the recent years, concerted efforts have been made to re-design the processes
to make them more student-centered. The OneStop initiative was begun to
create a centralized means of triggering effective workflow processes,
allowing for a more integrative delivery of student services. In addition,
the definition of "users" has been redefined to include the
students as a critical user group, who need access to the information
systems 24 x 7 rather than only during "normal business hours."
The current enterprise
resource planning (ERP) system suite was first purchased in 1986 and has
been upgraded with various releases from our vendor. At the time of the
purchase, the end users of the ERP were considered to be administrative
university staff, housed in specialized areas with specific functions.
Each area functioned within its own silo, often reporting to different
vice presidents overseeing distinctly different areas of the university.
For example: Student Accounts reported to the VP for Finance; Registrar
reported to the VP for Academic Affairs; Financial Aid reported to the
Vice President for Enrollment Management; Admission reported to the Dean
of the college. Each functional area maintained its own set of data within
its own operational as well as informational structure; its tasks were
clearly defined and closely guarded. The business processes were designed
to ensure a high level of accountability and efficient tracking of such
accountability. The division of labor and the separateness of information
storage and maintenance assured that such efficiency of process tracking
could be achieved.
Within such an environment,
the ERP was built and developed with distinct and unconnected informational
databases. As the need for information within each area surfaced, new
and more layers of databases and information files would be created and
maintained. The redundancy of information input and storage is a built-in
feature of this system. Since the databases are not connected, sharing
information is often a difficult and tedious process. Information does
not "flow freely" nor transfer from one database to another.
As the need for shared information increased, "bridges" were
built for information to travel from one functional area to another. These
"bridges" were built via complicated COBOL computer programs
that were written to aid in the customizations of the various modules
of the ERP suite. These customizations need to be maintained and adjusted
with each new upgrade released by our software vendors.
The users of the adminstrative
systems were trained specifically to access the system for specific purposes.
Most of the administrative staff learned a specific series of non-intuitive
steps to perform specific functions. Most often, the understanding of
the whole systems and information flow was limited to the immediate task.
As functions and adminstrative needs evolved, more layers and parts were
added to the original ERP suite. The "vehicle" which we currently
use to deliver critical information needed to provide effective service
to our students resembles a Gypsy Wagon from which many seemingly disconnected
but all vitally important parts hang.
The current system
was originally designed with the administrative functions and staff at
its core. It is built to support a system which is process-centered. The
processes were traditionally designed to support the disparate nature
of the functional areas. The evolutionary development of functional areas
occurred within the context of themselves rather than the integrated evolution
of the whole enterprise. The inflexible nature of the non-relational information
databases structure became much more cumbersome to manage as the University
changed its adminstrations and adjusted its organizational structure.
As functional areas were moved outside of its originally-based silos,
ad hoc programs were written and developed to allow them access to information
that was now inaccessible to them. The lack of information sharing built
into the system also required that the students who needed administrative
support were often forced to engage in a complex web of activities involving
travelling to multiple offices, re-authenticating themselves and re-telling
their stories. Area-specific information was often incomplete, requiring
multiple steps of confirmation and reconfirmation between and among offices
before an adminstrative transaction would be complete. For example: A
student who needed to order a transcript would have had to begin the process
at the Registrar's Office, go to the Student Accounts Office to receive
financial clearance on the system and on paper, pay at the Cashier's Office
(and return to the Student Accounts Office if the payment was to clear
the account), and bring the receipt back to the Registrar's Office before
a transcript could be produced.
Informed by the technology
review of the current systems involved in the delivery of student
services, following is a plan which has been compiled from a collaboration
with staff members from the University's Information Technology group,
industry consultants, the Student Services Council, user groups from throughout
the University, and the ERP Steering Committee:
for new adminstrative systems
- Increased self-service
- Streamlined, automated
and effective workflows, providing for better administrative processes
that better meet the needs of our consituents
- Shared information
made more possible
- Single data source
- Enable better academic
advising planning for the students as well as their advisors
- Enable better curriculum
- Accurate and accessible
affordances of new adminstrative system that would better support the
integrated model of student services delivery
This is a must!!!
- Single data storage
- Overall integration
of data across systems
- Share information
with all university systems and personnel as permitted by security
levels as defined by roles
- Ease of input,
eliminate multiple input requirements of same information
- Robust workflow
to notify appropriate personnel of action reequired
- Minimal manual
interventions by users
- Live, real time
data interface and processes; thereby eliminating the need for batch
processing. Systems would be available 24x7, with extremely minimal
down time for upgrades and maintenance rather than for continual information
batch processing and manual updates.
- More provisions
for eforms and paperless processing
- Ease of use, intuitive
- What-if analysis
capabilities for financial aid calculations, degree requirement audits,
changes of major or academic programs, payment options, etc...
