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PeopleSoft saves the day

New software can beat up old software

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A further potential conflict between University of Calgary support staff and administration was narrowly averted this week after a new system rollout in the payroll department helped fix a glitch that cost staff as much as $900 from their pay cheques. The error, caused by a programming miscalculation in the legacy payroll system had removed too much tax from the previous week's salary and had left many staff members short of money and extremely frustrated.

The issue caused a flurry of emails between staff members unhappy with the results. Several members demanded that their union representatives speak to the administration to seek a resolution. Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 52 chair Shirley Maki stressed that the problems were purely software related.

"The issue was repaired as of [Mon., Apr. 10]," said Maki. "The shortage in pay was caused by an incorrect calculation in the old payroll system, not the fault of our brothers and sisters in the payroll department."

Maki said several members of staff were charged excessive tax on their pay. The mistakes varied, with between $5 and $900 in excess tax being removed.

"As far as I understand it, the rollout of the new PeopleSoft system fixed any glitches and any money was refunded," she said. "The situation was made worse in the minds of many of our members because our newly negotiated pay raises had been affected. The pay deal was to provide extra pay retroactively for the previous 11 months and so the mistakes had cost staff more than usual."

Payroll manager Pat Aldridge, in charge of implementing the new PeopleSoft system, said staff were aware that there would likely be glitches, but didn't expect the scope of the problems.

"The backdated pay was included in the last week's salary so it caused extra frustration when things went wrong," said Aldridge. "The functions to analyze tax calculations were not working correctly. This was a symptom of our old system and one of the reasons we replaced it with PeopleSoft. Although we might have eventually discovered the reasons for the errors, they would have cost a lot of time and money to fix. With the rollout of PeopleSoft only a week away it was not worth the cost of attempting to alter the structure of the legacy system."

Aldridge explained the rational behind switching to PeopleSoft, highlighting the university administrations rollout of the product.

"The use of PeopleSoft is strong in the public sector and the administration intends to utilize it's functionality across the campus in all administrative areas," said Aldridge. "The system has been planned in payroll since February 2005, and finally went live this week on April 1.

Reaction from employees was generally mixed, with many hoping for improvement, but being wary of the reputation of the new system. Outdoor Centre operations manager Albi Sole is optimistic mistakes can be avoided in the future.

"It's ironic really that this whole thing happened," said Sole. "The rollout of PeopleSoft was delayed until the final calculations for year end and taxes were done, and to allow the retroactive changes to pay to be made. In the end they needed PeopleSoft to fix the situation."

PeopleSoft was implemented as the key component of Project Emerge, a plan to overhaul the U of C's administrative systems.

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