Western to soften blow of 2000
By Mark Brown
With the clock ticking towards the year 2000, Western is giving greater attention to the fight against the "millennium bug" a technical glitch which promises to create chaos in what is now a computer-dependent society.
The "millennium bug" is the problem associated with software and computer systems which are not designed to handle any year past 1999.
PeopleSoft, the firm Western hired to provide the new software and computer systems capable of interpreting the year 2000, has been working according to a tight time line to implement four new computer systems at the university.
Western has bought three computer systems from PeopleSoft including human resources, finance, student administration systems and an additional system built by York University using PeopleSoft technology, said Gerry Growden, project manager for the firm.
"It has been 10 years since any major computer system upgrade at Western," he said.
The PeopleSoft software has cost the university $2 million with additional equipment costs also expected to be within the $1 to $2 million range, said Michael Bauer, senior director of Western's Information and Technology Services.
"Putting one system in place is complex and we are putting in four," Bauer said.
Human Resources, the first to use the new system, went on-line for the first time Jan. 5 with the finance department expected to be ready sometime in the summer, said Growden.
The third area, student administration, has been broken into two phases. Phase one is expected to be complete in the fall or winter and phase two in the spring of 1999, he said. The fourth system, advancement of alumni services, is projected to be ready sometime in January 1999, he added.
Any time left before the year 2000 will serve as a buffer to stabilize the system and to work out any additional problems, Growden said. He expects the existing mainframe will be wound down late 1999 or early 2000.
"Most computer systems won't be effected," Growden said. "We are also implementing CITRIX and Winframe which allows us to use some of the lower grade computers."
While ITS and PeopleSoft are responsible for the implementation of the new computer systems at Western, each department has the responsibility of training their own staff.
The human resources department, made up of approximately 200 people, began training for the new system in November and December, said Bob Baron, training coordinator for the human resources information system.
How the data is displayed is one of the noticeable differences, said Baron. He explained the new system uses panels to display the data while the previous system used screens.
"It's a significant challenge all of the core items will be replaced," Growden said.
"So far it looks like [the new computer system] is working out well and the others appear to be on schedule," said Bauer.