The Captain's Chair
No flying cars yet, but this isn’t “your father’s Oldsmobile”
Some of us are old enough to remember the time when computers came into the public consciousness. We recall the promises of automation – flying cars, automatic kitchens, guided roadways, robots for housework, and finally the explosion of leisure time:
… society will seem idle, by present standards. According to one estimate, only 10% of the population will be working, and the rest will, in effect, have to be paid to be idle. “Already,” says Tempo's John Fisher, “we are rationing work. By 1984, man will spend the first third of his life, or 25 years, getting an education, only the second one-third working, and the final third enjoying the fruits of his labor. There just won't be enough work to go around.”
“THE FUTURISTS: Looking Toward A.D. 2000”, Time Magazine, Friday, February 25, 1966
How accurate was that prediction? A recent Harris Poll found that leisure time fell 20% in 2008 and is now 10 hours a week less than it was in 1973.
So what happened? Parkinson's Law is an adage initially hypothesized by Cyril Northcote Parkinson to explain workload and time. Was Parkinson right that the “work expanded to fill the time available”? Maybe, but not in the sense he intended. It seems the exact opposite has occurred -- expectations and demands on the technology have grown rather than staying constant. In economic terms the supply increased, the cost dropped and the demand rose. Or as someone told me once, we do a lot more because we can. The technology of the 20th century would not have supported the granularity of data and services, the reporting requirements, or the service level expectations of 2009.
So what does that have to do with EIS? The EIS system of today may not yet be the flying car predicted by the futurists, but it’s not “your father’s Oldsmobile” either. This year will be the 5th anniversary of the implementation of the initial EIS applications. The demands on those applications have exploded far beyond the capabilities of the legacy applications that served us faithfully for many years prior to EIS. EIS has provided near 24x7 availability, single sign-on, relational databases with query capabilities, web browser access, self-service capabilities, and electronic workflow. In addition to improved services and capabilities in our traditional application areas, new initiatives exploiting CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) for recruiting and decision support are bearing fruit. Demands on EIS functionality have increased and continue to increase to meet the requirements of external entities and the increasing complexity enabled by automation in all areas (that “technology demand thing”), in addition to the expectations of our students, parents, and alumni.
The next few years will be a very busy time of change for EIS. This and every issue of the theEnterprise are filled with stories chronicling the continual enhancement of EIS. Improvements include new and improved capabilities delivered by the software vendor, Oracle PeopleSoft, more integration with external systems and new features beyond the framework of EIS. Also, our local customizations to the delivered product make EIS a better fit for the UNT System.
In addition to bringing on UNT-Dallas (as discussed in the last issue) and rolling out other new functionality, new versions of the software will be implemented. In March of this year, the latest version of Financials, version 9.0, will be rolled out. In mid 2009 a new, upgraded and refreshed portal (my.unt.edu) will be available. Plans are under discussion for Campus Solutions (myls.unt.edu) and CRM upgrades. New decision support initiatives will be popping up regularly. Portfolio management policies and procedures will be phased in to better manage the allocation of CITC resources toward institutional goals. Future issues of The Spreadsheet and theEnterprise will provide more information on these efforts.
I can’t close an article about all that is coming in EIS without reemphasizing that EIS is not just a computer system. It is a community of people throughout the UNT system that is committed to the success and improvement of EIS for the ultimate benefit of their respective universities. It is not only the technical folks that support the applications and infrastructure, but also the functional staff that are the brains behind the system’s use and operate it on a day-to-day basis. I am continually awed by their talent, commitment, collaboration and hard work.
For a fun read, check out the Time article at:
EIS Financials System Upgrade: e-Pro Processing Changes
The EIS Financials system upgrade requires e-Pro processing changes during the week leading to the scheduled go-live. Purchasing and Payment Services must have all current requisitions processed through to purchase orders in EIS prior to the conversion. In order to allow for processing time, all departments must have needed requisitions created and approved through e-Pro on or before 5:00PM on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. Additional information is listed in the February 2009 Spreadsheet Newsletter posted online at http://pps.unt.edu.
EIS Community Loses Esteemed Colleague at UNT Dallas
Maxine Rogers, the first Director of Finance and Administration at the University of North Texas Dallas Campus, passed away on February 1, 2009. Members of the EIS community had begun working with Maxine as UNT Dallas begins the process of becoming a stand-alone institution in the UNT System. She was believed strongly in the mission of the UNT Dallas Campus and eagerly looked to a future time when UNT Dallas becomes the first and only public university in the city. John Hooper, CITC Executive Director, said “I had only known her for a short while but was impressed with her energy and spirit. I looked forward to our partnership with her at UNT Dallas.”
