June 23, 2003

Emory upgrades PeopleSoft systems

Francene Mangham is director of administrative information systems for the Information Technology Division.

Key administrative processes at Emory are supported by two PeopleSoft software application suites: PeopleSoft Human Resources Management System (HRMS) consisting of human resources, benefits and payroll for the University and most Emory Healthcare entities; and PeopleSoft Student Administration (SA) consisting of admissions, financial aid, student records and student financials. (OPUS, Emory’s student module, provides students with the ability to register and enroll for classes online; access and view grades, financial aid and bills online; and view and change demographic data.)

Both of these software systems are being upgraded to the latest vendor release, PeopleSoft 8. The new HRMS system went live on June 16; the new SA system will go live on June 24. Many staff in the Information Technology Division (ITD), as well as in departments across campus, have worked on these major upgrades over the past year while continuing to support the current environment.

“This effort was truly cross-functional involving human resources, finance, payroll, ITD and netcom professionals,” said Byron Nash, PeopleSoft HRMS manager for ITD. “It’s a significant achievement made possible through their dedication to providing well-managed benefit plans and accurate payrolls for Emory University and Healthcare staff. Without everyone’s involvement, it would have been impossible to complete.”

Why upgrade? Maintaining vendor support for the software is the primary reason (another was to streamline processes and further reduce batch and paper processes). PeopleSoft support for current releases expires in July and August, and Emory is dependent upon the vendor for regulatory changes such as federal tax updates and financial aid regulatory releases to maintain compliance with governing authorities.

Federal tax updates are critical for payroll processing; financial aid regulatory releases are essential for awarding and disbursing Title IV money. In addition, vendor support includes ongoing telephone support, application updates, fixes and upgrades, as well as continual gains in functionality and technology.

PeopleSoft 8 is a major architectural change: The system is completely web-based, no longer requiring software to be installed on each user’s desktop computer. Nearly all of its functionality is available through a browser, meaning access is available not only from campus but from around the world.

The new architecture will help position Emory for increased capabilities in employee self-service functions for benefits, demographic information and payroll records management. To support PeopleSoft 8, a new multitiered infrastructure has been implemented, featuring robust hardware, increased redundancy and replication, and enhanced security.

“General users of PeopleSoft 8 won’t have to install client software on their desktop computers anymore,” said Mahbuba Ferdousi, lead database administrator for ITD. “All servers and machines will be behind a firewall, making data more secure, and the new gig network switches and lines will get data to users faster than ever.”

During the initial implementations from 1999 to 2001, both the HRMS and SA systems required extensive modifications and customization to meet Emory requirements (more so for SA since Emory was a charter institution implementing the immature and underdeveloped system). With the recent upgrades, the implementation team took the opportunity to reduce the number of Emory customizations and use standard PeopleSoft code whenever possible. This should help lower the total cost of ownership for future upgrades.

Future PeopleSoft projects should enable the University to use the new web-based architecture to provide increased administrative functionality for faculty, staff and students. Overall, the goal is to use these administrative systems to improve Emory’s overall operational efficiency.