Working in the Trenches (May 24, 2011)
There are times in any project when things go nice and smooth, and other times it seems like you're slogging through the trenches. May is turning out to be a "trenches month" for OneCarolina. Over the past few weeks, the main goal has been to make the Admissions section of OneCarolina work correctly. But in order for that module to run, the entire OneCarolina technical platform needs to be constructed, configured, and connected. Getting all these parts and pieces working together is a labor-intensive activity.
Since implementation began in January, team members have been focused on a number of parallel tasks: moving current University records into the new Banner system, configuring business process designs, building new database systems, and developing the technical platform that will run the entire OneCarolina system. All of this work was necessary just to get the base level of system integration operational. With a lot of dedicated work, most of this came together in time for initial testing in February. The next step was to connect some of the more complicated parts of the Admissions system - database, records, and some 3rd party import bridges - in time for the second test, that occured in late April.
Throughout this month, implementation work has focused on the complex and challenging issues of interconnectivity. Team members have anticipated that the Project's most difficult issues would come up at this phase of implementation, and they've planned accordingly by focusing resources and personnel to get the job done. And once again, the clock is ticking.
The Mock 2B testing is scheduled for May 25 and 26. Crews are "in the trenches" to get everything operational in advance. The upcoming test will run processes linking databases, the identity management system, Banner Document Management, 3rd party application software, some custom applications, and a web portal. Team members from all of the campuses will be running the system through its paces to check everything out.
In the meantime, the Financial Aid team has been working on constructing its own part of the Project. Work continues on integrating FA business processes with the Banner software. Team members and SunGard Higher Education consultants have been developing effective ways to apply scholarships, build a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) system, and test the new processes each step of the way.
The Student Services team has been focused on building new class schedules, finalizing the course catalog system, and scheduling core user training. This core group will begin begin the task of assembling and testing the Student module of the system, which is scheduled to go live next year. A group within the team has been working with both Financial Aid and Student Finance teams to develop data sharing standards and processes. These will ensure that all offices follow the same methods for inputting, modifying, transferring, and sharing records within the University system.
The Technical team has completed the installation of the OneCarolina production hardware, and is finalizing configuration on the operational software and Oracle database. Part of the new system has been dedicated to a separate testing platform, where software modifications can be tested without interfering with the regular production system. Plans are for the Operational Data Store/Enterprise Data Warehouse (ODS/EDW) test system to be completely installed before the end of May. This will allow report designers to begin creating and testing administrative reports that the system will produce.
The Student Accounts Receivable team has selected TouchNet for its cashiering system. TouchNet is a leader in eCommerce systems for higher education, and will be integrated with the OneCarolina system. This will allow end-users to make online credit card payments, and University websites to build in eCommerce features, like online purchasing. Members of the team have already begun training on the TouchNet system and getting ready for installation and testing.
The Training team is finalizing schedules for team members, Admissions staff, and other University personnel who will be using the Admissions system. Many team members have already been trainied on the system in order to assist in Admissions testing. But other office roles will need specific Banner training before Go-Live in August. Current plans call for a blend of classroom and online training.
The old saying is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The OneCarolina team has been running into some tough problems with integration over the past few weeks, but continue to slog through the trenches. Overall, the Project status is green (you can view the Project dashboards here), and continues to be on schedule. "We are making it all come together," says Bob Swab, OneCarolina Project Director. "The work isn't easy, but we have the best technical and functional teams in the University to make it a success."