November 6, 2013
With the first phase of OneCarolina scheduled to conclude this year, Project Director Bob Swab recently offered his thoughts on the work leading up to and including 2013’s three major go-lives, along with what’s next for the groundbreaking project.
OneCarolina missed its deadline to go live with admissions in the summer of 2011, but it rebounded and launched the following year. Then, there were three successful go-lives in 2013. What led to this turnaround?
Bob Swab: The biggest change we made in 2011 and 2012 was to structure our team in the most effective way possible. We needed people with solid experience that could be here, on site, every day. Once we made that commitment and started staffing up, good things started happening.
At its busiest, OneCarolina had more than 130 full-time employees, many of whom came from different areas of the university. What was it like trying to get everyone working together?
Bob Swab: You know, I need to give our leadership team a lot of credit. For a project to be successful, leadership has to be committed, and they have to own the results. At a certain point, I think there was recognition among our leadership of what we had ahead of us. That was a scary revelation.
They put an incredible amount of effort into addressing the risks that were out there, working with our steering committee, and getting this thing done. Everyone – through sheer will and determination – worked together to accomplish what we did.
What was your message to leadership and the project team throughout the project? Did it ever change?
Bob Swab: One of the big things I try to do on a project is be consistent with a core set of standards. There are some things on a project that don’t change. For one thing, getting the right people at the right time at the right place to do the work is critical. Of course, as the project changed, my role changed, but the message stayed consistent. I was always encouraging our teams to get over that finish line and get where we needed to go. I knew and understood that they were new to this system, so we helped them as much as we could while, at the same time, ushering them towards a state of self-sufficiency. And it was really cool to watch them progress as they increasingly became more comfortable with what they were doing.
Let’s talk about the student rollouts in 2013. How do you think they went?
Bob Swab: I think they were pretty successful, especially when you’re talking about an implementation that’s this size and this complex. Obviously, our student teams will continue to work on the system to make it better, and I know right now we’re working through some issues. But when I look at what we have now, I’m pretty pleased.
Now, at the beginning of the fall semester, there were long lines at the Coliseum, and we had long hold times. We were disappointed to see those things; we care about the students, and we want to be able to answer questions quickly. We will get better.
Despite these issues, to change out a 30-year system is quite an accomplishment. Overall, this whole team did a great job, and we all need to take a deep breath and recognize that. Now, with that being said, I think we’ll all feel a little better once this semester is over, with students having been graded and graduated.
What’s next for OneCarolina?
Bob Swab: The student phase of the project is wrapping up this year, which means our next phase – the human resources and finance portion - will begin in 2014 and end in 2016. University employees are eventually going to see lots of changes with the rollout of an online, automated system. Payroll, for example, is moving away from VIP into the new system. We’ll have more to share about Phase Two once we get going next year.