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Conversations: a series of q&a interviews with leading educators about their enterprise-wide it initiatives.

Stephen D. Golding Executive Director, HopkinsOne Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins Researches the idea ERP System


Johns Hopkins is a particularly complex organization, isn't it? How do you coordinate a technological upgrade across such disparate entities? True, we're really a collection of independent, but collaborative and interconnected enterprises. There's Johns Hopkins University and there's the Health System and the School of Medicine falls somewhere in between, serving as something of a bridge. Each organization has been looking at modernizing so we decided to coordinate efforts for a variety of reasons.

I'd like to ask about how that works. First, though, has there historically been a sharing of technology? Not really. Each organization developed its own IT structure. As a result, we have very old and aging and non-communicating systems, some over 20 years

old. We organized an effort we call HopkinsOne [] which is an initiative to integrate and modernize Johns Hopkins' administrative business software and processes.

Are there unique challenges to upgrading the ERP architecture at such a world-class institution as Johns Hopkins, particularly given the autonomous management structures across scores of departments and schools? There certainly are issues that are unique to our "industry", as well as to Johns Hopkins specifically, that have to be addressed. As we integrate purchasing, accounts payable, payroll, general ledger, materials management, human resources and sponsored projects across the enterprise, we deal with organizational policies, cultures, leadership styles and management philosophies that have been very different for over a century. In addition, at a university and medical institution there are complex compliance issues that are unique.

Can you pinpoint which areas needed the most attention? Basically all areas. We consider ourselves to be top-of-class for education, patient care and research but we've got a long way to go with our administrative and business processes.

What were your criteria in choosing SAP? We broke our needs down into three main parts: service, compliance and productivity. In order to sustain our primary mission, we needed to provide better service to staff, fatally and students. As regards compliance, both in the highly regulated fields of higher education and health care, we needed technology that would conform to those requirements. In terms of productivity, we needed a modern system which will theoretically free up resources so we can provide better service and compliance.

What about R.O.I.? It was not the driving force, but there will be creative opportunities in the future to save money in hard and soft savings, including invaluable time and energy for our administrators and faculty. We've found that hardware and software costs are fairly small, by the way. The biggest expense is acquiring the expertise and the planning for the installation.

Let's talk about that. By the time you made your selection of SAP, 300 users had been involved in the process. Has that pool significantly grown? We've included more than 1,200 managers and supervisors in the process because we know that people are thirsty for specifics on how this system is going to work and affect their everyday jobs.

How many of Johns Hopkins' 44,000 staff and students will be affected by the ERP installation? All will benefit, but perhaps 7,000 will work with the ERP system as part of their day-to-day jobs.

You go live next July. How will you be rolling it out? Department by department? No. We looked at a lot of different ways to skin the cat, so to speak, and we decided we don't want to do the finance modules one year, HR the next. We're going with what we call a 'mini-big bang' approach. We're going to go live across all institutions at the same time with core functionality. We were concerned that phasing different functions in over several years would result in a much costlier solution and there would be a temptation to abandon the original plan and leave the solution half-done at some point. In the next phases, we'll add extended functionality and upgrades. In Phase 2, for example, there will be a lot more employee and manager self-service options. But to launch we wanted all the modules online for the entire organization.

Stephen D. Golding is Executive Director, Finance, for the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also serves as Executive Director for the HopkinsOne ERP project. In his HopkinsOne role, Mr. Golding is responsible for the planning, design, development and implementation of the enterprise-wide business system solution covering all of the Johns Hopkins entities.

Kathrya F. Gates Assistant Vice Chancellor for IT University of Mississippi

Campus Management System at U. of Mississippi


When did Ole Miss install the CM module? We went live with SAP's Campus Management [module] in spring, 2003. It replaced a legacy system we had been running for about 20 years. We were among SAP's four pilot sites.

Serving as a pilot site is always a risky strategy, isn't it? Well, we knew SAP and knew they were committed to the higher education field so it wasn't risky so much as it was pioneering. But we needed a new system, in any case. Our earlier [SIS] system ran on a mainframe and had a Web interface that allowed students to register but it was severely limited in functionality and performance.

What's the reaction from students? Almost universally positive. We used to shut down things at nine o'clock at night when we were [using] our mainframe system, but now, of course, the system is 24/7 since students can and do work around the clock. The Ole Miss [student government] president recently published an article about Campus Management that noted, CM "meant students could manage academic records and many other areas of campus life online. Using the single login of a webID and password, students can check their grades, course schedule, WebMail, bursar statement, and other services offered in CM."

