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Introducing EIS – Linking Systems to People
By Cathy Gonzalez, EIS Training/Computing Administration Manager
More than a year ago, several curious topics began to appear on administrative meeting agendas at UNT. These topics used words such as legacy programs, retiring the mainframe, and enterprise information systems. The big buzzword which quickly entered these discussions was PeopleSoft. Most everyone had little knowledge of what this meant other than something big was about to happen! The project driving this change is titled The EIS (Enterprise Information System) Project and the implementation of PeopleSoft® has resulted in new administrative systems known simply as EIS.* While the name is simple, the system itself is anything but simple.
Who is PeopleSoft?
Dave Duffield and Ken Morris founded PeopleSoft in 1987, when they engineered the company's first application, human resources. Built on client-server architecture, their solution offered flexibility and ease-of-use to a class of users previously barred from simplified access to the information and capabilities centralized in mainframes. By putting ease of functionality directly in the hands of users, PeopleSoft quickly assumed industry leadership status in human resources solutions.
In 1992, PeopleSoft expanded their offerings to include financial applications. In 1996, they introduced their Learning Solutions products for higher education.
In 2000, PeopleSoft introduced a concept known as PeopleSoft Pure Internet Architecture® (PIA). PIA is a cross-platform, server-based architecture that enables enterprise applications to be delivered to users through a standard web browser. The advantages of PIA are no special programs or files must reside on a user’s workstation, the user only needs a web browser on their desktop and access to the PeopleSoft applications can be granted to whoever needs it. This enables everyone to participate in business processes in real time and helps turn the promise of enterprise business into a reality.
Today, PeopleSoft is the world’s second largest enterprise application provider with more than 11,000 customers in 150 countries. In the higher education sector, it is the industry leader for administrative business processes. PeopleSoft's recent acquisition of J.D. Edwards was about expanding and enhancing their product offerings.
What is EIS?
EIS is a suite of integrated applications that as a whole is termed an enterprise-wide system. It is based on the software (applications) known as PeopleSoft. Prior to EIS, the core business processes of UNT were handled primarily by locally developed applications with the notable exception of financial aid, which was a purchased product. These core processes include Finance, Human Resources, Student Administration, and Contributor Relations (alumni services). These legacy applications were built by UNTS developers from scratch or from a set of student applications purchased in the early 1980’s. They are known as mainframe programs due to the technology which hosts them. EIS differs greatly from the legacy systems in that it is based on software purchased from outside rather than built by our own UNTS developers. Buying the software rather than building it leverages staff, time, money, and best practices in higher education. For 30 years the mainframe architecture and applications built on it have served UNTS faithfully; however, due to advances in information technology globally, it is time to retire the mainframe and upgrade to the latest information technology.
PeopleSoft is a large suite of applications? Which ones are we implementing?
The goal of the EIS Project is to replace all of the major administrative computing software being used to support the university’s faculty, staff, and students. The modules being implemented fall under one of three categories: Learning Solutions, Financials and Supply Chain Management, and Enterprise Portal. These three categories are commonly referred to as environments. In the coming months we will look in more detail at the architecture of these environments.
The Learning Solutions (version 8.0) environment includes modules for:
The Financials (version 8.41) environment includes modules for:
When is EIS available?
This is a complex question, as there is not one single “go-live” date. During the first implementation stage, the first module go-live was July 2003 and the last will be spring 2005. The live modules to date are General Ledger, Purchasing/Accounts Payable, Admissions, Human Resources, Payroll, and Contributor Relations. Student services will begin rolling out the end of April 2004 with full implementation for the fall 2004 semester. An upgrade to the next major release of PeopleSoft for Learning Solutions, version 8.9, is scheduled for 2005.
How will I know when I am supposed to start using EIS? Who will tell me how to log on and teach me to use EIS?
The departments that have been part of the EIS implementation have ownership of the modules that are pertinent to their business processes. Module leads, training coordinators, and training coaches develop and conduct training and will contact you when it is appropriate for your job type to begin using EIS. Once you have completed your training, a module access control person will set up a role to be associated with your user ID which defines the appropriate screens and functions in EIS you need access to. Your EIS account will be activated in cooperation with the EIS security personnel and you will be ready to begin using EIS in your daily job requirements.
To learn more about EIS, visit the official EIS web site at http://www.unt.edu/eis/. Information relevant to EIS technical support and project information can be found at http://www.unt.edu/eis/newsite/.
More to Come….
This is an exciting and challenging time as all the parts of the UNT System come together and begin working in an enterprise way of doing business. Many more questions are probably swirling through your mind as you anticipate your role during this time. Though a couple of speed bumps may be encountered as we travel this new path together, none of them are show stoppers. The stage is set and the curtain has gone up. Act One is in progress and the reviews are good! As the drama continues to unfold, we will continue to learn more about EIS together.
* For a look at the history of the EIS project here at UNT, see these articles published in Benchmarks Online: