2006 Campus Technology Innovators: IT Planning
TECHNOLOGY AREA: IT PLANNING
Innovator: Orange County Community College
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
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.
- 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
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.
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
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.