- Consolidated and
holistic views of critical student information; thereby eliminating
the need for multiple systems searches
- Minimize peripheral
systems and need for interface programs
- Able to manage
the "life cycle" of students: from prospects to alumni
- Support single
sign-on authentication across multiple systems
- Flexible and intuitive
portal, user-focuses rather than system focused
- Supports requirements
of Financial Aid
- Online application
(interfaces with Admission, requirements tracking, online authorizations
and consent granting)
- Automated budgeting
(supports multiple programs/schools enrollment by same student,
capable of handling multiple tuition rates/prorations, etc...)
- Automated packaging
(real time processing, automated renewal, prioritization of sources
of funding, etc...)
- Robust disbursement
rules that are user-defined as well as updated regulatory compliance
- Automated refunds
of Title IV funds
- Online loan
- Supports requirements
of Student Financials
- Auto refunds,
including direct deposit of student refunds
tuition/fee calculations based on multiple user-defined rules and
- Online bills
and payments with real time updates to student accounts and other
related student information components (i.e. registration holds,
loan payments, etc...)
- Online payment
- Full view of
student account history
- Holistic view
of student finances, including outstanding net aid, payment options,
account balances, financial activity, etc...
- Flexible bill
production schedule and formats
- Direct and
real time updates to university financial systems
with human resources system to calculate tuition discounts when
- Supports requirements
for student records
- Allows for
non-standard terms in all areas (permit course scheduling, financial
aid processing, correct charge applications for tuition and fees,
(allow for ease of curriculum planning based on students' enrollment
information, classroom and scheduling management)
- Supports multiple
schools/degrees/major requirements, thus allowing for more cross-school
degree formations within the University.
- Self-help degree
audit analysis via the what-if scenarios.
- Holistic view
of students' academic progress by student and advisors
- Allows for
multiple course set up attributes, allowing for cross major planning
- Automated pre-requisite
and co-requisite functionalities
- Student Portfolio
- Online registration
for single or multiple terms by students and/or staff for the students
- Automated and/or
interventive waitlist processing
- Supports requirements
- Online application
(including fee payment, essay and recommendations submission, tracking
of status of application/missing information)
- Track marketing
- Online evaluation
by admission staff
- Robust reporting
- Automated transferrence
of information for matriculation purposes
able to track progress of file
benefits of a new integrated, web-based administrative system
- Provides the framework
from which we can streamline business processes and strive for common
business practices across schools
- Reduces time and
effort spent executing paper-based process or reconciling disparate
- Enhances our ability
to serve our students in critical areas like academic career planning
and web self-service
- By moving to 100%
internet we’ll expand our capability to provide self-service for
all our constituencies – students, prospective students, alumni,
parents, donors, staff, faculty, and friends
systems allow for remote access and work locations (work anywhere, anytime)
- 24/7 access means
no down-time. Our overseas students can register, pay bills and other
self-service activities anytime.
- Modern systems
are better suited to support a more student-centered approach to the
integrated delivery of student services.
- Will increase
our ability to remain compliant with state and federal regulatory requirements
- Improves the accuracy
and timeliness of the information we use to make financial decisions.
- Workflow capabilities
can enable us to automate processes, eliminate paper and decrease turn-around
time for processes requiring approvals (e.g. automated approvals for
- Single data store
will improve efficiencies by reducing redundant data and increasing
accuracy. Name, address and bio-demographic data will be stored once
as opposed to multiple times in our current environment.
- Reporting and
analysis will be less complicated on a new ERP system allowing for more
people to extract and analyze.
- What-if capabilities
will allow for better forecasting and planning.
- An integrated
system will increase collaboration and information sharing among functional
areas, moving us from segmented silos to an integrated and connected
- Workflow and other
automation will allow for staff to spend more time providing high-touch
services rather than maintaining paper and manual processes.
- Allows us to remain
competitive by providing services that are now expected in the marketplace
(e.g. self-service, web-enabled)
industry analysis, including new ERP technologies, trends, operational
structures of peer institutions, and available software providers. Engage
services of industry leader in technology consulting groups in assisting
us with this critical analysis.
current technological infrastructure of organization (hardware, software,
peripheral systems, organization chart, staffing, management).
Evaluate current institutional information technology strategic plan
with regards to what steps are being taken to keep up with technological
changes that would better meet our needs.
Develop new strategic plan that is more in line with current technology
as well as the vision for future technology.
conceptual approval from University Steering Committee for the process
of pursuing a new ERP suite.
project steering committee to work with project manager. The committee
represents user groups throughout the institution as well as the interest
of the institution as a whole.
Engage the community of users in evaluating our current practices as
they relate to our current uses of technology from all levels. This
is a critical step in the process, which requires involved conversations
to gather complete information, possibly yielding important information
regarding redundant processes and cumbersome practices that could be
re-engineered with the assistance of new and better technology.
Engage the community of users in "dream sessions"... to think
beyond what we currently have and to create future scenarios of how
our practices can be shaped by technology.
