Athabasca University plans to replace its aging financial, payroll and student systems with an enterprise resource planning system. In 2011, the university’s board approved a budget of $5.1 million for theadministrative systems renewal project. The university started working on the project in 2011 and plans to begin implementing the new computer system modules and business processes in 2013.

What we examined

Our objective for the audit was to perform an early-warning assessment of project controls used to plan for and manage project risks. We assessed whether management had the appropriate risk management systems in place with defined project controls for:

  • business change management
  • project management
  • project governance

We examined the quality and completeness of the design of project controls (documented plans and procedures) as an early indicator of management’s ability to manage the risks of implementing the new system into its operations.

We did not audit the operational effectiveness of these project controls. A weakness in design would be sufficient to determine if its related risk was not being managed appropriately. This approach allowed us to promptly advise the university’s board and management. It also allowed us to use our audit resources more effectively.

What we found

The university does not have well-designed project controls to manage the risks to the administrative systems renewal project. The university had not developed clear plans and strategies to ensure the business is ready for the new system.

Why this is important to Albertans

Albertans want to know that publicly funded institutions are making the best use of the funds that taxpayers provide to educate post-secondary students. The university is an online post-secondary institution that offers courses to students around the world—over 750 programs to more than 30,000 students per year. It depends heavily on computer technology to deliver learning programs and manage administrative systems. A failure with the new system could impair its operations.

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