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Business Officer Magazine
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New Options for Your Campus

Sessions in this track examined open-source administrative software, mobile computing, data security, and other technologies at the forefront for higher education institutions.

From Concept to Reality

The concept of community source software—similar to open source, but with organizational structure, and built by and for higher education—that was born close to a decade ago has become a reality as a growing number of institutions are implementing the Kuali Financial System (KFS). A panel of representatives from four of these institutions shared their experiences in the session, "Kuali Has Become a Game Changer," that highlighted community process, implementation, and cost savings data.

Attendees learned how Kuali has worked for many different types of schools. Although Kuali software is free, institutions will incur costs for implementation and maintenance-and data from two schools on the panel indicates that these costs are considerably less than using a commercial alternative.  

The University of California, Davis, which has been running KFS for two years with no audit findings, estimates that selection of a commercial software product would have cost an additional $8 million. Indiana University is also running smoothly, has had successful audits, and has saved approximately $17 million by installing Kuali Financials, rather than a commercial product, on all eight of its campuses. Also represented on the panel were Michigan State University and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Further, Kuali's philosophy is zero-disruption upgrades. The accounting structure doesn't change with upgrades; rather, functionality is enhanced and individual institutions may upgrade at a pace that makes sense for them. For example, Stevens Institute is currently running Kuali version 3.1. Because one year to implement was aggressive, Stevens chose to gradually upgrade to levels 4 through 6—to allow staff time to become well-versed in function and process before moving to higher versions. 

Kuali schools can also use non-Kuali modules. In some cases, institutions that are part of the community get together and develop smaller systems to fit a community need; for example, UC Davis and seven other schools recently developed a travel module. In other cases, existing systems have become of part of Kuali (such as the research system known as Kuali Coeus). Kuali software can also be used in any data center or "cloud" of choice. 

Institutions interested in exploring Kuali software options can find out more at www.kuali.org.

Information at Your Fingertips

Students today come to campus with the expectation that they'll be able to connect to the Internet anywhere cellular signals are available, and their top priorities are access to student services and learning management systems. Business officers learned about these trends in nontechnical terms in the session, "The Impact of Mobile Computing on Campus," led by Colin Currie, executive director of administrative information services, Princeton University, New Jersey.

For a campus to keep pace with learners' expectations, Currie said, the relevant systems must be modified to run on multiple platforms (e.g., Apple, Blackberry, and Droid). This includes modifying existing Web pages for view on various mobile devices, and beyond that, customizing Web pages to recognize devices and automatically modify the display accordingly.

"Collaboration and cooperation will be a key to making this work on campus," Currie suggested. The campus mobile app should be seen by the device operator as a unified application, so data owned by separate offices, such as dining, housing, or student financial aid, must appear seamless.

At Princeton, some of the mobile-friendly applications with tremendous outcomes include the facilities department's iPad initiative and the iPrinceton application. For the facilities department, the iPad initiative effectively handles individual work orders, has eliminated paper tracking, and provides real-time status updates. The iPrinceton app offers real-time transit updates, a campus map with detailed building information, and a related calendar of events. Anyone can download iPrinceton for free or point a mobile browser to mobile.princeton.edu.

Mobile Financial Reporting

"The growth of mobile devices has enabled individuals to manage not only their finances but their families, social lives, and careers without the need of a personal computer," said Brian Laffey, associate vice president of finance and controller, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago. In the session, "Leveraging Business Intelligence and iPad Applications for Financial Reporting," Laffey shared his institution's experience in leveraging a student mobile initiative into a low-cost business application with end-user‒friendly reports and dashboards for campus administrators.

In 2010, IIT distributed iPads to all first-year and transfer students as well as all full-time faculty and select adjuncts, who were to integrate the devices into academics. The iPads provided instant access to announcements, grades, annotations from e-books, and recording of audio and video of class notes. Most notably, the iPad teaching initiative included an Idea Shop, where students develop and implement iPad applications for the university or outside companies.

On the administrative side, IIT had been experiencing challenges with the commercial financial reporting products it was using: difficulty in exporting data, reports that were not end-user‒friendly, and limited functionality. Working with AnalyticsWare, IIT developed a new low-cost business intelligence tool that met all the requirements of the finance division. Since implementation of the new tool coincided with the iPad student initiative, IIT and AnalyticsWare developed a prototype application and arranged for distribution through the iTunes Store.

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