Project Orion: Changing the Way We Do Business

July 10, 2008

What began as a simple suggestion from the UT System – to consolidate business functions and better standardize processes – has evolved into a unique collaboration that is transforming the way UT Dallas serves its students.

UT Dallas’ Web-based information service, which will eventually manage such tasks as class registration and bill paying, is being built through a joint effort involving UT Dallas, UT Arlington and UT Tyler.

The arrangement among the three schools calls for innovative management of commonly used Information Technology (IT) services. These services support the schools’ efforts to provide comprehensive, interactive, user-friendly databases of student information — including addresses, grades, class schedules, payment history and biographical data.

The UT System came up with the idea to share services as a means of consolidating redundant IT and business functions in areas where multiple institutions within the System are geographically close to one another.

Although shared-services programs have been successful for many years in industry and more recently in government, they are still very new to higher education.

The model is about more than just centralizing services; it allows for shared governance and greater flexibility. The initiative is organized around three basic types of shared services: IT (data center consolidation), business systems (software applications) and business processes.

According to Dr. Jim Gary, vice president and chief information officer at the University, shared services agreements typically develop around IT initiatives. Gary pointed out that as early as this fall, UT Dallas applicants will be able to experience firsthand the improved student information system, which runs on PeopleSoft technology.

“The idea is to leverage IT efforts in places where there are common goals,” Gary said. “Adding shared services parallels our work with the other System schools almost overnight and provides a place for common data storage and management.”

Another key benefit of the agreement is the eventual offloading of support. That means long-term, shared services would allow UT Dallas IT staffers to embark on projects unique to the University.

“This agreement has the potential to revolutionize our day-to-day handling of IT business,” Gary added. “With the time we’ll ultimately save on combining data storage, we’ll be able to concentrate on things like customer relations management tools and enhanced support for the University’s research mission. Sharing these services with other UT System schools will also help us become more efficient and cost-effective, which is one of the imperatives of our strategic plan.”

Orion is a two-year project and is the UT Dallas component of TexSIS, or Texas Student Information Systems. TexSIS is the UT System pilot project for application hosting as a shared service.

UT Dallas administrators expect Orion to be fully operational by fall 2009, with the first components going online in fall 2008.

About Project Orion

Orion is a Web-based information service that will one day manage virtually every aspect of a student’s academic career, from registering for classes to paying parking fines, to applying for graduation. Orion operates on the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions platform, a comprehensive suite of software that gives users real-time information. When completed, Orion will serve nearly every consumer of University data, including students, faculty and staff.


Media contacts: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu

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More information about Project Orion is available at www.utdallas.edu/orion.

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