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101 BEST PRACTICES >> Administrative IT

Edited By Katherine Grayson

AdminITWhen it comes to Administrative IT solutions and processes, best practices run the gamut. Enterprise resource planning (ERP), student information systems (SIS), and tech support are obvious areas of focus. But just think about the change that could be accomplished via the implementation of campuswide document imaging and sharing, a new approach to RFP writing, or the reassessment of disaster recovery strategies and tools Never let it be said, however, that the smallest, seemingly innocuous alteration in practice can’t make a difference: Even a new user-friendly interface that invites recalcitrant fundraising officials to actually use their advancement software, or washing machines that announce from cyberspace that they’re ready to be unloaded, can dramatically change life on campus as we know it.

 

68 :: WANT ADMIN IT DONE RIGHT? DIY

Lee Belarmino

MULTIPLE BEST practices from
San Joaquin Delta's Belarmino.

At San Joaquin Delta College (CA), Lee Belarmino, associate VP of IT, and his peers couldn’t find an administrative system that worked for them, so they built their own. “We weren’t just interested in the latest technology for technology’s sake, so we protected our legacy investment in processing on a very large mainframe Unisys system while we did our research on all the major players in the administrative world,” Belarmino recalls. “We found the choices extremely pricey for what they were delivering. So, we developed our own administrative system—almost a full suite: a student information system, a human resources system, and a payroll system. As the first large-scale administrative system based on object-oriented development, it took a number of industry awards.” The college also has an off-the-shelf Oracle financial system.

Belarmino admits that his review of existing products was discouraging, but now other institutions will benefit, too; see “Partnering for Community Source Financials,” page 49 in our magazine. More info here.

69 :: ‘REAL’ EXPERIENCE FOR PROSPECTS

Franklin & Marshall College (PA) administrators decided that installing a formal software portal for recruiting wasn’t worth the expense. But they’ve gotten savvy about using webbased technology to serve up a personalized experience of the college. Using Macromedia Flash animations and streaming video, along with humor, the college tries to help prospective students feel personally involved with the school. The most recent innovation is student video blogs, or vlogs. The concept is risky: Give video cameras to four university students and let them chronicle what is happening in their lives, behind the scenes and hanging out in the dorms. “No scripts, no rehearsals,” the vlog homepage promises. Visitors can even pick a student tour guide by viewing four video selfintroductions. Then, as they cruise the campus looking at the facilities, they can get their tour guide’s impromptu comments. Dennis Trotter, VP for enrollment at Franklin & Marshall, calls the approach “experience marketing,” adding, “We try to use technology to let the personality of the college shine through.” More info here.

70 :: SELF-RECRUITING = YIELD BOOM

With 40,000-plus unique website visitors each month, Massachusetts’ North Shore Community College saw an untapped opportunity to connect with potential students surfing the college website. The solution was a self-service eRecruitment system that school administrators developed, with the following components: 1) A web interface was created that allows potential students to identify themselves to the college, access a customized web page with links to resources that match their interests, and subscribe to the college’s electronic mailing list. 2) The recruitment component of the college’s SunGard Higher Education enterprise resource planning (ERP) system was activated and connected to the web interface. All potential student information is now captured and transparently passed through to the ERP system, and potential students are placed in communication tracks. 3) The college developed an eMarketing system that allows personalized e-mails to be sent to target populations. E-mail campaigns are developed and managed by a communications team, in cooperation with the college’s Marketing department.

The results: In the first year of operation, more than 5,400 visitors self-recruited and recruit numbers went up more than 800 percent. A subsequent eMarketing campaign yielded a 30 percent increase in early enrollments for the fall semester. Now, all communications are tracked using the school’s ERP system, which allows the college to make strategic decisions based on hard data as recruitment efforts are refined over time.

