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October 1, 1998

New information systems approved for IA, Human Resources offices

Pitt will spend about $9.5 million for two new computerized information systems to support its fundraising and Human Resources/payroll activities.

The latter system will greatly reduce paperwork connected with payroll and employee benefits, while the new Institutional Advancement (IA) system will support Pitt's capital campaign and ongoing fundraising, Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance Arthur G. Ramicone said.

At a six-minute public meeting yesterday, the Board of Trustees budget committee unanimously approved funding for the new projects as an add-on to Pitt's $55.3 million capital budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Both the IA and Human Resources systems will replace antiquated, 20-year-old technology, Ramicone told trustees.

The new Human Resources/payroll information system "will touch the lives of virtually all staff and faculty members at this University," Ramicone said.

"We're awash in paper at this institution," he said, "with 8,800 employees, and everything has to be keyed and re-keyed more than once; 460 departments are keeping shadow systems so they can maintain some payroll and HR [Human Resources] data. This new system will eliminate virtually all paper flow in these systems. It will also be used as a database for analyzing compensation and benefits, something we have previously not been able to do." After a project start-up team finishes evaluating the favored Oracle HR/payroll products to make sure they are compatible with Pitt's existing financial information systems, the new system is expected to take about 30 months to implement.

Institutional Advancement now maintains a dozen separate databases that can't keep pace with the University's growing fundraising operation, Ramicone said. For example, the current technology can't record foreign ZIP codes, resulting in incomplete addresses for the increasing number of international alumni.

According to background materials distributed to trustees, the new IA system will be up and running for the last four years of the capital campaign. The campaign is still in its so-called "quiet phase" of securing gifts and pledges in advance of a public announcement of the campaign's goal, timetable and other specifics. That announcement is tentatively scheduled to be made during Homecoming 1999, the University Senate budget policies committee recently was told.

The software Pitt will buy for its new IA system already is in use at 27 other Association of American Universities (AAU) institutions, Ramicone noted.

Pitt's administration decided to move forward on the new IA and HR/payroll systems after failing to find acceptable commercial software for its No. 1 information system priority — a new student information system to replace the decade-old ISIS system.

"We looked at a number of [student information system] products but it was all 'vaporware,' all promised software without a proven track record," Ramicone said.

The student information system governs how Pitt distributes grades and financial aid, as well as the ways students pay tuition and register for classes.

"Our students do too much standing in line, the way the system works now," Ramicone said. "We want them to be able to register on-line and by telephone. We want them to be able to get their grades on-line and call up their class schedules on-line." The University recently finished wiring its dorms so students will be able to plug into the Pitt student information system via computer. "The problem is, the software just isn't available yet," Ramicone said. "We didn't want to take a chance based on promises." — Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 3

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