Replacing a core business system
Here’s our outline of how Hunter Group worked with the University of Otago in what became a major programme of change.
The University engaged Hunter Group to advise it on a way forward for the student management systems then being used at the University.
Student management systems and related processes are the core business system for a university, managing everything from enrolment, exams and fees, to graduations and a host of other key activities.
The two Hunter Group directors undertook a three month review that outlined alternatives for the University, together with the strategic implications, anticipated benefits and trade-offs, and a recommended way forward.
The review was all-encompassing. We undertook domestic and international research, drew on past Hunter Group experience in the sector, interviewed over 100 representatives of the various stakeholder groups within the University, and held workshops with students.
Universities are cooperative institutions so it is desirable to achieve a broad consensus on any change in strategic direction. The process employed by Hunter Group succeeded in building up confidence in the recommendations that were emerging.
Our final report was accepted by the University’s senior management team. We recommended that the University replace its existing collection of systems with a single University-wide package-based solution and standardised set of business processes. This would provide the desired platform for further improvement in the core services of the University.
Hunter Group was then engaged by the University for the next stage of work – the definition of the University’s business requirements, and the procurement and contracting of preferred systems and suppliers.
Hunter Group went on to become the University’s implementation partner for the multi-million dollar programme of work to implement the new system.
Hunter Group provided key staff for all levels of the implementation work programme, including a Steering Group member, the Programme Manager, several work stream leaders, senior business analysts and a specialist change manager.
The Hunter Group team worked seamlessly with other University and contracted staff within a core project team of around 30 people. The team also set up and worked with Steering, Reference and Working Groups made up of almost 200 other staff across the University.
This inclusive approach broke down some of the silos within the University, resulting in good working relationships and a strong shared understanding of what was needed or desired from the new system.
The system was delivered in stages. The first stage was completed in August 2012, in time for the 2013 admissions and enrolment process. The new system replaced existing paper-based and online application forms with a single online application process.
This was the first step towards a 'one stop shop' for student administration activities. The new system also made student information more readily available to staff, and dramatically reduced the duplication and fragmentation of core student data.
Further features, including support for graduations, were delivered over 2013. The next major phase went live in late April 2014. This included most of the remaining elements needed to support student management throughout a student's time at the University, including paper selection, course approval, timetables, results and examinations.
Further functions were rolled out over the remainder of 2014 including new functionality for managing international student visas, exchange students, calculation of Grade Point Averages (GPA) and support for graduate research students.
The inclusive approach made it easier to ready the University for the transition from the project to business as usual management of the new system. The strong future focus included setting up governance arrangements, understanding and agreeing future support and resource requirements and actively transferring skills and knowledge to University staff prior to the disbanding of the project team.
The project was notable because of the complexity of delivering a large, multifaceted programme into an organisation that has a highly devolved structure. University staff generally had little experience in such large programmes of work.
Having Hunter Group people working across all elements of the programme, from Steering Group through to Working Group level, ensured a critical mass of experts that could keep all elements on track.