Ian Wild - Director of Programme & Project Delivery
The Programme and Project Delivery Group manages the design and implementation of new IT services and significant enhancements. We run dedicated programmes and projects to achieve this, each initiated to meet the objectives of our customers and to produce specific benefits for the University. Significant achievements in 2012/13 were the implementation of the new payroll service, integrated with HRIS; the implementation of the new research costing and pricing tool, X5; and the migration of further colleges and departments on to DARS, the development and alumni relations system. The group have also been involved with the Student System Programme and the Oracle R12 projects, two major initiatives that have been run outside of the group. Further details are given via the links below:
The Development and Alumni Relations System (DARS) is a collegiate-wide capability for managing the data on individuals, organisations and groups with which the University and colleges interact for the numerous different strands of development and alumni activity. It contains a rich set of tools to efficiently operate processes around communicating with these constituents as they are called, covering general and specific marketing and communications, event management, and fundraising. The system has sophisticated reporting and querying tools to help improve the effectiveness of managing the various processes.
The ongoing programme of technical work to support DARS has continued in 2012-13 with three main strands of activity (visit https://www.darscentral.ox.ac.uk/ for service details).
- A new robust infrastructure was implemented, scaled to support operations for the next five years and improve performance and security.
- Several major patches were applied to fix on-going functional problems. Often requiring significant regression testing, a major advance has been the control of test plans through the Quality Centre test management system.
- Internal fixes to interfaces with other systems and data corrections were routinely undertaken.
- College data migrations continued with eight new colleges joining the system in 2012-13, and another three imminent over the first few months of 2013-14.
- Core User Directory (CUD) has been extensively used to improve knowledge of various ID’s across University systems. This has helped with data migration quality and also integration to other systems already complete and in the future.
New system features
- The main activity for 2012-13 was the evaluation of a major upgrade from V2.9 to V3.0 of the software underlying DARS (Blackbaud CRM). This concluded that the impact of moving through four different versions (2.91, 2.93, 2.94 to V3.0) was feasible despite a significant amount of work on existing customisations and moving to a new browser-only interface. Major changes in some of the underlying structures of the system have necessitated a rethink in several key revenue management feature sets.
- New system features to users have been focused around capabilities already in the software but not previously exposed. As the user community becomes more sophisticated then the demand for richer features increases. Improvements in reporting and querying have been key areas of development.
- Though not strictly delivered by IT Services projects, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of participant web-sites released on the software platform. A particular advantage of this approach is that (external) user access links directly to the back-end database for both improvement of their data and enhanced interaction activities, including direct payment via DARS (though using a PCI-compliant feature provided by the vendor).
More information on HRIS: www.admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/usinghris/
The HRIS Programme began its work to replace the University's previous HR Information Systems (HRIS) and associated HR processes in November 2009. The planned activity for 2012/13 represented some of the final major pieces of work for the HRIS Programme. In what was already a busy year for HRIS, additional projects were necessary to respond to government legislation and business as usual support.
The payroll project dominated the work of the HRIS Programme this year. This project to replace the University’s interim payroll bureau service with the Core Pay module to manage the main, pensioners and college payrolls was a complex exercise which in addition to the payroll team, affected the work of administrators based in departments, divisional offices, personnel services, pensions and finance division generally. All staff were provided with new format payslips and some people received new employee numbers as a result of the transition to Core Pay. To further complicate the picture, the new pensions auto enrolment regulations needed to be accommodated in the system, as well as HMRC Real Time Information (RTI). All of these personnel and payroll module related projects were required to go live in HRIS within a couple of months of each other. New format payroll costing reports were developed to replace those previously provided from OPENdoor. This development and the move away from the interim payroll arrangements in place since the personnel module went live in January 2012, involved a great deal of consultation and communication with users, as well as update of training materials and user documentation.
Another major strand of work this year was the implementation of the HESA module in HRIS. The production of the 2011/12 HESA staff return relied not only on use of this new software but also on the new HRIS processes for collecting the required data. To help provide the necessary assurance, a process of data quality review was introduced and the University’s internal auditors, PwC, undertook what proved to be a positive audit of the personnel processes. The library of reports available to users in HRIS was greatly extended this year and workshops were held to help system users with their use. A particular piece of work was undertaken with representatives of divisional offices to develop the successor to the OPENdoor ‘White Book’ report, now available from HRIS and known as the ‘Academic staff listing’ report.
