"What? You want me to do that, too?"
How to implement new software and still stay afloat.
Campus executives often ask Registrar’s offices to implement software (like Coursedog) that answers campus challenges: How do we better recruit, advise and retain students? How can we better optimize the use of our campus space, human capital and other resources?
Our response is almost always: “What? You want me to do that, too?” (Although, we rarely say so aloud.) How do we express to the Administration that we are already time-strapped preparing:
- academic calendars
- degree auditing
- room optimizing
- collecting grades
- developing new catalogs
- curriculum management
- creating course schedules
- communication plans
- dealing with new legislation
- servicing One Stop students by phone, email and in person.
These time-sensitive daily, monthly and yearly milestones do not go away and we have to stand ready to meet all the challenges coming our way, the old and the new.
Where do I start?
1) Make sure you have a good relationship with your CIO and the Office of Information Technology (OIT).
This individual will tell you the truth. It is likely OIT will have to get its ducks in a row before the packaging of the new software is torn off. Minimally, OIT will need to ask itself: can the current IT architecture withstand the new, likely cloud-based, software? Remember all those patches and upgrades your Student Information System (SIS) is behind? Those will need to be brought up to date before integrating it with any modern university software solution. This may buy Registrar’s offices a little time.
2) Ask for skilled, supplemental staffing. Full stop.
Do not wait for the project to start because:
This window of time while IT is collecting ducks might be the only time you will have to determine if your data is “dirty.” Data cleansing should be part of the regular maintenance in most offices, but dirty data is sometimes inherited from Registrar to Registrar and falls under “What? You want me to do that, too.” Nevertheless, clean data makes for numerous efficiencies. Data extraction is easier and reporting is accurate: this makes VPs with a lot of responsibilities happy. Also, data cleansing is 100% easier to perform in your old system, rather than in the new one, where you will still be learning to navigate the platform. Supplemental staffing is a good way to get your data clean.
3) Perform a business process review (BPR).
This is a valuable tool and will help you discover why you do what you do: culture vs. habit vs. necessity. Consultants can help you to perform a BPR.
4) Help to select a consultant
Ideally, your institution will plan to bring on a software consultant or two familiar with both your SIS and the new software. Do not be surprised if the consultancy is handled remotely. Remote services are much less expensive (no cost for travel, lodging and meals). If you’re lucky, your institution may choose software that includes consultants who will help to configure your new system to meet your institutions needs.
5) Ask for a mapping document well in advance of the start of the project.
You might have to make decisions you never imagined about your data, such as:
“Are we okay changing course titles?”
Will anyone complain if “Introduction to Composition I” is renamed “Intro to Comp I.”
Oftentimes, field lengths in your SIS do not match the field lengths in the new system. Sometimes, numerical fields in the old become alpha numeric in the new (or better yet, multi-data fields) and thus open up a world of possibility on how to express your data.
6) Don’t forget to ask for and review the project plan.
Assure that all project timelines include your operational deadlines, timelines and milestones, like class registration, grading, and timing of the academic schedule roll.
7) Ask for a product demonstration.
8) Make sure that you are amongst the decision-makers.
Picking the right software is very important to your office. No one understands better how an institution maintains and uses its student data than its Registrar’s office. The truth is: you wouldn’t want anyone else to examine your data and report to you how it is used or should be used. No one can safeguard the integrity of your institution’s student data better.*
*This is the number one reason why you have been asked to do this, too.