Set scope for project. Use qualified industry consultants to engage
a representative group of users from throughout the University to collaborate
on the design of the scope of the project. Based on the dream list that
had been previously compiled, it is the group's job to determine what
would be in-scope and what would be out of scope. Technology Requirements
need to begin to be specified at this time... This is one of the most
critical steps... What do we want the new system to be able to do for
Send out Request for Information and Request for Proposal to selected
vendors that had been narrowed down for us by previous research by internal
people as well as consultants.
committee determines evaluation criteria based on industry consultants'
analysis, strategic plan components, culture and need of institution,
and congruent visions between our institution and providers of ERP software.
Dog and Pony Show: Vendors demonstrate what they can do... and we get
to evaluate how well they meet our needs...
Evaluate vendors based on established criteria, including functionality,
risk factors, vision, ability to execute, etc...
recommendation to University Steering Committee regarding critical affordances
and limitations for each ERP package and its respective provider.
decision based on information provided. Once the decision is made, it
is critical for institutional executives to support and remain committed
to the process of implementation.
Evaluation of business practices and determine business process changes
to help us best leverage the new technology. At this point, it would
be important to engage professional implementation partners who are
experienced with the chosen software to assist us is two critical areas:
assessment: Determine our current information technology (IT) infrastructure
and staffing. What do we need to do to gear up for the implementation
process (i.e. staff training, moratorium on new projects, certifications,
Analysis: Determine what the software can provide with regards to
our current practices. Determine what we are currently doing that
will not be supported by the new software without customizations.
Determine what must be changed: the software or the practices.
Implementation will be based on what we have decided as the business
practices model. Each step will be evaluated against the agreed upon
scope and the pre-established business practices.
Training will take place during implementation... The most difficult
part will be the maintenance of current operations while the new operation
is being implemented. Some things to consider: 1) increased backfill
staff, including training time for temporary staff to assist current
staff during training and implementation 2) extra support staff to maintain
parallel system during the cross-over 3) commitment to sticking to project
scope with extremely little to no changes in software and systems 4)
moratorium on new projects on old system.
Pray... pray a lot... throughout the process!!!
Consistent communication to user groups throughout the process to let
everyone know what is going on and the progress of the project... Minimize
plan calls for the most significant technological investment we will be
making in almost two decades. The abovementioned benefits of this investment
cannot be understated. In order for us to effectively conduct business,
it is necessary to move in this direction. While there will be some cost
savings in increased efficiencies produced by a new administrative system,
there is no denying the inherent costs in making such a change. Following
are some important components to be considered in formulating the budget:
and licensing: This will be one of the least expensive of all components.
The price for these items are negotiated upfront and will stay fixed
once the contract is signed. It is critical to complete the fit/gap
analyses prior to contract signing so that certain required customizations
can be included in the fixed costs, requiring vendor to honor the contract
for the life of the system. This will mean that the vendor must include
these customizations in each of their upgrades in the future. If this
is not done, costs will continue to increase with each system upgrade.
Cost: This is where the biggest risks lie. Industry experience shows
that significant cost overrun occurs during implementation because 1)
scope was not clearly defined at the outset, 2) lack of excutive support
for commitment to project or to established scope, 3) customizations
of software 4) lack of effective communication, leading to redundant
work by consultants as well as internal staff, 5) inadequate internal
staffing to continue to manage daily operations while training and implementation
are going on for new system. The risks can be mitigated by effective
preparation such as a thorough readiness assessment and fit/gap analyses.
Process Redesign (BPR): The fit/gap analyses will reveal some critical
business processes that will need to be evaluated and redesigned to
be more effective in providing services under the new system scenario.
The cost of resources, both staffing and materials, must be considered
here as well.
Staff: During the implementation and training phase, line staff as well
as management will need to be thoroughly involved in the process while
still maintaining operation and service to the community. It is critical
to provide for back up support for the staff who are involved with the
implementation. Costs must include recruiting and training of the temporary
staff who will serve as back-ups.
of dual systems during implementation, testing and training.
of the cost of the new system will be offset by the foregoing of peripheral
or shadow systems that are currently in place with the legacy system.
The new software suite will provide enhanced and more robust technology
management tools that will render such add-on systems obsolete. In addition,
the maintenance costs for the multiple peripheral systems will also be
eliminated, offering more savings to the overall technology budget.
will we know this plan is a success?
- Students will be
able to access their information from anywhere in the world at any time.
- Staff will be able
to access student information easily and have full view of information
necessary to effectively serve students.
- Business processes
will be streamlined; workflow will be ubiquitous.
- Staff time will
be spent in advising students rather than maintaining paper trails
- Staff is enabled
to serve students anywhere there is a PC.
- Integrated delivery
of student services will be ubiquitous among university personnel.
- "I can't do
that" will become an anomaly in staff's service vocabulary.