OneCarolina - A Year in Review (December 20, 2010)
As 2010 draws to a close, it's a good time for us to take stock of where we are with the OneCarolina Project, and report on our progress. Over the past twelve months, the OneCarolina team has put in a lot of hard work, brainstorming, and sweat equity to keep us moving forward, on schedule, and under budget. Here are just some of the year's highlights.
Team Members - Start Your Engines!
Late in 2009, the University's Board of Trustees gave the green light for OneCarolina to begin. In January of 2010, the Project Leadership team reviewed the Fit-Gap and Readiness assessments, and began developing a roadmap of where we needed to go and what we needed to do to get there.
With strategic plans drawn up, OneCarolina held a Project kick-off in February. Just like the beginning of a mountain climb, the meeting was called "Base Camp", and provided a forum for over 100 OneCarolina team members to view the Project roadmap, break into specialty teams, and begin the complex process of developing work strategies. Dr. William Hogue, the University's Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, outlined the team's purpose: "The OneCarolina Project will position University of South Carolina to be more competitive in the academic marketplace and to actively meet the needs of our students, faculty, and staff."
Rolling Up Our Sleeves
Working groups were formed around specific Project modules - Student Services, Finance (student accounts receivable), Human Resources, Financial Aid, and Technical Support. Throughout March and April, these groups began working with consultants from SunGard Higher Education, a global developer of higher education management systems.
SunGardHE's consultants facilitated numerous Business Process Modeling (BPM) sessions - a method of assessing current administrative processes, and developing new operational workflows. The OneCarolina teams brought in-depth knowledge of University procedures and policies, as well as State and Federal requirements to these intensive analysis and planning sessions. Over a three-month period, the working groups constructed process models detailing how the University could use SunGardHE's Banner administrative software to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and customer service.
Down to the Nuts and Bolts
On a parallel track, the Technical team began the daunting task of compiling and analyzing the diverse tangle of computer systems, databases, and record-keeping methods across the University system. Working with technical consultants from SunGardHE and Oracle, the team has been developing data standards and identity management processes for the new enterprise data management and sharing system that will span the eight University campuses and related colleges, departments, and organizations.
Perhaps the most difficult problem for the technical team has been tackling the critical task of migrating data from the University's dozens of databases into the unified Banner system. This has involved not only determining what data will need to be migrated, but planning how to move information from older systems and data formats into the new, modern, and standardized system. Of all the parts of the OneCarolina Project, these issues of data standards, database planning and integrity, and data migration have required the most time, the most effort, and the most exacting and detailed - and often frustrating - work. It is a tribute to our highly skilled and innovative Technical team that this ongoing work has been carried out so competently and professionally.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Summer is usually a time of relaxing and vacations. For OneCarolina, however, the Summer of 2010 was all about detailed planning and strategy sessions. The Project is segmented into four phases - Initiation, Planning, Implementation (including development and testing), and Closing. Base Camp in February kicked off the Planning phase, and by the summer, the Project was right in the thick of a flurry of intense activity, where all the Project details were painstakingly ironed out, assessed, and designed.
The BPM sessions of the Spring mapped out twenty-three major business processes and hundreds of smaller ones. OneCarolina teams worked to streamline these, and to determine how best to integrate them with the Banner software. Beginning in June, the teams started going through each of the process maps with fine-toothed combs to verify processes and identify any outstanding issues.
In July, SunGardHE programmers began developing prototypes - representative software models within Banner - which were then tested by OneCarolina core specialists. By the end of the summer, validation of these prototypes was completed, and the SunGardHE programmers were able to develop a Foundation Build - an actual working base model of the Banner system tailored to University of South Carolina specifications.
The Technical team wrestled with parallel tasks, working through the planning, installation, and configuration of computer systems and databases that would be the testing platform for the Foundation Build. The base hardware system was installed in September, and up and running in time to be loaded with the Foundation Build, paving the way for initial testing.
Initiation, Then Planning, Then...
Implementation for OneCarolina began in October. In Project terms, this is where the rubber meets the road, and things move from designs to reality. With the physical system, databases, and Banner software in place, training began with core team members. These core Functional teams have been learning how to navigate the Banner software, how to input data, and how to run tests on each of the major administrative processes (Financial Aid alone has 155 extended work processes to verify!). Technical teams are already well into the second phase of training on the Operational Data Store/Enterprise Data Warehouse (ODS/EDW) system that will be the engine for generating hundreds of specific reports critical to the new business processes, and required by the University, as well as the State and Federal governments.
But the major focus has been on the Admissions part of OneCarolina, which is scheduled to go live in early August of 2011. The core Student Services team has been training on and testing the modules that will allow new students to apply to the University, and automate many of the admissions processes that are now labor intensive. In the Spring of 2011, administrative personnel from across all eight campuses will begin training.
Training isn't the only thing happening at OneCarolina. In November, the Admissions team traveled to University campuses for meetings on new Admissions processes and campus coordination. Meanwhile, the Technical team worked to bring the Oracle Identity Management (OIM) system online. This is a front-end system that will provision digital identities in the OneCarolina system, and will ultimately replace the University's aging mainframe processes. It will also provide connectivity to other systems by propagating the digital identities.
