A key part of a major University of Texas technology upgrade that was already running behind schedule and over its $106 million budget has been delayed indefinitely, UT officials announced Tuesday.
The project to shift UT’s payroll, human resources and finances from a mainframe computer system to cloud-based operations was originally scheduled to be implemented, or “go live,” on July 10. Officials said in January that they would introduce it in phases starting sometime later, without specifying exactly when. A consulting firm, KPMG LLP, based in New York City, had recommended a phased implementation rather than what it called a “big bang” approach.
UT President Gregory L. Fenves said in a message to the university community Tuesday that the payroll and human resources components would be activated in the fall of 2018. But the financial system is being put on hold indefinitely until UT modernizes and streamlines a patchwork of procedures for procurement, signing off on expenses, processing grants and other functions that evolved over many years.
“Many of these processes have not been updated since the early 1990s,” Fenves said. The UT president said he has asked Darrell Bazzell, UT’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, to lead a redesign of business practices.
The cloud-based technology, on which the university has spent $89 million so far, is being supplied by Workday Inc., based in Pleasanton, Calif.
“It’s probably going to take us to a little more than the $106 million that has been budgeted to go live for human capital management and payroll,” Bazzell told the American-Statesman. He said he had no estimate of how much more it would cost to activate the financial component or how long it would take to get to that point, although he indicated that two or three years from now would not be out of the realm of possibility.
Getting the university’s various colleges, schools and other units to employ the same procedures for procurement and other business practices is no small task but a necessary one, Bazzell said. “We can’t have as much variation in the new technology as we have in the mainframe system,” he said.
Separately, an electronic document-signing program, an online portal for students, an employee training management system and other applications have been launched or will be activated in the budget year that begins Friday, officials said.
Reducing a budget deficit in UT’s Information Technology Services department remains a work in progress for Bazzell. As the Statesman first reported in January, that unit ran up $15 million in red ink because of what an internal audit report called “financial mistakes and miscommunication by various parties.”
Bazzell learned of the problem after joining the university’s executive ranks in April 2016. Although he had warned in January that the deficit could balloon to $25 million by the end of August, he now says it is running under $20 million. An advisory panel is expected to offer recommendations for improving the operation in the next month or two, Bazzell said.