After much collaboration with peer institutions and consultants that have gone through Student Information System (SIS) implementations, many important guidelines have been collected to apply to UCI’s SIS Project.
Change the Process, not the Product
Typically, commercially available systems are designed to incorporate best practices that streamline operations. This is sometimes different than the institution’s existing processes. To take full advantage of the features offered by a new SIS, UCI will need to learn to do some things differently.
This involves reviewing current policies/procedures/processes and asking ourselves, “Why do we do it this way?” If the question can’t be answered with a satisfactory reason, then a change is probably in order.
Keep it Vanilla…with some toppings
There is no single product that can meet all of the needs of all institutions. The key is to decipher what is truly critical to operations of the institution in the 10 percent that these products cannot deliver without tools.
Peer universities that have implemented a commercial SIS strongly recommend against customizations. This is due to difficulties with maintenance, updates, time, and costs that are dramatically increased when systems are heavily customized. Instead, if a functionality that the SIS does not provide is required to meet critical to operational needs or mandates, these should be developed as external modules that interface into the system.
Keep it Simple
SIS is an enormous initiative that affects so many stakeholders we can lose sight of what’s truly core to the project and begin overloading it. Typical SIS implementations have a timeline that is difficult to adjust due to annual enrollment cycles. With such a small window for implementation of core modules, missing the window can mean delaying the implementation by a whole year.
Original scope should always be focused around the core objectives. Scope creep needs to be minimized as much as possible so as to not introduce unnecessary complexity to an already highly complex implementation. The goal is to implement a reliable and stable system that includes only the critical, required functions.
After the initial project Go-Live of core modules, UCI can begin exploring numerous options to enhance their services to the campus using the increased capabilities and features of the new SIS.
Communication is Key to Project Success
Communication is critical in the effective planning and management of a project. Among the greatest problems faced during a project are differences of opinion and approach that require time and effort to resolve. Often these issues grow out of misconceptions created by inaccurate and/or untimely communication.
To facilitate effective project communication, everyone is responsible for managing the communications across respective project teams and units. Our approach includes a defined point of contact for each group and each level of the project organization with the escalation path outlined in the project governance structure.