University Technology

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Implementation Project

Western Illinois University has begun the process of converting its administrative information management system, currently known as MVS, WIUP or STARS, over to a cloud based SaaS ERP. This system supports the collection, storage, processing and reporting of data records for Student Services, Student Records, Human Resources, Payroll and Financial Systems.

After an extensive and lengthy evaluation process, the University has purchased the Unifyed ERP to replace its current administrative system.

Implementation of the Unifyed ERP will occur in stages. The first module that will be implemented is Unifyed Student-Engage, which is Unifyed’s AI-powered mobile app and web portal designed to help colleges and universities improve student engagement and communication. The portal is set to go live late Fall 2020 semester. At the same time, the University will implement Unifyed Student-Admit, an AI-based student admissions recruitment CRM for higher education. The University plans to go live with Admit on December 1, 2020. In October, 2020, we will start the implementation of Unifyed Student-Manage, a cloud-based student information system (SIS) for higher education that includes business processes such as Curriculum & Catalog, Student Records, Student Registration, Academic Advising, Course Scheduling, Degree Audit and Student Financials. The duration of this implementation will take over a year and Manage is tentatively set to go live late 2021 or early 2022. After the implementation of Manage, we plan to implement Financial Aid, Human Resources, Payroll and Financial Systems.

Project Background

In the fall of 2014, the University formed an Enterprise Task Force (ETF) that was assigned the task of evaluating the current Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The ETF committee consisted of nearly 40 employees from University Technology and various administrative functional offices across the divisions of the University.

Enterprise Resource Planning (or ERP) refers to the information systems used by WIU students, faculty and staff to complete administrative functions. WIU has been using internally-developed ERP systems for more than 40 years, relying on the Administrative Information Management Systems (AIMS) department for reporting, processing, software and system support. There are two portals into the current ERP, an administrative system called WIUP and a student system called STARS.

WIU’s ERP suite has two main modules for Human Resources/Payroll and Student Information Systems (SIS) that were developed internally. They consist of customized COBOL programs used by Human Resources, Student Records, Student Services, University Foundation and other administrative areas. In addition, the University uses SCT Financial Reporting System (FRS) 3.0, which is no longer supported by the vendor. The FRS modules include Accounting, Accounts Payable, Purchasing, Fixed Assets, and student Billing and Receivable, and are interfaced with some of the other ERP systems.

The ETF spent four years evaluating and analyzing different ERP systems, and talking to other Colleges and Universities about their selection and implementation of ERP. Based on their review, they found that our current system has potential problems. The system is expensive to maintain, some of the applications have an interface that is not user friendly, access to information is limited, and it requires specially trained IT professionals to maintain. After careful research and evaluation, the ETF recommended replacing our current mainframe and business processing system with a newer generation cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) system that supports HR, SIS and Finance. The SaaS ERP will provide predictable budgeting, an intuitive web interface, and easier access to information.

Milestones

  • 9/4/2020 – Unifyed Yoda AI Chatbot Kickoff Meeting
  • 6/26/2020- Purchased Unifyed Yoda AI Personal Assistant chatbot for higher education
  • 5/22/2020 - ETF Steering Committee approves the ERP Project Stakeholder and Impact Assessment
  • 5/20/2020 - Unifyed Student - Admit Kickoff Meeting
  • 4/21/2020 - ETF Steering Committee approves University Technology as the owner of the Engage Module
  • 3/31/2020 - Unifyed Student-Engage Kickoff Meeting
  • 3/4/2020 - ETF Steering Committee approves myWIU as Engage portal name and my.wiu.edu as url location
  • 3/3/2020 - Internal Admit Kickoff Meeting with Admissions Staff
  • 2/27/2020 - uTag voted to use myWIU as Engage portal name and my.wiu.edu as url location
  • 1/20/2020 - Received Unifyed High Level Project Plan
  • 1/9/2020 - Unifyed Verify Technical Kickoff Meeting
  • 12/12/2019 - Unifyed ERP Project Welcome Call Kickoff
  • 11/19/19 - Hired part time Project Manager and Senior Analyst
  • 11/11/2020 - Received Unifyed Discovery Documents for Verify, Engage, Admit and D2L
  • 11/1/2019 - Unifyed 10-year contract signed
  • 10/4/2019 - Resolution to purchase and implement the Unifyed ERP was approved by the Board of Trustees
  • 9/17/2019 - Unifyed onsite visit and ERP demonstration to leadership and campus
  • 6/14/2019 - Recommendation to purchase Unifyed presented to Board of Trustees
  • 6/3/2019 - Recommendation to purchase Unifyed presented to President’s Leadership Team
  • 5/23/2019 - Recommendation to purchase Unifyed presented to ETF Committee

