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Senate Committee on Finance and Planning

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The University is not being paid money owed to it, reports are not generated, and so on; unless there is a clear message that these problems will be resolved in the next two-three months, the situation will reflect badly on the entire central administration. Another major concern is from the human-resources perspective: people are not being treated well in their jobs, have been put in diminished or downgraded roles, and morale has sunk.

Professor Konstan said he understood the importance of understanding the process, but this reminds him of hearing the captain of the Titanic talk about how crews are looking for holes and patching them up--the boat is sinking! What is his assessment, he asked Mr. Volna. Did they know they would be in this predicament at this point? Or were the problems unanticipated? He is in a department that has lost one staff member because of EFS and he knows of other departments where staff have resigned. He said he does not care how good the punch-card list is, this system is a disaster.

Professor Luepker, noting that he might be piling on, commented that if Northwest Airlines or 3M changed software and were still installing fixes three months later, they would be out of business. The University is a $3-billion operation and people are quitting because of EFS. He said he could not understand how private companies could make a transition to a new system but the University cannot.

Professor Martin raised Professor Konstan's question again: which door is it? Mr. Pfutzenreuter said it was not a door. Professor Konstan again asked if they knew, three month ago, that this is the situation they would be in. They did not, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said.

Mr. Pfutzenreuter said the University put in the "plain vanilla" system that represents best practices. It did change duties and workflow and the way the University does business—with an eye to making the place more efficient.

When they are losing people around the University before they get to that step three, that is a big cost, Professor Martin said. They don't have the resources to jump to that step right now, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Or is the plan to have new employees, more familiar with how things are done in PeopleSoft, so the University is more like business, Professor Konstan asked. That is not the plan, Mr. Pfutzenreuter responded.

Ms. Kersteter said Mr. Volna has provided a lot of good information on what they are doing to fix problems; how are they communicating with users? There seems to be a void, which in turn leads to rumors that are uncomplimentary to the administration.

Professor Martin emphasized Ms. Kersteter's point about the vacuum of information: people need to know what is being done—and deans and department heads do not know. The deans will not be happy paying the EFS tax for something that does not work.

Professor Konstan said he is hoping the University can look back at this situation and learn. He also said that a lot of people have not heard an apology, acknowledging the system was launched with severe bugs, that they blew it on the testing (and obviously did not know these problems would arise), that they know they made people's lives miserable, and that they are working hard because they care about the staff.

Mr. Moseley said that from what he can understand, this is not an uncommon problem when institutions of this size install new systems. He said he has seen a lot of case studies in his classes similar to what is happening here. The University is only three months into the system; what he has learned is that it typically takes 18-20 months before the bugs and kinks are worked out. Any communication should let people know the situation will be difficult for the foreseeable future and that things will not be fixed by October 15. It simply takes that long.

In The World..

Where does the buck stop? Bob? Tom?

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