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Campus taps Oracle as best HR software to replace aging system

A state university in Kansas chose Oracle over Ellucian and Workday after conducting an extensive search for new software for human capital management, financials and talent management.

When Michele Sexton performs an HR or budget function on a computer, she works with a black and white computer...

screen based on a 30-year-old operating system.

The largely homegrown system can be extremely slow and fragile. It is so outdated that parts can be difficult to find.

"We have lots of names for it," Sexton, director of budget and human resource services at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, joked during an interview.

The university's system is poised to change dramatically. In an extensive search for the best HR software and the best financial software for the campus' needs, the university chose an Oracle Applications Cloud system for functions that include financials, planning, budgeting and human capital management (HCM).

Located in the southeast corner of Kansas, with about 1,200 employees, Pittsburg State University signed a contract in May to pay $766,722 over three years for subscribing to the Oracle cloud software, including $25,000 in consulting fees.

Although campus leaders are excited about the opportunities and the efficiencies to be gained from Oracle Cloud, implementation will mean hard work and a long climb, Sexton said.

"A lot of the HR changes -- just like the finance changes -- are going to be huge," Sexton said.

The university is in the early stages of implementing its choice of the best HR software and financial system for the campus. Implementation of Oracle Financials Cloud started Sept. 1, and plans are to go live on July 1.

Core HR, benefits, compensation, payroll, time and labor, and absence management are planned to go live in mid-December, Sexton said.

Implementation of goal management and performance reviews, planning and budgeting, and Taleo recruiting will begin in February or March of next year, and would go live in the fall of the same year, she said.

Search process launched about three years ago

The university chose Oracle after a search that began about three years ago. With an online tool, called DecisionDirector by Advantiv, the university created a request for proposals, with several thousand line items, said Angela Neria, CIO at the university. Vendors also responded through DecisionDirector, which is often used in higher education.

"We wanted to avoid slick sales guides and flashy information that didn't answer the questions in our [request for proposals]," Neria said. "We wanted to have as close to apples to apples that we could."

An analysis narrowed the field to three vendors: Oracle, Workday and Ellucian.

Each vendor stayed on the campus for three days, following the same strict agenda for pitching their products as the best HR software and financial applications for the university.

People from across the campus, including some faculty, graded each product using a rubric inside DecisionMaker. Vendors were scored on at least 2,000 items for finance alone.

Why did Oracle turn out to have the best HR software and financials for the university? The decision was based on several key reasons, Neria said.

First, the state of Kansas uses Oracle products, and the university needs to integrate with several state systems, she said.

Second, although no vendor complied with every need, Oracle met all basic needs, provided good service and offered an economical package, she said. Some products were less expensive, but they did not meet all the university's needs, she said.

Oracle also built a relationship with the university. The giant company was good at responding to questions and seeking to learn more about the university, she said.

HR sees efficiencies

Sexton said she is excited that employees and managers will enjoy much more robust self-service with the new system.

Today, for example, employees need to walk over to HR to fill out paper forms for direct deposit and other functions, or to obtain certain information. Next year, they will be able to complete electronic forms and look up information in the Oracle HCM software, she said.

Currently, very few managers can access information about time and labor or absence management for certain employees, she said. "Managers will have more information about their employees -- their assignments, their salaries, their attendance [and] their performance reviews. It will be 95% more information than they have now."

Onboarding also will become more efficient with Oracle Cloud, she said. New hires currently need to sit down with an HR assistant for at least an hour and go over a stack of paperwork, she said. With Oracle onboarding, new hires can fill out forms, and review policies and procedures electronically.

Big changes in finance department

Finance also will see major changes, said Barbara Winter, the controller at the university.

In addition to the Oracle Financials Cloud, which includes general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, fixed assets and expenses, the university also will soon be using a host of Oracle financial products for managing grants and contracts, procurement and financial reporting.

Winter said her office currently uses Microsoft Excel for financial reports, working on the spreadsheets through aging black and white computer screens. The general ledger is on an old Datatel system that was customized over time, she said. But configuration and testing has begun on the Oracle cloud software, after some extensive training.

In finance, a big change will include Oracle Cloud for submitting online business expenses for travel. Administrative assistants currently process expense reports in an Excel form that is printed for signature and submitted for reimbursement, she said.

Employees in finance and HR also have had training.

Each employee in the finance implementation team, for example, watched 150 hours of Oracle online training videos over the course of about six weeks in September and October. That helped employees prepare for campus workshops led by Oracle.

It's a big change, but it's a system that the university needs, Winter said.

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