Wageningen University & Research underestimated what it would take to set up the new student information system WISE, concludes the WUR Council in its evaluation report Sadder and Wiser. The organization did not prepare properly, underestimated the effort that would be required, and hung on to the project too long, says the council.
Photo: Guy Ackermans
The Executive Board gave the go-ahead in 2011 for the purchase of a new student information system, later called WISE. Five years later the board called a halt to this project. An earlier attempt by WUR to establish the project information system Kameleon had run aground too. The WUR Council wants to learn the lessons of the failed IT projects, and conducted an evaluation based on documents and discussions with the staff involved.
In this project started together with Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences when it was still part of WUR, mistakes were made in every phase of the introduction of the new information system for registering students, courses and grades, says the evaluation report. The Requirements Programme was no good from the start, as it placed too much emphasis on the basic registration system and not enough on the complex student tracking system, in which the degree programme options and the courses required are described. Five years later, WISE came to grief over this tracking system because the provider could not meet WUR’s additional requirements on this point.
Once the project was launched WUR underestimated its scale and costs. There were no project managers with experience of large-scale projects either in the policy department ER&I or the IT department of Facilities & Services. The project got through four project heads in four years, two of them externally recruited. In the course of the project WUR discovered that it required multidisciplinary teams of people with IT, education and administrative expertise. But repeated changes of manager meant repeated changes in management and communication style, and roles and mandates remained unclear.
After the departure of Van Hall Larenstein in 2013, WUR considered abandoning WISE, but decided to carry on with it. During that phase the staff involved were increasingly dubious and questioned whether the new system had as much to offer as the old one which WUR had put together itself. That criticism was not appreciated, notes the WUR Council in the evaluation. Staff felt their doubts could be held against them.
The failed implementation of WISE cost WUR millions of euros. The Executive Board has not yet responded to the report.