Implementing the Cloud at the University of Wyoming: Challenges and Lessons Learned

Jessie Lum

In partnership with Huron, the University of Wyoming successfully transitioned its decades-old, on-premise technology to the cloud.

Huron, in partnership with the Higher Education User Group (HEUG), led a four-part webinar series to share best practices and methodologies universities should consider when moving to the cloud. HEUG is an Oracle user group for higher education technology professions that facilitates the sharing of ideas, information and experiences among its members.

Part one of the webinar series highlights how the University of Wyoming (UW) not only approached moving to the cloud as a technology upgrade but also as an opportunity to transform the way it operates and educates.

WyoCloud Methods and Techniques

Transitioning any technology system to the cloud is challenging. Moving a highly customized, on-premise system to the cloud is even more challenging. This was the situation UW was in when it partnered with Huron to migrate its decades-old system to the cloud.

At UW, Laura Shevling, Director of Systems and Institutional Effectiveness and contributor to the WyoCloud Project, partnered with Jessie Lum, senior director at Huron, to execute the institution's successful cloud implementation. Shevling and Lum joined Huron and HEUG for the webinar, Methods and Techniques for Successfully Launching a Cloud Implementation, where they shared lessons learned and techniques that institutional leaders can leverage to ensure a smooth implementation. They discussed build versus buy methodologies, planning and preparation recommendations and change management best practices.

Benefits of a Successful Cloud Transformation

Transitioning to cloud applications can help organizations address common operational challenges caused by aging enterprise systems. Those challenges may include process inefficiencies, organizational integration issues or compliance and audit problems, among others.

There are many specific benefits across the following three categories:

  1. Technology modernization: Eliminates unnecessary information technology (IT) software, modernizes IT support model, improves infrastructure and reduces software maintenance.
  2. Business process redesign: Increases HR and payroll efficiency, increases finance efficiency and increases supply chain efficiency.
  3. Performance improvement: Improves employee retention, strategic sourcing, absence management, benefits payment controls and use of funds.

For Shevling at UW, technology modernization was just one of many benefits. “There are exciting aspects of moving to the cloud,” Shevling says. “The cloud provides the opportunity to do business process redesign and to review chart of accounts, which is one of the additional initiatives we did as part of our implementation.”

Methodology: How to Execute a Successful Cloud Implementation

Oracle Cloud Methodology: Build Versus Buy

Oracle cloud uses a build versus buy methodology, which is solution-oriented and drives improvement and provides a quicker delivery to the user. The build methodology, however, is requirements-driven and involves starting from the ground up. Oracle’s buy methodology is solution-oriented and drives improvement and provides a quicker delivery to the user.

Change management will make or break a project. The more institutions invest in it, the better off they will be.

Lessons Learned at the University of Wyoming

1. Invest in Change Management

“Change management will make or break a project,” Shevling says. "The more institutions invest in it, the better off they will be." At UW, spending time with end users and explaining business processes were valuable parts of the cloud migration process.

When UW went live with their planning and budgeting system, they mandated users attend two in-person trainings which introduced the system and how to use it, as well as provided a high-level look at UW’s budgeting. UW also focused on comparing the old system to the new one to better equip users for adoption.

“Change management is reassuring so that users can see for themselves what the transition is going to look like,” Shelving says.

2. Create a High-Performing Team

Shevling’s experience at UW also revealed the importance of active project and leadership teams. "Because the cloud is still fairly new for higher education, institutions need a team that's going to embrace change and foster collaboration and isn't afraid to question the status quo," she says. Also, because it comes built, institutions do not customize it. Therefore, working together on configurations and ensuring organization-wide implementation and adoption is imperative.

3. Encourage Individuals to Own Their Roles

Ownership for roles and responsibilities supports a successful cloud implementation. “When we took ownership, that paid dividends down the road in implementation as well as in the post-go-live state,” Shevling says.

Ownership encourages innovation. “Organizations need to have people who are willing to dig in, experiment and investigate,” she says. Migrating to the cloud successfully may require several rounds of trial and error to get certain aspects or ideas to work. This approach to ownership of tasks promotes a sustainable cloud adoption and equips teams and institutions for the future.

4. Avoid at All Costs: the 'Old' in the 'New'

It is easy to default to the familiar, especially when implementing new tools and technologies. The more configurations to the cloud that accommodate old processes and systems, the more ongoing upgrades, maintenance and overhead organizations incur.

"You'll want to put the old into the new because that's what you're comfortable with. Speaking from our experiences, you don't want to do that,” Shevling says.

For Shevling and UW, it was a shift in mindset from adapting the tool to fit their current processes to thinking: How can we adapt to the tool?

5. Embrace a Continuous Process Improvement Mindset

UW has transitioned to Oracle's R13 version, which includes quarterly updates that bring new system functionality. Transitioning to the cloud requires ongoing maintenance and updates, and more support to handle those upgrades and new features. As Oracle introduces new functionality, UW is continuously looking for ways to optimize business processes.

“One of the reasons to move to the cloud is that it provides an opportunity for continuous process improvement,” Shevling says. “We’ve become a well-oiled machine, and our functional leads and business analysts work well together.”

Download the webinar slides below to view the entire presentation.

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Implementing the Cloud at the University of Wyoming: Challenges and Lessons Learned

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