06 Jul UW System says goodbye to Lawson after 5 years, $26 million
Madison, Wis. – The decision by University of Wisconsin System to discontinue implementation of a system-wide payroll and benefit system with Lawson Software, and go with Oracle/PeopleSoft payroll and benefit software, came as no surprise.
What surprised many was that it took so long – after five years and investments totaling $26 million – for the UW to cut bait.
Supplying the answer was Ed Meachen, the UW’s assistant vice president of the Office of Learning and Information Technology. Meachen, who serves as organization’s CIO, said the timing has to do with the state Department of Administration’s relatively recent decision to implement its Integrated Business Information System (IBIS) initiative with Oracle/PeopleSoft solutions.
Meachen said taxpayers would save money going forward as a result of the UW’s decision to leverage the purchasing power of the DOA.
“This is the first time we’ve ever failed in the implementation of a major IT system,” he said. “Obviously, we spent a lot of money on a system we could not implement in a timely fashion, but we did not want to make it worse by making a precipitous decision.”
There was never a time when the UW did not think it could make the Lawson software work, Meachen added, but in the long run he said the state is better off building “fairly hefty” interfaces between PeopleSoft and PeopleSoft rather than Lawson and PeopleSoft.
A majority of UW campuses, including UW-Madison, already use PeopleSoft for their financial and student information IT systems, and the Madison campus also is implementing grants and expense-management systems developed by PeopleSoft.
In a letter to UW System chancellors, Don Mash, executive senior vice president of the UW System, said adding the PeopleSoft APBS (Appointment, Payroll, and Benefit System) software will enable the UW to move all of its 13 four-year and 13 two-year campuses from the existing legacy system to “key common systems.”
Mash said the decision leverages purchasing power for the software needed to accommodate a parallel but separate implementation of e-procurement with the DOA, and eventually a similar implementation of an APBS system. It also provides leverage, he asserted, for the purchase of the additional licenses needed for remaining campuses to implement Oracle/PeopleSoft financial and student information systems.
An executive summary provided by the UW estimates $2.5 million in cost reductions associated with purchasing software for remaining UW campuses through the DOA’s contract with Oracle/PeopleSoft. That contract, for the IBIS initiative, is designed to produce a standard infrastructure to replace an assortment of outdated business processes throughout state government, including 38 different human resource and payroll systems and more than 60 financial management systems.
Meachen acknowledged that the UW System has been well aware of the PeopleSoft alternative, which he characterized as an “extremely viable” option. Nevertheless, as recently as last fall, it was directed by a UW-Madison report to proceed with the implementation of Lawson’s Web-based software, even after it was put on hold because of project management issues.
But the timing of the DOA opportunity, and the well-publicized problems with the Lawson implementation, drove the decision to go with Oracle/PeopleSoft.
Meachen also cited the UW’s history with PeopleSoft. “Its products are in place at several of our institutions,” he said. “Each vendor has a set of tools requiring a great deal of training, and we have hundreds of people in the UW System that are experts in PeopleSoft tools.”
Until the PeopleSoft payroll and benefit system is implemented, which may not happen until 2008, Meachen said UW employees would continue to use the legacy system. That system was developed after the merger of state campuses into the UW System more than 30 years ago, and there is disagreement as to how close it is to being obsolete.
Meachen said it would take the entire 2006-07 academic year to get the remaining UW campuses on PeopleSoft financial. That would be followed by the e-procurement implementation with DOA, and then a similar implementation with DOA for the payroll and benefits system.
“We need to stay in sync with the state,” he said.
Ahead of the posse
The project’s well-publicized implementation problems surfaced last year, when roughly $6 million in cost overruns were uncovered. The original project management team has disbanded, and key decision makers are retired, including former associate vice president of human resources George Brooks.
In a 2005 WTN News article, Meachen maintained that his office was not allowed to get involved in the Lawson project. Brooks had hired his own HR-level staff to work on it, and Meachen characterized the exclusion of the UW Systems’ IT office as “unusual.”
He said the most important strategic improvement resulting from the Lawson experience has been to align senior administrators of the UW System with campus administrators and project management teams in the development, communication, and execution of large-scale projects.
“The governance and management structure,” Meachen said, “has been retooled and rethought.”
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