B.C. school district overhauls payroll, HR system

Already one of Canada’s larger educational systems, School District 38 in Richmond, BC is trying to meet the needs of its growing population by replacing a patchwork of legacy software with a more unified product.

The district

had until recently been using a custom, in-house platform built on Open Basic for payroll and a disjointed system of three or four different progras for human resources, some written in Access and some in Claris Works.

Even within human resources there were different systems for different functions, and their lack of interoperability led to a lot of redundant data-entry, said Bruce Fraser, the district’s deputy secretary-treasurer.

“”We were looking to accomplish efficiencies in terms of our staffing, not reductions but using staff more effectively and keeping a lid on our costs in that area,”” said Fraser. “”Also, we were looking at ultimately establishing user-portals so we can get a lot more user self-serve on this and better service to our public.””

School District 38 ended up selecting a payroll and human resources solution from Edmonton’s Vision HRM Software, built on Microsoft’s Navision platform. The organization is also working with Alberta Navision reseller Open Door Technology (ODT), which specializes in finance and accounting, on the implementation.

Both companies have tailored their offerings specifically for the school board market, and Fraser said that was a plus.

“”We liked the relative openness and flexibility of the architecture, and also the fact it was fairly current technology and would position us for use of Internet technologies going forward,”” said Fraser. “”We’re looking forward to integration of systems between departments, we’re looking forward to better ability to staff our schools and run our payrolls.””

Over the past year Vision HRM has been working to take its basic software platform and customize it for the school market, which has a number of unique needs, said CEO Dwayne Kushniruk.. For example, teachers work only ten months but are paid over 12.

Though still in the early stages of marketing the enhanced offering, Kushniruk said the company has already done a successful implementation with ODT in Fort Vermillion, Alberta.

“”They’re one of the smaller school boards in North America and Richmond is one of the larger ones, our functionality is scaleable so it will accommodate both smaller and larger school districts,”” said Kushniruk.

ODT president Malcom Roach said the collaboration between his company and Vision is a natural one. They both specialize in development for Microsoft Navision, with ODT on the financial side and Vision in human resources and payroll.

“”We came together and said, Why don’t we put out a joint product for the schools?'”” said Roach. “”The Navision system can be easily customized to fit those very unique things that schools need and virtually nobody else in the world needs.””

Among those differences are that teachers are paid on a combination of experience and education, so a cross-reference table needs to be built for the program to arrive at the correct salary.

The system will allow time-sheeted employees working away from the district office out in the schools to submit their time sheets and have them approved over the Web. It will also let the district manage internal job competitions, with candidates applying electronically, and will even recommend the best candidate.

“”A person will make the final decision obviously, but the system will narrow down the field,”” said Roach.

The first phase of the implementation, the basic human resources and payroll functions, should be completed by February, with the full system up and running in July.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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