71 :: BI NEEDS SENIOR-LEVEL CHAMPION

David Wells

TDWI's Wells on BI

Launching a business intelligence initiative is tough enough in private industry. But higher ed institutions face some extra hurdles in rolling out a data warehouse for business intelligence, according to David Wells, director of education with The Data Warehousing Institute, a training and educational institute for business and IT professionals. Among the challenges Wells and others cite is that of gathering consensus. Unlike a typical large business, a university isn’t a single enterprise, Wells points out. It can be politically difficult if not impossible to get various entities across campuses to agree on basic issues, such as what the end-purpose of the data warehouse is, what data to share, and who should be in charge. “I think it’s a more challenging business case to make,” Wells says, partly because institutions typically divide immediately at the top into academic and administrative sectors. Because a data warehouse has to integrate across organizational boundaries, he says, the arguments that might sell administrators usually don’t resonate with the academic community, and vice versa. “It takes a real believer driving from the top to make it happen.” More info here.

72 :: IT SECURITY ON CAMPUS

DARTMOUTH

DARTMOUTH makes a token effort.

Dartmouth College (NH) has been one of the “early adopters” of public key infrastructure (PKI) technology among higher ed institutions. Toward this end, administrators opted to utilize “tokens”—specifically, eToken technology from Aladdin Knowledge Systems. eTokens include a USBbased token, a hybrid USB and OTP token, a token with flash memory, and more. The key-sized tokens simply plug into a USB port to enable on-board generation and secure storage of keys, passwords, and certificates for digital signing and encryption.

Dartmouth has issued eTokens for the past two years to all incoming freshmen, and is planning to issue tokens for all undergraduates and graduate students within the next two years, as well as to all faculty, staff, and even alumni. The school had also considered smart cards for authentication and password management, but went with USB token devices because smart cards require readers, and there would have been additional cost and maintenance compared to the USB ports available on nearly all computers. The technology is getting less complex and more affordable, say campus spokespeople.

73 :: LURING STUDENTS BACK TO CLASS

At Colorado Mountain College, administrators are exploring ways to mine the information in the school’s student information system (SIS) to turn one-time students into repeat customers. The school is luring back continuing education students by informing them about course offerings related to their interests.

“There are a lot of lifelong learner students who take one or two art courses for personal interest throughout the year,” notes Bill Sommers, dean of enrollment services. “Through [Datatel’s] Query Builder and Communications Management, we are informing those students of all art courses that will be offered in the upcoming semester. This is a great retention tactic to keep students enrolled each semester.” More info here.

74 :: THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

For years, the Ohio Northern University network was plagued with bandwidth problems caused by students downloading and illegally sharing digital movies and music files. Network performance tanked, and security problems escalated. In an effort to stop the bleeding, last year George Gulbis (associate VP and director of IT) and a small committee set out to find a thirdparty vendor that could be trusted to manage functions and the task of managing digital entertainment for the school. The team found their solution in Ruckus Network, a service offering 1.5 million licensed tracks of music, thousands of movies, regional and community features, and a whole lot more.

Before the ink on the contract had dried, ONU students were legally downloading movies and music files through a password-protected portal. The portal allows students to personalize homepages with movies and music that interest them. At most schools, this service would cost up to $20 per student per semester. At ONU, however, school officials agreed to roll the cost into the annual student fees. Since the service went live in spring ’06, ONU students have downloaded more than 1 million songs, and bandwidth performance has improved dramatically. More info here.

75 :: DON’T LET DR DRIVE IT

According to Louisiana State University CIO Brian Voss, the possibility of natural disaster shouldn’t move an IT chief to take his eye off the IT ball in favor of disaster recovery. Earlier in 2006, Voss and his peers were completing LSU’s Flagship IT Strategic Plan, and only two of its 10 recommendations address these survivalist issues. “There are eight other recommendations,” Voss points out. “They include building a solid foundation of IT infrastructure, making significant strides in increasing the accessibility of the campus community to that infrastructure, developing a robust and multi-tiered support enterprise, paying attention to our fiscal planning, developing plentiful resources for research, providing abundant resources to enable faculty teaching and student learning, supporting the use of IT in the student living environment, and developing our own advisory and communication structures to keep everything moving forward in a sound and collaborative way. All these things are going to be fighting for resources with the first two, so I’m very concerned that we are headed into an age in which CIOs deal only with survival and are not able to focus on the other broad elements inherent in our portfolios.” More info here.

