My colleague Gary Allen recently wrote about the funding challenges facing institutions of higher learning. Student enrollment rates are forecast to drop over the next decade, leading to a decline in tuition dollars. As if that weren’t bad enough, state funding models have changed, moving from a per-capita system to one based on student outcomes.
There is intense pressure on higher education institutions to be more efficient and cost-effective with ever-shrinking budgets. So why did the University of Wyoming choose now, of all times, to invest in revamping its technology infrastructure?
One reason is data. In order to know where to apply scarce dollars, you need to know where you’re getting the best return on your investment. And, like many colleges and universities, UW did not have the technology to get this information quickly or accurately.
“Not to be too flip about it, but today it all basically starts with a blank Excel worksheet,” said UW’s Bill Mai, vice president of administration, in a recent Forbes article. UW must manually gather data from many unconnected information systems scattered across departments—and that inhibits the kind of real-time, what-if analysis needed to plan and budget in an environment of tight funding. “By the time you have that all assembled, the data is already old,” Mai said.
Enter WyoCloud, the university’s shift from brittle, on-premises systems to a modern cloud. The initiative relies on a suite of cloud systems including Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud, Oracle Supply Chain Management (SCM) Cloud, and Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud—including Oracle Grants Management Cloud and Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud. It also uses Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud to analyze and build reports from third-party systems, such as the university’s student information system.
Better reporting and access to accurate data is one of the main reasons why the university is embracing this project. The university recently asked faculty and staff to think about what questions they’d like answered, so that they can better serve UW students. Among the questions considered: how to improve retention rates by spotting struggling students sooner, and how to save money on what the university buys by centralizing purchasing power for bulk discounts.
Cost saving is another reason why UW looked to the cloud. Cloud applications are updated continually with the latest releases and features, reducing maintenance costs and eliminating the need for expensive upgrade projects down the road. These benefits are helping the university be more strategic with scarce dollars.
Nevertheless, moving to the cloud on this scale is a big undertaking with many change management challenges. How is the university addressing those challenges?
It’s crucial that the choice of cloud provider be made strategically, and that cloud systems are fully assessed to ensure they will meet the needs of the institution. In a webcast with University Business, UW’s director of information technology, Jennifer Chavez, outlines how UW assessed and selected Oracle to replace the school’s outdated financial and HR systems. She also covers some of the cost, efficiency, and reporting benefits the university expects to achieve.