Many students in Claremont overlook their colleges’
invisible financial infrastructure, rarely wondering how financial data is
reported or organized.
In August, the Board of Overseers and Council of Presidents
of the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) approved the implementation of a
new financial system for the consortium as well as the individual colleges, developed
by third-party vendor Workday. The
system was selected by the Business and Financial Affairs Committee (BFAC),
which is made up of the treasurers from the eight institutions in Claremont, including CUC.
Consortium CEO Stig Lanesskog wrote in an email to TSL that “the current financial systems
are approaching their ‘end of life.’” BFAC is collaborating with Workday to facilitate the campus-wide transition to a “state of the art financial system,” he wrote, parts of
which will go live on July 1, 2015.
Karen Sisson, vice president and treasurer at Pomona College and a member of BFAC,
explained that the colleges usually replace their financial systems every
infrastructure has now reached the point where it’s aged, and it’s breaking,” Sisson said. “The money we’re
investing now is going to serve these institutions probably for the next 10, 15, 20 years unless the technology changes radically.”
According to college treasurers, an
efficient financial system that uses a computer software program to process transactions, manage business
operations and organize budgets is the foundation for essential day-to-day operations
at the colleges, including paying employees.
A financial system is also used to conduct analyses of large-scale projects such as a proposed black-water reclamation initiative that could nearly halve the colleges’ water consumption, as TSL reported last week. Transitioning to the new system has contributed to the stalling of the project, but Sisson said that the new system will make it easier for BFAC to conduct such analyses.
“Having that foundation to make good decisions, or better yet to just make sure the resources we have are being allocated or reallocated in a timely fashion, is going to let us more accurately do the type of financial analysis this project requires,” Sisson said.
As of now, Pomona uses a financial system called
Jenzabar CX, while the other seven institutions have been using Datatel Colleague as their
financial system since 1995.
“There are several limitations with the current system that impact
our day-to-day work, the most significant being a limitation on our ability to
produce timely, meaningful reports,” wrote Andrew Dorantes, BFAC chair and
treasurer of Harvey Mudd College, in an email to TSL.
Sisson said that Jenzabar CX is similarly outdated and
inefficient for big-picture budgeting.
“When Jenzabar CX really showed its weakness was during my
first year here, 2008, when we had [a] crash,” Sisson said. “After that experience
I think there was an acknowledgement by the overall community that having a
better financial system would be very helpful.”
According to Dorantes, personnel from BFAC, the Information
Technology Committee, the consortium and the business offices and information technology offices
of all the institutions in Claremont all began comprehensively evaluating financial
systems in January 2014.
Sisson said that although Pomona was initially uncertain whether the college would adopt the same system as the other colleges, Pomona eventually decided to implement the same system around the time BFAC chose to contract with Workday.
“The treasurers decided this is a moment
when we should all hold hands, and we should have our business process look as
similar as possible across the consortium,” Sisson said. “It allows us to leverage
each college’s resources because we all now are operating on pretty much the
same system and business processes.”
Dorantes said that the new financial system is intuitive and
user-friendly. He believes it will increase
coordination across the consortium, improve the efficiency of financial
processes and allow users to be less dependent on IT support.