A recently released report has exposed the devastating impact of Edinburgh University’s new finance system, dubbed People and Money (P&M). Staff were left in tears, long-term employees fled, and the university’s reputation was tarnished by a payment backlog that left students, suppliers, and staff in limbo.
The report, conducted by an external consultant, paints a grim picture of the system’s rollout. Staff were overburdened with excessive workloads, forced to adapt to a new system while simultaneously battling a massive backlog. Their constructive feedback was met with dismissive silence, leaving them feeling unheard and ignored.
The consequences were dire. Suppliers, frustrated by unpaid invoices, refused to provide further goods and services. Legal threats loomed. Trust between staff and senior management crumbled, further exacerbating the situation.
The report identified several key failings:
- Inadequate training: Staff felt unprepared for the new system, with insufficient training and compressed schedules leading to confusion and frustration.
- Unrealistic expectations: The university underestimated the challenges of the rollout, leading to delays, errors, and widespread disruption.
- Broken communication: Staff felt unheard and ignored, fostering a climate of distrust and resentment.
The university’s senior leadership team acknowledged the shortcomings and expressed regret for the distress caused. They pledged to learn from their mistakes and avoid similar situations in the future. However, rebuilding trust and restoring normalcy will be a long and arduous process.
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The financial implications of the P&M debacle are significant. The university paid the IT systems supplier, Inoapps, an additional £8 million in the wake of the 2023 backlog, bringing the total cost of the project to a staggering £33.5 million.
This case serves as a cautionary tale for institutions embarking on large-scale IT projects. Thorough planning, open communication, and adequate training are essential to avoid the pitfalls experienced by Edinburgh University. The cost of ignoring these essential elements can be measured not only in financial terms, but also in the emotional well-being of staff, the trust of stakeholders, and the university’s reputation.