Oracle implementation plan on target; CRM goes live June 2004
Posted: 04/06/2004
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A portion of The University of Texas-Pan American's new Oracle based computer systems and processes will soon "go live" as the University enters the next phase of the $10 million, multi-year implementation plan to replace and enhance the University's current administrative and new student and visitor services computer systems.

According to Dave Ramzy, Oracle project manager, the project's implementation plan, which started last fall, is on schedule.

Dan Weste, an Oracle consultant, leads a Conference Room Pilot on the UTPA campus for Oracle implementation team members from various departments involved in the project.
"We have signed the contracts with Oracle Consulting and are moving into the Conference Room Pilots (CRP) phase of implementation which is a structured process to design and configure the new systems. This is where we will apply all the planning and training we have done these past few months," he said.

There will be three CRP's each assigned 20 persons representing 11 implementation teams formed late last year. The CRP's will address Customer Relations Management (CRM) which serves student recruitment and new student and visitors service; human resources/payroll; and financials, purchasing and grants/contracts.

Two systems will "go live" or be put into production this year - CRM in June and Portal / Collaboration suite (web-based information access) on Sept. 1. The systems for financials, purchasing, human resources/payroll and grants/contracts are scheduled to "go live" Jan.1, 2005, while student systems will be designed and configured throughout 2005. Full implementation will be completed in 2007.

Ramzy said everyone involved in the project has been meeting weekly since last December to plan and train for the CRP stage of the project.

"All the teams have developed their own personality which is a reflection of their leadership and their members. It has been personally fascinating to me to see them form, evolve and mature as teams," Ramzy said.

Maria Carmen Salinas, IT training coordinator, and Alicia Morley, training coordinator in the Office of Human Resources, serve as training coordinators for the Oracle implementation project now underway at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Two people were chosen to be training coordinators for the entire implementation project. They are Alicia Morley, training coordinator in the Office of Human Resources, and Maria Carmen Salinas, information technology (IT) training coordinator. Ramzy nicknamed the pair the "Dynamic Duo" for the fabulous job he said they've done in coordinating the training in all aspects of Oracle.

As training coordinators, Morley and Salinas are responsible for organizing and arranging all the resources for training including locating equipment and training sites on campus, identifying appropriate attendees for training sessions and serving as the primary points of contact between the training arm of Oracle - Oracle University - and UTPA.

"The project has been challenging because normally an implementation preparation takes two to three years and we have set a one year deadline," Morley said. But in just a few months, Salinas and Morley have arranged 10 to 15 functional and technical training sessions. Functional training applies to people who will use Oracle while working at their desk. Technical training is for the University's data base administrators and system developers. Individuals in these training sessions will eventually go back to their departments and train others Salinas explained.

Both Salinas and Morley said were both proud of the dedication displayed by the project teams.

"The people working on the project are very dedicated to their work. Regardless of how well they think they have digested the training and information they will stay late to learn it. All of them still must meet their own department deadlines as well as Oracle deadlines," Morley said.

Ramzy said he has tried to incorporate fun as well as support for team members. He even established a weekly kudo called "The Above and Beyond."

"This recognition is for proactive results related to the project. Anybody on a project team can nominate a person. We have awarded approximately 20 recognitions so far," he said.

Recognition recipients are listed on weekly status reports that can be found on the project's Web site The site can be accessed by any faculty or staff member.

A contest for a project name and logo was also initiated by Ramzy. There have been 30-35 entries so far and the winner will be announced in April.

The biggest challenge, Ramzy said, has been the pace and amount of change. "Pan Am historically has had a rather stable environment and we are significantly changing software, processes and in some cases people's roles at the University as we re-engineer the way things are done."

However, Ramzy said he has been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and cooperation he has seen by all persons involved.

"I was a little concerned coming into a state higher education entity that I wouldn't see the energy level that you need in these kinds of projects but that has not been an issue," he said.

Quality control has also been an important aspect of the implementation and Ramzy said it has been imbedded in the project since its inception.

"The audit, compliance and records management people here have been extraordinarily helpful and have been working side-by-side with us to the degree that I think we will be a "Best Practices" example for some of the other schools in the state to follow."

Ramzy said the project also undergoes a monthly review by a quality assurance (QA) team that is headed by one of the UT System auditors, who then reports to UTPA officials and to the UT System.

"The QA team provides a very vital function in making sure we don't miss anything. If something does occur, we take immediate action on it to correct it and keep going forward," Ramzy said.

Ramzy hopes all the testing and practicing will pay off on "go live" days.

"We are layering on our implementation to gain experience and mitigate risk. The student and financial aid piece is the most complex so we are saving it for last when we will have the benefit of more than a year and a half of working with Oracle, learning what went well and what we can do better from prior implementations. Our plan is that when we go live it will be a non-event," he said.

For more information on the project, log on to