping U.Va. make the transition. Teams of U.Va. employees
working on parts of the project will probably expand and shrink
as needed, Randolph said.
on the leading edge of creating solutions for this University.
It's very exciting and creative work," Randolph said. "The
software needs to be adapted to the University's needs. ... There
are many steps to implement a new set of applications. We will
be putting a huge emphasis on training. Everyone needs to have
the training and skills they need to be successful in the new
The area of financial systems will be handled in two phases, encompassing
everything from the general ledger (the University's accounting
record, which is like a highly sophisticated version of an individual's
checking account) and grants management to accounts receivable,
departmental accounting, financial reports and purchasing.
begun mapping the Ćas-is' processes, and some of them have never
been documented before," Randolph said. Then the teams will
compare what the ideal processes would be with the best practices
or best functioning of the software. Along the way, his group
anticipates that issues will have to be sorted out, and some of
the old ways of doing things will have to change. Many people
will be glad to see that'll mean getting the processes to make
more sense, according to Communications Manager Carole Horwitz
and other team leaders.
biggest benefit will be that all the administrative systems will
be able to talk to each other in the same language and at the
same time,≤ said Shy Hicks, leader of the general ledger team,
who was the director of financial reporting for 10 years before
switching to the ISP. Hicks' team will analyze how things are
done in the present system compared to how they could be done
in Oracle. After the team creates a working prototype, data will
be keyed in and tested. U.Va. employees who use this kind of data
or system will try out the new processes and give feedback to
Evans, who had been the chief operating officer of ITC for four
years, leads the technical team working behind the scenes to make
sure hardware and software are working properly so that "people
can get the information they need as soon as they need it,"
technical team will work on the numerous steps it takes to implement
a system this complex. They and the rest of the ISP team will
be working in a controlled environment that includes many "checkpoints"
that ensure that any changes or additions to the Oracle system
are fully tested.
"This is the biggest system change ever done at once here.
It's an exciting atmosphere. The teams are working well together,"
said Evans, who has been involved since June 1999, through the
planning and business case preparation phases.
working directly on the ISP are not the only ones involved. The
coming changes won't be a surprise to the University community.
An advisory committee with liaisons representing every unit is
in place, according to Horwitz. "We want to make sure that
information gets out and comes in," she said. The advisers
are identifying people who are experts in the subjects covered
in the processes, as well as bringing in unit administrators,
to get their input and to make sure everyone gets trained when
the time is right.
"We're charged with a heavy responsibility," Randolph
acknowledged. "It's up to us to make this work and work well
for the University. And we're prepared to devote the time and
talent it takes to make it happen. This is definitely an 'us'
project, however. We need the cooperation of all areas of the
University to make this project a success. It will be much like
a construction zone for the first couple of years as we begin
to implement the new systems gradually. The new Oracle applications
will have to coexist with the older systems until the full transition
has been made."