76 :: GIVE THEM SELF-HELP TOOLS

Sometimes, the simplest things make all the difference. Every fall, The University of Akron (OH) support team handles more than 3,000 wireless setups as the new freshman class streams in. But according to Matt Bumgard, a member of the university’s technical support team, there may be another way. To cut down on the number of cases that require handson help, UA’s tech support team has created knowledgebase resources on the campus intranet and flash demos of how to handle the installations and configurations—all in an effort to help students connect themselves. If all else fails, there is also a network card available in the student bookstore for $35 that is guaranteed to be compatible with the campus wireless network. More info here.

77 :: PERSONALIZE THE PORTAL

La Salle University’s (PA) portal

La Salle University’s (PA) portal

Prospective students who venture onto La Salle University’s (PA) portal are invited to “Ask Dr. Jones.” But this Dr. Jones is not a fictional dispenser of canned advice, nor a pseudonym for a back room staffed by admissions counselors. Dr. Nancy Jones is a real faculty member at La Salle; in fact, she chairs the Integrated Science, Business, and Technology program. Jones spends her evenings responding to student e-mails —one by one. Sometimes she refers technical questions to other individuals who are experts in areas like housing, financial aid, or specific academic disciplines. But, often as not, she follows through and e-mails answers directly to the students— part of La Salle’s effort to make its online recruiting initiative personal, not just personalized. “The key is personalization in a way that teens feel is personal, not the way we feel is personal,” says Steve Kappler at Stamats, a higher ed marketing firm. His advice: “Don’t fall in love with the technology when personalization is what they want.” More info here.

78 :: WATCH THE DRYER

LaundryView

Columbia University's real-time
web-based service - LaundryView.

As of last spring, laundry life at Columbia University (NY) has changed dramatically. With a real-time web-based service called LaundryView (from “intelligent” laundry systems vendor Mac-Gray.), students can log on to the the LaundryView website from a link off the student information system (SIS) portal, to see which machines are free—even before they head to the laundry room. Students can use their campus debit cards to pay for the wash, can monitor a load’s progress from the same web page, and can even program the service to e-mail them when their load is done. According to Dave Roberts, director of information services for the school’s Department of Housing and Dining, student demand for a more efficient way to monitor the progress of dormitory laundry machines sparked the implementation. “On top of the fact that the service makes laundry easier to do, there’s a certain wow factor for students that makes it even better.” More info here.

79 :: 'OPEN SOURCE' YOUR PORTAL

Christian Boniforti

LYNN UNIVERSITY's Christian
Boniforti takes the portal 'open.'

Open source has changed everything about student computing at Lynn University (FL). In past 9 years, when students wanted to utilize mission-critical systems, they had to log in to separate systems to access basic functions (e-mail, course registration, financial aid). They couldn’t toggle from one app to another, but had to log out of one and log in to the next. Fed up with the disparate portal sites, CIO Christian Boniforti set out to centralize all student-oriented systems within a unique portal, and establish a single sign-on feature enabling students to access everything they needed. He opted for uPortal, an open source application built and designed centrally by JA-SIG (a federation of higher ed institutions interested in open source.) but maintained locally by Lynn’s IT department. Taking advantage of the customizable uPortal app, Lynn technologists created a new school intranet site, MyLynn, combining all student functions within one easy-to-access portal. Boniforti estimates that by utilizing open source, the university probably saved up to one-half of what it would have spent on vendor technology, and the system is so flexible, he says, his teams have been able to add functions and features every couple of weeks, always introducing something new. More info here.

80 :: AID G'ES VIRTUAL

Traditional, brick-and-mortar financial aid offices may soon be a thing of the past. Now, thanks to an educational financing option known as the Virtual Financial Aid Office, schools can outsource all or part of their student financial aid efforts online. The patent-pending service run by Weber and Associates is touted to eliminate all paper from the financial aid process. On the front end, students at participating schools sign up, log on, and complete a financial aid interview. On the back end, the VFAO communicates with its client school to make sure that the student is indeed attending, then prepares a financial aid award and originates a loan with a guarantor or bank.

President Harry Weber explains that the company specializes in managing Pell Grants, Federal Family Education Loans, and Federal Direct Loan processing for 30,000-plus students at more than 130 different institutions in 32 states, Guam, and Canada. He notes that the biggest benefit to outsourcing financial aid is cost savings; the VFAO enables schools to save big bucks on staffing and overhead, though they still must have a financial aid officer on campus to answer student questions. This individual has private and secure access to the system so he can know where a student is in the process at all times. More info here.

81 :: KNOW THY CUSTOMERS’ PAIN POINTS

Chicago’s DePaul University has taken strides to track and improve service to its students, faculty, and administration through the use of technology. DePaul’s Information Services (IS) department was tasked with examining how students interact with and view various university services. The goal: Identify solutions that would improve the overall student experience. The group worked with Touchpoint Associates to create a customized Customer Experience Management (CEM) model for Higher Education, designed to help organizations understand their key customer experiences and identify specific ROI-driven projects. This model provided the framework for DePaul’s assessment.

The first step was to discover and organize students’ experiences based on the way they prefer to interact with the university (phone, in-person, web, etc.). Based on the rich data collected, new solutions were prioritized by the direct impact on student pain points. In 2006 the university began work on over 100 new initiatives, including basic process changes and development of new applications and systems that support the overall student experience. Solutions have been as simple as a change in paperwork collection and as complex as a new online degree audit application that allows students to track their academic success. The CEM model is used to inform and shape how the IS group builds and maintains systems for their internal and external customers (students, staff, and faculty).

82 :: VIRTUALLY REGISTERED

At Florida Community College at Jacksonville, students don’t have to leave their dorms to register for classes (a process that is still arduous at best at many of the nation’s colleges and universities). Under the direction of Rob Rennie, FCCJ CIO and winner of a Computerworld IT Leadership Award, the college (encompassing 24,000 online students and 82 64,000 total students) has created an interactive computer simulation in which students meet with advisers, register for classes, and take campus tours via the school’s online portal. This “virtual campus” incorporates avatars that guide every student through each process, asking questions and making recommendations based on each student’s profile. Needless to say, the kids feel right at home: The simulation is constructed on the same technology that powers many of today’s popular video games, allowing students to navigate an environment that is authentic and familiar. What’s more, FCCJ has effectively differentiated itself from peer schools and increasingly popular online universities, while fostering a greater sense of community among students.

83 :: SNACKIN’ ON THE WEB

DCSnacks.com

Thanks to DCSnacks.com,
students can order
goodies online.

At George Washington University (DC), the latest offering in online student services revolves around pretzels, potato chips, and soda. Thanks to a new third-party service, DCSnacks.com, students now have the ability to order their goodies online. This effort began back in January 2003, when then-GW student Matthew Mandell launched an online business enabling students to purchase snack food for delivery between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. on school nights. At the time, the service met a huge need: None of the convenience stores on or around campus stayed open that late. Per student request, the school ironed out a deal with DCSnacks.com, giving students the capability to pay for their goodies with Colonial Cash, or the money stored on the debit strip of their GWorld Card ID cards. Today, students can log on to the website, order anything from tasty morsels to reams of printer paper, and pay for the transaction with their ID cards. When DCsnacks.com employees deliver the food, the employees check the cards to make sure the user matches the photo on the card, and upon positive authentication, they hand over the goods. More info here.

84 :: GOOD IT ADMINISTRATORS SPEAK UP

Mike Yohe

MIKE YOHE talks.

According to Mike Yohe, executive director of electronic information services at Valparaiso University (IN), a CIO worth his salt must intelligently manage the burden of communication, if IT is to function properly, campuswide. “When things are going wrong, get out there and say, ‘I know this isn’t good. Here is what we are doing to fix it, and this is about how long it is going to take.’” Every Friday, Yohe also pens a newsletter that is sent to a campus subscriber list. It discusses what is going right, what is going wrong, what is coming up in the following week, and what is on the horizon. “I throw in a few things about how to manage a PC, or other tips,” adds Yohe. “It runs a couple of typed pages, and it’s written so that busy people can skim through it, find things they are interested in, and learn about places to get more information. It has my ‘voice’ and my return address. Even the student newspaper occasionally picks up items from my newsletter. It also has turned out to be a good way for me to keep in touch with what is going on in my own organization.” More info here.

85 :: UNIFORM ACCESS TO INFO, FROM ANYWHERE

In the University of Alaska system, campuses and students are spread across a geographic area more than three times the size of Texas. Not surprisingly, the school needed to move a bevy of mission-critical administrative systems into the online space, for easier access. At the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, officials under the leadership of CIO Steve Smith turned to SunGard Higher Education for help. The vendor came back with a $4 million, five-year plan to put most of the services in the institution’s “administrative core” into a web-based portal called UAOnline. Next, after a stage of further enhancements that brought hardware vendor Hewlett-Packard into the mix, Smith and his development team rebranded the portal as MyUA. The current iteration of the portal boasts web-based e-mail for students, as well as access to systems for financial aid, course registration, and course management. It offers online applications, the ability to access online transcripts, and a direct tunnel into the UA library catalogs, as well. Smith says that the only real challenge thus far has been in tweaking the portal code so that each individual campus can add its own colors to the template .More info here.

86 :: TRACK THOSE SHARED ASSETS!

IVONNE BACHAR

IVONNE BACHAR tracks 'stuff.'

When it comes to the tracking of IT assets—and the countless dollars saved by watching those equipment leases, expired software licenses, and the like—a new wrinkle has emerged: the complexity IT experts foresee in the tracking of shared assets. According to Stanford University’s (CA) Ivonne Bachar, an authority on asset management who regularly speaks on the topic and is an instructor for and past president of the National Property Management Association, administrators need to look carefully at all the IT “stuff” they have earmarked for collaborative efforts, and come up with tracking and management processes and tools to assist. “As we move more into collaborative business relationships with other universities, there has to be a way to track how those assets are shared, how they are funded, and what they are authorized to be used for. Often, Bachar points out, “tracking moveable equipment is viewed as an administrative burden. But it can be streamlined. Managing IT assets, she states, “can very effectively be a core business process.” More info here.

87 :: SINGLE-SYSTEM ASSET MANAGEMENT

Most large schools use software for managing large depreciable assets such as building and air conditioning systems. But the software they’re already relying on may be able to manage campus IT assets, as well. Stanford University (CA) had implemented Sunflower Systems as part of a larger campus overhaul of its financial management systems. The school (already using the capital assets management module) is now using the inventory asset management module, agreement assets module, and IT management module, as well. According to Ivonne Bachar, director of property management, because Sunflower interfaces with the school’s Oracle back-end database and financials, a single repository of data can now be used for capital and sponsor-owned, as well as IT, assets. Stanford currently tracks IT assets and other items, plus the stewardship, accountability, and transaction history of sponsor-owned, donated, loaned, and leased equipment. The school also uses its system for help with replacement planning and the disposition of assets. Tracking how IT assets are disposed of (with HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley regulations, confidentiality concerns, and security issues) can be hugely complex, says Bachar.

88 :: THE PERFECT RFP

To locate the best technology solution for your needs, a request for proposal (RFP) is key, yet it’s amazing how few are well-crafted. Experts agree that before you add on, every RFP should contain these six critical sections: 1) The synopsis or mission statement, which summarizes the technology problem and the solution required; 2) a list of technical requirements that outlines mandatory functionalities of a vendor’s solution; 3) the timeline for project completion, including deadlines for completed RFPs and incremental milestones; 4) a sketch of budgetary expectations, to give vendors a ballpark idea of what a school would like to spend; 5) specific information pertaining to warranties, payment schedules, and other “nittygritty” details; 6) legalese stipulating that the RFP is a full- fledged legal document enabling institutions to hold vendors liable for the solutions they promise therein. No one of these details is more important than the others, but the most important thing to remember: Be clear so that a vendor can respond in a way that you can evaluate. More info here.

