Condescending, Patronizing

Intense was the forum "BALITAKTAKAN AND ENGINEERING CONVERSATIONS: eUP" sponsored by USC and Engineering Student Council last October 6 at the UP Eng Theatre. Everybody appeared to be all worked up by the topic. Discussions could have been more productive, though, if there was a reference document like a cost-benefit analysis of ERP deployment in the University or if the choice of Oracle came after testing various alternatives. None was done.

Some students left disappointed.
The disappointment wasn't just about the answers PAEP gave. It's the way he answered (or avoided answering) the questions from students. If your idea of a conversation with a UP president is being cut in the middle of a sentence, you shouldn't be disappointed. Well, who do you think owns the micropohones at the Engineering Theatre?

If you weren't at the forum to form your own opinion about PAEP's message, don't take our word for it. There are accounts of the forum by our campus journalists. The UP Parser even uploaded on Facebook video clips of the event.

PAEP knows best

Isn't UP education about thinking through important issues and not just leaving them alone to condescending, patronizing administrators? At stake are hundreds and hundreds of millions of pesos that could have been put to better use. Of equal importance is the governance implications of PAEP's biggest and potentially most disastrous project.
We're at the tail-end of the PAEP presidency already. "Just leave it to me; I know what's best for UP" won't cut it anymore. The financial, technical, administrative burdens of eUP are going to be passed on to generations of UP students and to those faculty, staff, administrators who'll be left scrambling for resources year in, year out, just to keep the Oracle ERP running. PAEP mansplaining eUP to students with slimy certainty belies all the troubles threatening the completion of the project.

PAEP appears to inhabit an alternate universe where resources are always within his reach. He doesn't believe there'll be budget cut for UP.
There's some serious disconnect between how PAEP expected the students would react and how they actually received his justification of eUP.

For PAEP, it's just net positive. For members of the UP community, the benefits of eUP have yet to be seen and may well be trumped by cost and sustainability issues. Still it's marketing at this point, hardly a departure from where eUP all started: project kick-off after kickoff in different UP campuses, hyping Oracle whose functionalities have yet to be customized to suit UP's needs for so steep a price. PAEP's desire to look good with all those kick-offs and press releases has, ironically, been a great setup for failure. Overpromising and raised expectations do not sit well with rushed (if not incompetent) implementation of Oracle ERP. It doesn't help that what end-users are seeing is an old, buggy software that makes UP dependent on Oracle and creates vendor lock-in.

True Cost of eUP

A good deal of time in the forum was spend on money matters. Eupleaks and many others have been pressing for greater transparency on the true cost of eUP. We'll pick this up later, when hopefully PAEP will make good of his promise to provide further details. But he couldn't even share the slides he used in the forum. I-edit pa daw. (Speaking of presentation slides, we got those from Dr. Guillermo here. To be fair, we'll also share PAEP's presentation once we have it.)

Eupleaks will just note for now that by eUP cost we don't only mean those expenses disbursed from the original eUP budget but ALL eUP-related expenses, including those contingent, unplanned, not-so-planned expenses made through ITDC and UP CUs.

A point of concern also is PAEP's personalistic attitude towards the funds he helped raise (for eUP or the University). While we appreciate his efforts to raise funds for UP, such efforts are a mandated function of the presidency. He raised them because he's the UP President, not because he's Alfredo Pascual. The same standards of accountability and transparency should apply. As one Eupleaks resource person pointed out, PAEP's demeanors provide a sharp contrast to past UP presidents, in particular President Abueva who saw the role of a UP president as that of a "servant leader" who listens to his constituency. Sharp contrast, indeed, with PAEP appearing to be the only UP president with a penchant for first-class hotel accommodations and airline tickets.

Misinformation

PAEP complains of "misinformation" going around about eUP. For someone who has all the resources to clarify matters before the UP community, this complaint sounds rather odd.

If anyone is grossly misinformed, it's probably PAEP himself. He's been misinformed about the true state of the deployment of the Oracle ERP in the university and the risks (financial, technical, administrative, reputational) involved. He relies on the same eUP people who just keep on telling him things they thought he'd like to hear. In the first place, why did he not insist on a peer-reviewed cost-benefit analysis of the project? Isn't that so basic for a project of that scope?

