PeopleSoft advantages beginning to appear

Mark Baumgarten

When University administrators contracted with PeopleSoft in 1996, they were warned the operating system would take two steps back before taking a step forward. After a rough year with the system, administrators said they are now anticipating the first step forward.
Following a system upgrade and an increased effort to improve communication between PeopleSoft and the University, officials said problems with student registration and financial aid disbursement are less likely to occur this year.
“If we compare (the system’s operations) to last year at this time, you can see that things have improved dramatically,” said University Registrar Sue Van Voorhis.
Frustrations abounded when the program was implemented in spring 1999. Students complained of delays when registering for fall classes, and the program’s financial aid software was not ready by the beginning of fall semester 1999, forcing the University to implement a contingency plan to provide students with their financial aid checks and credits.
“Last year at this point we were not able to disburse financial aid because the program was not working,” said Nancy Sinsabaugh, interim director of student finance. “We are definitely in better shape this year than last year.”
Sinsabaugh said her office began disbursing financial aid Aug. 28.
Registration problems have also been curtailed, said Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Bob Kvavik.
“Over the course of the year we have made vast improvement to the system,” he said. “We are still missing some functionality, but the response time (of the program) is down to three to six seconds.”
Until January of this year, when the University formed the Enterprise Project staff to help fix the system, the response time of the system was at 20 to 25 seconds.
Improvements to the system have been largely attributed to a February upgrade of the system to Version 7.6.
The upgrade of the system came at the heels of a Jan. 18 meeting when representatives of seven Big Ten schools using PeopleSoft software met with PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway to complain about the performance of the system.
Since the meeting, Enterprise staff have worked closely with PeopleSoft and other Big Ten schools to fine-tune the system’s remaining problems.
The current success of PeopleSoft can be seen by the number of complaints received since action was taken to fix the system, Van Voorhis said.
“Between May (1999) and January (2000) we received 1,200 complaints,” she said. “Since then, we haven’t received any.”
But University students and staff shouldn’t get too comfortable, Kvavik said.
“This system has fooled us on a number of occasions,” he said. “We know we’re not out of the woods yet.
A new Web site providing information on the number of students using the system and the response time of each individual visit is now available at http://www.onestop.umn.edu/stats.

Mark Baumgarten welcomes comments at [email protected]