Uni staff fall back on Excel to work around mis-coded transactions in Oracle system

Two years after going live, the project that left employees unpaid still needs work

Updated The fallout from Edinburgh University's ill-fated Oracle HR and finance implementation continues with one department recording thousands of mis-coded transactions relating to more than £300,000 in spending.

More than two years after the Fusion HR, payroll, and finance system went live, the Scottish university's Biology Department noted that transactions are still mis-coded. One insider told The Register they were using Excel spreadsheets to get an unofficial ledger of spending to make up for the system's shortcomings.

The Register understands the problems are indicative of ongoing issues with the system, internally called People and Money (P&M), throughout the £1.3 billion budget institution.

In December, an independent report from PA Consulting showed how before the implementation, senior managers missed warning signs that the project was not ready. The report commissioned by the University Court, an independent governance body, said problems related to change management aspects of the project that were not given sufficient attention before it went live.

"Some users, who tried to provide constructive input and feedback, felt that they were considered disruptive by leadership and not listened to," it said.

An internal email seen by The Register this week said: "The implementation of P&M has been very difficult and resulted in a lot of additional work for colleagues."

It noted that the School of Biological Sciences was not allocating costs to respective research projects. "Currently we have 5,204 transactions totalling £385,558.14 sitting within a general research fund which should be sitting on individual research grants, and this number is rising all the time," the email said.

An insider told The Register that the P&M software system offered a poor choice of default code, and allowed for confusion between general ledger and project codes, leading to "this particular mess."

"Many of us are flying blind, or keeping our own unofficial ledger in Excel, or having to bother the finance staff regularly to get balances. Finance staff are excellent but working with a weird system that was imposed on them," they said.

The Register has offered the university the opportunity to respond.

In February, the university awarded systems integrator and support company Inoapps an additional £3.6 million ($4.5 million) contract fee for "changes in requirements and additional work" on the Oracle implementation that left staff and suppliers paid late in 2022.

The additional fee took the total contract value to £37 million ($46.4 million) on a deal originally signed for £25 million ($31.3 million). In March last year, the company got an extra £8 million ($10 million) for "changes in requirements and additional work."

In May, the university's Senate, a representative body made up of students and academics, said it had no confidence in the institution's management of the Oracle migration. Management failed to answer "vital questions about the payment backlog resulting from the implementation," it said.

Last month, the Court said the university had updated it on the People & Money system improvement plan.

"The University's executive leadership was continuing to work towards full implementation of the recommendations of the independent report on People & Money, and Court would continue to exercise appropriate oversight of this," it said. ®

Updated to add at 1350 UTC on May 8:

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: "Following the implementation of the People and Money system, much progress has been made with our finance service. We know that there is more to do and we are keeping our community updated and continue to listen to their concerns."

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