His views about open source alternatives to Oracle have also been misinformed.
Nobody is saying that open source is free beer. Open source alternatives to Oracle are about FREEDOM from vendor lock-in, FREEDOM to modify the codes as we see fit without fear of legal sanction. It's freedom of thought and expression. Yet, the fake "open source" people of eUP deemed it proper to buy Oracle without even evaluating open source alternatives. That's the bottomline of PAEP's misinformed view of open source.

PAEP singled out the University of California Berkeley as having bolted out of Kuali (an academe-oriented open source alternative). How convenient it is for PAEP to ignore the fact that other UC campuses continue to use Kuali! Who's misinforming now?

Frustration

Towards the end, PAEP expressed frustration over how the forum turned out.
But he had it coming. He never really addressed the many concerns of the students. So whose job is it to explain the project again?
How can he expect UP students and other UP constituents to support an ill-conceived project? Did he listen to faculty and staff when they cautioned him about use of Oracle right from the beginning? Who's not open minded now? Despite having reservations about eUP, many UP faculty and staff are actually helping eUP. So who is PAEP referring to? Perhaps PAEP himself, because instead of helping develop CRS and extend it to other academic functionalities, he defunded it and bullied people into accepting Oracle without question.

Cavalier attitude towards presidency-defining bugs

Now eUP people are pressuring UP Diliman to implement SAIS in January 2016, even without the green light from the University Council.

Many bugs remain. But it took years to fix the SSL issue. It's taking years to fix the grading by the hundreds (still, your "1.0" is "100"), some more years to change the much-hated "shopping cart."

How long does it take to accommodate CU-required changes in SAIS? At least 6 months for only a handful of minor issues. Try reaching out to the eUP Helpdesk and see what a "black hole" it is for your issues. eUP people are taking their sweet time to fix the bugs of SAIS. Why?! Because somehow UP owes it to PAEP that we're having eUP? That we owe it to eUP people to wait, even years after eUP systems' scheduled completion? Why aren't heads rolling for all the delays and troubles eUP is causing now?

So watch out for the eUP sh*tstorm coming your way! And when people protest, certainly PAEP is asking for it. Whatever good he has done for UP will be overshadowed by the dysfunctional systems that eUP tries to roll out in the University. That "PAEP knows best" will then be self-explanatory.

Transparency

Lately eUP minions have been busy telling people that the project is still within budget. But telling is one thing; showing is another. The UP community has had enough of wordy assurances already. PAEP kept telling us that eUP has been "progressing well," and look where that got us!

eUP explicitly told us that "no CU will be forced to use any information system under the eUP Project."

Yet, the PAEP administration repeatedly denied requests for budget allocation to enhance CRS and other computerization initiatives by other CUs. That resulted to, among others, the demoralization of most CRS staff, forcing them to resign. Any non-eUP requests for enhancement of any CU systems have been systematically denied by the PAEP admin. PAEP's eUP says one but does another.

At any rate, Eupleaks is willing to give PAEP a break if he can just (1) show us the REAL cost of eUP, and (2) reveal the whole process that led to UP picking Oracle.

1. What's the REAL cost of eUP so far?

If eUP people disagree with our sources re costs, they can just show the UP community an audited report detailing ALL the expenses related to the eUP project. Including the iPhones, laptops, iPads that PAEP (or eUP) thought UP administrators need? Including the iMacs and top-of-the-head acquisition of equipment, like that giant UPS ITDC acquired but couldn't be powered up for over a year because the MERALCO supply in the building was inadequate? (Shouldn't eUP have checked first?) Including all those eUP meetings held in resorts? Including servers and services acquired, even before there were any actual core systems deployed? Including the "retraining" of people and the related expenses (airfares, accommodations, allowances) that CUs themselves have to bear? And why is eUP "retraining" people again? Including Oracle licenses and year-to-year maintenance costs? Including eUP-related trips abroad, "consulting" services, phony conferences like this? Eupleaks is too eager to see more details on how eUP has been wasting taxpayers' money.

