Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Long overdue update

Despite the lack of posts over the past few weeks, the project has been making good progress. Here are some of the things that we've been working on:

Wrap-up of initial round of interviews
After meeting with all the schools and departments around the University, Identropy took the information, analyzed it, and boiled it down into a nice presentation for all the participants. This initial analysis helped us to decide on an initial scope for the pilot phase of the project -- something manageable, but that will still provide tangible and meaningful benefits to the University. We chose to focus first on one school and its various user populations, including students, faculty and staff.

An in-depth business process analysis
In an effort to better understand the current business process for on-boarding students in the Warner School, we had several days of meetings with the various departments within the school. These meetings were very useful, had great participation (from the Registrar, Admissions department, Financial Aid office, and especially Dave Garcia, their IT director), and allowed us to really delve into the processes in place today, as well as the target systems involved. Doing this upfront work also brought to light some places in the processes that could be improved, both from an efficiency standpoint, as well as to prevent some problems with creating bad or duplicated identity data.

Vendor evaluations are underway
We've had several good vendor demos already, with a few more later on this week. Once these have been completed, we'll look at the feedback from the various technical folks from the University who have been in attendance, weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the different solutions, and select the one with the best fit for our environment and business processes.

After having made it this far, there are a few early lessons that we've learned that might help another institution starting a similar project:

  • For a University especially (or any highly decentralized organization), it is good to keep the different parts of the organization involved and engaged as the project progresses. Even though the initial phase will focus on one school, the lessons learned there will be applied to other schools and departments, and it's good to keep the other organizations apprised of the project's status.
  • Limit your vendor analysis to a handful of ones you want to really focus on. But don't necessarily include only those vendors that may already be existing partners of your institution. It's good to include current vendors, since the integration time (and ultimately, cost) might be reduced, but by bringing in a few new faces, you might be surprised at the number of different approaches to the same problems.
  • When evaluating vendors, we have tried to keep a level playing field by providing each vendor with the same set of use cases, and then evaluating them with the same weighting system. Identropy really helped to facilitate this process for the University of Rochester, by creating that initial set of use cases based upon our business process analysis. As your project begins to get ready to evaluate product offerings, use your BPM analysis results to create simplified, but representative, use cases that the vendors can demonstrate for you.

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