Terminology

  • Administrative System - WIU’s mainframe data processing system, also known as: MVS, WIUP, STARS and TSO
  • ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning: the integrated management of main business processes, often in real time and mediated by software and technology. (Wikipedia-5/26/20) ERP is usually referred to as a category of business management software—typically a suite of integrated applications—that an organization can use to collect, store, manage, and interpret data from many business activities.
  • SME - Subject Matter Expert: a person who is an authority in a particular area or topic.
  • STARS - Student/Alumni Records System: our current portal that provides students, alumni, and employees with access to their university records.
  • Unifyed Student-Admit - Admit is Unifyed’s AI-based student admissions and recruitment CRM for higher education. This module is integrated with Unifyed Student – Manage.
  • Unifyed Student-Engage - Unifyed’s AI-powered mobile app and web portal designed to help colleges and universities improve student engagement and communication.
  • Unifyed Student-Manage - Manage is Unifyed’s cloud-based student information system (SIS) for higher education, that includes business processes such as Curriculum & Catalog, Student Records, Student Registration, Academic Advising, Course Scheduling, Degree Audit, and Student Financials.
  • Unifyed Yoda - Unifyed’s AI Personal Assistant chatbot for higher education.
  • Unifyed Student-Verify - Unifyed’s identity and access management solution.
  • WIUP - WIU’s administrative system that provides all employees with access to their own personnel, payroll and time reporting information as well as campus directory and academic calendar. Some employees may also use WIUP to perform administrative processes related to their job duties.

ETF Steering Committee Meetings

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need a new ERP?

The ETF spent four years studying and analyzing different ERP systems and talking to other Colleges and Universities about their selection and implementation of ERP. Based on their review, they found that our current system has potential problems. The system is expensive to maintain, some of the applications have an interface that is not user friendly, access to information is limited, and it requires specially trained IT professionals to maintain. After careful research and evaluation, the ETF recommended replacing our current mainframe and business processing system with a newer generation cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) system that supports SIS, HR and Finance. The SaaS ERP will provide predictable budgeting, an intuitive web interface, and easier access to information.

Who was involved in the decision to move to a new ERP?

In the fall of 2014, the University formed an Enterprise Task Force (ETF) that was assigned the task of evaluating the current Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system (MVS/WIUP). The ETF committee consisted of nearly 40 employees from University Technology and various administrative functional offices across the divisions of the University. A smaller ETF Steering Committee was also formed. Over the next several years, the ETF and its smaller Steering Committee, along with a hired consulting firm, evaluated the current system and examined many possible options. In spring 2018, WIU was approached by EVC Ventures about a partnership opportunity available to Higher Education institutions to work with a company called Unifyed to build an ERP. The ETF determined that it was worth pursuing and had a conversation first with EVC Ventures and then later Unifyed about the project.

During the Spring 2019 semester, the ETF Steering Committee evaluated the research from the previous four years, looking at the different ERP options and vendors. They compared the various ERP options evaluating the pros and cons of each option, including keeping our existing system and doing nothing or rewriting our current system.

