Leveling up Campus Technology: Interview with John Hrusovsky, The Ohio State University
This podcast episode is part of the series, Transforming Higher Ed with Cloud Technology.
When you back up your phone to the cloud, it might take a few minutes. Maybe an hour. But when you’re overturning the legacy technologies of an entire academic institution, with admissions departments, HR departments, financial departments, and more, it can be a much more complex process that requires sufficient time and planning.
While on-premise systems have been standard in the past, more and more universities are transitioning to enterprise cloud solutions to simplify and standardize business processes, and to pave the way for tech innovation in the future. It’s no longer a question of whether universities should transition to the cloud. It’s simply a matter of when.
So how do universities go about the cloud transformation process in the simplest, most efficient way possible—while keeping staff, faculty, and students happy?
To find out, we spoke with John Hrusovsky, Executive Project Director for the Enterprise Project at The Ohio State University. Listen in to the full podcast episode (or read below) to learn more.
Hannah Nyren: This is Hannah Nyren with EdTech Times and today we are talking about how universities are transforming to the cloud. Here with us today is John Hrusovsky from the Ohio State University.
Hannah Nyren: Hi John, How’s it going today?
John Hrusovsky: Good.
Hannah Nyren: So in a sentence or two, could you introduce yourself and your unique expertise when it comes to working with the cloud.
John Hrusovsky: Sure. So again my name is John Hrusovsky. I work for as you mentioned, Hannah, The Ohio State University. I’m the overall project executive project director for our Cloud Project here, which we call the enterprise project. It is a full, encompassing project of work data includes students, H.R., payroll, and finance functionality. Prior to that, I spent about 30 years in the consulting world doing pretty much all what we call ERP implementation systems implementations, and in the university environment in the last five, in the cloud environment, you know helping institutions move to the cloud.
Hannah Nyren: Great. How will cloud transformation and the implementation of these new technologies directly improve experiences for staff and for students or indirectly in their experiences?
John Hrusovsky: So think of it from this perspective, from a student perspective. The cloud technologies are built similar to what they use everyday on their phones, and their tablets. They’re very mobile. They’re built with mobile first.
John Hrusovsky: So what’s interesting, what’s great from a student perspective, is that as they adapt every day to the technology they use, you know, in the classroom or, you know, in their social environments or their personal you know. Whatever they’re doing with their phones and tablets, that’s the same technology they’re going to leverage, the same concepts they’re going to leverage now and as a student. So that’s a direct benefit to the student. To the staff, it’s the ability to have consistency across the institution. So a complex higher ed institution will have multiple units, multiple aspects of the organization. And the cloud, it gives them the opportunity to have that consistency of those business processes. The flow of the information across all aspects. And then it’s you know the staff, in addition to the leadership, then can use that information in a consistent way to manage across all aspects of the institution.
Hannah Nyren: So, what are the unique challenges of implementing cloud technology in higher ed?
John Hrusovsky: I would say a couple of a couple points here. First is, when an organization moves to the cloud they are moving their data to to the cloud. So, a typical university will have financial data, research data, HIPAA data, Student information. All, all sensitive pieces of information. And so the challenge will be as then you know, is the cloud vendor secure? That’s one of the challenges that, you know, one, the universities have to understand, and also realize how to work with and or with a vendor that you know can can show them that their data is secure.
John Hrusovsky: Secondly is the change culture, within the academic institutions. In general, they’re they’re not real fast to change. And that’s not to be critical. It’s just the nature of the organization. And so when you are implementing cloud technology, especially for core business functions, that can be challenging to look and say “Okay, well how do we make sure that our processes are consistent?” or “How do we make sure that we’re given the same experience to all of our students by leveraging the software?
John Hrusovsky: So that’s the second aspect of it. And then I guess the third one, is the flexibility around the functionality. And in the on-premise world, there was the ability for the universities to customize the software to meet their unique requirements. And that’s an option. Now out of venders in the cloud have had great ability around the configuration of their software but the actual customization is not a possibility. So that’s a challenge that people have to understand and work through. And what that means in some cases is that there has to be more business process reengineering and business process transformation to successfully take advantage of the software.
Hannah Nyren: Right what are you doing with process transformation?