89 :: PARTNERING FOR COMMUNITY SOURCE FINANCIALS

Lee Belarmino (associate VP of IT) and his peers at San Joaquin Delta College (CA) have been instrumental in the development of Kuali financials, the first bold step for community source administrative software. After attending an Open Source Summit (hosted by rSmart) and a presentation on Sakai, Belarmino and his colleagues went to lunch with John Robinson, the founder of rSmart, and Barry Walsh, director of university information systems at Indiana University, and Delta now has a sizable commitment as a founding partner in Kuali: a half million dollars, between funds and dedicated resources.

The Kuali partners have since completed the first deliverable, the test drive. “The approach is service-oriented architecture, where you can tailor the system to your needs and have the ability to change,” says Belarmino. “And we’ve eliminated anything proprietary: You can get everything you need for Kuali development, free. By July ’07 or early ’08, we’ll have a full-fledged financial system, ready to install.” More info here.

90 :: ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT MEETS PRIORITIZED CHALLENGES

Schools have all sorts of enrollment management challenges, and though it’s tempting to look for whiz-bang solutions, the more prudent (and usually more economical) route is to selfassess and carefully prioritize need. At the University of Cincinnati (OH), moving away from a paper prospecting/ recruiting system (and its incumbent costs) was the goal, but administrators were looking for a system that would enable them to capture all prospective students in a single database via uploaded data files, manual data entry from telephone transactions or inquiry cards, and by students themselves via the school’s website. Importantly, the technology solution also had to integrate with the university’s student record system and keep bounce-backs to a minimum (the SIS was unique to the university), and so administrators needed detailed tracking capabilities. They also wanted prospects to receive attractivelooking e-mails. Finally, customer support was a priority; they could not afford the system going down.

Administrators chose Hobsons’ EMT Connect, and claim that since they implemented the solution, average e-mail response rates increased from an “abysmal” 3 percent, to between 20 and 30 percent. And e-mail communications saved over $100,000 in print production and postage costs. Clearly, the solution choice was a good fit, but the university’s methodical needs assessment was key.

91 :: STOP THE SWAP

In an initial wireless network pilot program at Charleston Southern University (SC), CIO Rusty Bruns discovered that unforeseen demands were bogging down the network. “We weren’t prepared for what students were doing in downloading music and DVDs,” he acknowledged. “We had about 550 users, and just 40 of them ate up the whole bandwidth.” To address the problem, the school installed Packeteer, an appliance that monitors network traffic and allows individual access points to be controlled. File-swapping network activities are restricted, Bruns adds. “In the beginning, I was seen as the bad guy because I wouldn’t let students trade music. But in the long run, none of our students got busted for illegal swapping, so I turned out to be a pretty good guy.” More info here.

92 :: OPEN SOURCE SIS: GETTING BUY-IN

San Joaquin Delta College (CA) Associate VP of IT Lee Belarmino thinks a community source student information system (SIS) is of paramount importance. “We believe this is the Big One, and [a system] we are anxious to [help create and implement]. We’ve had a number of meetings with the other interested schools about whether it’s feasible to build an SIS in pure service-oriented architecture and what kind of attention it would attract. Responses were quite positive. Plus, we’ve identified vendors who may be willing to partner with us on open source code, so we won’t be starting from scratch. But without question, Delta will be part of this next initiative.” How important to such a huge undertaking is presidential buy-in and pan-campus teamwork? And what part of such an effort is supported by know-how, what part by belief in what you’re doing? “My president and I have a great partnership,” Belarmino asserts, “and our team at the college is so good; they’re the ones making this happen. How much we believe in [open source] is a passion. We all believe that we’re onto something big. More info here.

93 :: DATA MINING FOR ACADEMIC SUCCESS

WebCT Logins and SAT Scores Relative to GPA

INDICATORS OF SUCCESS
WebCT Logins and SAT
Scores Relative to GPA

Researchers at Purdue University (IN) are developing models to predict academic success: academic analytics that will eventually be used to create interventions for at-risk students. Their first step was to identify data that could be mined from the course management system (CMS) and from the student information system (SIS), and demonstrate which factors are most significant. Researchers studied an initial sample of about 1,500 students during the fall ’05 semester, and quickly expanded their work to reflect the entire range of WebCT-supported (blackboard.com) classes at Purdue in spring ’06. Analyses now include data on some 130,000 seats in the CMS, representing more than 30,000 students.

