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Rochester Institute of Technology: Gaining Efficiency and Rapid Access to

When the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began shopping for a Y2K-compliant administrative IT system in the late 1990s, its vision was to usher in an era of enhanced operational efficiency along with the new millennium. Today, that IT vision is a reality. Our Web-based administrative systems are reducing costs, expanding access, streamlining workflow and improving efficiencies across our campus.

RIT began looking for new human resources (HR), financial, and purchasing applications, in part, because our 25-year-old legacy applications were not Y2K compliant. We did not see value in updating code that would not give us the functionality we required, so we began to search for a new solution. In addition to Y2K compliance, we had two primary objectives in seeking new administrative solutions: streamline workflows; expand and accelerate our financial and HR reporting capabilities.

RIT selected Oracle’s applications, and in 2001, upgraded to the Web-based Oracle E-Business Suite 11i to take advantage of new features and functionality, such as automated workflows and self-service, which allow our employees to manage their personal data online. We were able to implement the applications with minimal customization, saving time and money.

Employee Benefits
Self-service HR was particularly appealing to our organization for the obvious reasons: reducing the administrative burden and improving employee access to personal information and benefits. Oracle Self-Service Human Resources enables all 2,600 RIT employees to access and manage their personal information online. For example, an employee can go online and look at a pay slip rather than visiting or calling the payroll department. We are also eliminating the distribution of pay stubs for direct deposits, which will result in an estimated savings of $30,000 annually in mailing and postage costs, alone.

In addition, HR and managerial staff members now have faster, easier access to historical information. Under our previous system, much of our HR data was paper-based, a format that required time-consuming manual research to access historical documents. Today, staff members simply go online to securely reference historical information, such as W-2s from previous years.

Streamlining Access
Our self-service HR applications also deliver much greater control over our benefits program than our old system, which was cumbersome and prone to errors. For example, standard functionality handles rate changes en masse, and eliminates date and setup issues for bi-monthly and monthly payrolls. Online capabilities also reduce the time and effort needed to investigate, research, and resolve problems.

Our new system also has expanded employee access to benefit information, with self-service displays showing current benefit plan enrollment. In many ways the system affords greater privacy, as employees can check sensitive information from the privacy of their own computer as opposed to having a personal conversation with an HR representative. Access is critical to a successful self-service HR implementation. RIT, therefore, makes computer terminals available at kiosks for employees who do not work in offices so that they can also readily access the system.

Faster Financial Reporting
The overhaul of RIT’s financial systems has enabled quicker access to financial information and has expanded our ability to share data with staff members. In addition, we have dramatically accelerated our financial reporting capabilities. With our legacy system, it took us approximately three weeks each month to close the books and distribute paper reports to departments. By the time the reports reached the departments, they were of limited value. Now departments can access reports via the Web in approximately one week. Our security features ensure that users can access only the reports they are authorized to see.

Increasing Efficiency
RIT also has streamlined its purchasing workflow. The approval process is now automated using Oracle Purchasing, which produces system-generated alerts that remind staff members about pending approvals. RIT also works more efficiently with vendors because our Oracle purchasing and financial applications are tightly integrated. Key vendors are paid more quickly. At the same time, we can consolidate purchasing because it is queued up automatically through our system, allowing us to take advantage of volume discounts.

New Roles
Our new administrative applications have significantly changed the roles of many of the administrative staff. Before implementing Oracle E-Business Suite applications, financial and HR staff members were focused on "processing" duties. Now they can direct more attention to analysis, improving business processes and strategic planning. At RIT, our administrative systems are fulfilling the true promise of technology—improving efficiency while expanding personal and organizational horizons.

James Fisher ([email protected]) is assistant vice president for Finance and Administration at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

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