Does faculty make use of the SIS system? Yes, they use it to upload grades, get their class rolls and spreadsheets, communicate with advisees and so on. Since it's Web-based they can use it for a range of purposes.

From your perspective what are some of key positive changes that accompanied the introduction of CM? To name just one, we've moved from a totally paper-based admissions process to an electronics-based admission process. If you have a clerk manually touching every piece of paper that has to go through every step of a process, there will be inconsistencies. The Campus Management technology allows us to be creative with a system-driven work-flow process that better serves our students. Each application goes through a process that is less vulnerable to idiosyncratic decision making.

Does the process sacrifice the human element? Not at all. People are still making the [admission] decisions but the process makes sure that each application is seen by the right person in the right sequence. It levels the playing field for applicants.

Is the financial aid module a key component of your SIS? Yes, we use the [SAP-integrated] Sigma System ProSAM product. For example, today we just disbursed $16 million via the system.

Are there other uses, perhaps unanticipated, that you're using the Campus Management for? We're always coming up with new ideas. For example, plagiarism is, as everyone knows, a huge problem on college campuses because students have access to so many online resources. One of our associate provosts asked me if our [Campus Management] system could help get a handle on the problem with regards to keeping track of cases. So we've developed a system using SAP's workflow [feature] that tracks cases of academic dishonesty. From the instructor who reports the case [online] to the student who can, if he or she chooses, appeal it online. The case goes through an entire student-judicial process using SAP's workflow. Before it was a completely manual process. Offices had to work hard to find out a case's status, keep track of what correspondence had gone out and so on. It was a tangled affair before we got the current technology and it didn't serve the student or the university well. We have a technology structure in place that allows us to be creative.

Kathryn F. Gates is the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Information Technology at the University of Mississippi and served as the project manager for UM's SAP implementation. She is involved in many initiatives related to technology and higher education--a current area of focus is providing Web-based services to students and faculty by means of applications that interface with SAP.

Bill Reed Director of Special Projects Northern Kentucky University


By way of background, Northern Kentucky University [] is a major metropolitan university, just across the river from Cincinnati, and a good example of a mid-sized college with about 14,000 students, most of whom are commuters. Thal's right. Only about 10 percent of the students live on campus; the vast majority drive in from Kentucky, Ohio and southeastern Indiana.

NKU is undergoing an extensive hardware and software installation using ERP software from SAP in can you describe the project? It's called the PRISM [Process Re-engineering and Information Systems Migration] Project. We look at the entire project from top to bottom as reengineering our business processes, not just updating our technology. Student Systems, Financials and Human Resources are the key areas we're focusing on but the impact of the PRISM Project will spill into all areas of the university.

Can you elaborate on your point that technology is not the driving force behind the ERP project [at NKU]? In practical terms, what does your distinction mean? Our technology exists only to support our academic mission and business operations. We're not about adding technology for its own sake. This is definitely not just another transitional technological phase. Business process redesign and adoption of "best practices" are at [the project's] center. Equally important, though, is our commitment to implement efficient, flexible, well-integrated systems that support our core mission of educating students. We need technology that supports and enables progress toward achieving the strategic goals of the university.

So the process of administration was targeted as much as the existing technology as a candidate for change? Yes. Business process re-engineering was the foundation for our "blueprint" phase. We preceded our blueprint activity with a six-week review of current business processes. Then we held more than 200 workshops from mid-April through July involving members of the campus community from every college and division.

What was the purpose of those meetings? Establishing user requirements for the new systems and trading information. The business process reviews really set the stage for discussion of opportunities for improvement [of business processes].

What did you discover? Among other things, that our outdated and mainframe-based [ERP] system has been a problem for administrators trying to gain access to financial and student data--including enrollment trends, recruitment and retention rates--in a timely enough manner to make informed decisions. This is a critical issue. Our budget is very much tuition driven. Though NKU is a state school, our state support provides less revenue than tuition. We have to be on top of the data in order to plan and project. We also found many opportunities to improve the way we do business. Sometimes our current systems were actually a roadblock to improving processes.

There's often in-house resistance to such dramatic changes ... Not in this case. Dissatisfaction with our old system was great enough that we had very broad-based support. Staff and faculty at NKU want to be using more capable systems. We feel very positive about SAP's suite of higher ed ERP products, including the high level of satisfaction from other [SAP] higher education customers, all completely referable, as well as the level of stability over other vendors in this volatile market. And its state-of-the-art functionality. The list goes on. Also, we identified the critical factors that needed to fall into alignment if we hoped to be successful. At the top of the list was the unified support of the executive team, and we have that.