The researchers are rigorously examining indicators of aptitude and effort, by mining historical data such as SAT scores and GPA from the SIS (reflecting aptitude), and data on student use of the CMS from the Oracle back-end database connected to their WebCT system (reflecting effort). Ultimately, the end goals are to develop intelligent agents that will automatically take actions (such as alerting the instructor that a student is likely in trouble, or notifying the student about help sessions that are available), and to provide trend data to administrators with an interest in retention. More info here.

94 :: SUBJECT-MATTER EXPERTS FOR DATA WAREHOUSING

Key to building a data warehouse is bridging the longstanding gap between IT and business. More so than with many other technology solutions to business problems, data warehousing tests the bridges between IT and the rest of the campus. At the University of Illinois, for instance, the bridge between IT and business is largely handled by three “functional area coordinators.” These subject-matter experts focus on three key data areas: students, finance, and human resources. They act as liaisons between their areas of specialty and the data warehousing team. According to Aaron Walz, business architect for the Decision Support team, these individuals “translate what the customers are saying, putting that into a language that the technical staff can understand.” Yes, any significant IT initiative needs the business side of the house on board. But in such a case, IT really needs to understand what questions the business side needs to ask—and at a much higher level, because today, schools are looking to analytics. That means that the people who know how to produce reports—often highly technical IT staff within the DW group—need a deep and broad understanding of what drives the institute. More info here.

95 :: INSTITUTION, ASSESS THYSELF

Texas A&M assesses first for improved performance

HOMEGROWN: Texas
A&M assesses first for
improved performance.

In the past, staffers at most schools carried out many assessment functions by hand. Nowadays, however, a growing number of schools are embracing data-driven web-based interfaces and new data analysis techniques to ease the process. Schools such as Texas A&M University, the University of Central Florida, the University of California-Davis, Western Washington University, and Flagler College (FL) are utilizing new advances in institutional assessment tools in order to improve performance across the board. Some have turned to vendors such as Jenzabar and SunGard Higher Education for help. Yet, interestingly, many notable advancements in institutional assessment are proprietary. At Texas A&M, for instance, technologists have developed a homegrown database, based on Microsoft Access, to chart institutional performance by keeping tabs on what’s happening with faculty members. The database, which users can access from a web-based interface, tracks various stats about faculty productivity for publishing, grants, awards, editorships, classes taught, and graduate students completed. University administrators utilize data from the program to evaluate individual programs, certain clusters of departments, and sometimes even the school as a whole. More info here.

96 :: CONSIDER ADMIN IT BY CONSORTIUM

Thinking about power in numbers? TheWisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities is currently engaged in a six-year process to perform the administrative support functions of its 20 members on a collaborative basis. The object: to control institutional costs. Three members of WAICU (Lakeland College, Ripon College, and Wisconsin Lutheran College), with different constituencies and business processes, created the WAICU Educational Technology Consortium to purchase, implement, and support a common administrative system (provided by Jenzabar, via a fixed-price, not-to-exceed contract). The Milwaukee School of Engineering joined the consortium in May 2006. To date, the following savings have been realized on a per-school basis: software (80 percent), maintenance (40 percent); MS'E saved nearly $1 million over 10 years on maintenance costs alone. The first three schools went live in just 10 months instead of the usual 18. And by collaborating, the schools have also saved on implementation travel-related expenses and training, and have pooled resources, knowledge-sharing, and user group opportunities. All of this has resulted in increased buying power for future projects.

97 :: DW SUCCESS: MARKET THE RAISON D’ETRE

Part of the data warehouse challenge is the constant effort to explain its usefulness to users. “‘Build it and they will come’ is a very ugly myth,” says Aaron Walz, business architect for the Decision Support team at the University of Illinois. When the university erected its new systemwide enterprise resource planning (ERP) structure, some of the standard mainframe reports were duplicated, but not all. Even so, Walz says, users “still had to be convinced that coming to the warehouse was worth their time and that they needed it. You have to provide something that is very targeted to what they’re trying to do, so they can see that it’s helpful.”

