Ontario public school boards to get HR and payroll upgrade

IT upgrades can prove costly, especially for cash-strapped school boards, but a recent decision by the Education Computing Network of Ontario (ECNO) to rollout a Microsoft human resources and payroll processing application hopes to provide cost effectiveness and increased usability.

ECNO is a non-profit cooperative representing a group of 58 of 72 public school boards in Ontario that assists its members with coordinating technology strategy.

The participating boards chose to migrate away from their Open VMS payroll and HR application with a customized solution based on SQL Server 2000, according to ECNO’s Keith Johnson.

The solution will be implemented through Microsoft partner, Toronto-based Keous Solutions Inc.,

“We conducted an internal review out of which came the recommendation that the (existing) technology wasn’t delivering the functionality that was required,” said Johnson, ECNO’s director of customer solutions. “The backbone to the technology was dated, so we looked at a complete rebuild of our own software.”

Johnson said that 25 out of their 58 customers will be making the migration.

“Microsoft provided the tools and Keous provided their technical expertise around their product that ECNO outsourced to create these new solutions,” said Jeff Zado, senior product manager, Microsoft Canada.

“In ECNO’s case, some of the core technology was no longer being supported mainstream,” he said. “It sort of forced upon them the decision to re-architect and to look at how they wanted to bring a lot of those HR applications for payroll forward.”

ECNO made some great decisions looking at web-based applications to extend their reach and to minimize the technical impact on all of their school boards, according to Zado.

“We have three pilot boards that are conducting the testing,” Johnson said. “They are pleased with the product because they see significant improvement in terms of functionality and tools that they’re going to be able to use in the dot.net environment that weren’t there before.”

Johnson said that one of the benefits with a migration like this is cost effectiveness in that they are leveraging the real value of the partnership, as well as increased usability.

Andrew Wickett, president of Keous, said they are just starting to rollout and they have been working with ECNO which owns the intellectual property as well as working with the three pilot boards: Dufferin-Peel, Niagara and Thames Valley.

“We’ve been using them to validate our migration of the application in phases,” said Wickett. “As we’ve migrated we’ve been training them on the more modern navigation, new functions and features and taking advantage of the dot.net platform.”

He said there is more of a Windows environment-type look and feel to the application.

“The plan is over the next two years all of the school boards will move over to the new and improved HR payroll application to support their staff,” Wickett said. “One of the biggest benefits ECNO can anticipate from this migration is the increased usability.”