For an institute that’s more than 160 years old, for IIT Roorkee (IITR), which started out as Thomason College of Civil Engineering (1853–1948) and then University of Roorkee (1948–2001), going digital is a big step. Going live on Friday with phase 1 of its ADVAITA enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, IITR now has all the information that powers it available on a single digital platform . Employee details, major transactions, assets, purchase requisitions, purchase orders, inventory management, accounts and projects etc, will be available online. The second phase of the project, to be launched shortly and completed within a year, will focus on advanced digitisation efforts with analytics, business information management, advance financial reporting, and collaborative interfaces across departments. Students then will get online access to attendance records, grades, information on projects, abd sponsorships.
Talking about the project which was initiated less than a year ago, Professor Pradipta Banerji Director, IITR, says it was a huge task and involved putting information on 60,000 minor equipment and consumable items from across departments into the system. What he really appreciated, Banerji said, was how all departments and stakeholders worked tirelessly to tally the information.
Though IITs like Kharagpur and Bhubaneswar have ERP systems in place, IITR managed to roll out the first phase in record time as it piggybacked on IIT-Bombay (IITB), which is also working on a similar project and had got on board digital services provider Atos to drive it . “We just had to get our Board to approve it and so short-circuited the entire process,” Banerji adds.
Shirish Phadke, vice president and head of India consulting and system integration, Atos, says going forward, right from curriculum to hostel accommodation to recreation and sports, competitions, organisations coming in with sponsorship, research projects - information on everything will be available on the system “Instead of chasing faculty students now have the information at their fingertips – that’s the key takeaway for everyone in the institute,” Banerji adds.
The more student-centric second phase, will enable students access details of their attendance, grades and critical information related to studies.
What’s interesting, Phadke says, is that IITR also plans to put a complete list of students online – and given its age of 160-plus, that would be no mean feat. “We will be indexing past records of all the students who have studied here and putting it into the database. Of course everything won’t be available so a cutoff date has to be worked out. About 70% of it will be digitised.”
For a research institute collaborative interfaces across departments would be a boon. You have all data available now, but it’s compartmentalised with departments, he adds. After the complete digitisation process, the earth sciences department can share information with the electronics and communication engineering department. Information exchanged can be multidisciplinary in nature.
The future of academic software is interesting, Phadke says. In the long run collaborations through such interfaces can be worked out between large and small institutes to ensure access to quality education for all.