John Hrusovsky: The scope of our project is for student HR teacher payroll and financing. And in those areas we’ve identified actually seven business areas that we’re not just implementing software and creating consistency in a process, but we really are re-engineering. And these are in no particular order but on the student side, it’s advising and also the student experience. Those are the two areas that were that we’re really diving into. On finance, its capital and the [sic] of capital planning across university; accounts receivable and then the budget process. Those are the three within and finance. And then within H.R. its persons of interest essentially non-employees… And then the second part is the recruit-to-hire process currently at Ohio State. That process is very decentralized and we’re looking at centralizing aspects of it to make it more uniform and more consistent across the whole university. So those are the seven tiers we’re honed in on in addition to implementing the cloud technology.
Hannah Nyren: Great. So since you have been in this space for a while, how has the cloud transformation process changed in the past few years? And what types of technologies are available today that weren’t available five to 10 years ago? I know it might be a lot but you know starting with the most important ones.
John Hrusovsky: Just to give you one specific example. Well two. One is the student the student products are more rich than—they actually didn’t exist five years ago in the cloud—and then two is analytics; business intelligence and analytics from more advanced reporting. So that that that aspect just continues to become richer and richer every every day really as the cloud products mature, and they now have more data to be able to pull from and more functionality.
Hannah Nyren: Right, I think data across the spectrum has become more and more important over the past years.
Hannah Nyren: So where are you, John, at the Ohio State in the cloud transformation process? Where is Ohio State and what successes have you seen so far with the parts of the cloud that you have implemented ?
John Hrusovsky: We have not implemented anything just yet. We’re in the middle of our project. We finished up our first phase which is called ‘Plan and foundational designing phase’ and that set our strategic direction our conceptual design. So now we’re in what we call our architect phase. And in that we’re going really into the detailed design of these business areas, to identify how the software will be implemented to be able to support the business processes. So that’s where we are.
John Hrusovsky: But but here’s a couple of benefits we’ve already seen. A really important one is the university is, think of it as a medical center which is about half the business, and then the academic campus which is about half of half of the budget. And this project is bringing them together because the processes that we’re talking other than some of the detailed student processes, are similar. But yet over the years, they were implemented and kind of ran separately, almost like separate businesses.
John Hrusovsky: That’s one of the key advantages already, is that we’re able to see them coming together in a very proactive engaged way. Secondly, is that we’re from a reporting perspective. We’re looking at at reporting from that global university perspective. We’re already seeing the advantages of saying, hey, let’s do it together, in a meaningful way, from a reporting, a BI, and an analytics perspective. So those are some of the key things really early on, as we as we work our way through this journey of some of the of the benefits.
John Hrusovsky: We also are are looking at a support model after we go live, that will be consistent across the whole university. And that was something that just wasn’t and is not in place today.
Hannah Nyren: And when do think you will go live?
John Hrusovsky: We go live with our our H.R. and payroll and financial functionality in July of 2019. And then we start the phased roll out, or go live roll out, of [Workday] student in July of 2020. And then that roll out will occur over a 10-month period, going from July of 2020 to the May timeframe of 2021.
Hannah Nyren: So I know that you have seen some improvements and benefits already coming forth but what do you expect for the future. What do you think the true benefits will be once you have completed everything.
John Hrusovsky: First and foremost we’re going to have consistency. Right? We’re going to have, you know, one system that will encompass data consistent data, and a system of record data for H.R., finance, student, and payroll. That’s significant for us. Two, we’re going to have a reporting environment that reflects all that. Three is we’re going to have the ability to save significant dollars of not having to do upgrades, where we have to go out and hire lots of consultants to help us to do that. Because in our model, in the Workday model, they upgrade every six months. And so our plan is to incorporate their enhancements in every six months, as part of the day-to-day operations of the project.
John Hrusovsky: Also it will free up people to do more value-added tasks, right? So instead of individuals having to get you know on a consistent basis, having to dive into the weeds and do administrative work. Now granted there will be administrative work, but you know we’re going to be able to leverage more managers self-service and employees self-service in a way to reduce that administrative burden, therefore allowing you know administrative staff to be able to do more value added activities like like analytics and what if analysis and so forth.
