Enterprise Technology Management >> Do You Know a Crossover Pro

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Utah State also employed an outside party, SunGard Collegis (www.sungardcollegis.com), as the implementation partner, and White thinks that the expertise and experience contributed by the implementation partner assisted in facilitating the blending process. “The whole purpose is to bring the colleagues to the table,” White says. “Having somebody from outside the institution, helping us, brought a different perspective to the problem-solving process and the need to bring issues to resolution on behalf of the institution, rather than the individual unit. This is critical for any ERP system migration. Because of this, at Utah State colleagues were willing to engage in the process even though we had never been through anything of this scale.”

Passing the torch. The leader of the SAP implementation currently underway at the University of Kentucky comes directly from the functional side, and used her own crossover experience to extend the same advantage to others. Besides being director of the Integrated Resources Management System Project, Phyllis Nash is also professor of Behavioral Sciences in the College of Medicine. “We have taken programmers and developers—people who were in technical roles—and, for the length of the ERP project, reassigned them in truly functional roles. They are not doing development, not writing code; they are learning about business processes, so that they can help with the setup of the system.” These team members, who Nash wittily refers to as “those folks formerly known as technical,” are now sitting side-by-side with functional staff, doing the same things that they are, and seeing campus life through the same lens.

From people, to structures. In fact, very large and complex institutions like the University of Kentucky and others have begun to develop entirely new structures to deal with the blurring of traditional lines between the technical and the functional. Duke University (NC) has created a unit that sits between the functional user areas and the technical IT organization, and specifically provides support for SAP (www.sap.com) in the areas of finance, human resources, payroll, and procurement. The people who staff this unit have varied backgrounds, says Todd Orr, assistant VP, Administrative Systems & Support. While many are functional people who picked up configuration skills during the implementation project, others came from a pure IT background. “You need resources who have a good understanding of how SAP works and what it can do and not do, and who can make changes to an application up to a point,” says Orr. “But they also have to have the background to talk to the functional people without getting too wrapped up in the details of how SAP d'es things under the covers.”

There’s no doubt that finding technical and functional excellence in a single person is indeed a challenge. Institutions that possess that balance in a staff member have good reason to be proud and are wise to protect and preserve that asset.

Finding special people. Through Educause’s CIO Constituent Group, we asked IT managers and functional managers to identify exceptional crossover support staff, and tell us what makes them stand out. We also asked some of these star performers to describe how they work. The profiles that follow are selected from a large number of responses; clearly, institutions are now placing a high value on this kind of double talent. Why not let these profiles serve as inspiration to find your own crossover pros?

Rita Malick Bucknell University (PA) Syst. Integ., Information Systems and Resources Supports: Admissions, Registrar, Residential Life Primary app: SCT Banner (www.sct.com)

According to Bucknell Registrar Robert Dunkerly, “Rita knows a lot more about what we do and how we do it than most people looking at the operation from the outside. She wrote the legacy system, which was very customized. She’s got that ‘interior’ knowledge that helps us to clarify when we get an idea, or when somebody wants something new. Rita asks us questions and sometimes saves us from shooting ourselves in the foot. She knows not only our piece of the puzzle, but also admissions and the other areas that constantly interact in one large database. She understands even when a question is imperfectly phrased. She knows how to translate it into Bucknellese.”

Rita, how did you build your functional knowledge? “I started to bond with Admissions during the implementation of Banner in 1995. I participated in all aspects—operational analysis, breaking down their processes, understanding what they did or were used to doing—taking functional training with SCT. I was the IT person who was put on the team, and I felt it was important to attend all the meetings.”

What about your background in the Registrar’s Office? “That’s a longer history. I was a student here and worked in the Registrar’s Office. Staffers there initiated me into what they did, and being a student helped me understand what they were doing from the customer’s point of view.”

Besides technical skills, what is important in selecting a person for a job like yours? “People skills. Make sure that he or she can interact with the offices and gain that bond or trust. You should meet with the office frequently and respond to their questions and needs in a timely fashion. Learn about the functional side; the application.”

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