APPX Prospect System Retired
Following a transition to CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) last fall, the Office of Admissions officially retired its APPX undergraduate prospect system on Friday, January 23, 2009.
At an event hosted by Steve Vocelka and Lawanna Robinson, a small group of APPX users and CITC support partners gathered in GAB 560 that Friday to say “good bye” to APPX and witness the final shutdown of its ntsf880v1 SUN host.
Attending from Admissions were Janetta Willeford, Ailene Horton, Allison Carpenter and APPX administrator, Walter Bowen. Nancy Fisher and Brian Richman represented EISTS, and were joined by Don Butler from CITC.
Also on hand that day from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and the School of Health Professions was Joel Daboub, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Outreach. Back in 2002, Joel was a member of the team that ported the prospect system to APPX.
The undergraduate prospect system was a cornerstone for student recruitment follow-up operations for more than two decades. The system was originally built in 1987 with SPEED II, a 4GL development utility on the Wang VS5 platform.
“Recruitment operations grew a lot in two decades,” Walter Bowen said. “Our prospect system evolved right along with us.” Many upgrades occurred over the years, from integration with the UNT mainframe, advent of the Recruitment Material Distribution System and Y2K conversion to integration with EIS.
APPX was hosted on the ntsf880v1 which, according to EISTS team lead Nancy Fisher, was “…the oldest unit in the platform, but it has certainly stood the test of time.”
During its nearly 22 years of service, 1,417,322 individuals were served by the undergraduate prospect system. More than 22,600,000 communications and interest fulfillments were processed from its inception (November 1, 1987) through the Undergraduate CRM Go-Live on October 20, 2008.
To the many users and support partners who contributed to the successful operation of this system over the years, we thank you all.
You made a difference!
CITC Portfolio and Project Management
The Computing and Information Technology Center (CITC) has a rich history of providing quality systems and services to our customers as they harness the power of technology to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of their business units.
Now, the CITC is embarking upon an initiative, led by the Division of Administration & Compliance, which will help us do the same in order to provide greater transparency/operational visibility, enhanced team communication/collaboration, and more consistent delivery to our customers at UNT. This more formal approach to managing IT projects is in compliance with Texas Administrative Code (TAC), chapter 216.
The CITC has selected Microsoft’s Enterprise Project Management (EPM) solution, consisting of Portfolio Server for managing the list of projects to be justified, prioritized, and selected from (“excellence in selection”), and Project Server (used in conjunction with MS Project 2007 desktop client software) for scheduling and implementing individual projects as carefully as possible once selected (“excellence in execution”).
Both products use a central repository and provide a web component for collaborating with customers as well as colleagues. Although we have continued to be “enterprise-wide aware” as the software configuration has been underway, at this time there are no plans to roll out the EPM software beyond the scope of delivering CITC IT projects.
After a rigorous piloting period during the Summer & Fall of 2008, we began the process of formally educating our staff and rolling out the Project Server portion of EPM for managing individual projects. Our goal is to complete Project Server training and fully utilize the tool within CITC by early Summer 2009.
With respect to CITC IT projects, Portfolio Server will provide a mechanism for introducing the concept of (Project) Portfolio Management to UNT. Portfolio Management is similar to managing a financial portfolio – weighing the cost of investments (project proposals) against capacity, reward, and risk so that the final selection of investments (projects) for execution provides the greatest business value and contribution to the strategic goals of the investor (UNT).
More specifically, it is about having a way to manage the intake of customer requests, pre-defining an objective process for the review and approval of project proposals, and continually monitoring the “mix” of both proposed and in-progress projects to assess which ones are on track, which ones need intervention, and which ones are no longer viable investments or are candidates for cancellation.
A formal Portfolio Management process will ensure that IT projects match the strategic goals and objectives of UNT and executives have a clear view of what they are approving and why. Other anticipated benefits are improved communication and alignment between leaders in CITC and the business units we serve, more efficient scheduling of resources, a reduction in the number of redundant projects, and a “safety valve” to prevent an attempt to take on more projects than there is the capacity to deliver.
