System upgrade exceeds budget

Kristin Gustafson

Two years ago, the University knew its computer systems wouldn’t make it past January 2000 and needed an overhaul to manage the growing University’s administrative needs.
The solution came with a $42.3 million price tag and plenty of promises.
However, during December’s Board of Regents meeting, administrators in charge of the overhaul described a system of glitches, project delays and a bumped-up budget.
On Friday, associate vice presidents Bob Kvavik and Steve Cawley delivered a new $60 million price tag for the administrative software engine expected to manage everything from student registration to financial aid to payroll. The increased cost comes from unexpected maintenance and upgrade costs.
But regents also listened as some good news was delivered.
Spring semester financial aid was distributed on time, in contrast to fall financial aid checks, some of which did not reach students until after fall semester.
Printing a student transcript, a process that took eight minutes a few months ago, now can be accomplished in eight seconds.
And the conversion of the University’s payroll system is now underway and should experience few problems.
“I’m guardedly optimistic that we should not see any more problems coming from the (student-service software), that if there is noise in the system now, it will come from payroll,” Kvavik said.
Regent Michael O’Keefe said he heard from users a dissatisfaction with the new system and requested the University implement a kind of “regular feedback mechanism.”
Kvavik said the University has been able to track response time — a source of frustration for many PeopleSoft users — and can see the processing time is slower in many situations than with the past system. At this point, Kvavik said, “the quality of service and performance of the program is pretty terrible.”
However, going back isn’t an option, and starting over is too expensive.
For now, the University plans to get through the last of the conversions and clean up the glitches.
“It really is the administrative engine that runs your instructional business,” he said. “It monitors all of your faculty resources, your classroom resources, it does the certifications, and whatever.”
Just to put this enterprise project in perspective, Kvavik said in a recent survey that 10 percent finish on time and on budget; 35 percent never finish; the ones that finish, on average, are 187 percent over budget, take 2.3 times longer and deliver about 60 percent of functionality.
“So if you judge us against an industry standard, we’re doing very well,” Kvavik said.
But, he added “in a University-public environment where, quite frankly, this translates into things that could be better used for classrooms and other stuff, it is disappointing.”
To cover the cost, the University will most likely increase the tax on individual colleges that use the system, he said.

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected]