University’s Computer System Loses Its Way and Millions of Dollars

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Associated Press announced last week that it planned to begin using computer programs to write sports stories with game data from the NCAA. The news service already uses a program to “write” thousands of stories about corporate earnings and the Los Angeles Times provides earthquake reports written by Quakebot. Just plug and play.

With a small tweak, to include snarky disbelief and cynical asides, the program could probably be used to write stories about problems public institutions have incurred while adopting new technology.

That’s a program they could probably write at the University of California, where its payroll/benefits system of the future is two years overdue and way over budget. The “critical” UCPath is meant to replace a 35-year-old system with a “single payroll, benefits, HR and academic personnel solution for all UC employees.”  

Last week, its rollout was pushed back to September.

The initial cost of the project, begun in 2011, was expected to be $175 million. Estimates are now $220.5 million.  UCPath is part of the university’s “Working Smarter” project, which was expected to eventually save more than $100 million a year by integrating services for 10 campuses, five health systems, Hastings College of Law, the university Office of the President and other entities.

“You have a project that is out of control, poorly planned and lacks basic governance,”  Michael Krigsman, an IT industry analyst, told the Sacramento Bee.

The new system would service the 190,000 staff and faculty members who currently use 11 different versions of the aged Payroll Personnel System. So far, the highlight of “Successes” listed on the Working Smarter website is that “there remains a very high level of enthusiasm for this project.”   

The UC Board of Regents was told in January 2012 that the system would roll out in one year. Two months after that deadline passed, a July 2014 launch date was set. Pilot projects tentatively scheduled for 2013 never happened.

The plan as of February 2014 was to be fully operational for the Office of the President by January 1, 2015. UC Santa Cruz would roll it out in October, followed by UCLA and UC Merced in February 2016. 

Then the startup was pushed back to December 2014.

Cost overrun projections don’t factor in the latest delays.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Delays to UCPath Project to Cost Millions (by Rafael Sands, UCLA Daily Bruin)

UC Computer Project Behind Schedule, Millions Over Budget (by Alexei Koseff, Sacramento Bee)

Costly Delays in Implementing UCPath Reflect Poorly on UC (UCLA Daily Bruin editorial)

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