March 6, 2008

STARS project completes the PeopleSoft system

Over the weekend of March 14-16, most of the computer systems relating to student records will be out of service as Cornell Information Technologies (CIT) switches student records into the Oracle-PeopleSoft administrative computer system. It's a milestone, the last major step in bringing all of the university's administrative computing into the PeopleSoft system. CIT's STARS (System for Tracking Administrative Records for Students) project has been under way since December 2005, to replace more than 20 separate home-grown computer systems, some as much as three decades old. At least 40 people in CIT have been involved, along with more than 100 staff members from the colleges and administrative departments.

In addition to software updates, the project has involved extensive meetings with deans, faculty and administrators and testing with student focus groups. Training sessions for staff who will use the new systems have been ongoing since December. But the payoff, said project manager Jill Henery, is increased efficiency and fewer errors. To take the simplest example, if information about a student changed, under the old system the changes might have to be entered separately into a dozen different systems. "Now it's all in a single database," Henery said.

The new software also will empower students, said David Yeh, assistant vice president for student and academic services. "We really want to advance this whole notion of not having to stand in lines," he said. "We want to be able to collect and deliver data to help with decision making, and that goes for students as well as the university. It will help them make decisions about courses, about their finances. And it will give them alerts about things they need to do."

Over the last several years, the management of Human Resources, Payroll and Alumni Affairs and Development functions have been converted to the PeopleSoft system. Admissions and Financial Aid, the first elements of the student administration module, are already online. The weekend conversion will add Student Records, Student Financials and Self-Service systems. The conversion will be followed by a week of "smoke testing" (a reference to turning on a new piece of hardware and watching to see if smoke comes out), and the new systems will go live March 24. Only a few small pieces remain to be added in June and September, Henery said.

The student administration module is a recent addition to the PeopleSoft software, developed by PeopleSoft in collaboration with Cornell and six other universities. More than 1,000 schools are now using the PeopleSoft student administration system worldwide.