By Larrisa Beth Turner
For some time, each department within the U’s Division of Human Resources (HR) relied on homegrown systems via email, Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets to manage customer relationships. The lack of consistency made it more difficult to document and share information, communicate with each other, and measure interactions.
The old school workflow just wasn’t working.
Since adopting PeopleSoft HR HelpDesk a couple of months ago, however, their jobs have become a little bit easier.
“We're seeing that it's easier for us to communicate with each other about the interactions we have with employees. We can document that in one central system,” said Tadd Helquist, a senior business systems analyst in Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS). “Now an HR co-worker who's located across campus or across the city can see my interaction with an employee and pick up where I left off.”
He added, “We [also] are able to measure and analyze our interactions so much better than we have before because we have this centralized system.”
The constituent/customer relationship management (CRM) system is the first new installation of PeopleSoft in almost 20 years, Senior Software Design Engineer Brandon Gresham said. Gresham, who works for University Support Services' HR/Auxiliary Team, oversaw the project — one of the largest his team has undertaken. He estimates the install has expanded UIT’s PeopleSoft footprint — which includes Campus Solutions (Student), Finance, Interaction Hub (Portal Solutions), and HR (Human Capital Management) — by at least 25 percent, although some would argue more.
Although PeopleSoft builds and delivers the product, he said the process to install, configure, and integrate it into existing UIT systems is extensive. For instance, hooking it all in to the email servers, and the boxes that connect to the phones and computers can be “a real nightmare.” But it streamlines the overall user experience.
For instance, when employees call in, they’ll be prompted to enter their uNIDs, which the system uses to access your HR help desk case file.
“And so, when an agent picks up the phone, they're ready to go. They have 360 view of you — who you are.”
Ryan Hahn, a software design engineer on Gresham’s team, said the system also creates a log of any and all interactions. So, if someone has already created a ticket via email and is following up, HR staff can view that information.
Senior Systems Administrator Mathew Leatham, who works on the PeopleSoft Middle Tier team, created and maintains the middleware, or user, interface where HR representatives log in.
That install, he said, was very similar to other PeopleSoft products, but it still required a lot of work on his end. For one, his team stood up a lot of servers, but they also had to upgrade all the other PeopleSoft products to keep them in sync. They also went live with Elasticsearch — the first use of the fast-search tool in UIT history.
Elasticsearch, Leatham said, has its own servers, where it creates indexes for the different tables and data available in PeopleSoft HR HelpDesk. So when someone uses the search function, results are returned more quickly.
Although his team read a lot of documentation, implementing Elasticsearch took some trial and error, he said.
“There was a big learning curve with Elasticsearch,” Leatham said. “That is more of an accomplishment in my opinion than just standing up another PeopleSoft product like a CRM middle tier, because we've done that a million times.”
Database Administrator Rob Birkinshaw and his Data Management Platform Support Services team colleagues created and host new databases to support the new PeopleSoft environments. From the database level, his team supports the back-end of the CRM system, including new installs, monitoring, patches, and upgrades.
Gresham noted that, for the number of resources pumped into the project, it’s impact for most users — U employees sending inquiries to HR — is largely unseen right now. Additionally, HR departments used systems that had no service levels before switching to PeopleSoft, Gresham said. Now, they do.
“As an employee, you’re getting, presumably, a better user experience because of it, even though it's not a system that you use,” he said.
So far, about 50 HR employees have used the system to create cases, logging thousands of interactions. Helquist said the CRM system has helped with HR’s internal processes, including categorizing, tracking, and analyzing interactions with customers. It’s unlikely anyone who calls or emails HR will notice a difference, though, because the response is still the same.
Eventually, however, HR hopes to add a knowledge base and self-service option, where employees can log in and ask questions.
“We are confident that there will be multiple benefits for front- and back-end users,” said Josna Kotturappa, HR director in HRIS. “We hope the system will lessen overall call volume because, in addition to traditional phone calls and emails, employees will have the ability to search and find answers through an online portal.”
That option probably won’t be available for a while, as HR teams continue to adjust to the new interface. Until then, UIT teams will continue to monitor and modify as necessary.
Helquist said HR appreciates its collaboration with UIT to install PeopleSoft HR HelpDesk. “It's been lots of months of work,” he said. “It's just been very helpful to have the different teams supporting us to get it launched.”
Chief Human Resources Officer Jeff Herring also expressed his gratitude to everyone involved in the launch.
“CRM is a huge project that will net great rewards for the university in the future,” he said.