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Project Overview

Introduction

The University of Virginia, like most other large research institutions, has in the past used a purchasing strategy for implementing core business applications that chose the best product on the market for each business function being automated. Little, if any, weight was given to the software vendor's offerings in other business areas. A team is now being formed to determine if this strategy should be modified in light of changing conditions in the marketplace and at our institution. The team will be composed of interested vice presidents and representatives from central administration, the Provost Office, the faculty, and ITC.

Rationale

The ongoing rationale for the current application selection strategy has been to target the information processing requirements for specific business functions, one function at a time. Use of this strategy has been bolstered by the dearth of vendor offerings in the marketplace that could come close to meeting needs in a wide-range of business areas. This approach has indeed met the objective we set out to achieve. We now have functionally rich applications that serve the needs of the central administrative offices very well, allowing them to provide better service to the University at large. But, as the central administrative offices strive to streamline processes and provide more direct services to academic departments, the faculty, and the student body, a price is being paid for past specialization. Because of the unique construction of each application, each has a very different way of inputting transactions and presenting information. While our current electronic forms and information warehouse strategies will go a long way in isolating many of the casual users from this application uniqueness, they will not be fully successful in hiding diverse application interfaces from users who need more in-depth access to these applications. Another problem is that ITC is required to support whatever technical architecture the vendors has chosen to use. ITC currently must develop and maintain staff skills in a vast array of programming languages, file management systems, data naming standards, and software design philosophies, and this adds significant complexity to the task of enhancing applications to meet changing business needs.

To date, there has not been any better approach for meeting the very complex needs of a major research university. While there have been a few vendors in the marketplace that offered fully integrated suites of business applications, these applications tended to work better for small institutions where needs were less complex and where it was easier to change business processes to match standard product lines. There are now, however, some interesting new vendor offerings that promise highly functional, integrated applications with common user interfaces and common technical architectures. Some of our peer institutions are looking seriously at partnering with a single vendor to replace a number of their stand-alone legacy business applications. Several major institutions, like Cornell, have already signed contracts. These decisions seem to be driven not only by the fact that there are better software offerings on the market, but also by a sense of urgency in enhancing application portfolios to meet the dynamic needs of academic departments, faculty, and staff and an increased willingness to reengineer business processes to be congruent with integrated product strategies. We believe the University should evaluate its current strategy for acquiring and implementing applications in light of these new developments to determine whether or not a change of strategy is right for this institution.

Mission of the Task Force

The task force will be charged with making a recommendation to the Senior Cabinet regarding either 1) the continued selection of application vendor products through independent purchasing decisions or 2) a new commitment to a vendor partner who would be our primary provider of core business applications (assuming mandatory requirements for a given business function can be met). The task force will focus on strategic issues surrounding this question and will not engage in an in-depth, comprehensive analysis of requirements for every business function and evaluation of products to meet these requirements. The task force is made up of the Steering Committee and the Support Group. Members of the Steering Committee are:

Polley Ann McClure (Co-Chair)
Vice President and Chief Information Officer

Leonard W. Sandridge, Jr. (Co-Chair)
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Peter W. Low
Vice President and Provost

Colette Capone
Vice President for Management and Budget

William W. Harmon
Vice President for Student Affairs

Don E. Detmer
Senior Vice President

Robert E. Reynolds
Senior Associate Vice President for Health Sciences

Charles B. Fitzgerald
Associate Vice President and Director of Development

Charles T. Gillet
Assistant Vice President for Finance

Dolly Prenzel
Chief Contracting Officer

Randall R. Smith
Dean for Administration, McIntire School of Commerce

The Support Group is divided into five study groups. Information concerning these study groups is provided below.

Evaluation Steps

Steps the task force will take in reaching a conclusion include:

Timeline for ISTF Work

By 10/21/96:

By 11/11/96:

By 11/27/96:

By 1/24/97:

2/12/97:

Study Groups

The study groups will be comprised of members of the ISTF Support Group and other members of the University community as seen fit. The study groups are to conduct an educational review informing the entire task force about the options that are available in the current environment.

Team Status Reports

Special Reports


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Updated January 12, 1999