His group puts ongoing effort into promoting the warehouse, including training sessions and periodic messages to everyone with a warehouse account, encouraging them to use it. The Decision Support team also analyzes who’s using the warehouse and how, and uses that information to drive marketing efforts. “We also make presentations to different groups on campus, such as human resources and business managers. We tell them, ‘Hey, here’s what you can do with the data warehouse.’” Walz says. “If it takes too much time, or if it’s too complicated to get access, they just don’t use it.” More info here.

98 :: MORE DW HELP: ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

RPI

RPI CAN NOW slice, dice, and track.

One way that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY) uses its data warehouse is to track admissions closely by answering questions like: “Are we attracting the types of students we want? How well are we translating student inquiries into applications? How about converting those applications into admitting students?” When a new strategy for attracting students was introduced recently, the results were immediately available on a daily basis from the data warehouse via analytic dashboards. What’s more, because Rensselaer is a large research university, it finds the data warehouse useful for monitoring research, with questions like: “Where, exactly, is our research money coming from? Who’s performing the research—are they working through the university or the research center?” Unlike in the past (before new data warehousing systems and processes were put into place), “It’s very easy now to slice and dice, and everyone agrees on the numbers,” says RPI Data Warehouse Program Manager Ora Fish. More info here.

99 :: SCALING UP TO PAPERLESS FOR DISASTER RECOVERY PLANNING

At Pittsburgh State University (KS), a document imaging system, now deployed in 17 departments in two campus locations and including some 1.1 million documents, is helping to streamline processes, cut back paper-based storage, and even address disaster recovery planning issues. Using Perceptive Software’s ImageNow document management, imaging, and workflow software, university staff have single-click access to documents from either campus location. The system is managed by an administrative team at PSU that has employed a staged implementation strategy that began with just three departments— financial aid, undergraduate admissions, and the registrar—and allows a cost-effective expansion to a campuswide solution.

And at Tulane University in New Orleans, where administrators would have to wade through student records for 11 colleges in the event of another disaster, the institution has deployed an enterprise content management (ECM) solution from Digitech Systems. The system has enabled administrators to cut the standard three-day information access time by 66 percent, has allowed the university to regain 160 man-hours per month, has enabled vastly improved customer service, and has greatly boosted disaster preparedness. Three layers of application security ensure that users are only granted appropriate access to allowed functionality and data.

100 :: THE COMMUNITY SOURCE EXPERIENCE

Lee Belarmino, San Joaquin Delta College (CA) associate VP of IT, on the Kuali (community source financials) partnership experience: “Initially, we thought we might get swallowed up by the large universities involved [with the Kuali project]. But it’s clear to us now that it’s a level playing field. What’s important are your ideas, your ability to produce, and how you get along with the community. Another good thing,” he adds: “We’ve found that Kuali is totally driven by the functional people. They decide how the system should operate and behave, and the developers have to come through. We’ve completed our first deliverable, which is our test drive.” More info here.

101 :: POWER UP EVEN A TINY ADVANCEMENT OFFICE

Sometimes, improved revenue streams can be realized by empowering even the smallest college or university department. At Union University (TN), the Advancement office was being held back by an outmoded legacy system, but administrators were concerned about transitioning the small (yet all-important) group of fundraising staffers to a new, more sophisticated system. The hardware platform was due to be discontinued, so administrators decided to take the opportunity to evaluate other software solutions; they went with Datatel’s Colleague Advancement, which offered the cleanest user interface.

“Our legacy system was not very user-friendly and the development officers had never been able or willing to learn the system,” says Director of Computing Services Karen McWherter; “A more user-friendly interface would help them to do their own data entry and information lookup. With the web user interface of the new system, they are going to be able to do that. We have a very small Advancement department, so getting everyone involved in using the software will make them all more effective.”

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