The recommendation to purchase Unifyed was presented to the ETF Committee on May 23, the President’s Leadership Team on June 3rd, and the Board of Trustees on June 14, 2019. The ETF Steering Committee recommended purchasing Unifyed for the following reasons:

  • Lower implementation cost
  • Intuitive Point and click user interface
  • Modern web functionality
  • Imbedded analytic reporting
  • It is designed and written by higher ed professionals for higher ed institutions.
  • We will be able to partner with them and provide input into the system they develop.

On September 17, 2019, Unifyed came back to the Macomb campus to meet with the President’s Leadership Team and various constituency groups to demonstrate their Unifyed Student Engage, Admit and Manage modules.

On October 4, 2019, the Board of Trustees approved the resolution to purchase and implement Unifyed and enter into a partnership to help them develop their SIS.

On November 1, 2019, we signed a ten year contract with Unifyed to purchase their ERP and become a development partner.

Who is responsible for implementing the new ERP?

Administrative Information Management Systems will manage the project and handle many of the technical aspects of the implementation. Other divisions of University Technology will provide additional support. As each module is implemented, the appropriate functional unit within the University will work alongside University Technology to provide business requirements, data input, testing and training. For example, when the Admit admissions CRM module is implemented, various Admissions units will assist.

Who is Unifyed?

From Unifyed.com (5/26/2020) About: Unifyed is a microservices-based, cloud-native provider of student enrollment, engagement, and management solutions for higher education with college and university clients worldwide. Unifyed solutions currently address identity and access management, student recruiting CRM and admissions, student engagement, student information system, international recruiting, and campus portal and mobile.

What are the various modules with Unifyed’s ERP system?

Unifyed contains several modules including the following:

  • Unifyed Student - Verify
  • Unifyed Student - Engage
  • Unifyed Student - Admit
  • Unifyed Student - Manage

Unifyed will also include modules for student retention (Retain), alumni engagement (Advance), as well as HR, Payroll, Finance, and an integration with D2L.

What is Unifyed Student - Verify?

Verify is Unifyed's identity and access management solution.

What is Unifyed Student- Engage?

Engage is Unifyed’s AI-powered mobile app and web portal designed to help colleges and universities improve student engagement and communication.

What is Unifyed Student- Admit?

Admit is Unifyed’s AI-based student admissions and recruitment CRM for higher education. This module is integrated with Unifyed Student – Manage.

What is Unifyed Student - Manage?

Manage is Unifyed’s cloud-based student information system (SIS) for higher education, that includes business processes such as Curriculum & Catalog, Student Records, Student Registration, Academic Advising, Course Scheduling, Degree Audit, and Student Financials.

How often will the new ERP be updated?

Unifyed makes frequent updates to the system. Most updates will not be disruptive to the University.

Is our information secure?

Yes

How long will the implementation take?

Unifyed has provided a 3 year project plan, but we anticipate that the implementation will take anywhere from 5 to 7 years to complete.

How will moving to a new ERP system affect me?

All employees and students will use a new system to see their personal employee or student records. Some employees from the functional offices represented by the modules that will be changed will be responsible to help with the conversion of the data and the testing of the new system. Employees who use WIUP to do their administrative tasks will need to learn how to use the new administrative system and some of their job duties may change.

How will faculty, students and staff participate in this process?

Some employees from the functional offices represented by the modules that will be changed will be responsible to help with the conversion of the data and the testing of the new system.

Students will be given the opportunity to provide feedback into some of the applets that will be available within the Engage portal.

The ERP Implementation team is made up of representatives from various administrative functional offices, academic departments, and the Student Government Association.

How will the new ERP impact staffing?

It is not anticipated that any jobs will be lost as a result of the new ERP.

Will there be training on how to use the new ERP?

Yes. Before each module goes live, the implementation team will hold training sessions on how to use the software.

Can I access the new system from a mobile device?

Yes. Unifyed is a cloud product that can be accessed from a mobile device.

Questions? Comments? Please contact Stacie Hunt at S-Hunt@wiu.edu or Brenda Parks at BS-Parks@wiu.edu