Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Always Learning

A couple weeks ago, we visited with my grandparents-in-law. They knew I had taken a new position at the University and "Grams" asked me "are you learning anything?" My gut reaction was that this seemed a rather strange question. I chalked it up to her not necessarily understanding my job and fumbled through an answer.

Yet, isn't this exactly why I love my profession? For all the inevitable tedium inherent to any job (and I eat my fair share) information technology and project management are rarely stale. So let me reflect for a moment on what I've learned in the last three months.

For starters, how about a whole new community of stakeholders. Twenty-one project briefings delivered (plus the Harvard IT Summit) for a total audience of approximately 300. That's 300 new names to memorize, 300 new sets of concerns and questions. A community so vast (and that's just the senior and middle management layer) that I have to implement Salesforce.com.

I've been a higher ed guy for my whole career, so CRM has always been off the radar. But I knew it was only a matter of time, with CRM increasingly prevalent as a tool for admissions and advancement. But who'd have guessed what a great project management tool it can be? Six months from now, if an executive at one of the schools wants to know how we've been engaging his team, I will press a button and hand him a nifty dashboard. (Or at least that's the plan). Prior to this experience, most of what I knew about Salesforce was courtesty of the Benioff-Ellison OOW row back in 2011. Now I'm synchronizing contacts, events, and tasks between Outlook and Salesforce, experimenting with Chatter, exploring campaigns and more. (I feel a HEUG Alliance or EDUCAUSE presentation coming out of this...)

I did not expect to learn so much about building renovation and space planning on this project. Yet I spent three hours last weekend importing CAD drawings into Visio, drawing new walls, and proposing demolition. I have learned all about Walltalkers and can't wait to carve out a happy collaboration space of bean bag chairs beside an expanse of white board. Perhaps I should snap some before and after pics in case I need a portfolio for a future career in interior office design. (One never knows...)

And then there is technology -- perhaps the most obvious opportunity for learning in an implementation project. Friends of the blog know I'm already immersed in OBIEE and Exalytics, but PeopleSoft is a behemoth, especially when you factor in emerging features within Campus Solutions and PeopleTools, the new alpha release of Campus Mobile in Oracle ADF, and User Productivity Kit. So much to learn and so little time... Good thing I have a whole team on the job for that!

Finally, we have User Experience. The charter for my program explicitly says "excellent user experience" and I have to put my money where my keyboard is. The journey begins with a UX meeting in New York this week, continues with ethnographic studies (something I actually do have experience with from college) of users in their environment, and extends throughout the next two years as we scope and then design a new bespoke user experience for faculty and students. I look forward to learning a whole new vocabulary of design patterns, gestures, and interactions...

And now, off to learn something (obsensibly) unrelated to my day job. The Sunday The New York Times just landed on my porch!


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