Pittsburg State University’s Journey to the Cloud

Keys to updating campus technology infrastructure

In recent years, the requirements of public higher education institutions have changed drastically, increasing the pressure to modernize their IT systems. To meet those challenges, many universities are looking at available options, including the cloud.

Pittsburg State University was faced with disparate, aging tools, requiring it to rely on manual processes that made it difficult to view data across all of its systems. This, combined with new available technologies and the necessary change to the IT culture on campus made their change journey an adventurous one.

In this web seminar, the leadership of Pittsburg State University discussed how they made the decision to upgrade the institution’s key technology infrastructure, including the research behind the decision, how they addressed cultural change and achieved buy-in, and the role that project management played in such a major implementation.

Angela Neria

Chief Information Officer

Pittsburg State University (Kansas)

Michele Sexton

Director of Budget and Human Resource Services

Pittsburg State University

Barbara Herbert

Assistant Director of IT Project and Process Management

Pittsburg State University

Barbara Winter


Pittsburg State University

Brad Saffer

Director of Higher Education


Brad Saffer: There are four different areas of your journey: selection, planning, implementation, and then some reflections. Let’s start with the selection.

Angela Neria: We knew we needed to build buy-in from the campus, and we created a plan to do that. We created a communication plan with the campus, and worked very closely with our marketing department. We were transparent, and we got many people involved in the selection process—people who were subject matter experts in specific areas like human resources, budgeting, procurement, finance. But it also involved people who just worked in those systems. It was critical to have those folks involved.

We did a SWOT analysis—took time to look in the mirror and say, these are the things that we like about what we have, these are the things that we don’t like, and here’s what we want. We began developing data from that SWOT analysis, which became what was in our RFP.

There were four finalists, and those vendors came to campus and demonstrated their product. We invited all of campus to come, and we handed everyone a rubric at every session to grade the product for us. We were able to capture all of that feedback, which helped drive our decision. We were able to do some nice gap fit analysis and look at what was a good fit for us, based on our RFP. We took that to our president’s council, and from there the decision was made to go with Oracle Cloud.

Brad Saffer: Why did Pittsburg State chose Oracle Cloud?

Barbara Winter: Oracle Cloud met the needs of our campus stakeholders the best. We felt Oracle had a dedication to research and development, and a history in higher education. Then also, as an agency of the state of Kansas, we thought it was very beneficial to be on a similar system as the state, which uses Oracle for HR, payroll and accounting. We also thought it was a good idea to have a system with both HR and finance. Then, of course, finally it came down to pricing.

Brad Saffer: There’s a lot of work involved in preparing for implementation.

Barbara Winter: We spent a great deal of time documenting our processes. We developed swim lanes, looking at the flow of the transaction, not only from a process perspective but just from every look of the transaction. We wanted to know not only what we do, but why we do it.

Then we did a lot homework—talking to our peers, going to user conferences. We wanted the good, the bad and the ugly on every aspect of the system.

Brad Saffer: Tell us who you selected to help implement and why.

Barbara Herbert: We looked at several options and decided to go with Oracle Consulting. One of the reasons was that this was a new product and we were one of the first higher ed customers, so we felt like it would be wise to have someone within Oracle as a partner. We also thought that it might be an opportunity to help develop the future of Oracle as they continued to upgrade and wanted to improve their standing in the higher ed market.

Over the life of the implementation, we have never regretted that decision. They have been the best partners for us, and it’s been a tough road, but it’s gone well. We’ve implemented.

Brad Saffer: The big factor in the success of projects like these is change management. Talk a bit about how you address change management on campus.

Michelle Sexton: The scope of our communication was very large—it needed to happen with every single employee on campus.

We started watching Oracle University’s subscription videos in December 2015 and it became very obvious that things would change on campus, but we didn’t know quite how they would change because we were a long way from actually knowing all the details.

Early on, I started writing a blog. My goal was to keep the campus engaged, to let them know how the project was going, keep them up to date on tasks that we had done, decisions that we might have to make.

Once we were to a point where we actually had a good idea of how things needed to change on campus, then I would meet with employee groups to ask for feedback and assistance in helping us formulate a best-case scenario to take to the executive committee. I also asked the admin in each department to help make sure that all the employees within their area knew they need to get trained, knew that changes would be happening. That is critical to a successful go-live.

Brad Saffer: What were the biggest lessons learned on the project?

Barbara Winter: Our biggest lesson learned was when Oracle Consulting came in with configuration worksheets. We pretty much sat back and let the consultant lead us through the process as we got going. We soon learned, within a few months, that we needed to own the configuration. We needed to dig around in the system, see what our options were, and just own it and take over.

Barbara Herbert: I wish we had gotten project managers involved sooner. We did have to make some changes and there was some confusion as we began to implement each one of these products. Had we gotten their input sooner, we might have had a better understanding of what we were going to need to do.

The changes for our campus were very hard, but now we’re on a stable platform using industry best standards. I think we’re all glad we made this decision. It was hard, but we’ve got a good product and we feel confident that we’re in a good spot.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit www.universitybusiness.com/ws052317


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