Portfolio Server is in the midst of configuration and a pilot program will be scheduled within CITC as soon as the business solution is crystallized and approved by the CTO and Directors. Once a practical solution has been configured and initially tested, we will invite key external customers to help vet the process so that the final product brings added value, is technically and functionally solid, and can be easily accepted into our culture at UNT.
“We are excited about the adoption of portfolio and project management practices within our organization. CITC’s management has worked closely with the Project Management Office (PMO) to develop and implement department-wide standards and best practices that will ensure that we are able to effectively manage delivery of services internally and to our University constituents. We have full confidence in the PMO to pave the way for our transition into this new way of conducting business.” says Charlotte Russell, Director of CITC Administration & Compliance.
According to Dr. Maurice Leatherbury, CITC’s Assoc. Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, “The CITC badly needs the capabilities that Project and Portfolio bring to us, to manage the large number of projects that we have under way at any time. Those products will give to us the ability to monitor the projects that the CITC is working on for the betterment of UNT. They also bring a professional structure that will make our processes of receiving project requests, approving those projects, completing them, and measuring the quality of the work we’ve done repeatable and transparent to the campus. I am personally excited about the advent of Project and Portfolio in the CITC and I’m looking forward to using them to manage our projects better.”
Questions concerning this article may be directed to Andy Novak, EPM Project Manager and Manager, CITC PMO, by email at email@example.com or by phone at 940-369-7143. You can visit the PMO’s home on the web at http://pmo.unt.edu
Oracle PeopleSoft Financials 9.0 Upgrade
The upgrade to the Oracle PeopleSoft Financials software from version 8.4 to 9.0 is almost upon us. The conversion process is scheduled to begin at noon on Friday, March 13th, and be completed Monday afternoon, March 16th. The EIS Financials system will be available once again to users at all campuses on the following Tuesday, March 17, 2009.
Every effort has been made to minimize the impact of the upgrade on the users of the Financials system. The unavailability of EIS Financials is not very problematic since the upgrade schedule is taking advantage of UNT’s holiday for Spring Break on Monday, March 16th. Since the campus is closed for the holiday, the only time that the system will be unavailable to UNT users during regular business hours will be in the afternoon of Friday, March 13th. Though the UNT Health Science Center (HSC) is open on March 16th, the EIS Financials environment will not be accessible to HSC users that day.
The users in the various administrative and functional areas for UNT, HSC, and the UNT System have been diligently working over the past several months to become familiar with and test the new version of the software. It has been quite an interesting experience for all of them as they discover enhanced features and new functionality in this latest version of PeopleSoft Financials. Purchasing and Payment Services at UNT and the Purchasing Office at HSC have also spent many weeks preparing training and documentation for e-Procurement users in an effort to aid users in their transition to the new version.
The Financial Information Systems Team (FIST) and the Application Infrastructure Management Team (AIM), as well as several other technical teams within CITC, have spent many months preparing the hardware and software for this upgrade. A major aspect of this process is the trial runs of the upgrade. The trail run activities include performing all of the steps, multiple times, necessary to convert data from the old version of the software to the new version. Both the functional users and technical teams have been heavily involved in this process to facilitate and prepare for the big event.
There is much anticipation and confidence that this upgrade will be a success. All of the hard work that has gone into this undertaking is now coming to fruition. It has truly been a challenging and exciting project and all involved are anxiously awaiting the go-live.
Additional information about the upgrade is available at the following electronic resources:
myUNT is Getting a Facelift
The EIS Tools, Applications, Reporting, and Portal (EISTARP) team is currently working to upgrade the EIS Portal System (my.unt.edu) to Oracle PeopleSoft Portal, version 9.0. The upgrade provides new and exciting functionality, such as community calendars, improved content management, collaborative workspaces and discussion forums.
With this upgrade, the EISTARP team is making major improvements to the look and feel of the portal. The upgrade goal is to make myUNT a student-centered portal that makes doing business with UNT an intuitive experience. The improved myUNT includes a softer look with simple navigation and Web 2.0 style graphics. The new design also allows the Portal to be more accessible on hand-held mobile devices.
A new feature in the improved portal is a Message Center. This portal element is being created by the EISTARP team since it is not delivered with 9.0. The new Message Center allows custom messages to be created and targeted to individual students or a groups of students. These messages may be created by campus offices or by faculty members. Advantages of the Message Center (versus sending emails) include:
- Elimination of email bounce backs
- Reduction in student complaints that they never received documents, letters, or deadline information
- Tracking to know if the recipients have “read” the message
- Being notified of a waiting message via text messaging, if desired
The first phase of the redesign is scheduled to “go live” the weekend of April 18-19, 2009.