And? From the president on down, they are 100 percent behind us. It would be extremely difficult without their support and understanding of the scale of PRISM. The executive team thought [this project] is so critical that they created a dedicated team specifically to focus on the PRISM initiative. I left my position as NKU's Director of IT in order to lead this project.

What were your specific goals in the blueprint phase? The blueprint phase includes planning for IT's installation of new hardware and software for the SAP systems, planning for technical and system configuration training, and development of detailed plans for the upcoming phases of the project. Blueprinting involves gathering and formally documenting system requirements from business process owners and users of the systems.

What were your biggest concerns and expectations for the PRISM Project? This is a massive project and we know we can't do this sort of thing every five years. We need to do it once and build from there. We wanted a long-term relationship or even a partnership with our key vendor. SAP provided the best underlying technology platform for what we're trying to accomplish, but they also convinced us that they were vested in our success, that they would be partners with us on this journey.

Bill Reed is the Director of Special Projects for Northern Kentucky University. That office was created in 2004, primarily to provide leadership for the University's ERP system selection and implementation project. Prior to his latest assignment Mr. Reed assisted with creation of NKU's Office of Information Technology and served as the new IT department's first Director for four years.

Phyllis flash IRIS Project Director University of Kentucky


Can you give us a snapshot of your ERP installation? It's called project IRIS, which stands for Integrated Resource Information Systems []. The IRIS Project is our two-year effort to replace all of our antiquated, costly and non-integrated administrative computing systems in order to improve business and service processes. We're focused on building modern and sustainable solutions that encourage best business practices.

What's the status of IRIS? We're going live right now, first with the finance, procurement and student accounting modules. In January 2006 we go live with HR, payroll, hospital inventory and the student visitor center. In February we'll start preparing to deliver and manage financial aid via Sigma for school year 2006-2007. In October [2006] we go live with the remainder of Campus Management.

An aggressive schedule. It's even more aggressive than it appears. We're installing ERP software, then scheduling an upgrade six months after we install it. It sounds nuts to upgrade after only a few months online, but some additional functionality that will benefit the university will be delivered with that upgrade. We weighed our options and decided it was more important to get the new systems (finance and student accounting, Materials Management, HR/Poyroll) up and running than it was to wait for the latest version. When you're installing software, time is money. Once those elements are live, the upgrade will allow us to add functionality to them, incrementally.

There wasn't an advantage to waiting? Hot really. We were using twenty-year-old highly customized systems that vendors could not fully support. There just wasn't enough power in the software. If something broke there was a strong possibility that it wouldn't work again.

Strictly from a benefits" perspective, why did you choose SAP's ERP system and can you recall the specific decision-making components? It's hard not to refer to the competition's packages because it was a competitive process, but on the positive side we were looking for a product that delivered specific functionality. But just as important, we wanted to form a relationship, a partnership, with a vendor that was vested in our success. We wanted the product, the company, the support, the team approach.

At what point did you realize you were leaning toward the [SAP] package? Throughout the process, actually, as we talked with references, made site visits, and had campus demonstrations we realized that SAP was a very strong product. HR and financial people said while they definitely preferred the SAP package, they would follow the lead of the academic side and students; they would be the tipping point on the decision. One of the strengths of SAP was that they partnered with Sigma which delivers a fully integrated, time-tested financial aid program. Happily, the academic and student area also preferred SAP Campus Management and favored SAP's integrated system.

What made SAP's Campus Management so attractive? When we go live with SAP Campus Management, the online environment will enable better administration of key processes including admissions, class registration, bill payment, and degree audit and advisement. Students can go on the Web to make payments, get grades, enroll for classes and so on. There will be options available that previously were unimaginable.

How's the installation working out so far?

So far so good. During the campus visits, the [SAP] team impressed us. They were thoughtful--if they didn't know how to do something or if they aren't sure of a solution, they stepped back and considered how to solve the problem. While we know they were trying to sell their product, they conveyed a real interest in making the system work for us. SAP is also our lead consultant, which makes the installation even smoother. They are incredibly responsive. When we pick up the phone or send an email because of a question--and there are always issues with ERP installations--we get a response within five minutes. They're very customer focused.

Phyllis Nash holds joint appointments as professor in the Department of Behavioral Science and Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Kentucky. Currently, she serves as the project director of UK's Integrated Resource Information System (IRIS) Project.
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Publication:University Business
Article Type:Interview
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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