AWS Public Sector Blog

How Bucknell IT got 40 percent of their time back by moving ERP to the cloud


“Action cannot be completed because the system is out of date.” Every technology user understands the frustration of getting this message. When you’re dealing with a large, complex system such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), being out of date and inefficient can be problematic for procurement, project management, and more.

Kevin Willey, executive director, enterprise technologies at Bucknell University knows this feeling well. Over the years, Willey began moving some of Bucknell’s systems to the cloud and finding success keeping systems up to date and running well. At the start, the team implemented AWS Control Tower to provide a secure cloud foundation. Then he added several other important systems. In 2019, Willey needed to find a way to increase the flexibility of his Student Information System (SIS), a component of the ERP platform. He needed to align the system with the skills on his staff, and improve operational effectiveness. To do this, he turned to the cloud.

To the cloud?

Bucknell began using Ellucian Banner as the institution’s SIS in the mid ‘90s. As the needs of the institution evolved, Ellucian Banner usage increased rapidly, and Bucknell found itself running a legacy version on an expensive machine that couldn’t perform the way he needed it to.

Willey and his team considered a few cloud providers once they decided they needed to make a move. Their previous successes with AWS made their decision simpler. As Willey weighed his options, he spoke with other institutions about their successful experience migrating Ellucian Banner to AWS.

Willey remembers, “Although we weren’t looking for cost savings, we found cost savings.” Switching to AWS saved them about 30 percent in costs.

Bucknell had another factor to consider: how to efficiently plan and conduct the actual migration and management of the Ellucian Banner system. Willey had worked with Strata Information Group (SIG) on previous projects and knew SIG would add value with managing Ellucian Banner, but how might they help with the migration to AWS? To build a cohesive team, every discussion and planning session included stakeholders from Bucknell, SIG, and an AWS solutions architect.

The combined team spent four months designing the solution together. “The magic of the relationship with SIG and AWS was everyone was open to challenging assumptions and building a better solution,” Willey said.

The big migration day: success in anti-climax

Bucknell previously had challenging experiences with large migration projects. However, when the SIS transition day came, all there was left to do was one last back up, then redirect the URLs. Willey describes it as “the easiest major project” he’s ever been a part of. To achieve this, SIG spent several weeks spinning up the actual environment that would become production, testing, and working backwards to ensure the expected result.

“SIG applied our 33 years of knowledge into creating a turnkey cloud migration solution and providing on-going managed services for Bucknell. As a former CIO, this is a very exciting time!” said Emily Rudin, general manager, client services, at SIG.

Ellucian provided an excellent partnership as well, exceeding expectations in terms of supporting Bucknell and SIG’s work. Immediately after go-live, SIG began managing the Ellucian Banner service for Bucknell, providing a seamless experience.

Results and the new day-to-day

Bucknell is making use of a number of AWS services, including Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), and Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS). In particular, the AWS Control Tower solution was crucial to their cloud-based Banner implementation. After migrating to the cloud, Bucknell is now able to more easily update to the newest version of Banner. To do that on-premises, Willey would have had to procure and deploy dozens of new web servers, adding time and complexity. With the AWS Cloud, a new server can be activated and configured in minutes. “Scaling for Bucknell is essentially limitless with AWS. The flexibility to grow and maintain a system with ease is a huge advantage,” Willey said.

The migration changed Bucknell’s IT team too. Using AWS infrastructure and SIG to operate Ellucian Banner services means the Bucknell IT team can focus on other strategic projects. Willey estimates that among his team supporting Banner, about 70 percent of time was previously spent managing SIS infrastructure that the end user never sees. Now they spend about 30 percent of time on SIS infrastructure management, and the remaining time on value-added projects.

For example, in 2020, that newly “found” time went into the significant effort needed to support the institution during each phase of COVID-19 response and reopening. Beyond those important tasks, the IT team is now more available on campus to work with the campus community enabling effective use of technology. Willey’s advice to other institutions is not to let fear hold you back. “I sensed hesitation from some of my staff about moving to the cloud and what it could mean for their day-to-day. But for the most part, they have embraced the change, and found the new role they fill to be exciting and rewarding.”

If you’re ready to “migrate to modernize,” see how SIG can help you on your journey to the cloud. If you want to learn more about how the cloud can help your institution, contact our higher education specialists.

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