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

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Another year ends; time for the obligatory re-cap. (The equally obligatory preview to arrive here later this week, once we change the calendar over).

I set a lot of personal and professional resolutions this year and on the whole I'm pretty proud of the year I had. Blew past goals related to reading (30 books; the best probably George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons and cooking (30 new recipes; no grand victories this year) and running. Fell a bit short of some other fitness goals... But there is always next year!

In terms of professional goals, with this post I will have reached my somewhat pathetic resolution of 26 blogs... Not a great showing, though I did better on Twitter, posting around 750 tweets and adding 100 followers (roughly... I misplaced my starting counts). Enjoyed four highly productive conferences and established many new connections; also experienced the wonder that is the Gaylord Opryland, learned that Indianapolis is a solid conference venue, and commuted to/from the Moscone Center using cable cars and a Muni pass.

My group accomplished amazing things--for which I claim little credit. We upgraded to PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.1 in April and Oracle E-Business Suite R12 in November. Completed two software selection projects in the research compliance space and went live with one in November. Delivered hundreds of new features and enhancements across all our systems and did our best to support the Harvard administrative community (and by extension the teaching, research, and learning mission. I am extremely proud to say that we executed every major initiative we planned for the year! Remarkable stuff.

I personally spent much of the year on Business Intelligence. With my hands on OBIEE, building reports (and blogging about some findings), training my team, installing VirtualBox demos, defining strategies, securing funding, interviewing stakeholders, running demonstrations, reading literature, buying accelerators, and evangelizing, proselytizing, selling. Everyone in this business needs to get on the analytics train or get run over by it--having realized that, I decided this was a place for me to immerse in 2012. It has been fun.

In lock-step with BI, we made aggressive moves into Agile principles and techniques. We are far from being mature enough to call it "Scrum" though we throw the word around a lot. Big investments early in 2012 were followed by big experiments later in 2012, with a small BI team cranking through four sprints in the fall, delivering nearly 50 reports and dashboards! Not bad for our first try!

It has been a tremendous year; I look forward to spending the rest of the day reflecting on all these successes before plotting another slate of resolutions!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tactical Takeaways from EDUCAUSE 2012

With limited context, here are some nuggets from the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference last month...

An excellent hands-on exercise for project management, requirements definition, teamwork, and more... The Bridge Game: http://thebridgegame.com The kit isn't cheap ($600), but I hope to find a way to buy my own kit for use here at my institution. Kudos to the ITSM and PMO teams from The George Washington University for their half-day seminar!

Who needs another four-box visual? Not me, but I liked this one from the U.S. Dept of Ed... http://t.co/jFSDGKfY Aim for scale and impact.

How about a tool to manage user input and ideas? http://www.ideascale.com Learned a lot from Davenport University's implementation. Also learned that a lot of people fear ideas.

Case Western Reserve reorganized their IT team around core functions of Design, Build, and Run. The concept (in paraphrase): these require different skills and we often ask people to play in all three when they might be most effective/happy with tighter focus.

"We can ruin a project really quickly by talking it to death."

From excellent talk from Virginia Tech CIO emeritus Earving Blythe: key skills for IT from liberal arts education: ability to analyze, organize and synthesize, use of precise language, commitment to continuous learning. Also... response to Internet value proposition 20 years ago: "Now why would I want to do that?" And finally: base important decisions on "more than one sample."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Overdue Debrief from EDUCAUSE 2012

Hard to believe it has been nearly a month since the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Denver and I still haven't blogged about it. I certainly tweeted about it. Or felt like I did -- the official count of 50 (not including retweets) is a lot lower than I thought!

As usual, it was a thought-provoking event replete with networking opportunities, thoroughly exhausting both mentally and physically. I wrote a massive trip report for my team, but for this blog I'll keep my ruminations brief. A useful place to start might be the "Top Ten IT Issues" for 2012, published much earlier in the year, but setting the tone for the conference.

The 2012 Top Ten IT Issues
Source: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/top-ten-it-issues-2012

1. Updating IT professionals' skills and roles to accommodate emerging technologies and changing IT management and service delivery models
2. Supporting the trends toward IT consumerization and bring-your-own device
3. Developing an institution-wide cloud strategy
4. Improving the institution's operational efficiency through information technology
5. Integrating information technology into institutional decision-making
6. Using analytics to support critical institutional outcomes
7. Funding information technology strategically
8. Transforming the institution's business with information technology
9. Supporting the research mission through high-performance computing, large data, and analytics
10. Establishing and implementing IT governance throughout the institution

The issues certainly resonate with me and the work of my unit. It is especially striking that 30% of the issues are directly about business intelligence and analytics, while several others are less direct but clearly dependent. There is a great visual on the EDUCAUSE site (http://www.educause.edu/educause/visualizations/vis1/index.html) that shows how the top issues have trended changed over the last decade. (A topic for another day...)

The easiest way to summarize the Denver proceedings is by buzzword:

MOOC: Perhaps the worst acronym in history (IMHO), "massive open online courses" are big topics of conversation. Harvard is prominent here because of edX, and CIO Anne Margulies had an SRO crowd in the largest ballroom in the Colorado Convention Center. There was an article in The New York Times two weekends before the event (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html?emc=eta1) on the subject and there was a lot of chatter at EDUCAUSE. Not all of it positive... This is a polarizing topic, with many folks complaining about the hype and hyperbole and others proclaiming the MOOC as the most important transformation of our lifetimes.

BYOD: "Bring your own device" continues to be an issue for universities even though higher education has been doing this for ages with students, because the explosion of devices and the question of whether it is reasonable and/or practical to control those devices remain prominent issues. One of the biggest issues may be that individuals are routinely connecting with 2, 3, or 4 devices simultaneously, and expecting all the University's information systems to work on any device of their choosing. Although frankly, at least in my world, we are facing this problem of dueling form factors (tablets, smart phones, PCs) and browsers (every combination possible of OS and Browser) as much within our controlled institution-owned base as with personal devices!

Analytics: You can see it in the Top 10 list; the desire to use data to support decision making has reached a fevered pitch. The focus at these conferences still tends to be on predicting student success/failure, and my institution is not the only one behind in our executive-level reporting capabilities. There were also many interesting discussions of roles and responsibilities across organizations within the academy. Who should drive analytics projects? Business groups such as student affairs? Institutional Research? (And by the way, there is no unambiguous answer to the question).

Innovation: Everybody seeks to create "space for innovation" in a time where adding resources is not an option. There were lots of stories of reorganizing around core competencies, adopting "agile" methodologies such as Scrum, pushing help desk support to an online self-help model and using "crowdsourcing" techniques for users to help each other, etc. The good news here is that my organization is on the right track; the bad news is that it is not easy!

More this week on more "tactical" takeaways…