Faculty Blast $112M Computer Systems


Project ADAPT was supposed to make everyone's life simpler.

But nine months after it replaced the University's financial computer systems--and the way staff use them--administrators are angry, accounts go unpaid and everyone is frustrated.


In the post-ADAPT world, nothing is simple.

ADAPT, the effort to centralize Harvard's aging business databases, has been in the works for more than five years. It is now projected to cost $112 million.

When ADAPT's first phase went online July 1, it instantaneously and dramatically transformed jobs across the University. At last count, 4,193 people in every laboratory and every educational department at Harvard use the system.

ADAPT is about more than just computers. It is about the way Harvard's administration works--or does not. The implementation has been plagued with problems.

Many users say the new financial systems are painfully slow. They say it creates more work. They say bills don't get paid, and professors don't get reimbursed.

Officials from Harvard's 10 faculties, most vocally in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), have butted heads repeatedly with the University administrators who oversee the system.

Now, as central administrators struggle to fix the system, they must work with the faculties to mend broken lines of communication. And they must convince faculty and staff that the $112 million being spent on Project ADAPT is not in vain.

The Trouble With ADAPT

Users of the new system almost universally agree it is flawed.

Steven C. Wofsy, Rotch professor of atmospheric and environmental science, calls it "user-hostile."

"It has been very difficult to get the required data in electronic form," he writes in an e-mail message. "We have a large number of grants to manage, for which we have our own system to merge data on salaries, travel, other expenses, and on income."

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