Technology Updates: LEAPForward moves to implementation
It takes a campus to transform processes and technology.
Although Administrative Technologies is a key partner in LEAPForward, it is not an AT initiative. To be successful, all campus departments have to participate actively, redesigning and improving business processes, providing the subject matter expertise to convert the old technology-based process to the new one, and embracing the change and the opportunity to transform the student, faculty and staff experience.
Fortunately for the LEAPForward initiative, that is exactly what has happened. Since the beginning in December 2011, more than 700 campuswide participants have logged more than 65,000 hours on the effort. This includes the efforts of the Steering Team, the governing body comprised of senior leadership representing all of campus.
“A project this size takes the entire campus working together to accomplish our goals,” said Director of Enterprise Architecture Nancy Neild, who serves as the program director for LEAPForward. “This isn’t as simple as installing new software and moving on. It takes a lot of planning and manpower to upgrade a campus of our size.”
LEAPForward seeks to transform technology by creating the next-generation academic information environment at Illinois State. The current academic information environment cannot keep up with the expectations of students, faculty, and staff, and a primary goal of LEAPForward is to replace the aging student system infrastructure.
This involves business process and technology changes for several key student process areas: Admissions, Student Accounts, Student Records, Financial Aid and Academic Advising. Staff from all of these areas have been and will be actively involved in the initiative, including the definition of requirements for a new environment, the selection of that environment, workshops, configuration, testing, training and on through to implementation.
Other major goals of the LEAPForward initiative include modernizing the technology supporting ISU’s systems, including an update to the Identity and Access Management (IAM) system, and creating a Business Intelligence (BI) program for reporting and analysis. The effort involved in creating the infrastructure and data environments, in coordination with the new academic information environment, will pay big dividends in access to data, integration of data, reduction of duplicative efforts by departments, streamlined processes and time savings on common tasks. Ultimately, it will give the University a competitive advantage in meeting the needs of prospective and current students, one more reason for students to choose Illinois State.
President Larry Dietz, in his 2014 State of the University address, called LEAPForward “Illinois State’s most important technological advancement in many, many years” and thanked everyone involved in the project.
Fiscal Year 2014 was a truly transformative year for the LEAPForward initiative. At the beginning of the fiscal year, vendor demonstrations for the student information system had been held and evaluations and selection was underway, but no system yet identified. At that time, only one staff member was assigned to the project full-time.
Fast forward to the end of the fiscal year, and we see that 95 staff members are assigned to the project from both functional areas and AT, the student information system is in place, configured and nearly ready to go into production for the Admissions module on the August 1 go-live date, the IAM system ready for its July go-live for Phase 1, the BI infrastructure in place and some data feeds in production, and work on Phase 2 modules (Student Financials, Student Records, Academic Advising, Student Accounts and Financial Aid) well underway toward the February 2015 go-live.
Since the fiscal year ended, Phase 1 of the student information system has gone live. The prospective student class of 2019 is now applying in the new system, paying their application fees, and viewing their application status. IAM has gone live with its Phase 1 features. Training has been delivered to over 100 staff members who will be working in the new system. Projects to implement the Housing & Dining and Room Scheduling applications that will integrate with the student information system have kicked off.
There are many more milestones and challenges to come for LEAPForward in the coming year, but everyone involved can look forward to the satisfaction of coming together as a campus to make this historic change happen.
An essential part of modernizing the technology infrastructure is ensuring that the information technology (IT) processes and staff that support it are also following a best practices approach.
Administrative Technologies, like thousands of organizations worldwide, has adopted the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework to help guide individual processes and ensure that all IT processes work seamlessly together in a way that benefits the University.
ITIL is a flexible framework, a guidebook that contains best practices and procedures for IT Service Management. It is now in version 3, and includes 26 distinct processes, each with comprehensive guidance on how to structure IT teams and processes to best serve the organization.
Because it is a framework, organizations are free to pick the processes that they wish to mature using ITIL guidance. There is no requirement to work with all of the processes, or to implement them in any particular order. AT has chosen to focus initially on several processes that were determined to be top priority given AT’s current portfolio of projects. This is in itself a best practice; ITIL experts uniformly recommend picking an achievable ITIL implementation scope and not to try and implement all at once.
AT reassigned staff in FY14 to an ITIL Task Force, charged with leading staff from various AT teams through a current process assessment, using ITIL principles. That was followed by design of the desired future state for the processes in scope and the determination of interim procedures for those processes. The team completed this exercise for the Incident Management, Change Management, Problem Management, and Service Asset & Configuration Management processes for AT.
The ITIL process design effort dovetailed with the selection of a new Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) application that will be the enterprise application for all IT staff on campus. This tool is being implemented in conjunction with LEAPForward, and will be as transformative for IT staff as the new student information system is for staff used to working with the mainframe-based system.
The ITSM application will replace the current ticket tracking systems on campus, but will do much more than track tickets. All of the processes included in the initial phase of ITIL implementation have modules within the ITSM application, and the process work done by the Task Force will be operationalized in it.
The new ITSM application will provide tracking of everything to do with technology—from equipment to software licenses to documentation of enterprise application configurations—all of it will be accessible by role in the application and integrated with other modules, so that the Change Management process, for example, can be applied to a particular service and all of the details of the change tracked in the application so that stakeholders can easily see the current status of the change. Knowledge base articles will be integrated in the application, and the ISU community will have access to more self-service options for technology support as well as the ability to access the application from their mobile device or web browser.
The ITSM application will be utilized campus-wide, by all IT support teams, and the implementation project is being guided by a cross-campus advisory group that includes representatives from AT and other IT teams. A parallel effort is underway to determine a common, campus-wide future state process for Incident Management (the process of responding to “incidents” – problems or issues with technology) campus-wide with a larger group representing all of campus IT.
All AT staff take the ITIL Foundation training class within their first few months of hire. Many of the other campus IT support groups have provided ITIL training for that staff as well. In this way, one of the key benefits of the ITIL framework—that all IT staff speak the same language and understand a common foundation for how IT is supported—is achieved.
An ITIL implementation is never truly complete; in fact, one of the core processes is Continuous Improvement. The first phases of this implementation focused both on processes and the new ITSM application, and will produce visible benefits to campus by making prioritization of work easier and more transparent. Support will be more consistently provided. Ultimately, the goal of ITIL is to make processes as efficient as possible, so that support can be provided to the end user more quickly, and that is AT’s goal as well.
Download the AT Annual Report
The FY14 AT Annual Report has been published. This year’s Annual Report includes profiles of all AT teams, quick references to assist in contacting the AT team responsible for various services, accomplishments from the previous fiscal year and plans for this fiscal year.