2. Why Oracle?

eUP, please walk us through the process that led to UP choosing Oracle in the first place. What's the relationship between UP System IT Foundation and eUP? Who funded the "benchmarking" trips abroad? Why Oracle exactly? Any study or report resulting from the "benchmarking" exercises?

As self-styled vanguard of clean governance, UP admin has to be transparent and beyond reproach. It is dealing with an IT industry that's not exactly immune to bribery and embezzlement, and for which Oracle (sample accounts here, here) and its rivals (example here) are repeat offenders.

If this document below is any indicator, things are not reassuring for eUP on the transparency front.
Close to 8M pesos is just about annual access to Oracle Support (not including licenses and upgrades). Then you'll see eUP justifying non-bidding on the basis of... Well, you can read it yourself. Check with your procurement expert if this is even justified or whether it's right for the end-user to determine exclusive dealership at the outset. It turned out that the so-called "proof" that other government agencies have done direct contracting with Oracle is at best inaccurate. See, for instance, this document. eUP is acting like an addict wanting badly his Oracle fix. How has UP ever come to that kind of dependency on a multinational corporation is worth examining. Now eUP wants more Oracle drugs that, to begin with, should not have been used. Let's understand an addict but watch out for the bad behavior that comes with the addiction.

More eUP Superficials

What's with all those ridiculous kickoffs of the eUP Project in the different UP campuses that ended up with super-delayed, over-the-budget, overpriced deployment of eUP systems? Hardly having any success in the implementation, what's with all the press releases about eUP as PAEP's "flagship program that aims to turn UP into a globally competitive institution through synergized ICT solutions"?

Now eUP is asking UP constituent universities (CUs) to change their domain names for the purpose of consolidating web hits.

Imagine how more established, multi-campus, public universities like the University of California would unilaterally tell their CUs to change their online addresses for web-hit counting purposes. University California has 10 academic campuses (UC Berkley, UCLA, UCSD, etc)--all with highly divergent domain names. Would they fall in line for some superficial interpretation of an otherwise shallow slogan like "One University"? Is there any question whether UC is one university despite having different campuses, with different domain names?

Good reputations of domain names take long to build. Contents under "upd.edu.ph", "upm.edu.ph, "uplb.edu.ph" figure prominently online because such domains have been around consistently and people use them organically. There's also no guarantee that UP's "global stature" will improve on the basis of consolidated web hits (hello, UC!). If anything, a forced change of addresses can be interpreted as gaming the system of web rankings and may be "penalized" by rankers.

Such ill-advised move will only bring about misery to people who actually run UP CUs' networks and servers. It means more time spent reconfiguring firewalls and servers, telling people what the new addresses are, and more time away from more urgent technical tasks.

The eUP memo can also mean more bureaucracy and centralization. More work for an otherwise underworked bureaucracy? Under this superficially "unified" vision, a math department in UP Diliman, for instance, will be "math.diliman.up.edu.ph." If you're a program under that math department, you'll be "program1.math.diliman.up.edu.ph." It can mean routing your request for an address all the way up to eUP people.

The new official "short" and "long" web addresses are a recipe for confusion. They are as confused as eUP itself. Do eUP people even listen to how the addresses sound? "www.bag.up.edu.ph"? Really?! Yes, and it's probably the same bag from which eUP people get their good money for dispensing bad advices.

The "agreed-upon" order to change domain names all smacks of the insecurity of the PAEP administration by "consolidating" organic web contents from the different CUs and calling them "UP System." Perversely, it amounts to eUP "photobombing" its way to the different CU contents.

The move is reflective of how the PAEP Administration has been advised poorly by a few eUP people who, judging from the outcome of the eUP Project, obviously do not know any better but nevertheless keeps acting or telling people otherwise. It's a rushed decision that may not have been consulted with the respective CU constituencies or might not have benefitted from sound technical research.

So, to eUP people who seem to enjoy the wrong kind of attention from UP constituents, more eUP superficials please!


