The reasons for the postponement are the technical hitches and the capacity problems due to COVID-19, according to Vice President Nick Bos. “As a result, we have not been able to test the new system in the way we wanted. A careful transition on 10 January is therefore not feasible. To do so could discredit the excellent work that has been carried out on the project until now – and we have come a long way. We want to make a good start and do justice to all the work that has been carried out in the preceding period.”
What exactly does the transition mean? All processes, such as the processing of an invoice or filling in a new employee’s details, from the various departments will come under one system: SAP Cloud. That is more modern and more user-friendly than the current programs, which no longer meet the requirements of – among others – the tax office and for which the technical support is to be discontinued. The transition has been worked on for almost two years under the name ‘Programme Integrated Operational Management’.
“Purchasing, for example, will look more like the Amazon site,” says Bos. “Just like you can do there, you will be able to leave a review about the supplier. That will make it easier to see how satisfied we are with particular contract partners. Or take matters that managers have to approve, such as holidays or sideline activities. All that takes place via e-mail at the moment. The employee e-mails ‘I would like this or that’ and the person in charge okays it or not. In the future, the manager will be able to click a check mark in the HR file. It is immediately recorded properly, whereas with an e-mail you have to wait and see if it is saved.”
But there are not just advantages. “It is a considerable change. Not everyone will be able to work with the new system easily straight away. That is why we are training staff and there will be a helpdesk available.” Still, Bos would rather not have had the introduction now. “People are tired after one and a half years of COVID-19 and a cyberattack. It is a complex process, involving a lot of people. This means that they cannot always work from home, while that is what we would prefer at the moment. There are also more people off sick, and the training to teach staff how to use the program sometimes has to be cancelled. But circumstances are forcing us.”
Staff has been working behind the scenes for almost two years trying to get things sorted on time. The decision whether they would go live on 10 January, was postponed by a week in order to carry out the final tests. “That date was chosen because it is the start of a new financial year. Everything you process in the old system, you will have to transfer later on. So, this moment makes sense. Still, we are insufficiently prepared, so we have postponed. I wouldn’t do that to the organisation.”
Maastricht University took a good look at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, Bos says. Replacing various IT systems there caused serious disruptions earlier this year. Suppliers couldn’t be paid, new employees did not receive their salaries, and students couldn’t sign up for exams. “Our staff visited Amsterdam to see what went wrong there and to learn from that.”
That does not mean that nothing can go wrong in Maastricht – even after the postponement. “Look, I’m not about to say that things will go 100 per cent well. We will certainly encounter a few problems. It is about whether they are things that we can sort out quickly. That is the balance that we are trying to find when we decide on the right moment to go live.”