Washington State University

Office of the President

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Washington State University

Office of the President

Perspectives

Removing Technology Barriers to Efficiency, Effectiveness

October 17, 2014

Nearly 18 months ago, we formed a new Enterprise Systems team with a clear charge: navigate our path toward the smooth and effective operation of the student information system, working collaboratively and across all functions to identify the needs of our end users; develop solutions; and smooth the post implementation path. Over that time, the student system has improved in many ways, thanks to the group of professionals led by Matt Skinner, chief enterprise systems officer.

As a result of those improvements, WSU experienced one of the best semester starts in history. By the first day of class, WSU delivered financial aid to a record number of students. Outstanding tuition and fees in the first week of class were at the lowest level since 2002. The system effectively served a 205 percent spike in concurrent users on the first day of class without slowing down, something that hasn’t happened for the fall semester start in more than a decade. These and many more improvements are attributable to the hard work of many offices on campus, collaborating with enterprise systems to improve the student experience. With continued planning and effort, the student information system is poised to continue reaching new and previously unimaginable ways of serving students, faculty and staff.

Even as the student information system advances, we become increasingly aware of the frailty and risk associated with our legacy administrative systems, including the human resources, payroll, and finance systems. While these systems were considered modern mainframe applications when developed over 30 years ago, WSU has experienced significant growth with no corresponding system upgrade or investment. The need to improve in this regard is increasingly tangible. Members of the university community actively seek to make our administrative activities and systems more efficient and effective and to remove administrative barriers that block innovation and transformation.

Our administrative systems and processes must be updated in order to support WSU’s global instruction, research and service mission, both now and in the future. The status quo is not a viable path forward.

With this in mind, we are beginning preliminary activities to assess the current landscape and explore the feasibility of a human resources, payroll, and finance system replacement. These activities will begin in quiet, simple ways over the next few months. The activities will include an assessment of enterprise resource planning systems used at other universities, and a high level review of our HR/Payroll processes and data flows. Even as these preliminary activities begin, so will our open communication and involvement of the university community. We recognize that a future system replacement is not merely a technical project, but rather a university-wide initiative. Working together, we will find a path forward to administrative systems that will support WSU for years to come.