See Also

Top 5 eUP lies

Five (5) is an arbitrary number to start with, when it comes to the lies perpetuated by the proponents of the eUP project. We've lost count actually. But from memory, these 5 lies stand out.

eUP Lie #5: An ERP cannot be done on time.

PAEP reports in the UP Forum: "I have yet to see a company that has implemented an ERP within the original time frame." Bulls**t! And why again did he keep on reassuring his constituency and the Board of Regents (see p22 of this UP Gazette, for example) about the eUP rollout schedule, knowing that the project wasn't going be finished on time? Has he really seen ANY legit ERP implementation, before even embarking on a mega-ERP project like eUP?

eUP Lie #4: eUP promotes efficiency.

The eUP Project promotes anything but efficiency. The fact that the major eUP systems (SAIS, HRIS, FMIS, etc.) are way, way delayed and over the budget, screams inefficiency.

A typical eUP pitch begins with a presentation on how "great" its modules and functionalities are. Then it proceeds to wonder, for instance, "won't it be great that when all campuses become integrated, you can cross-enroll easily in another campus?" Nice, but at what cost? Is the marginal convenience of online cross enrollment of a few students worth all the expense? Is eUP, as currently rolled out, the best, the most efficient approach to achieve the project's otherwise lofty goals?

Now, on eUP FMIS (Financial Management Information System), some administrators can "sign" vouchers online. Big deal? That hardly completes one whole business process, far from what was promised by the Project in the beginning. Is that feature, together with other incomplete functionalities in various eUP systems, even worth the tens of millions of pesos just for annual eUP server hosting by ePLDT?

eUP Lie #3: Oracle is a necessity.

The choice of Oracle is supposed to have been a result of a "benchmarking exercise" that involves eUP and PAEP admin officials visiting world-class universities. Tadah!, magical conclusion: for UP to be world-class, it needs Oracle. But where is the report of such tourism? Has a study been conducted (and published at least locally) for such important, life-changing choice for the University?

The use of Oracle has brought about unnecessary financial and technical burdens to the University. For Oracle maintenance alone, the University has to pay tens of millions of pesos every year, in addition to the money (hundreds of millions) eUP already has paid the company and related suppliers.

The truth, however, is that Oracle is not the only game in town. Do some quick googling and you can easily find alternative university-oriented, non-Oracle, open-source ERPs (world-class example here). Many governments abroad don't even want to be tied with Oracle (UK example here).

eUP Lie #2: The eUP Project is transparent.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. The eUP Project has been around for years already, but the PAEP administration has yet to produce a properly audited expense report reflecting how all the various sources of eUP funds have been utilized. PAEP and his eUP cabal have been hoodwinking the BOR that everything is fine with eUP. According to PAEP, it is "progressing well," when, in reality, personnel turnovers, contingent and unplanned spendings, technical difficulties, vendor problems beset the project.

More transparency concerns on real cost of eUP and Oracle.

eUP Lie #1: eUP solves the red tape at the University.

eUP promoters have been capitalizing on people's understandable frustration over slow processes at the University. While we can easily admit that the University can be a bureaucratic nightmare, eUP may well just be "computerizing" many processes, mechanisms, procedures mandated by Philippines laws that are hardly streamlined or efficient in the first place. Hello, procurement law (RA 9184) and more laws)! As big as it is, eUP, unfortunately, is not sufficient to address most of the bureaucratic entanglements in running a government body like UP. Something must be done, of course. But given the output of the Project so far, perhaps even eUP is not sure what really needs to be done.

The eUP Project has only raised people's expectations but fell short of delivering working solutions. It couldn't even get much basic stuff right.

This eUP graphic captures a bunch of promises at the begining of the Project:
Wow! "Integration" right from the get-go!

eUP overpromises, hardly delivers, and--when push comes to shove--gives excuses after excuses.

So cutting the red tape with eUP? Hmm... we'll see. Ironically, the same eUP people seek to expand their own bureaucracy. They are proposing a top-heavy IT Services bureaucracy, with more managers, administrators, assistants than actual IT workers, and with an Executive Director whose salary will even be higher than that of a UP Chancellor.

As an offered cure, eUP is worse than the disease.


For more eUP lies, read the eUP website.