As the University of California prepares to deploy a single payroll and human resources business system for all 10 campuses, five medical centers and the Office of the President, UCLA administrators are laying the groundwork to ease the transition for the Westwood campus.
UCLA — both the main campus and the medical enterprise — will be in the first wave of four campuses and the Office of the President (UCOP) to implement the new system. UC has set January 2013 as the target date for implementation at UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz and UCOP.
The new system will replace an outdated 30-year-old one that has become highly inefficient and labor-intensive, requiring redundant data entry, manual calculations and time-consuming paper processing, UC officials said. Difficult to use, update and maintain, it also makes some important tasks, like aggregating payroll and HR data collected from all the campuses, extremely difficult. Over the years, several campuses have developed their own versions of the antiquated Payroll Personnel System (PPS), along with work-around processes and patches to deal with shortcomings.
At UCLA, for example, where the automated systems for payroll and human resource management don’t "talk" seamlessly to each other, time-consuming paper processing is required to "inform" the payroll system when people are hired, go on leave, change jobs or leave UCLA. The new technology, the PeopleSoft Payroll and Human Capital Management suite by Oracle America, Inc., will make paper transactions unnecessary.
"These are sweeping changes that will impact everyone — faculty and staff — who receives a UC paycheck, and it presents significant challenges," said Administrative Vice Chancellor Jack Powazek, who is spearheading UCLA’s efforts to meet UCOP’s mandate.
To put a single system in place, human resource and payroll business processes throughout the campus will have to be standardized. The UC project, one of the most complex operational initiatives ever to be undertaken systemwide, will require that UCLA departments unplug major systems from the old PPS and reconnect them to the new system.
These major systems handle business practices in every campus department, from those that manage financial aid and student records to others that handle purchasing/accounts payable and the payroll for the entire UCLA Health System.
"Basically, the PPS is the ‘heart’ that most everything else in our financial world connects to," Powazek explained. "It’s as if we are taking those campus systems that operate in every department and reconnecting them to an artificial heart miles away. Before those new connections can be made, we need to make sure that all of our major and minor systems on campus are operational and ready to go. Our priority is to make sure this happens."
The UC-driven project is intended to increase efficiency and reduce costs over the long-term, key goals of UC’s Working Smarter initiative and UCLA’s Restructuring Initiative.
Equally important is that a modern payroll system will enable UCLA to manage its workforce needs more effectively and efficiently, offer departments improved quality of service and support, empower managers and employees to process transactions and changes online, and eliminate time-wasting paper processing and redundancy.
For example, if a federal regulation changes and UCLA needs to implement those changes in its payroll system, it’s not a simple task, said Administrative Associate Vice Chancellor and UCLA Controller Allison Baird-James, who is in charge of central business operations. "We have to Band-Aid it onto this old platform, along with all the other Band-Aids that we’ve put on over the last 30 years. It’s extremely cumbersome."
The benefits, however, will come with big challenges.
"Each campus and many of their individual departments are accustomed to interpreting human resources and payroll rules themselves," Baird-James said. The UC project, she said, will lead to uniform policies and procedures, requiring changes to individual practices. "Moving to this centralized system will require patience and flexibility as we re-think how we work and process transactions within a standardized system."
Over the coming year, there will be numerous briefings and presentations for various campus groups about the PPS change. Chief administrative and financial officers on campus have been apprised of the project over the past year.
In order to smooth the transition, Powazek’s team is working closely with faculty, staff and administrators. A campuswide advisory group with representatives from administrative units; the College of Letters and Science and the professional schools; the UCLA Library; and the Reagan UCLA Medical Center has been established. Vice Chancellor of Academic Personnel Carole Goldberg and Dr. David Feinberg, associate vice chancellor for health sciences and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System, will also be onboard, along with several associate deans.
The chancelllor’s Executive Committee and the Council of Deans have been updated on the changeover. And important campus committees, such as those in the Academic Senate as well as the Information Technology Planning Board, which informs and advises UCLA’s executive managers and Senate leaders on IT matters, will be kept abreast of what is happening.
As part of the first wave, UCLA administrators have secured a seat at the table on each of the critical systemwide task groups that have been formed to guide the transition and make important decisions about standardization and the new roles and responsibilities to be delegated. Baird-James, for example, is a member of the systemwide management workgroup. Powazek said this positions UCLA well to influence decisions that affect the campus.
"This is going to take a lot of hard work by lot of people over an extended period of time," Powazek said. "I have a great deal of confidence in the ability of team leaders on this campus to make it happen. The payoff in terms of efficiency, timeliness and cost savings to the UC system and to UCLA make it worthwhile."
You can keep up to date with the transition at this Working Smarter website.