College to replace PeopleSoft by 2026

Sam Coyle and Gabe Miller

PeopleSoft is currently hosted in Jesup Hall. (Gabe Miller/The Williams Record)

By 2026, the College will no longer use PeopleSoft — the more-than-two-decades-old software underpinning its student records (Sarah), human resources (Ephr), and finance systems — though a replacement has not yet been determined. The replacement project is called Collaboratively Optimizing Williams.

By December, the College will decide on the new vendor, and by mid-2024 it expects to have the new human resources and finance systems ready for use. Twelve to 18 months after, around 2026, it will implement the new student records system. Vice President for Finance and Operations Mike Wagner, Chief Information Officer Barron Koralesky, and Director of Project and Change Management at the Office for Information Technology Jessie Mandel described the PeopleSoft replacement project and its timeline at the Oct. 19 faculty meeting.

Unlike PeopleSoft — currently hosted in Jesup Hall — the new system will be cloud-based, which should increase accessibility, reliability, and performance, Koralesky noted at the meeting.

The impetus for replacing PeopleSoft stems from the software’s age and outdated user interface. “PeopleSoft itself has been declared end-of-life,” Koralesky said in an interview with the Record. “We’ve been using PeopleSoft for over 21 years.”

Oracle, the company that produces PeopleSoft, announced in 2018 that the software will still be supported for at least 10 more years and that the company will announce every year whether it will further extend the program’s lifetime. “We saw this deadline approaching at least five years [ago and started to evaluate] where we would go, assess PeopleSoft’s current state, and how well it’s going to age,” Koralesky said. “As a vendor starts to decommission a project, they don’t maintain it as well, so we’re looking to move to a better system soon.”

To run PeopleSoft, the College must cover many costs. “What you see as the student information, finance, or human resources system is actually lots of parts, from the servers and storage, through the databases and applications,” Koralesky wrote in an email to the Record. “Then we have duplicates of each for the testing and development environments, and also backups, and everything else that it takes to keep these complex systems running.”

Overall, it takes roughly $500,000 per year to keep the PeopleSoft system up and running, Koralesky explained — not including the side systems that address gaps and make improvements to PeopleSoft nor the personnel running the systems.

While the new system will likely cost more to operate, administrators at the College expressed hopes that it will be more streamlined and efficient. “We cannot provide a [cost] for the new system yet, because we are still in the process of negotiating this with two separate vendors,” Wagner wrote in an email to the Record. While Wagner noted that the College is hoping to pursue the most cost-effective option in the long run, he said that based on the College’s experience, as well as those of other schools, the cost of a new system is unlikely to be less than the cost of the existing system. “[It’s] not surprising given the more modern platform, user experience, and functionality that we will acquire,” he said. Moreover, the new system will be an ever-evolving product, so users can expect to see improvements made over time, whereas adding features to systems like PeopleSoft is comparably very difficult.

Milo Chang ’24 described PeopleSoft as an antiquated, inadequate system and said he is optimistic about the College replacing it with newer software. “[PeopleSoft] feels like something from the last century,” he said. “I’m hoping they’re able to make the [user interface] a bit more intuitive and that it stops crashing during registration.”

Professors also said they are also eager to see the upgrades. “I’m glad that we are working on a plan to implement a better system than PeopleSoft, and I have great confidence in the team that is working on managing the transition,” Professor of Economics and Department Chair Jon Bakija wrote in an email to the Record.

To make the new system as beneficial to the College as possible, the PeopleSoft replacement team has been talking to community members about “pain points” — or problem areas — of the current system. Wagner said that the Collaboratively Optimizing team will be engaging with students directly through Daily Messages and their website, as well as through student-faculty committees. “We take those pain points, and that goes into the decision-making about which product to choose,” he said.