The University of Texas-Pan American has recently announced the implementation of a multi-year plan to replace and enhance the current administrative and new student and visitors services computer systems with Oracle based software and capabilities.
Oracle is one of the largest computer software companies in the world. Oracle technology and software allows the streamlining of a wide variety of business processes and was found by a UTPA software evaluation team to best fit University needs for the cost. The five-year project cost is estimated to be more than $10 million. Implementation will not be fully complete in all areas until 2007.
"The University's current administrative software is 15 years old and no longer provides all the functionality UT Pan American needs, especially considering the rate of growth we expect to experience. But if that weren't enough, the provider of the current software will stop technical support on their product before much longer. Clearly the time to explore options had come," said Wilson Ballard, assistant to the vice president for Business Affairs, James Langabeer.
Langabeer and William Morris, executive director of Information Technology, were appointed Executive Sponsors of the project and will lend overall guidance.
"A project manager is like a ringmaster in a circus in that my job is to lead, manage, coordinate and coach the key activities of the project teams for the Oracle project. Like a ringmaster in a circus, I can perform some of the acts, and many of the acts I can't perform and must rely on others with much better talent and expertise than I have," Ramzy said.
Ramzy said the implementation of Oracle will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes by eliminating large amounts of paper work as well as providing a better way to track the status of items such as purchase requisitions, travel requests and student registrations.
"We'll be able to continue to serve a growing student population without having to add as many employees to handle it. We anticipate the savings to the University will be substantial," Ramzy said.
In addition to Ramzy, Langabeer and Morris, the project's proposed Executive Steering Committee is composed of Esequiel Granado, associate vice president/comptroller; Frances A. Rios, director of Materials Management; Frank Wagner, director of Human Resources; David Zuniga, director of Admissions and Records; Debbie Gilchrist, interim director of New Student and Visitor Services; Michelle Alvarado, director of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships; Jesus Rios, Physical Plant; Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, associate vice president for Research; Dr. George Avellano, associate vice president for Graduate Studies; Lydia Aleman, director of Endowment and Development Support; Brett Mann, executive director of CoSERVE; Leota Hull, director of Computer Center; Paula Berkley, director of Records Management; and Beverly Jones, IS auditor.
Frances Rios, director of Materials Management and a member of the procurement project implementation team, says she has high hopes for the new system.
"I come to this from the procurement side. We hope it (Oracle) will provide for better reporting because it is difficult now to retrieve specific data," Rios said.
Financial systems will be the first area targeted for the implementation process, but the project is going to affect everybody - every employee and retiree of UTPA - because it will involve not only purchasing and accounting departments but student records and registration, employment and benefits records and new student recruiting and services as well.
"One of the key messages we want to communicate is that we are all in this boat together," Ramzy said.
Both Ramzy and Ballard stressed the importance of clear and open communication during the process. "If the first person to see an obstacle in our path brings it up we can certainly overcome it. On the other hand, if people hang back with any questions or reservations they may have, these issues may overcome us instead. So fostering an environment of open communication is critical to our success," Ballard said.
While several other UT system components employ Oracle's underlying technology or "plumbing" which includes its database, portal and collaboration suite, UTPA will be the first UT system institution that will employ its application software for accounting, purchasing, and grants management. According to Ballard, a decision has yet to be made regarding the choice of student administration application software.
"UTPA is going to be incorporating the leading ways of doing business - basically the world is coming to Edinburg because we will be leveraging the leading practices of Oracle customers worldwide," Ramzy said.
Ramzy, who will be located in Room 107 in the Old Computer Center, said he is actively seeking a "great, PG-rated" name and logo for the Oracle project. Suggestions can be submitted to his office or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org