I had the pleasure of attending the HEUG-sponsored Cloud Symposium at Oracle’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, California in February 2019. The symposium was a gathering of representatives from many HEUG member institutions that are at varying stages on their paths from on-premise to cloud software. There were schools that are in the information gathering stage and considering a cloud implementation, others who have committed to moving to the cloud and are actively planning their implementations, and some early adopters who are already live with modules of Oracle ERP Financials, HCM, or Student Cloud.
Judging by the attendance and tone of the conversations at the Symposium it is evident that many Higher Ed institutions have come around to thinking about Cloud as a matter of “when we move to the Cloud” as opposed to “if we move to the Cloud.” One of the factors driving interest in Cloud adoption is the promise of the ability to more easily uptake new features built on the latest technologies (such as AI). Other institutions mentioned data security as a reason to move to the Cloud, as they are concerned about the risks of hosting on-premise data centers. In addition, the changing landscape of higher education has forced many institutions to reevaluate whether their current ERP solutions are equipped to produce the analytics necessary for strategic planning to address the enrollment and budgeting challenges that many in the industry are facing. Another factor is that demand for software capabilities is changing as a new generation of students and employees enters our institutions with certain expectations of how to use technology to interact with us and transact business.
With that said, the early adopters of Oracle Cloud software were clear in their characterization of the challenges faced during their implementations. Although the transition to Cloud software may be necessary in order for Higher Ed to modernize our business practices, the transformation will be challenging for many institutions whose staff and faculty are firmly entrenched in the way that they use their PeopleSoft systems. As would be expected, all presenters mentioned the importance of change management and executive support as keys to a successful Cloud implementation. It was interesting that Cloud adopters acknowledged that moving to the Cloud did not result in a reduction of their IT staffs. Rather, they have experienced a shift in the required skillsets with a need for integration solutions between Cloud and legacy or third-party software and dedicated resources for evaluating the impact of system changes with each mandatory quarterly software release.
Overall, attending the Cloud Symposium was a positive experience. In general, I found attendees to be cautiously optimistic about Oracle’s direction for Cloud software. While many were still suspicious that the Cloud will be able to deliver on its promises of faster implementation and easier adoption of new features, there was genuine excitement in the room as attendees reacted to software demonstrations and considered the possibilities for their institutions. Regardless of whether or not your institution is currently on a path to the Cloud, I hope HEUG members will look forward with an open mind to learning about Cloud technology and thinking about how a new generation of software may help them transform their business processes and improve the employee experience at their institutions.