U plans for $84M tech makeover

The upgrade will create a student site that combines parts of MyU and OneStop.

U plans for $84M tech makeover

Emily Mongan

The University of Minnesota’s Enterprise System software is due for a much-needed makeover, and last week the school signed a contract for the $84 million project.

In July, the Board of Regents approved the upgrade to the system that will be developed and implemented over the next four years. Now, the University has chosen software implementation company CedarCrestone and will release a timeline of the project within the next eight weeks. CedarCrestone has done work for other large schools including Arizona State University and Harvard University.

The Enterprise System controls vital portals like MyU and OneStop. Each year, the system processes 50 million requests for scheduling classes and paying fees, generates more than one million reports needed to stay on track for graduation and awards thousands of degrees.

“Most of the faculty and students use these systems whether they realize it or not,” said Andrew Hill, program director of the Enterprise upgrade project. “You will be impacted by it, and there will be a noticeable change. The goal is to make that experience better.”

The new system is expected to include improvements to the University’s payroll system, make student pages accessible from mobile devices and create a student portal that combines elements of both MyU and OneStop and requires a single login — what Hill calls a “one-stop shop.”

The Enterprise System was first installed in 1998 and controls a variety of financial, human resources and student services operations. It has only undergone minor updates since its installation.

The University community uses the system for everything from distributing paychecks and financial aid to handling admissions applications.

Due to the system’s importance to the everyday business of the University, the schedule for the upgrade has to work around events like class registration periods and financial aid distribution.

William Dana, the project director for the student systems upgrade, said integrating these portals will allow students to “find a deeper connection with the University via this technology.”

Aside from making the system more efficient, an upgrade will protect the University from risks related to operating with out-of-date software.

When the government issues financial aid and tax updates, the software must be updated to comply with the new laws. Without proper updates, Hill said, the University could unknowingly distribute incorrect financial aid or be fined.

Support for updating the current system is set to end in December. However, the University has negotiated with Oracle, the company that owns the University’s current software system, to receive continued support until December 2014.

Negotiating continued support is a “very regular thing that happens during upgrades,” Dana said.

Regents recognized the urgent need for the Enterprise System upgrade when the project was first presented to the Finance and Operations Committee in July.

“As regents, we have a responsibility to ensure that the University has the resources and infrastructure it needs to fulfill its mission,” board Chair Linda Cohen  said in an email.

Aside from providing crucial updates to the University’s systems, Cohen added that the upgrade will “position the University to take advantage of emerging technologies in the future.”

For Dana, the upgrade not only represents a step forward for the University technologically but economically as well.

“Through this upgrade, we will uphold our cultural values of fiscal responsibility, along with continuing our tradition of providing best-in-class systems in support of the University’s core academic mission,” Dana said.

The updated Enterprise System is expected to make its full debut in late 2014, with continued updates through 2016.