Enterprise Resource Planning - Kent State University

On the surface, Project KEYS at Kent State University (OH) was a $23 million, 30-month project to roll out the Banner Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution from SunGard across eight different campuses. Beyond the technology, however, what made Project KEYS (which stands for “Kent State: ERP is Your Solution”) so innovative was the process behind it, and the model university technologists developed for implementation.

According to Roberta Sikula-Schwalm, associate vice president of the school’s Information Services department, the overall goal was to bring the project in on time and on budget, as well as implement enhanced functionality within a highly robust portal.

To meet these needs, Kent State deployed full-time project management and business analysts to navigate the ERP implementation from beginning to end. All told, the university engaged 70 full-time technicians and functional end users and put them together in a boot camp environment to get the job done. That team—comprised of 55 Kent State staffers and 15 SunGard employees, headed by Ed Mahon, the school’s VP and CIO—got together in an old bus garage several miles off campus. Sequestered away from the rigors of everyday work, participants strategized a step-by-step plan of attack, engineered improvements for the technology, and worked together to keep the project on track.

To get the job done, Project KEYS team members worked together boot-camp-style in an old bus garage off campus.

Through the process, participants developed a sense of camaraderie, growing to understand each other better and gain a broader sense of different roles within the organization. “This relationship enabled us to get through tough decisions and tough moments in an efficient, professional manner that never caused project slowdown or stoppage,” says Sikula-Schwalm. “Technical personnel became more knowledgeable about functional business processes, and functional personnel gained more knowledge about technical jargon and how the system worked.”

Also key to the project’s success: The time frame for each module implementation ranged from 12-18 months, calling for a relatively short-term expenditure of time and energy by project staff. The time frame allowed team members to fully focus and manage project stress, says Sikula-Schwalm. “When projects go on for years, staff burnout is often extensive and product output not always at the level desired.” Instead, as she describes, “The mood within Project KEYS was relaxed and often playful.”

Over the course of the project, subgroups of technicians focused on augmenting the university’s portal to authenticate a variety of best-of-breed third-party software solutions such as Kronos (for time keeping and attendance reporting), SciQuest (for eProcurement), Cognos (for business intelligence reporting), and PeopleAdmin (for human resources management), to name a few.

The Project KEYS team also worked to guarantee that the finished product went live with integrated workflows, imaging technology, and sophisticated reporting capabilities, making the new ERP system bigger, better, and more efficient than its predecessor.

The project concluded in June 2008, when Kent State’s Unified Digital Campus launched fully operational across the Human Resources, Finance, Student, and Financial Aid modules.

So far, the results of this improvement have been exemplary. Sikula-Schwalm notes that being able to go live with significant functionality across all Banner modules—including workflows, imaging, reporting, and significant self-service applications—improved efficiency and reduced pushback from faculty, staff, and the administration.

She adds that on a practical level, the new system has expanded the school’s ability to manage data across the board; the reporting environment in particular has greatly expanded Kent State’s ability to determine ROIs, and the workflow and imaging tools have enabled IT personnel to monitor the benefits of becoming paperless.

Over the last year, the school has updated system functionality monthly, and Sikula-Schwalm says more improvements are on the way. “We are continuing to expand the portal environment by enhancing existing applications and developing new self-service opportunities,” she notes. Among those areas targeted for improvement: identity management, enrollment management, and fiscal advisement.

About the Authors

Mary Grush is Editor and Conference Program Director, Campus Technology.

Matt Villano is senior contributing editor of this publication.