The college’s IT infrastructure took an uncertainty hit this week with the announcement that SunGard Data Systems was being purchased for $11.3 billion. A SunGard division, SunGard BSR, supplies the systems that the college uses to track alumni giving and power the alumni directory on Ephnet. This is the second IT uncertainty tremor to hit the college within the past several months. In December, Oracle completed its takover of PeopleSoft, the company that sells the software Williams uses to run the college (Admissions, class registration, financials, HR, etc.)

It will be interesting to see what impact the SunGard takeover has. SunGard BSR, while one of the powerhouses in fund-raising systems, has an unimpressive Web site (no search, minimal product descriptions) and is certainly not zippy in fixing problems. (Two examples as proof. The Ephnet login screen has a copyright of 2002. The E-mail Forwarding screen (you need to login to see it) says, “If you would like to remove yourself from the Williams email forwarding system, simply click on the Remove button below” — the button is non-existent. The Technology Committee of the Alumni Fund Vice Chairs reported these bugs two years ago, and they still aren’t fixed.) If the new ownership can improve these failings, all the more power to them. Let’s all pray.

The Oracle takeover of PeopleSoft also needs to play out. Here the white hats (PeopleSoft) and the black hats (Oracle) are easier to spot. Oracle is excellent at databases, but has been comparatively dismal at building applications (one of the reasons they decided to buy the better applications of PeopleSoft). Hopefully, Oracle won’t drive the PeopleSoft applications into the ground via neglect and arrogance, but based on past performance the chances are not good.

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