2006 Campus Technology Innovators: IT Planning

2006 Campus Technology Innovators

TECHNOLOGY AREA: IT PLANNING
Innovator: Orange County Community College

 


 

Challenge Met

At Orange County Community College (part of the State University of New York), an antiquated paper-based planning and budgeting process might still be in use if Angela Elia hadn’t been invited to attend a planning and budgeting committee meeting one day two years ago. She hasn’t missed a meeting since, and with fellow IT Support Specialist Artur Charukhchyan, has helped build and implement an online tool that has revolutionized the school’s budgeting procedure, and turned it into a truly collaborative, public process.

After the college’s accreditation body suggested that the school “make planning part of the college culture,” SUNY Orange formed a planning and budgeting committee, on which Elia was asked to sit.After analyzing the existing process, she proposed an inventive online solution dubbed the PIP, for the Planning Initiative and Prioritization System. The system, in use since May, has introduced a new method of communicating departmental plans and selecting funding initiatives. Instead of paper forms moving slowly through departments and on to committees, with little attention or outside review, the entire planning and budgeting process is now online and transparent, making in-process budgeting information easily accessible to anyone throughout the process.

Benefits include:

  • Anyone at the college can view the hundreds of initiatives that go into each year’s budget planning process. Using the web interface that Charukhchyan and Elia designed and built, users can view what's been proposed, how items are prioritized, and what has been selected for funding.
  • Departments can search the initiative list and collaborate on initiatives.
  • Different college service areas, such as IT, facilities, and marketing, can view initiatives requiring their support, and thus prepare for upcoming needs.
  • The grants department can search and assess initiatives for funding.
  • Alumni and potential donors can browse online to find and donate to initiatives.

How They Did It

Charukhchyan and Elia worked for two years to implement the project, in a joint effort with the college’s Planning and Budgeting for Institutional Effectiveness committee. They concentrated on making the system intuitive, user-friendly, and powerful.

The system core is a relational database queried using ANSI SQL. Planning data can be pulled into an operational data store, linked with other data sources, and made available for end-user reporting.

Charukhchyan and Elia used Apache 1.3 as the web server; PHP 4 as the application server; MySQL 4.1 as the database server; php-MyAdmin for backend database management; Microsoft’s Access, Visio, and PowerPoint; and Adobe Acrobat 7. Web hosting is provided by Pair Networks.

Next Steps

The two project partners plan to continue supporting and improving the system with features such as automated e-mail reminders, and the option to copy initiatives from previous years into the current database.

Advice

Key challenges were accurate planning of all project phases, communicating and coordinating each phase with the 20-member-plus planning and budgeting committee (made up of a range of participants that included faculty members and VPs) and keeping the committee focused and moving forward on decisions.

In tackling a built-from-the-ground-up solution like this one, Charukhchyan and Elia recommend first determining if an existing system is already available (they did; it wasn’t), and proactive regular communication with users to collect feedback.

To that, they add three final words of advice: Plan, plan, plan.

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