Campus & Community

HR Project approved to implement HR, payroll, benefits systems

5 min read

The Harvard Corporation has approved plans for the Human Resources (HR) Project, which by April 2002 will implement improved computer systems for human resources, payroll, benefits, and time collection. The project will use PeopleSoft applications hosted and maintained by an outside application service provider. This approval constitutes the final step in a series of reviews and gives the green light to the second phase of Project ADAPT, Harvard’s effort to update its administrative computer systems.

The HR Project will be directed by Michael Barricelli, controller; Sara Oseasohn, director of the office of administrative systems; and Polly Price, associate vice president for human resources. They will lead a team of about 60, including full-time project staff; HR, financial, and technology professionals from the schools and central administration; and consulting partners from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGEY).

According to Oseasohn, “We looked carefully at a number of implementation options during a recent pilot phase. We became convinced that by using available software and working with a consulting partner who can host applications at an off-site development center, Harvard could achieve a more rapid and cost-effective implementation.”

“We believe that this approach will help us get online with high-quality HR/Payroll/Benefits applications faster,” added Barricelli. “We realize that it will be very challenging to do something like this in just a year, but we believe we have a highly skilled team and community support which will allow us to be successful.”

The project kicked off in late April with an intensive three-day workshop in which team members and representatives from the schools and units worked together to develop a common understanding of the project’s purpose and the scope of the undertaking.

“The project team has already made a great deal of progress in establishing clear ground rules for input into decision making,” Price said.

In its first year, the HR Project will install and configure new “back-office” systems needed to update Harvard’s payroll and benefits functions, and also create a new electronic time-tracking capability. The new systems will not have to be integrated immediately with existing systems in the schools and departments; work in these units will be largely unchanged.

In a future phase of the HR Project, schools and departments will be able to complete transactions (such as promoting an employee or allocating a research assistant’s salary to a different grant) using a common set of tools or automated links between existing local systems and the new PeopleSoft systems.

The project will also result in some new self-service opportunities for employees and will include work on the development of a full-fledged employee portal.

Although the schools and units will not be using the new tools right away, the new system will make better management reports available immediately and provide a foundation for future improvements. Harvard Business School Chief Human Resources Officer Ellen Mahoney said, “We’re looking forward to the new systems as a way to get better management reporting and do our business in a more intelligent and informed way. Also, the idea of moving toward self-service eventually is a step in the right direction, so people can get the most accurate and updated information about their own employment. The new systems won’t provide this immediately, but they’ll make it possible in the future and we’re excited about that.”

PeopleSoft’s HR applications are used widely in higher education, and are often integrated with Oracle financial applications, such as those now in place at Harvard. At Harvard, as at other universities, including Stanford and Columbia, data will be integrated across the Oracle Financials and PeopleSoft HR systems to provide an administrative infrastructure that will support reports using information from both databases.

There are four main reasons that Harvard needs new HR, payroll and benefits systems:

To provide better management and planning information.

Access to adequate management and planning information is an issue both for the central administration and for the schools. Examples of management information capabilities to be addressed in the new system include the ability to capture and report future salary distributions (supporting more accurate budgeting and forecasting, which is especially important in areas funded by grants), tracking of the casual workforce, and greater flexibility responding to ad hoc information requests.

To fix operational problems and deficiencies.

Some types of processes are hobbled by inadequacies of the current system. For example, the current system is “maxed out” in its ability to accommodate payroll deductions, cannot pay Harvard employees who work outside Massachusetts or Illinois, and cannot support shared data for faculty and staff with appointments in two or more schools.

To provide better service to community.

The new services are needed to improve the turnaround time required both to accomplish HR actions such as getting on the payroll and making changes to benefits plans, and to support employee self-service for basic transactions such as change of address.

To address aging technology.

The current core payroll/personnel IDMS application is an older technology that is difficult to support. Technical professionals who know these older tools are increasingly difficult to find.

For further information about the HR Project, call (617) 495-3231 or e-mail