UNT Student Records Developers Create Innovative Module and Reports
The Student Records Systems Development Team (SRSDT) developed a report for Undergraduate Admissions that lists completed applications alphabetically. The report makes it easier for different clerical staff to easily "work" portions of the report and decreases the time needed to work the report.
For the Student Records area, SRDST developed a custom module for the Office of New Student Programs to allow newly-admitted students at UNT to register for their required Orientation sessions via the EIS Portal. The module automatically populates a student's registration page with the data from EIS submitted via the student's application, and only offers the student a choice of Orientation sessions that are appropriate for the student's admission type (new or transfer), planned college, and major. The module allows a student to pay for the session, guaranteeing him or her a spot in the orientation session immediately. On the EIS side, the Office of New Student Programs (ONSP) has access to information about the Orientation session for each student and has the ability to override session parameters, such as gender or college limits, as needed. This customization was unveiled to the students on February 16th. It will save the ONSP many hours that were previously spent in duplicate data entry into their system using printed EIS reports.
SRSDT also provided a new report for CITC's Production Control team. The report enables Production Control to check EIS run control updates made via scripts run for AppWorx against EIS data to ensure that the scripts and updates are happening correctly. Additionally, this helpful report diminishes the possibility for human error and allows SRSDT jobs to run with more accuracy and dependability in AppWorx.
Remembering Learning S. Parallel (LSPL)
Suffering from multiple byte wounds and discovered face down in a buffer pool of her own data, Learning S. Parallel died at Discovery Park on Monday February 9, 2009. Services are pending.
She was born, November 22nd, 2007. Weighing in at well over 400 gigabytes, LSPL (as he/she was known to so many) was a giant in the database world. Her magnetic personality and first-rate hash made her a friend to all. Although her life was full of ups and downs, she was recognized for her relational nature and patiently answered queries from all who had accounts with her. Known to be a real “schema,” she’d often take longer to respond to those who exhibited a propensity for Cartesian joinery.
In lieu of flowers, cache donations may be made to the ODBAT foundation, c/o Eric Duchemin.
Financial Aid Processing for a New Award Year
Have you ever wondered how EIS makes sense out of complicated business processes? This issue of theEnterprise takes a look at the complex world of financial aid. Mahshid Grooms, technical lead for the Financial Aid & Scholarships Systems Development Team, gives us an insightful look at how financial aid is processed by EIS for a new award year.
There are four scheduled regulatory releases in an award year with several additional critical patches and fixes. The new award year for financial aid starts with Regulatory Release 1, released in December of the old award year. Regulatory Release 2 is released in late January, followed by critical patches and fixes released in late winter and early spring. The regulatory releases include updates to ISIR load, Aid Year Rollover, ISIR correction, NSLDS updates, Verification, Common Origination and Disbursement (COD), Pell Grant award for new Pell Schedules, Institution Need Analysis System, Federal Methodology (FM INAS), and final guidelines for federal programs. Once the regulatory releases are installed and retrofits are applied, comprehensive testing is done for the current award year processes, and the changes are moved to production. The new award year evaluation, setup and processing begin after the final critical patches and fixes are applied in production.
The first step of the new award year processing is to run the Aid Year rollover process, which copies setup tables to the new award year. The EIS system is dependent on setup tables for both the delivered processes and UNT bolt-on modifications. The process is run and tested in the lower environments, and once the results are verified, it is run in the production environment. UNT bolt-on setup tables are not included in the Aid Year Rollover process and must be set up manually. Once the setup pages are rolled to the new aid year, every setup page is examined for accuracy. There are always changes that must be made such as disbursement dates, loan periods, loan limit increases and census dates. New setup pages delivered in the regulatory releases are the result of new programs or final guidelines by the Department of Education, and must also be set up at that time.
The next step is to evaluate the changes to the ISIR such as comment codes, their severity level (impact on the school and student), Department of Education database matches, and ISIR reject reasons. These must be reviewed and identified for processing a student’s application and sending communications to the student. This review results in new checklist codes and communications that must be created as part of the new award year setup.
