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McMaster University


Systems Renewal Background and Status Update

August 2012

McMaster University is in the midst of a multi-year project to modernize its business processes and replace its current patchwork of business systems with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. This project is about to enter a new phase with greater activity and visibility. This note summarizes the project's rationale, progress to date and next steps.

Current Systems

McMaster has more than 20 distinct business systems that are used to administer aspects of the University's business such as admissions, class registration, accounting and research administration. Many of these systems:

  • are old and use programing languages which are obsolete,
  • were designed for a smaller, simpler university, and
  • are ill equipped to accommodate the increasing audit and regulatory compliance requirements McMaster faces.

Moreover these systems tie the University to business processes that are antiquated and often paper-based. For example, the student registration system is based on 1980s mainframe technology, was designed only for undergraduates and is running at maximum capacity. Despite this low level of service, these systems are expensive to maintain.


Renewing McMaster's business systems was a key priority in VISION 2020: Technology Strategic Directions, which was adopted as McMaster IT strategy in 2010. Subsequently, a Systems Renewal Steering Committee was established. It has conducted an extensive review of the university's current state and options for moving forward, including detailed financial comparisons. The result of months of study and several external consultant reports was clear: the University needs to adopt an ERP system to support current and future academic, research, and administrative support needs. This was not a surprising conclusion given that McMaster is the only major Canadian university without an ERP system but it was important to confirm that it was the right choice for McMaster. The decision to adopt an ERP system was approved by the Board of Governors.

Direction and Benefits

Over the next few years the project will implement five primary modules:

  • finance,
  • student administration,
  • research administration,
  • human resources and
  • business intelligence.

Replacing all of these systems simultaneously gives the University a once in a generation opportunity to modernize its core business processes and adopt current best practices. Ultimately, the university will have a system with several benefits including enhancing the student experience, supporting student growth, improving routine workflows, and strengthening business intelligence. Equally importantly, the new system will dramatically improve our ability to meet the regulatory compliance challenges the University faces such as Tri-Council requirements and Broader Public Sector procurement directives.

Governance and Involvement

The establishment of an Executive Committee, Systems Renewal Steering Committee and Functional Advisory Teams gave the project both the leadership and functional depth it needed to establish a schedule and begin the process of selecting software and an implementation vendor. In December 2011, more than 200 McMaster staff and faculty members attended software evaluation sessions. Last spring, following these consultations and demonstrations of software options, the University selected Oracle's PeopleSoft ERP system as the underlying software.

Next Steps

As scheduled, the University now is in the final stage of selecting a system implementation (SI) vendor to help us configure and, in limited areas, customize the PeopleSoft product. At the same time, teams have begun mapping the University's business process to capture the as-is-state. This September the project will begin a four month Fit-Gap stage when McMaster implementation teams will work with the SI vendor to develop a comprehensive and detailed plan for implementing the system at McMaster. Candidates are about to be recruited for these teams. Additional staff will be recruited to serve on advisory groups and act as subject matter experts. Beginning in 2013, the teams will begin the multi-year process of implementing the new systems.