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Data, Financial System Initiatives Under Way

January 26, 2005

Efforts are underway on the three distinct but closely related major administrative systems initiatives that were announced in March 2004. They are:

• Research Data Integration and Access -- Development of a mechanism to provide faculty and administrators with more user-friendly, online access to information that integrates financial, human resources, research, student and space data in support of the sponsored research

• Data Warehouse -- Broad integration of data across the University’s administrative systems

• Financial Management Systems Replacement -- Replacement of the financial management system (CUFS).

These projects are sponsored by the University’s Enterprise System Executive Committee (ESEC), composed of Provost Lawrence B. Dumas, Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Eugene S. Sunshine, Vice President for Research C. Bradley Moore and Vice President for Information Technology Mort Rahimi, who chairs the group.  The Office of Change Management, under the guidance of Associate Vice President Jake Julia, provides overall direction of these initiatives.

“Improving our administrative systems and the support they provide our core mission is one of our highest priorities at the University,” stated President Henry S. Bienen. “We are committed to providing the resources necessary to successfully implement these systems.” Project Directors (see related story) have been hired for each of these systems initiatives and have begun the tasks of staffing their project teams and launching their respective projects.

Research Data Integration and Access (RDIA):  The RDIA project will develop and deploy a web-based system presenting researchers and administrators with integrated research support data from current and planned enterprise systems. Development is underway on Phase I of this initiative, which will provide a single source for users to access research support data from research, financial, human resources and student systems. Project Director Candy Poolman will work directly with faculty and staff this winter and spring to develop a system that meets their needs, with rollout of Phase I scheduled for this spring.

Northwestern University Data Warehouse: The initial work on the Data Warehouse project is closely linked with the RDIA project. The data model underlying Phase II of RDIA will support the development of the University’s data warehouse. The Data Warehouse project team has begun working with the University community to identify data access and decision support needs that will inform the implementation of the data warehouse to meet needs beyond the “research area” focus of the RDIA.  Following the completion of Phase II of the RDIA in July of 2006, the data warehouse will be rolled out in an iterative manner to meet the highest priority data needs of the University community. Bill Hayward is the Project Director for this effort.

Financial Management Systems Replacement: The Executive Committee has selected PeopleSoft as the primary vendor for core general ledger functionality. This selection will allow Northwestern to realize the benefits of same vendor system integration as the new system relates to our currently existing HRIS and SES products.  The recently announced Oracle/PeopleSoft merger was considered as part of the decision process.

The project team for this initiative, led by Project Director Jeffrey Mundt, is working closely with functional and technical staff from across the University during the remainder of this fiscal year to confirm the sequence and timing of systems implementation. One of the team’s first tasks is to investigate additional vendor products to supply specialty software that addresses specific needs, such as research pre-award and budgeting. The implementation goal for the general ledger is September 2007.

These systems improvements are designed to address the increased demands on the financial and research offices caused by the significant growth of the research enterprise and the increase in government regulations, as well as provide faculty and staff with better access to administrative data in a more integrated manner.

Bienen stated that “while we will apply the lessons learned from our previous major systems initiatives and the experiences of peer institutions to help make these projects successful, there are many challenges inherent to these types of efforts. It is imperative that both the functional and technical aspects of these projects are closely coordinated, and I strongly encourage faculty and staff to become involved in these projects.”

The Project Directors will engage faculty and staff as team members and in consultative roles, as requirements, new processes and needs are defined, tested and implemented in these new software solutions. “The success of these projects is extremely dependent on the input and participation of those in our schools, departments and central administration units,” said Mort Rahimi.  “These are the people who will be using the new systems on a daily basis.”

Topics: Research