John Hrusovsky: Those are just the those are just a couple of the key benefits. But those are those are important, I guess. What I want I would quickly mention is that you know they are there the on-premise software footprint is one where a lot of individuals don’t want to work in that space anymore because a lot of the vendors are going to the cloud and that’s for that thats where the technology is going. And so it reduces the risk that we can’t find the right technology individuals that can support the current system we have today.
Hannah Nyren: Right because nobody wants an expert in the outdated technology.
John Hrusovsky: Exactly.
Hannah Nyren: So what advice do you have for us was embarking on this transition. I know that not everyone has gone through this process or even started this process yet, and you are pioneering the process in a lot of ways. So what advice do you have for those schools?
John Hrusovsky: You know the time is now. The time to do it as now. Because the systems they currently have are either outdated or out. They are not going to be supported really with new versions going forward. As I mentioned earlier, the resources are you know, we’ll look to other technologies. So I would, you know, my my key advice would be that they should they should start looking at a plan now. That plan may not be one that they necessarily will kick in for the next— you know, it could be five or 10 years depending on you know what makes sense in their environment.
Hannah Nyren: So how would a university incorporate this transformation in their strategic plan, and how do you think it would change the different aspects of the strategic plan in the future?
John Hrusovsky: You know Ohio State was going to…..whether we were doing this project or not, was going to develop out and publish a five year strategic plan. However, because we are doing this project, the ability for us to do this project, will be able to make us more operationally efficient. I mean, it gives us the opportunity to do that through all the stuff we’ve talked about.
John Hrusovsky: It also ties into resource stewardship. You want your people to be able to you know be in an environment where they feel like they are being utilized to further enhance their skills. We are a school of higher education, right? So it’s not just the students that are being educated, it should be the staff, and the faculty, and you know everybody. And so, if you have an opportunity to leverage the pool of technology that… aligns with what you do on a daily basis with your your consumer products, you know, those are those are good things. Those are advantages. So it’s not just about you know, you know, operational efficiency but it’s also about free resource stewardship and that aligns directly with our strategic plan. So that’s the alignment that works really well.
John Hrusovsky: Think about it this way, Hannah, right? So if I gave you a cell phone right? You know a smartphone right now that was developed in 2004.
Hannah Nyren: I would cry.
John Hrusovsky: Right. That’s what that’s what we’re currently today at Ohio State the financial system was current in 2004.
Hannah Nyren: Yeah it is crazy how compared to you know things that we use every day like cell phones, administrative systems have a much slower change time line I suppose.
John Hrusovsky: I think in the future, we’re going to be in a position where when the upgrade comes for your iPhone like it does you know periodically, we’re going to get that with our cloud provider, which will provide an update that will come naturally as part of the day-to-day operation.
Hannah Nyren: You know people expect that now people expect the continuous improvements of the software as opposed to just you know having something that stays the same for an extended period of time.
Hannah Nyren: Well, I want to thank you for speaking with me today. I’ve learned a lot about what Ohio State is doing, and about the cloud transformation process overall, and I’m sure our audience has too.
Hannah Nyren: For those of you listening, tune in to the rest of our series to learn more about how universities, technologists, and software companies are Transforming Higher Ed with Cloud Technology.
Hannah Nyren: This is Hannah Nyren for EdTech Times.
Listen to the full series, Transforming Higher Ed with Cloud Technology.
This episode is brought to you by Huron.
Huron is a global professional services firm with an extensive history in higher education. For nearly two decades, Huron has provided consulting services for over 500 educational institutions, including all 100 of the top research universities in the United States.
This year at EDUCAUSE, you can learn more about what Huron does by attending the panel, Reshaping the Future: A Guide for Preparing Your Cloud Migration, or by visiting booth 1552. And of course, you can always visit huronconsultinggroup.com.
Hannah Nyren is the General Manager of EdTech Times. A Texan by birth but a Bostonian at heart, Hannah is an educational writer, AmeriCorps alum, and one-time StartupWeekend EDU (SWEDU) winning team member. She started her career at a Pearson-incubated edtech startup, but has since covered travel, food & culture, and even stonemasonry in addition to education.