Another milestone for the Technical team was the finalizing of their Integrations Architecture Plan. This is a critical cataloging and mapping of how OneCarolina's Admissions system will interact with numerous business and institutional databases, as well as third-party software packages. The Admissions system must communicate with thousands of prospective students and schools, and coordinate activities between the various University campuses as well. The Integrations Architecture Plan is crucial to configuring this system's ability to share information, maintain data integrity, and communicate security.
As the Project dashboard shows, OneCarolina has moved into the Implementation phase, and continues to be on track for completing all major activities on schedule.
This Project is a complex, wide-ranging, enterprise-level endeavor that has required the coordination and documentation of hundreds of designs, processes, issues, and schedules. This colossal task falls to the Project Leadership team, which is comprised of University administrative officers, technical professionals, and experienced project managers. This team meets bi-weekly to keep everyone on the same page, and ensure attention to established project processes and procedures. This due diligence has kept OneCarolina on target, on schedule, and under budget throughout the year. But even the best leadership teams need oversight.
Because of the complex nature of the Project, and the need to ensure operational integrity, the University recently partnered with Peak Performance Technologies, an Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) consulting firm. Having an independent set of eyes to verify and validate an enterprise project's methods and procedures is industry-standard for ensuring that project managers and teams are crossing all the T's and dotting all the i's. The consultants from PPT have extensive experience in working with higher education institutions on technology projects, and have already delivered the first of ongoing OneCarolina Project performance evaluations. The results from these independent evaluators? OneCarolina receives stellar marks across the board for outstanding planning, budgeting, and attention to detail.
As the Project has moved from planning to implementation, greater demands for infrastructure development and training have been made on the budget. But one of the overarching principles of OneCarolina has been more efficient use of University resources. With this in mind, the Leadership team continues to contain Project costs while maintaining team efficiency and productivity.
As the graph shows, the Project continues to run under budget, while still maintaining production schedules and infrasturcture implementation. The graph below shows Project costs versus fiscal budget projections through December of 2010.
New Communications, New Friends
Increasing efficiency and productivity goes hand in hand with increasing communications. For OneCarolina, maintaining a strong communications network between Project leaders and team members has been important from the start. But as the Project has moved into the Implementation phase, where teams need to interact to assemble the system, communications efforts have stepped up. The Leadership team recently implemented a communication plan that includes Project team emails and conference calls that rotate on a weekly basis. The emails allow team leaders to communicate major Project decisions regularly with their respective groups, and the conference calls allow all members in the field to bring issues to the Leadership team in a live forum. In addition to these mechanisms, Project members have access to a central online repository of Project documentation, issues logs, schedule calendars, and team-specific information.
With increased communications in mind, OneCarolina hosted a SunGard Roadmap Summit in November, inviting Banner users from other institutions of higher education in South Carolina. The Summit was an opportunity to meet and network with administrative and technical personnel, as well as hear future development plans for the Banner suite of products. OneCarolina personnel also helped facilitate a major outcome of the Summit - the creation of the South Carolina Banner Users Group. This organization will provide a forum for all Banner users to share technical, business, and academic process knowledge, as well as provide feedback to SunGardHE on issues specific to South Carolina.
The Year Ahead
Right from January of 2011, the new year looks to be even busier than 2010. The Project is on track to go live with the Admissions module in early August of 2011, and this means that a number of major milestones have to be achieved in the intervening months.
On the Functional side, full training of the core teams and power users will begin in January. That group will carry out extensive testing and finalizing of the system. In late Spring, training for field staff will be rolled out, with everyone who will be using the Admissions system fully trained before the August go-live.
On the Technical side, our teams have their work cut out for them. Although we have a basic functioning server system set up for core testing, the main OneCarolina technical infrastructure will need to be constructed, configured, and integrated into the current equipment. This final production system will be robust enough to manage the enormous load of the enterprise level system that will connect all eight University campuses into a integrated digital community.
Throughout the Spring, the Software Development group will be working closely with the Functional Testing group. They will build customizations and make necessary modifications to Banner, as well as develop the database and reporting system. They will also provide techinical support to the testing group. The Integrations group wil be finalizing the interlinking of current University's current systems into Banner, as well as continuing to migrate data from legacy systems into OneCarolina.
But the work won't stop in August. After Admissions go-live, the Project begins implementing the next module - Financial Aid. The FinAid and technical teams will be working throughout the remainder of 2011 to refine their own part of the system, with a planned go-live date of February 2012.
One University, One Network, OneCarolina
Over the past year, OneCarolina has grown from an idea on paper to a full-throttle enterprise resource project. It is now the most comprehensive upgrade project in the history of University of South Carolina, engaging members from every major group in the University community.
Throughout 2010, OneCarolina team members have consistently shown extraordinary dedication to Project goals, and a willingness to work together. This effort is multi-campus in scope, demands a multi-disciplined team approach, and requires complex coordination to solve multi-faceted problems. Even its implementation process, OneCarolina is reflecting the original vision of "One University, One Network, OneCarolina."
Through this continued and coordinated effort, the Project remains on target, and is moving rapidly toward accomplishing nothing less than the creation of a more efficient higher education institution, and an integrated digital community at the University of South Carolina.
From the entire team at OneCarolina, best wishes for a great Holiday Season, and see you in 2011!