U of M Board of Regents discuss launch of new technology systems

May 8, 2015

New technology systems are up and running smoothly at the University of Minnesota, providing better service to nearly 100,000 students, faculty and staff.

The University’s Board of Regents received an update about the launch of these systems today.

Known as ‘The Upgrade,’ this large, complex and necessary project updated business processes in finance, human resources and student services. It is a cornerstone of President Eric Kaler’s Operational Excellence initiative, and will enable the University, recently named one of the country’s most innovative users of IT for its focus on operational excellence, to operate more efficiently in those key areas.

“I am committed to a fundamental shift in how we do business – that’s the essence of Operational Excellence,” said Kaler. “Completing The Upgrade is a major step toward that goal. We are now able to provide more efficient and effective service to our University community. This will allow us to work smarter, remove barriers and save money over time.”

The Upgrade launched April 20 with minimal issues reported. Nearly 50,000 people logged in on the first day, payroll was processed on time and there were no unplanned interruptions to the U’s operations.

“The transition to these new systems continues for many on campus, but we are very happy about the smooth launch,” said Scott Studham, vice president for information technology. “While there are still a few small issues we’re working through, calls to our help center are decreasing. But, our teams continue to be available to assist anyone who needs it.”

The Upgrade is nearly $3 million under the final, approved budget, with expenses totaling $82 million. Hundreds of staff members from across the U’s five campuses worked almost three years preparing for these new systems. In all, the project team completed more than 70,000 hours of testing, including six full-scale tests, prior to launch. More than 800 people assisted colleagues learn the new systems.

For more information on The Upgrade, click here.

Improving housing experience on Twin Cities campus
The Board also discussed how the U can better serve the needs of students living on and off the Twin Cities campus.

A recently released report focuses on ensuring all student housing is safe, affordable, convenient and supportive. Students who live in University housing in their first year of college have higher GPAs and are more likely to be involved in student groups and other campus activities. As a result, they are more likely than students who live off campus to stay in school and graduate on time. This also holds true for second year students.

To achieve these goals, recommendations include:

  • Developing strategies to increase demand for housing on the St. Paul campus;
  • Developing “second-year experience” programs in partnership with non-U housing providers near campus in which many second year students already live; and
  • Ensuring transfer students receive housing support.

Currently, the Twin Cities campus offers nearly 7,000 beds and charges one of the lowest rates for housing in the Big Ten conference. The full report is available here.

Advancing human subjects research
The Board hosted a public forum on the University’s human subjects research program. Members of the University community and general public spoke to the Board about the development an implementation plan to strengthen human subjects research practices at the University.

The Implementation Team’s draft work plan will be available for public comment beginning Monday, May 18. To ensure a quality report for public comment, President Kaler has agreed to the team’s request for additional time to complete its draft. Public comments will be accepted through Monday, June 1. A version reflecting the public comments will be delivered to the Board for action at its June meeting.

The Board also:

  • reviewed a pilot Greek housing loan program, which aims to provide low-interest loans for chapter house improvements to improve safety, efficiency and comfort. The University and U of M Foundation will partner and allocate $3 million for the program. The Board will consider acting on this program in June.
  • received an update on the U’s role in addressing the avian influenza, which affects 84 farms, 5.5 million birds and 10-15 percent of the poultry industry in Minnesota. Trevor Ames, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), reviewed the broad, comprehensive University response through CVM, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences, and U of M Extension supporting the federal, state and county agencies as well as industry. U faculty developed the innovative approach taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to manage this outbreak and avoid major financial losses for farms. More than 7,500 tests of sick poultry have been conducted at the U, with staff putting in 900 hours of overtime since April 1.
  • began developing a ‘progress card’ framework to drive performance and support Board oversight.
  • promoted the best and brightest. Nearly 200 faculty members were promoted or received tenure following Board approval of recommendations by Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson.
  • recognized winners of one dozen major University and external awards.

See President Kaler's report to the Board.

The Board will meet again on June 11-12. For more, go to regents.umn.edu.

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