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NC State, UNC Partner on Information Technology to Save Money, Improve Efficiency

North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will save money and improve efficiency by partnering on the human resources and finance components of their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Both campuses use Oracle’s PeopleSoft software for their ERP systems – major administrative systems for student services, human resources, payroll and financial. The partnership will focus on the human resources and financial systems. NC State has used PeopleSoft for these functions for a decade and is upgrading to the latest version. UNC-Chapel Hill plans to use those PeopleSoft components.

That timing means information technology offices on both campuses can learn from each other while avoiding duplicating efforts or investments while enhancing services for faculty and staff. The partnership aims to tap the most effective and efficient mix of sharing hardware, software, resources, business operations and vendor contracts to improve effectiveness and reduce costs for both universities. Both campuses are investing equal resources – equipment and staffing. 2013 is the target date for both campuses to be up and running with the new systems.

The idea grew from a previous collaboration by Marc Hoit and Larry Conrad while in technology posts at separate Florida universities. Now they hold the same title – vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer – at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill, respectively. They discussed possible joint PeopleSoft work last year as the economic downturn hit. Budget cuts made the opportunity for collaboration and saving money even more compelling.

At NC State, Hoit cited advantages in business continuity if either campus experienced a technology emergency. “Since we will share development, common systems and distribution across both campuses we can have a significant improvement in our disaster recovery ability at little additional cost,” he said.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, Conrad estimated undertaking the same work without NC State’s involvement would have required at least an additional 60 employees. The joint effort may only require about 30 new hires. “By working together, we can leverage the knowledge and skills of employees on both campuses in a way that’s more efficient and significantly reduces the personnel expenses required to get the job done,” he said.

The joint work also has positive implications for increasing the technology purchasing power of both campuses by improving discounts, Hoit and Conrad said. And the changes come at the same time as a new state law covering certain purchases by UNC system campuses.

Joining Hoit and Conrad in leading the partnership are the top financial and human resources administrators on both campuses who will guide teams dedicated to streamlining and developing common business processes and using the same tools and third-party applications.

From the information technology offices, Gwen Hazlehurst from NC State and Jerri Bland from UNC will lead the collaboration. Hazlehurst directs enterprise application systems and oversees PeopleSoft implementation at NC State. She is an alumna of both campuses and the parent of a current Carolina student. Bland is executive director of enterprise applications and has led UNC’s ConectCarolina (ERP) project. The Carolina graduate is experienced in implementing PeopleSoft projects, particularly the human resources and financial components.

Four task committees are exploring the collaboration possibilities for the technical infrastructure, the chart of accounts and the overall human resources and financial systems. One example of the collaboration being considered for early implementation is PeopleSoft’s eProcurement module, which includes a commodity tracking system that may help support efforts to negotiate better prices. UNC-Chapel Hill officials hope to begin this work next month. NC State already uses eProcurement, and that experience will help the UNC team fast track the project.

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