Expanding Services, Reducing IT Operating Expenses with Integrated IT Infrastructure

Entering the new millennium, Lansing Community College faced a trio of issues that threatened to stall growth and hinder our ability to deliver innovative programs and student services. Looming were declining state funds, competition from a new breed of for-profit higher education institutions, and an IT infrastructure that was increasingly fragmented and expensive to maintain.

In 2000, we developed and began to implement an IT strategy designed to expand and improve delivery of education services, decrease the cost of systems management and maintenance, and fundamentally transform the way in which students, faculty, and staff work and interact via technology on and away from campus. We also were committed to enhancing all students’ access to and experience with technology—regardless of their majors. Fundamental to the plan was the implementation of an integrated messaging and file system that would make it easier for students, faculty, and staff to access and manage critical information.

Our three-pronged IT strategy focused on consolidating systems and reducing the number of vendors with whom we worked; implementing continuous improvement and reporting capabilities; and making our systems Web-accessible—a crucial requirement for a commuter campus.

Single-Vendor Approach

To reduce IT management and maintenance costs and achieve a fully integrated infrastructure for delivering information to our students, staff, and faculty, Lansing adopted a single-vendor approach. Oracle delivered the functionality we needed in a secure environment and could scale to meet our future needs. We also wanted the ability to run systems on Unix and Linux platforms, and Oracle could accommodate this requirement.

For integrated messaging and file management, we selected Oracle Collaboration Suite, which includes a relational database and provides users with access to integrated e-mail, voicemail, calendaring, file-sharing, search and Web conferencing capabilities from popular desktop clients such as Microsoft Outlook, and Web browsers and wireless devices, including PDAs and cell phones.

Building a Solid Foundation

Before implementing the collaboration system, we first consolidated 80 servers to approximately 35. Lansing’s disparate systems had required experts in each application area, and the system could no longer scale to meet our growing needs. We also consolidated more than 4,000 desktop databases, enabling the college to more efficiently and accurately manage critical data.

The Oracle portal implementation, which runs on Linux and serves as the front end to our collaboration system, was another important building block in our IT strategy. We had the portal running in just two months, in time for Fall 2002 enrollment. Lansing’s students enthusiastically embraced the portal. Within four months, more than 70 percent of our student population had a portal account.

Transforming Communication, Enabling Collaboration

With the foundation in place, we were ready to move forward with our integrated e-mail, voicemail, calendaring, file-sharing, and search capabilities. We started by migrating from Lotus Notes to Oracle Collaboration Suite, converting 2,200 staff and faculty members to our new e-mail system in May 2003. During the two-month migration, we provided workshop sessions and online learning tools to help users transfer their messages to the new system. Feedback on the transition was overwhelmingly positive, with staff members indicating that the process was seamless and relatively painless.

We also replaced our Meridian Mail system with Oracle’s voicemail and fax capabilities. The Meridian system was expensive and outdated, and we were outsourcing to Verizon for system maintenance, which incurred additional costs. At the same time, we were building a new campus and made the decision to deploy Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phones to avoid building a duplicate telephone system at the new facility. We also saved time and money by storing messages in Oracle Voicemail and Fax. Staff and faculty members are ecstatic about receiving their voicemail in an e-mail format, a capability that has improved responsiveness and productivity.

We are leveraging the Oracle Files system, which has shortened by two days each month the process of preparing for Board of Trustees meetings. Participants now receive their meeting materials electronically via an e-mail link well in advance of the monthly meeting. In another area, before we implemented the new file management solution, the 20 people involved in the budgeting process had to send countless e-mails with versioned budget attachments. It was difficult to determine who was making what changes, and someone had to consolidate all the versions. Now, the master document is stored on a secure server, and each person can edit the same version of the document from Web folders.

We have also implemented Web conferencing capabilities and, today, host 50-100 conferences monthly. The conferences, without question, saves time and increase productivity.

Cutting IT Expenses by $600,000

At Lansing, we faced our IT challenges head-on and crafted a solution that enabled us to expand services to students, faculty and staff while significantly cutting our IT management costs. We have reduced IT staff expenditures by $600,000 annually and have emerged with a streamlined, yet scalable, infrastructure that prepares us for a bright future.

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