Portal Project Overview

Making Partners of
Academic Colleagues in
Administrative System Projects
Lea Pennock and Rick Bunt
University of Saskatchewan
Who We Are
Dr. Lea Pennock
•Director, Student Information Systems
• 15 years in the Office of the Registrar
(experience at three universities)
•sometime lecturer in English
Dr. Rick Bunt
•Associate VP, Info & Comm Technology
•30 years as a Professor of Comp Science
•sometime Dept Head, Associate Dean, ...
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What We’re Doing
 Like everybody, we’re renewing our administrative
support systems.
 Articulated as a strategic priority in the U of
Saskatchewan Institutional Plan.
“We are also committed to the renewal of our core administrative
support systems ... and to the delivery of integrated, role-based, on-line
services to our customers, both within and outside the University. These
new systems will provide exciting new functions and services, and the
powerful workflow and integration tools that come with these products
will enable the interoperability we require and help us achieve the
cross-functional services that our users demand.”
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Where We Are
 PeopleSoft HR System implemented 5 years ago
 Banner Student implementation underway
 Luminis Portal released 2003/04
 Banner Finance implementation underway
 Coming attractions: Library system upgrade, Donor
management system, ...
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What This Talk is About
 We’re not going to talk about implementation of ERP
systems, from either the technical side or the
project management side
 Our focus might be called the cultural dimensions of
administrative system implementation
 How the university community is predisposed to
view such projects
 How to cultivate the community readiness and
buy-in we need to be successful
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Our Thesis
 Universities are unique places of business
The collegial system
The “faculty factor”
 A university environment defies some of the
expectations and assumptions upon which
classical project management is founded
A university project requires some different
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How many academics does it
take to change a light bulb?
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An Agricultural Metaphor ...
This is Saskatchewan, after all ...
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 Climate and soil conditions
 Preparing the ground
 Sowing the seeds
 Tending the crop
 Weeds and other pests
 Harvest
 Thanksgiving
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Climate and Soil Conditions
 The climate and soil conditions at a university
are far from ideal for the implementation of a
large administrative system
 Universities are not particularly supportive
of new and innovative IT initiatives
[ECAR, “IT Leadership in Higher Education: The Condition of the
Community”, January 2004]
Faculty resist such expenditures
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Climate and Soil Conditions
 The climate can be especially cool for initiatives
seen to come from “the administration”
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Preparing the Ground
 Year-long Needs and Options phase
 Enormously worthwhile investment of time and money
 helped us to identify the various stakeholders of
the system
 got us campus buy-in, but also buy-in from the
Senior Administration and the Board of Governors
(2 presentations)
 gave us a chance to sell the idea that this was a
university-wide project, and
 Gave our fledgling project team a chance to
establish credibility and confidence
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Preparing the Ground
 Site visits are very helpful during this phase
To learn about both products and projects
To make contacts
 Consultants and vendors can also help, but use
them wisely
They know about implementing software but we
know about what’s important to our community, and
especially the importance of consultation and
process in a university setting
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Preparing the Ground:
Project Governance
 Create a governance structure that reflects
your institutional values
collegiality, representation, accountability, ...
ensure you have academic representation (faculty,
students, deans)
Provost/VP Academic chaired our Steering
don’t duplicate decision-making structures and
bodies that already exist  co-opt them
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Preparing the Ground:
It’s Not Just About Software
 A project like this presents opportunities
for re-thinking the way you do things
for re-evaluating your institutional decision-making processes
for re-configuring your governance structures
for identifying (and sometimes altering) the formal and the
“real” authority for your policies and processes
for discovering things about your institution that nobody
remembers the history of, or the reasons for
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Sowing the Seeds
 Product Selection phase
Continued focus on project as much as on product
Developing an RFP is an exercise in refining and
thinking through the institution’s needs
Site visits were (again) extremely valuable
Invited broad campus participation and comment
on vendor visits/demos
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Sowing the Seeds:
Some Early Lessons
 The importance of faculty and student support
 The importance of external advice
 The importance of being up-front about what
the project will cost and what the returns will
be on that investment
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Sowing the Seeds:
Communication Strategy
 Many messages need to be communicated to
get community acceptance of the project
 Develop a communication strategy:
Vision and goal for the project
 System will support the academic mission of the
university —teaching, learning and research.
Can’t assume that the “goals of the institution” are
 Different audiences have different goals and priorities.
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Sowing the Seeds:
Communication Strategy
 More elements:
Need to build community trust in both the project leaders
and the project team.
Get the faces of project people “out there”.
Build positive image of team in the community: capable,
enthusiastic, positive, committed to institutional goals and
attuned to institutional values.
Put the project on the big stage — a university project.
