A few years ago in 1999, the university found itself in a situation that "just something had to be done with the university information systems". The amount of paperwork reporting had been increasing and the general acceptance of information technologies, as something available to do something about, grew. Three of the eight faculties managed to develop their own Web-based systems for their staff and students, and were able to provide electronic reports to the central administration. Student agenda was behind, since it was all paperwork, and, at the same time, some data were entered into the faculty instances of student agenda software, which, in turn, did not provide much output to anyone, especially not the students. This was a good time to think about the issues of centrality vs. decentrality of the future solution for the university information system.
There were several players. The IT department, the one expected to do something about it, was the major player. The other players formed during the time. A Committee for University Information System was formed on the "right below top" management level and was the one to make the IT department to act. Later, in order to get individual faculties involved more closely, system integrators were established at individual faculties. These integrators then started meeting with the IT department at regular meetings. Thus, the cooperation was initiated with enough room for debate.
The committee decided that the IT department should use XML technologies to enable faculties communicate data with the central information system. This was the time (Summer, 2000) when the IT department decided with the committee to do a pilot project on the technologies forming the XML-able central information system. At that time, there was a great need for science and research management system, and because it was not overly complicated, it was selected to be the pilot project. It was good system to start with also because the system has many levels of checks and reporting all the way up through the school administration to the Ministry of Education.
Now, with the planned pilot project came the last player, the technology provider. A local IT company provided expertise in implementing XML based e-business systems and suggested how to go about implementing the whole university information system. The company presented a first draft version of the software to the IT department and the cooperation on the pilot project started.
Requirements for the pilot project were the following:
Web user access to central storage of science and research activities (HTML)
user authentication and authorization for access to specific resources
interfaces for existing systems to submit and request data on-line (XML)
utilization of open technologies and relative database independence
further extensibility both on the side of the center and the different faculties