Spring/Summer 2000 - Vol. 51, No. 1

Upgrade It? Replace It? Or Start a Revolution? An Adventure Story from the University of Arkansas

Barbara G. Taylor, Ph.D. and Thomas O. Dorre, M.B.A.

The University of Arkansas managed to turn its tale of IT woe into a tale of process re-engineering by choosing the road less traveled. (Did we say less? We mean hardly ever.) The gamble paid off, but from the beginning the university had perceived it to be far less risky than the usual alternatives—and its rewards to be much sweeter.

What does a university do when the manufacturer of its aging human resources and financial software package goes out of business, leaving applications unsupported, local modifications unstable, and the whole system unsuited to for any change or challenge? That was the question facing the University of Arkansas in the early 1990s. An unusual answer would take its Division of Finance and Administration, including the HR staff, on a journey that was to be longer, more interesting, and ultimately far more satisfying than any of its initial participants could ever have imagined.


So Many Needs

Any Capability I Want?

A Revolution is Sparked

Modules Away

1, 2, 3 Testing, Testing

Did Someone Mention Mistakes

Reaping the Rewards

With the vendor of the university’s mid-1980s legacy system in bankruptcy, the option of upgrading to a new, more sophisticated, Y2K-compliant version simply didn’t exist. The system had already been modified considerably over the years, sometimes by the vendor and more recently by university programmers. The university had dropped the licensing agreement when it had become evident that the vendor’s fixes weren’t solving problems and that staff members were becoming alarmingly proficient at the electronic equivalent of applying duct tape. What to do?
Barbara G. Taylor, Ph.D., is associate vice chancellor for Human Resources at the University of Arkansas. She can be reached at btaylor@uark.edu. Thomas O. Dorre, M.B.A., is associate vice chancellor for Finance at the University of Arkansas. He can be reached at todorre@uark.edu.
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