University of Virginia’s Barbara Henry
(left), Project Manager, Effort Reporting
System; and Virginia Evans, Assistant
SOA with Smarts
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA MAKES A NEW-SCHOOL CHANGE TO A VENERABLE APPLICATION.
fficials at the University of Virginia ( U.Va.) learned an
important lesson while updating a system that tracks
faculty research dollars. They started out trying to automate
an existing system, which helps the school avoid multimillion-
dollar penalties that arise if researchers don’t fulfill the terms
of the grants that fund their projects. But along the way, U.Va.
staff also discovered an upgrade doesn’t have to be a time-
consuming and expensive procedure. The key: adding a col-
lection of industry-standard technologies designed to create
flexible interfaces and business processes between old and
These service-oriented architecture (SOA) tools, all part of
Oracle SOA Suite, not only helped the U.Va. IT department
modernize the painful paper-based portions of the grant audit
process; they also expanded the art of the possible.
“Our users had been asking for this automation for a very
long time, but we didn’t think it could be done in the way
they wanted—until we saw SOA,” says Virginia Evans, assistant vice president for integrated system deployment and
support at U.Va.
The new SOA foundation for plug-and-play upgrades is
paying dividends—and the same framework will play a big role
in streamlining future upgrades and will be a key component in
the university’s long-term roadmap for adopting Oracle Fusion
Applications. “We will have an important leg up when we
implement our first [Oracle] Fusion modules,” Evans says.
For years, U.Va.’s certification process, known as the Effort
Reporting System, helped address the compliance risks inherent in grant funding. Fund allocations are often based on the
percentage of time top university researchers spend on a new
project. Sometimes it’s the name or background of a specific
individual that convinces grant providers to allocate funds in
the first place. In return, the faculty “rock stars” must formally
account for their project hours, which can be time consuming
in itself and complex because top researchers often find themselves juggling multiple projects. If researchers can’t prove that
they have met their minimum time commitment, funding agencies have the power to levy significant fines. In recent years, a
handful of top-tier universities have had to pay multimillion-dollar fines because time commitments weren’t met or simply
because records were inaccurate or incomplete.
U.Va. had avoided such penalties with a solution based on
the Oracle Labor Distribution module within Oracle E-Business
Suite, which managed salary data for U.Va.’s Effort Reporting
System. But the workflow that supported this system relied
on paper-based reports that required approval from faculty