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Academics have 'no confidence' in Edinburgh University's response to its Oracle disaster

Institution yet to answer 'elementary' project management questions after upgrade left staff and suppliers unpaid

Updated The University of Edinburgh academic representative body has issued a statement of no confidence in the institution over its disastrous Oracle migration, which left research students and suppliers unpaid.

The Scottish university’s Senate, a representative body made up of students and academics, said that management had "yet to answer vital questions about the payment backlog resulting from the implementation."

According to documents seen by The Register, the Senate said: "These are elementary questions of project management, which should be able to be answered simply, rapidly and factually. If the answer is not known, that is a scandalous failure of management; if the answer is known and is being withheld, that is a scandal of a different sort."

The Register has offered the university the opportunity to respond.

In June 2019, Oracle announced the university was moving to Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle HCM Cloud – both applications based on the Oracle Cloud-based Fusion platform. Later that summer, integration partner Inoapps said it had won the deal to support the project.

HR processes went live for all staff in November 2020, while payroll and timesheets launched April 2022.

According to the Senate, in August 2022, the university moved its financial management to the new application, which would require a shutdown of financial processing between July 22 and August 31. But the go-live was delayed.

"Following final rehearsals it is clear that more time is needed to complete the essential detailed tasks that need to be undertaken to launch the new processes," the Senate announced.

The downtime and transition period created a processing backlog, which was exacerbated by the demands of difficult software combined with "inadequate training and support."

"The structure and terminology in People and Money are geared towards those with financial training and is exceptionally difficult for most people to use. It is not intuitive, and staff are regularly dedicating several working hours to tasks which should take a few minutes," the Senate explained.

In a letter to the university last November, the Senate said the troubled project was having a material impact on research and teaching, including research staff foregoing external grant applications because they were unsure the university could manage the financial awards.

In its response, the university acknowledged that the project, called People and Money internally, had put it in a "humbling and unacceptable position." University leadership had said it was "sincerely sorry for the impacts on the mental and physical wellbeing that has ensued."

Last year, the Edinburgh Evening News also reported that suppliers had stopped providing services to the university because invoices had not been paid. At least one dated back to 2018.

Earlier this year, The Register reported that Inoapps and Oracle will see the price of their contract rise from £25.4 million ($31.1 million) to £33.5 million ($41.12 million), owing to changes in requirements and additional work orders by the customer. ®

Updated to add:

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson has been in touch to say: "Following the implementation of the new People and Money system, much progress has been made with our finance service. We continue to work to resolve issues and make improvements.

"Research finance is a particular focus and we are prioritising this area. We are keeping our community updated and continue to listen to their concerns.

"The University remains committed to a professional external review of the People and Money system. Work on the planning, scoping and timing of this review is ongoing."

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