The Universidad del Istmo de Guatemala (UNIS) might be the smallest post-secondary institution in Guatemala, but it has big goals for its future. As its name suggests, it sees its mission to serve as to serve as a bridge or “isthmus,” combining academic research and development with the spirit of religious and community-oriented service. And its institutional leadership sees their recent, end-to-end Oracle Cloud implementation (Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning, Human Capital Management, Customer Experience, and PeopleSoft Campus Solutions on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure) as a crucial element of achieving their ambitions.
UNIS began as the Instituto Femenino de Estudios Superiores, founded in 1964 as a women’s college, with support from the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. After receiving independent accreditation status from the Consejo de la Enseñanza Privado Superior (the Council of Higher Private Education) in 1997, IFES reestablished itself as UNIS, opening in 1998. UNIS is now a private, co-ed Catholic institution that supports around 2,000 students across a variety of academic programs, including business, architecture, law, and engineering. The school is preparing for large scale growth – with a goal of 10,000 students by 2035 – and has constructed a new central campus in Santa Isabel, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Guatemala City, to support this anticipated student population.
To support this dramatic scaling of its population, its technology systems needed a similar overhaul. “It’s not only the physical construction of our buildings that is important, but the technology enhancements we’re making to our applications,” says UNIS’s CIO, Roberto Enrique Canek Pinelo. The university had been using homegrown systems for its student system, HR, and other primary applications, which made it difficult to verify the accuracy of data or share data across departments, leading to many inefficiencies. “It was difficult to streamline things,” Canek says. “Many processes were conducted in spreadsheets or were manual, particularly in our HR system.” The university knew that modernizing their systems and business processes was an imperative.
After undertaking a strategic evaluation of its applications, UNIS’ leadership eliminated the possibility of staying on their existing homegrown solutions. As they defined their requirements for a robust, well-integrated set of applications that offered automation, they decided to move to a platform of cloud applications supported by one vendor. While they considered five leading vendors, UNIS’ leadership selected Oracle as they felt that the other vendors’ systems did not fully address the needs of a higher education institution.
To prepare for its implementation of Oracle PeopleSoft Campus Solutions on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP, CX, and HCM, UNIS consulted with other peer institutions and their accreditation agency to ensure their strategy was well-aligned with industry-wide best practices for cloud implementations. The institution’s implementation team created a comprehensive plan that encompassed both technical and business operations, listing existing processes, their future desired processes, and a list of their customizations. To help them meet these project metrics in their desired timeline, UNIS partnered with Quantum (Grupo Quanam), an system integrator firm specializing in Central and South American implementations across a variety of industries.
Canek explains that UNIS and Quanam wanted to begin with a drastic change, implementing the systems that affected the most people, and particularly the students; Oracle Fusion Cloud CX, along with Campus Solutions, platformed on OCI in March 2019. They continued by implementing Oracle Fusion Cloud HCM in January 2020, and they are currently finalizing their ERP implementation. Change management was occurring simultaneously to ensure that everyone, regardless of department or role, was on the same page. UNIS’ leadership created a now-permanent Department of Systems and Processes to centralize the implementation efforts; this group helped socialize cross-institutional communications, and managed team members who were responsible for training other staff members in their individual business departments.
UNIS Oracle Cloud implementation has been incredibly important to institutional continuity during the pandemic. Manuel Angel Perez Lara, UNIS Rector Ingeniero, said that the university would have had to shut down in March had it not been for its Oracle systems, as the previous systems would have required too many in-person workers to carry out manual processes for handling payroll or even registering students. Thankfully, now that all systems can be managed remotely, “the term has been business as usual,” Canek says, with their staff using Oracle Fusion Cloud HCM to manage staff payroll and PeopleSoft Campus Solutions to register and process class enrollments, etc. And while the university plans for staff and students to remain remote through the end of the calendar year, it is confident that it will be able to finalize its Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP implementation on schedule and maintain business continuity, thanks to the robust automation capabilities and data-driven insights provided by Oracle Cloud applications.
For other schools poised to undergo their own cloud journey, Canek recommends that they obtain executive buy-in, saying that the advocacy of UNIS’s full breadth of leadership – from their academic to financial units – was necessary to obtaining support. He also urges institutions to communicate constantly with their students and staff before and after go-live; for example, the Process Unit is creating professional development courses for the staff to keep up to date with institutional changes. Canek says that while at times staff members found the changes to their business processes difficult, emphasizing wins has increased support for the cloud initiative. For example, staff members can now compile their own reports using Oracle self-service (versus having to delegate report creation to specialized staff), increasing efficiency and the level of data insight. He concludes,
“Most of all, we want to be known as a school that is bold and pursues transformation. It’s why we went all in with Oracle Cloud.”
– Roberto Canek Pinelo, CIO, Universidad del Istmo de Guatemala