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EFS - University Community, Please Read

EFS - when the system is fixed, the beatings will stop
Senate Committee on Finance and Planning Tuesday, June 2, 2009

[My apologies for the length of this post. But anyone on campus impacted by EFS should really read it. Dr. Bruininks - this includes you.]

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One guest read excerpts from an email message he had received from a user.

I am writing a long email. I have the time because I am unable to perform any of my actual job responsibilities due to the slowness of the system. I have four screens open and I am not able to complete any of the processes. I am probably making the system even slower by trying to do the four things at once. I have spoken with another person this morning who has twelve screens open, trying to get any one of her processes to work. What is our option . . . go away from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and work 2nd or 3rd shifts so we can do our work?

This email is going to sound angry--that seems to be what people hear when we call the helpline. It is not an anger issue. It is about a desire to put in an honest eight hour day accomplishing the work of the University and providing help and financial support to the departments assigned to me. . . .

This is supposed to be a robust, efficient, resource saving solution to our financial needs. Where is any of that after almost a year up and running?

I do not want an answer to this email--I have heard all the excuses. I do not want a "ticket," which will be either ignored, answered incorrectly in two or three weeks, or closed because the "system is working." It would do me a world of good to find out that money has been spent on consultants or employees who actually know why the system is not performing in a way that supports the workforce, and can fix the problems.

We are all conscientious workers who are trying desperately to get all the activities of the current fiscal year closed out so the 2nd year of EFS/PeopleSoft can be opened cleanly. I retire in seven business days, so it is not for myself that I have written this email. It is out of dedication to this university and admiration for the educational and research goals of this University. I sincerely hope that someone will take this situation seriously, invest as necessary to fix it, acknowledge that the purchase and implementation were not properly planned for and it is not the users who are to blame for the system problems. If this could be accomplished before another year passes with the same problems unresolved, that would be a dream come true.

Mr. Erikson reported that he has talked with people about EFS and they have nothing good to say. Processes take up to twice as long to complete, that the system is wasteful, and that some processes are extremely cumbersome and non-intuitive. The system is wasting people's time. Or they have problems with follow-up, Ms. Kersteter said, such as trying to get information on balances; when they cannot, they do not spend money, thus reducing the quality of customer service.

Professor Seashore said one of the least-appealing research findings she has come across in her career is that executives who make a bad decision continue to invest in that decision because they do not want to admit they made a mistake.

Everyone wishes for do-overs, Professor Seashore said; who in the University will look at the system and say "enough, it is not worth the money to make it work inadequately forever"? The University cannot go on and put in another year with a system it cannot fix. This is like corporate executives who make the same mistakes over and over.

One staff member distributed copies of changes that have been made in the financial system since 1989. In these cases, it was said, things were made better as a result of the changes and jobs were made easier. That has not been the case with the conversion to EFS.

Where is PeopleSoft in all this, Mr. Erikson asked? This is supposedly a mature system, not in a beta version; why don't they have a team here on a daily basis helping the University work through the problems it is having with their software? Aren't there performance metrics built into the contract with PeopleSoft? Professor Seashore recalled that Mr. Volna had told the Committee that the University made local adaptations to the system that PeopleSoft had not approved. Couldn't he reverse those decisions, Mr. Erikson asked? That is a good question, Professor Martin said; the University bought a product with warranties. But the warranty is broken if one changes the product, Professor Seashore observed. Mr. Rollefson said Mr. Volna had to make the changes--or try to change the University's culture.

[Change the universities culture? What the hell was the matter with the culture pre-EFS? Are we all a bunch of lazy stupid people and it is our fault because we stubbornly refuse to change our culture. What an arrogant statement to make.]

Professor Seashore said there is a need to set priorities, which should be developed by a broad user group, not a narrowly-drawn committee. When the University installed CUFS, it acknowledged there was a problem and spend the money to fix it, Mr. Rollefson said. The uncomfortable reality now is that the University has spent $50 million on EFS and may need to spend more to get it to work the way the University needs--and that could require a lot more money. This Committee needs to know, Professor Seashore said, not two people sitting in an office discussing the problems.

Professor Martin said it is a reasonable question to ask Mr. Volna. He has teams working on EFS problems; when will the system work? One guest said he suspected it will take until August because of the need to prepare budgets. It was suggested that Mr. Pfutzenreuter has directed that the system must be made to work without major problems by December.

[Again, the arrogance: "Make it so, Spock..."]

For morale purposes, people need to receive information on how long it will take to create accurate information, Professor Seashore said. When the system is fixed, the beatings will stop. The morale problem is directly related to the fact that people cannot get their jobs done.

The EFS situation is another failure of leadership - at the highest level.


The staff in our department office have been heroic in trying to manage this transition, given that we have an enormous number of non-tenure track instructors teaching thousands of students. Much of our business was delayed by 4-5 months, including reimbursements to speaker, because the system was so difficult to implement. The faculty have been cognizant of this, and the staff have been surprising upbeat, but there have been many expressions of sympathy for the difficulties they have encountered in simply trying to do their jobs. It breaks my heart to see this enormous waste of time and effort.

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