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Sowing the Seeds:
Communication Strategy
 Different audiences need/want different things:
 Students:
 Comfortable with technology: want anytime, anywhere
access to services, and want it now
 Don’t want (or need) to know which office has
responsibility for what
 Faculty:
 Comfort with technology varies substantially
 Like to do things for themselves but resist being trained
 Don’t want to be taken by surprise
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Sowing the Seeds:
Communication Strategy
Deans, Dept Heads, Committees of Council/Senate:
 Concerned about who has authority for what
 Concerned about “downloading” work, but sensitive to
institutional efficiencies
Administrative Staff:
 High level of technical sophistication
 Need to know which office/person has responsibility for
 Things like system speed and number of keystrokes are
very important
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Tending the Crop
 Implementation and Change Management
Avoid temptation to “hole up” during
Continue to grow, nurture, and coax your community of support
not a task for the Project Manager, who is fully consumed with
in-project responsibilities
Need an effective Project Ambassador/Evangelist who
continues to communicate
Look for “quick wins”
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Weeds and Other Pests:
Myths, Misconceptions, Rumours
The system as tyrant: “the system
is going to drive our academic
Replace this perception with the proposition that we
should make best use of the tool that we’ve
invested in
Emphasize project over product: project is
providing an opportunity for change
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Weeds and Other Pests
 The system as agent of corporate
control: “your system is turning our
university into a corporation…we’re
turning our control over to central
Quite the opposite: distributed web-based
systems empower users by giving them more
control of their own data and processes
Distributing control can re-vitalize the collegium
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Weeds and Other Pests
 The system as black hole: “These
funds could be much better spent on
other things (hiring faculty, journal
subscriptions for the library, lab or
classroom renovations, …)”
Let faculty know that you understand and share their
anxieties, that you are not uncritical. Be sensitive.
Talk about jointly-held goals/values rather than cost
Find better analogies for costs
new buildings, utilities, …
Inspire confidence, demonstrate the value of this investment
through the deliverables. Convince them it’s good for them!
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 Harvest incrementally
Deliver in “tiny bubbles” rather than “big
 Look for quick wins
 Under-promise, over-deliver  soft roll-outs
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 Celebrate, and think big when
you celebrate!
Invite the President, the Provost, your vendor’s
CEO, everybody involved in the project, ...
An opportunity not only to thank the team and celebrate their
success but also to let the university know that something
significant has happened.
Sometimes the best way to tell the Provost or President that
your team has done a good job is to get them to say so in a
speech to the team!
Don’t wait until the very end to celebrate.
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Celebrate Creatively
You worked long days and nights without solace
On a product by no account flawless.
Such a fabulous team
You’re the cream-de-la-cream!
Without you, U of S would be PAW-less.
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Revisiting Dictates of Classic
Project Management:
Adjustments for the Academy
 Dictate: Get buy-in from the top.
 Be aware of the non-hierarchical structure of university
 Every bit as important to get buy-in from the bottom.
 Dictate: Scope creep is bad.
 Don’t sacrifice opportunity in the name of scope.
 The academic community is accustomed to seizing
opportunities and needs to be assured that you will be equally
flexible should circumstances arise.
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Revisiting Dictates of Classic
Project Management:
Adjustments for the Academy
 Dictate: Customization is bad.
Yes, customizing a vendor system is expensive, but not customizing
can be costly too. If the system is perceived as an impediment,
what you gain in going vanilla will quickly be lost in support and buyin of users.
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Revisiting Dictates of Classic
Project Management:
Adjustments for the Academy
 Dictate: Project charters contain fixed
truths and can be returned to as an enduring
At a University the process of arriving at a
document often has more weight/value than the
document itself.
An academic’s business is continually to examine, re-think
the canon, and treat all texts as works in progress.
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Lessons We Have Learned
 Cultivation is time and money well spent.
 Representativeness has its place.
 You know you’ve made a convert when you hear your
words coming out of someone else’s mouth.
Be conscious of the academic rhythms of your
Use existing structures and decision-making bodies
wherever possible.
Learn from others — other projects, other universities,
user communities, ...
Look for quick wins.
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Lessons We Have Learned
 Not all institutions are the same; be sensitive to the
formal and informal decision-making processes of
your own institution, its tolerance for centralized
coordination, standardization, consistency, and its
Can be a challenge for a vendor, consultant or implementation
 Not all projects are the same either; you need to be
flexible about tailoring your approach to the project.
 And not all phases of a project are the same;
different approaches serve different phases.
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 We’re not finished  we don’t know the
ending yet.
But we are getting positive responses:
 from our Board of Governors
 from Senior Administration (President, Provost, …)
 from our students and faculty
We have passed through “cost justification” with very little
pushback on cost
 Our challenge now is to meet expectations, and we’re
confident we will!
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[email protected] [email protected]
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