PeopleSoft goes offline for update

Mike Wereschagin

PeopleSoft, the University’s new problem-plagued computer system, will shut down again today until Feb. 21.
At least this time University officials are doing it intentionally.
PeopleSoft technical support personnel will upgrade the system to Version 7.6 in an effort to fix the glitches that shut the system down on the first day of spring semester when some students needed it the most.
The Jan. 18 crash was caused by the enormous volume of students attempting to access the system at the same time, attempting to add or drop classes, check for classroom location changes or print out an enrollment summary, said Jude Poseley, the University’s assistant information officer.
Coincidentally, PeopleSoft chief executive officer Craig Conway met with the vice presidents and provosts from seven Big Ten universities the day of the crash. The meeting was in response to a letter PeopleSoft received from the universities, including Minnesota, complaining of the system’s widespread problems.
Most of the system’s bugs are attributed to PeopleSoft being a “Beta” program. The Beta designation is given to programs that have not been fully tested. At the time it was purchased, however, PeopleSoft was the only program of its kind on the market.
As a result of the meeting, the universities and PeopleSoft have agreed to a closer partnership in working through the system’s problems.
The solution is a long-term one. It is expected the bugs will be worked out through a long evolutionary process.
As a quick fix for the problem, University officials began using the “data warehouse” to ease the pressure on the floundering network.
The data warehouse was used by the University nine years before PeopleSoft’s installation. Administrators created the system to store University information and statistics. The information has been used for reports to federal agencies and internal departments.
For instance, administrators can examine the trend in the number of students registering for a particular major. They can then plan courses and class sizes accordingly.
But when PeopleSoft crashed, the warehouse was forced to take on an expanded role. Officials used the information contained within to e-mail course enrollments to students in an effort to free up more space on the network.
Stephen Cawley, the University’s chief information officer, said the expanded use of the warehouse will continue.
“We’re excited about the capability,” he said. “This is just about the best data warehouse system in the country.”
What makes it stand out, Cawley continued, is its ability to work in conjunction with PeopleSoft and ease the new program’s workload.
However PeopleSoft itself has a less desirable stigma attached to it. Cawley will appear before the Board of Regents next month to ask for an additional $18 million dollars to pay for a system originally priced at $42 million.
“Nobody is happy about the $60 million price tag,” he said. “But when we bought PeopleSoft, it was the only program out there.”
The only other option for administrators was a complete rewrite of the old program.
“We knew it was a major risk, but we were faced with a choice between two high-risk roads,” Cawley explained, adding that he believed they made the right choice.
“Ninety-nine percent of the students here registered through the Web two years running,” Cawley said. “I don’t know of any school this size that can say that.”
Still, he said he recognizes the transition has taken its toll on students and feels bad about that.
“We’ve been knocked down a couple of pegs, but we’re climbing back up,” Cawley said. “We’re hanging in there.”
Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3226.