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2 North Carolina Universities Partner on ERP Projects

CIOs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University are teaming up to implement new versions of the human resources and finance components of their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This is the second time that Larry Conrad from NC at Chapel Hill and Marc Hoit from NC State have collaborated; the first was during previous stints at separate Florida universities.

Both hold the same title: vice chancellor for IT and CIO. They discussed possible joint PeopleSoft work last year as the economic downturn hit. Budget cuts made the opportunity for collaboration and saving money even more compelling, they said in a joint statement.

Both campuses use Oracle's PeopleSoft software for their ERP systems--major administrative systems for student services, human resources, payroll, and financial operations. However, the partnership will focus on the HR and financial systems. NC State has used PeopleSoft for these functions for a decade and is upgrading to the latest version. UNC-Chapel Hill plans to implement those PeopleSoft applications.

Because of that coordinated timing, the IT offices on both campuses said they hope to share hardware, software, resources, business operations, and vendor contracts to improve their effectiveness and reduce costs for both universities. The campuses, which are investing equal amounts of equipment and staffing, are expected to be up and running with their new applications in 2013.

Conrad estimated that working with his cohort at NC State will halve the number of full-time equivalents required for the initiative across the two campuses, from 60 to 30. "By working together, we can leverage the knowledge and skills of employees on both campuses in a way that's more efficient and significantly reduces the personnel expenses required to get the job done," he said.

The joint effort is part of a larger effort at NC at Chapel Hill, named ConnectCarolina, which has already deployed a new admissions site and updated the user interface for its campus directory. Currently, the project team is finishing configuration and conducting scenario and integration testing for a new financial aid system and converting data form legacy systems for its student information project.

Hoit cited business continuity as an added benefit of the collaboration. "Since we will share development, common systems and distribution across both campuses we can have a significant improvement in our disaster recovery ability at little additional cost," he said.

Four joint task committees are exploring the collaboration possibilities for the technical infrastructure, the chart of accounts, and the overall HR and financial systems. One example of the collaboration being considered for early implementation is PeopleSoft's eProcurement module, which includes a commodity tracking system that may help support efforts to negotiate better prices. UNC-Chapel Hill administrators said they hope to begin this work next month. NC State already uses eProcurement, and representatives said that experience will help the UNC team fast track the project.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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