Simon Fraser University

Simon says goodbye

Jun 27, 2002 , vol. 24, no. 5

By Carol Thorbes
Nick Heath (left), SIMS functional team lead at SFU, Jim Cranston, SFU chief information officer and Janet Backe, a Sierra Systems principal and SIMS project manager review the transition to PeopleSoft.

A million-dollar computer system made by PeopleSoft will usher in a new era of information management at Simon Fraser University.

The state-of-the art system will replace the university's aging and increasingly obsolete student information management system (SIMS) known as SIMON.

For students it will mean easier access to their records and services, such as paying fees. For staff it will mean more comprehensive and better information management.

For faculty it will mean compiling class lists and grade reports with interactive media rather than on paper.

A user-centred system with technology that supports a variety of administrative functions, PeopleSoft will be web-based and provide students with many self-serve options over the Internet.

“They'll be able to log in on any browser-based computer from anywhere in the world to access different SFU databases,” says Jim Cranston, appointed SFU's first chief information officer (CIO) almost a year ago. “Students will be able to register, add and drop courses, review their financial status and perform a multitude of other functions that usually require lining up or calling in to talk to someone.”

The first phase of the transition to PeopleSoft will involve student administrative services. Admissions, registration, records, financial aid, tuition calculations and payments, and alumni development will be accessible on-line.

“We hope to have PeopleSoft handling registration by fall 2003,” says Cranston.

Eventually, university services, such as human resources, payroll and finances will be added. It will cost several million dollars to put the new system in place. It's a full-time project involving 20 people to help with data conversion, modification of business practices and making sure academic rules, pre-requisites and security measures are in place.

Nick Heath, formerly SFU's director of admissions is now a SIMS functional team lead. He notes that the more that SFU's business practices are tailored to complement the new system the lower the cost of implementation will be.

“For example, processes currently run over the telephone using interactive voice response technology, such as the application for graduation, will be replaced by processes that depend on a web interface with the customer,” explains Heath.

PeopleSoft is a California-based company and one of the world's leading higher education software providers. Its student administration package is one of the newest of its kind but already in use at many universities worldwide.

Cranston says, “PeopleSoft was chosen because it offered the broadest range of functions for our various users and the most modern technology.”

Ciber, an international company, and Sierra Systems, which has its head office in Vancouver, will handle implementation.