We are now ready to load ISIR records for the new award year. They are first loaded and tested in a lower environment. The testing of the ISIR processing cycle includes the EFC calculation by INAS, ISIR suspense management (i.e. ISIR records not loaded in EIS), checklist assignment and producing communications regarding ISIR comment codes, reject reasons and verification. Once testing is complete in the lower environment, batches of ISIR files are updated in production. Because of the volume of applications, ISIRS are loaded in batches and the process is run multiple times. The reports and communications are then worked by the Financial Aid and Scholarships staff, notifying students of their application status and any issues that must be resolved before processing can continue on the student’s file. Once the first batches are done, the process is set up in the AppWorx production scheduler so the cycle can be run on a schedule.
The Financial Aid Term (FATERM) process is next. Many downstream financial aid processes such as building student budgets, awarding students, originating student loans, requesting Pell funds, and disbursing aid to students are dependent on having the financial aid term build. A new run control is created for the new award year since processing for the current award year is still on-going. The FATERM processes begin running for the new award year in March, including UNT bolt on processes, such as aid year activation, FA Load override and budget required reset. This begins dual year processing for the Financial Aid office.
Now we are ready to build the student’s budget. A budget is the cost of attendance and consists of tuition and fees, books, transportation, housing, childcare expenses, etc… The cost varies based on the student’s housing status (on campus, off campus, or with parents), enrollment (full time, half time) residency (out-of-state, in-state), and career (undergrad, graduate). Once the related budget setup pages are completed for the new award year, the budget cycle is tested in a lower environment. The student’s budgets are verified and any corrections necessary are made to the budget setup tables. The budget process and associated bolt on processes are run sometime in early April in production to assign the budget to the student.
Before awards can be made to students, evaluation of the eligibility criteria for the awards must be reviewed and modified for federal and institutional changes. New financial aid programs for the award year are evaluated and program specifications are incorporated into mass packaging. The funding for the awards must be determined and updated in the appropriate setup tables. Packaging philosophy and grant equity is reviewed to assure awards are being made equitably based on the student’s financial need. These changes are updated and tested in the EIS mass packaging equation engine and packaging plans. UNT is committed to making the first awards to freshman and transfer students by the end of April. Continuing students are packaged in mid-May after spring grades are final to allow evaluation of a student’s academic progress and eligibility for financial aid.
Once awards are made, the work is not finished. Often, funding decisions are not always final at the time of the first awards. Decisions and procedures are developed in order to go forward with packaging student awards while allowing identification of students who meet eligibility of awards once final funding has been established. Also, many new Federal regulations are passed and made effective on July 1st of each year. These changes must be evaluated by the federal processor and software vendors such as Oracle PeopleSoft. Until these changes can be delivered in a critical fix, UNT and HSC are required to review the regulations, and develop procedures and programs to support the new changes until the modifications are delivered by Oracle PeopleSoft. Changes like the above are challenging and can result in review and potential revision of awards that were already made.
Students are notified of the financial aid awards with award notification letters. The letters include the types and amounts of aid offered, and the rights and responsibilities of each award. Students must accept the awards and complete other requirements, such as loan applications and entrance counseling.
It is important that the new award year process begins as early as possible and awards are made in a timely manner in order to best serve the students, and promote recruitment and retention at all university campuses. The mass packaging cycle continues throughout the award year to package students as they continue to apply for financial aid.
How does all this intricate work translate into dollars? Financial Aid and Scholarship paid a total of $211,180,053.50 for award year 2008-2009 as of 02/20/2009!
Spring Registration Statistics
This quarter we take a look at the technical side of Spring 2008 registration.
EIS Servers Supporting Registration:
- 14 web servers
- 8 application servers
- 2 database servers
- 3 batch servers
The peak days for number of users logged into myUNT were Monday, January 5th and Monday, January 12th.
January 5th, 2009 - peak time was 2:00 p.m. with 1,127 users
(compared to Monday, January 7th 2008 at 6 p.m. with 3,401 users)
January 12th, 2009 - peak time was 6:00 p.m. with 2,494 users
(compared to Monday, January 14th, 2008 at 10 p.m. with 10:00 a.m. with 3,789 users)
EIS Financials System Upgrade: e-Pro Training Available
Purchasing and Payment Services has established several types of training to provide e-Pro Coordinators and Approvers with information regarding the new e-Pro system. Classes will be offered in the PPS Training Room and online through Blackboard Vista. Additionally, open lab opportunities will be available to allow e-Pro Coordinators to prepare and submit requisitions with the assistance of PPS employees. Detailed training information and a schedule is listed in the February 2009 Spreadsheet Newsletter posted online at http://pps.unt.edu.