UC’s Got a New Payroll System: What’s Next?

The UCPath Center, located in a UC owned building in the City of Riverside, is a short walk from the Moreno Valley/March Field Metrolink Station.

By Mark Cianca. Very quietly, and with little fanfare, the largest business transformation initiative in the University of California’s history concluded at the end of last month.

With the deployment in July at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the nine-year UCPath initiative to create a single University of California payroll system completed its final cutover activities. Over the course of the project, a few thousand UC staff and several hundred contractors contributed toward the successful replacement of and significant upgrades to the UC’s eleven separate payroll and personnel systems.

UCPath now serves all of UC’s 235,000 employees through

  • a modern system offering self service options, and built on a suite of technical solutions that augment the PeopleSoft human capital management application, and
  • a dedicated team of professional staff at the UCPath shared-services center in Riverside.

The UCPath Center team of 430 supports production, customer service, and technical operations – ensuring smooth continuity of critical functions including payroll, benefits administration, absence management, and HR services.

The Beginning

Twice before, the university had attempted but failed to initiate a project to replace its legacy payroll and personnel systems, referred to collectively as PPS. The Great Recession of 2008, though, created renewed financial incentives for campuses to work together, and by 2011, university leadership agreed to move forward with the “PPS replacement project.”

In November 2011, a systemwide naming contest was announced at every campus and employees from across UC sent in ideas. The winning entry was UCPath – an acronym of the project’s component parts: Payroll, Academic Personnel, Time Keeping, and Human Resources.

Learning and Growing

Other reports will detail the project’s chronology, cost, deliverables, and outcomes. This article seeks to share a few notable accomplishments, with a view to optimizing UCPath for UC’s future.

A UCPath governance structure was established to make decisions and provide oversight of the project’s activities and progress. Decision rights, approval thresholds, and escalation procedures were clearly defined and all contributed to UCPath’s extremely effective governance process.

For example, the project’s go/no go process actually resulted in two “we’re not ready” decisions along the way by individual campuses. This helped project leadership manage risk effectively by deferring those deployments to later dates. UCPath governance is among the most effective of the assets developed during the project and could be replicated for other systemwide initiatives, or scaled down for smaller projects.

Following each deployment, beginning in 2017, the UCPath project management office conducted “lessons learned” retreats to catalog best practices, as well as to use deployment post mortems in order to course correct or improve future deployment procedures. These retreats helped us create better frameworks for issue and risk tracking, and helped inform significant iterative improvements in the data conversion methodology as the project progressed.

The organizational design of the UCPath Center, initially devised in 2012 by consultants as a paper exercise, changed dramatically based on experiential data collected through daily operations and interactions with UC locations. As a result, operations liaisons interact with the campuses as account executives, and the Enhanced Production Support team addresses particularly complex or one-off cases.

UCPath as a Strategic Asset

With the deployments complete and a host of stabilization initiatives planned or underway, UC leaders should now discuss how they want to leverage UCPath as a strategic asset. UCPath provides a unified data set that could give visibility into many aspects of our workforce, support strategic planning, and provide management tools not available before. In fact, UC’s chief information officers have begun to discuss how UCPath data will inform our discussions in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion among the UC IT community.

Going forward, what other functions might UCPath deliver to serve needs at every UC location? Here are two possibilities:

  • Talent Acquisition Management. PeopleSoft – UCPath’s underlying software solution – contains a recruiting and job applicant module, called talent acquisition management (TAM). Several locations have already elected to use UCPath TAM functionality at no additional expense, allowing them to retire locally managed systems.
  • Time and Labor. UCPath also contains a module for time reporting which, when implemented, would allow locations to retire local time tracking and reporting solutions. This in particular offers an immediate opportunity for us to consider across all locations.

Supporting Strategic Thinking

UCPath was born in the throes of economic hardship as UC grappled with impacts of the Great Recession. The University of California determined to innovate through those tough times and reinvent some of the ways we manage our organization. From the beginning, our vision for UCPath was to streamline administrative operations to free up and redirect UC resources to support research, instruction, and health services.

Today, the COVID-19 Recession is taking shape. The university again is presented with opportunity. How can we leverage the UCPath platform? What will we do to productively challenge the status quo, to discard old ways of operating, and to implement new efficiencies? To achieve this vision, UCPath stakeholders and location business partners must be active collaborators in innovation.

Now that the design and deployment phase of UCPath is behind us, I look forward to the next phase of work in which we optimize the UCPath platform. In the meantime, kudos for a job well done to everyone who contributed to the success of UCPath over the last many years! This is a systemwide success and likely the largest UC administrative project for a generation to come.

Mark Cianca, interim chief information officer for the University of California System and associate vice president, Operational Services at UC Office of the President. Mark Cianca is interim vice president for Information Technology Services and chief information officer, and associate vice president, Operational Services, UC Office of the President. He began working on the UCPath initiative in early 2011 as a technical subject matter expert from UC Santa Cruz. In September 2011 he began working on UCPath full time as employee #4. He was appointed UCPath program director in 2013.

Pictured above: The UCPath Center, located in a UC owned building in the City of Riverside, is a short walk from the Moreno Valley/March Field Metrolink Station.

Comment (1)

  1. Rosemary Maione

    Great article Mark, thank you. I will share with the team.


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