With the recent signing of two software contracts the analysis, planning and procurement phases of Stellenbosch University's System Renewal Project (SRP) have now been concluded, paving the way for the implementation of two major systems for academic and financial administration respectively.
The SRP, that formed part of the broader ICT in Learning and Teaching Project, was spearheaded by a Steering Committee comprising staff members from across the University who refined the institution's requirements and evaluated competing products. The subsequent rigorous procurement process led to the appointment of two reputable vendors.
The contract for the SUNFin (Financial System) project was signed on Friday, 15 February 2019 with Oracle. Implementation of the system is planned to stretch over two financial periods. The SUNStudent (Student Information System) contract with SeroSoft was signed on 26 April 2019.
“These two systems form the bedrock of our academic and financial administration and with the implementation of two cutting edge cloud-based systems we will not only replace the current systems, but unlock the opportunities offered by a new generation of information systems. These systems will have a deep impact on the University as they alter our processes and procedures in academic and financial administration, and even the organisation structure in our administrative divisions. While these changes will require careful and deliberate change management, they will help SU realise the potential efficiency gains offered by new generation information systems," said Prof Stan du Plessis, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SU.
The SRP started as part of the broader ICT in Learning and Teaching Project, under the auspices of Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, Vice-Rector: Teaching and Learning. The project was initiated with SU Council funding to replace two ageing information systems of the University namely the financial system and the student information system with SUNStudent and SUNFin.
- SUNStudent: This will be the Academia student information system provided by SeroSoft Solutions. This state-of-the-art student information system dealing with student administration, of which academic curricula and modules are important components, takes Stellenbosch University on its next step to digital transformation in education. The new system will replace the current, outdated system and promises to be solid and reliable, yet also flexible, modern and student-centric.
- SUNFin: Like the student information system, the University's financial system too has reached the end of its lifecycle and will be replaced with Oracle® Enterprise Resource Planning Cloud (Oracle ERP Cloud), which is a comprehensive, integrated and scalable financial management solution.
“SUNStudent and SUNFin will be implemented in parallel, and close attention will be paid to integration of the systems within the University's ecosystem of information systems and middleware. Together with the replacement of the ageing systems, the integration of data from the new and existing systems will provide the opportunity to track and manage our strategic metrics as well as support information governance initiatives," said Prof Hester Klopper, DVC for Strategy and Internationalisation.
These contracts have been signed following the work of an SRP Steering Committee that was appointed to oversee the successful completion of the project. This committee was chaired by Prof Ian Cloete from the Division for Information Governance (formerly the Division for Institutional Research and Planning), with representatives from Information Technology, the Centre for Student Information System Support, Finance, Office of the Registrar, as well as Teaching and Learning.
“I want to thank our staff for their hard work on analysis and planning that went into the project till now—that enabled us to follow a rigorous procurement process for the new systems, where staff from across the university contributed to evaluating competing products and refining of SU's requirements. Renewal of these two important systems will provide further opportunities for digitalisation and integration of information, as well as streamlining of existing processes to improve effectiveness and efficiency. We rely on the support of our staff and students for successful system implementations, and will keep them informed on progress as system components are planned and rolled out," said Prof Cloete.
At first the intention was to implement open source community software systems, to be developed in partnership with the Kuali Foundation and an international network of universities, but with the rapid improvements in competitive products, this decision was revised to procure both systems from reputable vendors.
As part of the SRP, a separate subproject for Middleware, Infrastructure and Integration (MII) was completed as well. The MII provides an architectural layer common to all present and future information systems of the University. Its purpose is to create an integrated information ecosystem for master- and transactional data for all SU information systems, which enables standardised data integration and sharing across disparate systems. Its capabilities were first proved with the successful implementation in 2018 of the Facilities Management Project Phambili to introduce a new facilities management information system.
During 2018, both the SUNFin and SUNStudent projects followed an extensive tender process which resulted in the appointment of two Rectorate approved vendors to replace the in-house existing systems. During the tender process stakeholders from across the University were involved in setting specifications and evaluating capabilities of various products, before the final choices were recommended. The new software solutions will provide modern up-to-date functions that were not possible with the older systems. The implementation projects will be reinforced by a comprehensive change management program, for which supplementary services have been procured.
New governance and project management structures have been set up for each system to oversee the implementation and integration of the software. Mr Manie Lombard (Chief Director: Finance) is chair of the new SUNFin Steering Committee, whereas Dr Ronel Retief (Registrar) chairs the new Steering Committee for SUNStudent. Further communication regarding these new structures will be distributed shortly. The expectation is that a feasible go-live date is 2021, taking into account the normal student and financial lifecycle activities and the availability of SU personnel. This process will include consultation sessions, regular communication and training of stakeholders across the University environment. In the long term the SU community can look forward to improved services with modern interfaces.
Any general enquiries regarding the Systems Renewal Project may be directed to the Office of the Senior Director: Division for Information Governance. Please contact Ms Tarien Jacobs (X3967) in this regard or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enquiries regarding the implementation phase may be directed to the two new governance and project management structures. Further contact information will follow in the next round of communication.