University partially delays $100 million IT upgrade

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Part of a $100 million technology upgrade to UT’s mainframe system is delayed indefinitely, announced President Gregory Fenves in an email to staff and faculty Tuesday.

The move to modernize the University’s human resource, payroll and financial systems was originally scheduled to be carried out in July of this year. The financial systems upgrade has been postponed to an unknown date, while the launch of the human resource and payroll systems was moved to next fall.

Dana Cook, associate vice president for the system modernization plan, said the project has been put on hold while the University works to update out-of-date processes. 

“Many of the financial business processes associated with the … financial system have not been updated by the University since the 1990s,” Cook said in an email. “We need to review and re-engineer some of those processes and workflows first.”

Fenves announced the delay Tuesday, more than a month after the updates were expected to take place in July. He said the postponement resulted from a decision made in January to switch to a phased-launch approach, meaning the new human resources and payroll systems will be rolled out before the financial system upgrade.

A portion of the upgrade will replace UT’s human resources, payroll and finance operations to a cloud-based system called Workday. Fenves said the upgrade is needed to help University leaders streamline productivity.

“Workday is a powerful tool that will serve the UT community more effectively and allow the University to become even more productive stewards of the public dollars once the business process redesign has been completed,” Fenves said in the email. 

Fenves said he asked UT chief financial officer Darrell Bazzell to lead a review of the business processes. Bazzell joined the University and took charge of Workday implementation last year.

The upgrade is 13 years in the making, after a University commission decided to pursue innovative solutions to the University’s IT issues in 2004. As a result of this decision, UT leaders formed the Administrative Systems Master Plan in 2012 to improve various parts of UT’s mainframe, including the online administrative infrastructure, according to the program’s website. 

When the technology upgrade began in 2014, it was budgeted at $106 million, and $89 million has been spent on the project to date. Cook said it is uncertain how much more money will be needed until the task of reviewing the out-of-date business processes is completed. 

The modernization program also addresses student and staff-friendly systems, Cook said. UTLearn, a training management system, and MyUT, a web portal for students, researchers and staff, have already been completed and will be adapted for practical use in the upcoming fiscal year. 

The University also plans to provide training and user readiness activities to help departments adjust to the new technology, Cook said.