Following an initial pilot, the training administration module went live in CoreHR this year. Open for use by providers of training to staff across the University, this module supports the administration of training courses and correspondence with delegates. The Oxford Learning Institute (OLI), Bodleian Library Staff Development Unit, and elements of IT Services are all users of the system. A few final enhancements are required before the system can be considered fully live but these are expected to be released in the near future.
In addition to the above, projects have been undertaken to support REF 2014, introduce changes to the Oxford Staff Pension Scheme (OSPS), move to a central PDF server to support the production of recruitment application packs, implement interfaces to the Graduate Supervision System (GSS) and Oracle Financials, and refine the interface to the University Card system. Further work is underway in the areas of absence management and OPENdoor decommissioning which will complete the work of the HRIS Programme. New governance structures have been introduced to manage the development programme for HRIS from 1 August 2013 onwards.
Student Systems Programme
This major programme of activity prioritises the replacement of the current student records system, the Oracle Student System (OSS) with a new system called SITS:Vision from Tribal. This was necessitated by the cessation of support for OSS, but also because OSS could no longer support the growing needs of the University when it came to providing a student record system. The programme was originally scheduled to deliver in summer 2013 but the complexity of the task has meant that this was rescheduled to summer 2014 for the on-course student record (from registration to examination), and autumn 2015 for graduate and undergraduate admissions. IT Services’ role in programme increased in 2013 and is involved across the board in its re-planning, development, testing, and roll-out. It should also be noted that this is a major programme of activity engaging with all the processes and parties who are in charge of the student lifecycle, from the central administration offices, through to departments, colleges, and external bodies.
The full replacement of OSS is due to complete in autumn 2015. The replacement of OSS will be followed by enhancements and continued development of our student system provision, which includes systems such as OxCORT, GSS, and ADMIT.
The project to upgrade and re-implement the University’s accounting, purchasing and reporting applications represents by far the most significant development since Oracle Financials was first introduced in 2004, and takes the user base to the most up-to-date technology. In 2012/13, the project focused on defining all system functionality, building interfaces to other systems (CoreHR, X5, etc.), migrating all the static and relevant transactional data from the current Oracle database, developing key departmental, financial and system reports, and preparing the University for the change. This change, in particular, includes moving 2000 Marketplace users over to the Oracle Financials system, updating about 38 financial processes and the relevant training and support documentation, and running more than 200 training sessions. The project is also preparing to support the 3600 users on the new system by creating a new Financial Systems Support Centre, putting together teams from IT Services (the helpdesk, second-line and system administration teams) and Finance (including the training, system management, process and reports development teams). This year, three test phases (two system tests and one system integration test) were successfully completed, and whilst the project is planning the final test phases focusing on system performance and business readiness, it is currently on track to go-live in November 2013.
The X5 project, to introduce a new research costing and pricing tool for the University, has seen a great deal of successful activity over the past year. With the system framework largely in place by the end of 2012, it then had to be configured for Oxford’s use. Work proceeded on creating a workflow to route research costings through approval stages, preparing user accounts and roles, and writing key reports. We completed a bulk upload of staff from HRIS, and of funders from Oracle Financials. A funder interface from Oracle Financials was implemented, and single sign-on access to the system was established. Communications work was undertaken to keep research department staff up-to-date with progress, while the training team prepared the user guide, online training videos, and training courses for delivery at Hythe Bridge Street and on the Old Road campus.
In April X5 was rolled out to 12 early adopter departments, followed by the main roll-out from late May to early July. On 18 April 2013 we congratulated the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences for creating the first research costing in the live system! X5 users are now supported by a dedicated support centre with three full-time members of staff. On 23 July 2013 we held a very popular Open Day at the Saïd Business School, attended by universities from across the UK. X5 is up and running, but there is still work to do – a system upgrade, an interface from the HRIS system so that we can dispense with time-consuming manual loads, and report amendments in preparation for R12.