Back in 2018, Baylor University was running two separate ERP systems, one for finance and one for human resources \u2014 the kind of thing that can be a major pain point in an organization where staff make up the largest part of the cost base.\nIn July of that year, Baylor IT began migrating those systems to Oracle Cloud ERP and HCM as part of a broader IT transformation to elevate the university to a Tier-1 research institution. Baylor\u2019s then interim CIO, Becky King, moved into the role of project director, retiring in September 2020 after the ERP went live. Meanwhile, Baylor\u2019s CISO Jon Allen took over CIO responsibilities, spending two years as interim CIO before being confirmed in that role in July 2020.\n\n[ Comparison shopping? See "The best ERP systems:10 enterprise resource planning systems compared," with evaluations and user reviews. | Learn why companies are increasingly moving to cloud ERP and how to spot the 10 early warning signs of ERP disaster. | Get weekly insights by signing up for our CIO Leader newsletter. ]\n\nAnother key contributor to Baylor\u2019s ERP transformation was Brett Dalton, who was appointed chief business officer just as the migration kicked off.\n\u201cHe inherited an ERP project coming in the door. It was incredible the way that he was able to own that, due to his prior experiences doing ERP projects in the past,\u201d Allen says.\nDeep learning\nThe project began with a reevaluation of what the university needed from its finance and HR systems, taking the opportunity to modernize some practices and processes.\nAt HR\u2019s core was Ellucian Banner, an ERP system developed specifically for universities, with 20 or so additional systems stuck on like \u201ca bunch of barnacles,\u201d he says. \u201cIt gave them very poor ability to really manage the human resources that they needed to dynamically manage.\u201d\nTo further complicate matters, Baylor ran its accounts on PeopleSoft rather than use Ellucian\u2019s finance module.\n\u201cThe largest cost component, human resources at a higher ed institution, wasn't tightly joined to our financial system,\u201d Allen says. \u201cWe were coming from a place where we had programmed ourselves into so much technical debt it was unbelievable.\u201d\nNot everything wrong with the old system was down to the software: Some of it was in the bookkeeping itself.\n\u201cA lot of times it was paper processes that had been turned into a technology process, but had never gone through any kind of optimization,\u201d he says, with processes shaped by that one thing that happened 15 years ago. The goal was to reduce steps, increase efficiency, and still deliver value.\n\u201cYou\u2019ve got to really start at what is the most fundamental, foundational layer,\u201d he says. \u201cOn the financial side, it\u2019s having a good chart of accounts. On the HR side, it\u2019s really understanding how we are going to build out our jobs and our position structures in such a way that they\u2019re going to meet the needs of our organization without having bloat.\u201d\nFor instance, Baylor has now moved from a three-segment chart of accounts to a seven-segment chart of accounts \u2014 essentially increasing the number of attributes that can identify an item in the budget and improving the analytics options.\n\u201cAs an institution, a lot of what\u2019s important to identify is things around grants and alumni donations,\u201d Allen says. Previously, it might have been necessary to create virtual departments to track such things \u2014 but the new attributes make tracking and analyzing the usage of such income easier.\n\u201cWhen everybody complains about not being able to get insight, they blame it on, \u2018The IT reporting isn\u2019t very good.\u2019 In truth, we didn\u2019t have the foundation to support that strength, and I think that\u2019s where these digital transformations have to start,\u201d he says.\nThis rebuilding of foundations has strengthened the partnership between functional and technical teams. \u201cIT cannot be this isolated entity,\u201d says Allen. \u201cThe business has to be so tightly integrated that if, we\u2019re doing our job correctly, the technology is transparent.\u201d\nThat was reinforced by the project lead at Baylor\u2019s implementation partner, Huron Consulting Group, who \u201cpounded that drum about functional ownership, functional driving business processes, functional testing. IT is really there supporting these efforts versus driving the efforts,\u201d he says.\nRemote learning\nBaylor was closing in on its mid-2020 go-live date when the first rumblings about COVID were heard. The university set up a task force in late January to dust off distance learning plans first made during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.\nStudents were told not to return to campus after spring break in March. Baylor then sent the entire Ignite team of almost 100 staff home too, leaving them to learn a new way of working.\n\u201cAs the Ignite team is going down their path \u2014 and certainly I\u2019m deeply involved there \u2014 we\u2019re also doing one of the greatest pivots that\u2019s ever happened in education, taking thousands of classes online in a matter of weeks,\u201d Allen says.\nLosses from the spring semester and the expectation of lower revenue in the following year had the university instituting budget cuts by June 1, but leadership maintained its support for project Ignite rather than trying to \u201cpull the ripcord,\u201d Allen says, enabling the system to go live as expected.\nCommunicating about the changes and providing support and education for users through this process was key. Having a call center was in the plans, but having everyone do it from home was not. Training on the new IT system needed a serious rethink: \u201cWe knew that our original training plan, as we pivoted to online, probably wasn\u2019t going to provide the same level of retention experience that we could have in-person,\u201d he says.\nThe previous fall, Allen had seen a demonstration of Oracle Guided Learning, a digital adoption tool that tracks how staff are using Oracle Cloud applications and delivers training as needed.\nThanks to the university leadership\u2019s willingness to invest in communication about change, Baylor adopted the guided learning tool eight weeks before go-live, and Oracle was able to deliver on time, says Allen.\nUniversity staff contributed to the customization efforts and continued to add new tips and lessons after go-live.\n\u201cI think we have a team that\u2019s extremely passionate about making sure that the institution is successful,\u201d he says.