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Thursday, December 20, 2012

What is Interactive Design and Prototyping (IDP)
and Why Do We Need to Do It?

When upgrading to a new version of software, there’s always a change in how specific tasks are accomplished. You likely have experienced this with programs you use daily; new buttons are available, some options move to another area, some tasks are accomplished in another way. Since the software was designed for a wide base of users, you likely find some things to be the same, some things to be easier, and some things to be more difficult. Some tasks may not even be possible in the new version.

When the software being upgraded is your word processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word) or web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Chrome), these differences may be frustrating at first, but over time, you develop new habits. When the software is an enterprise resource planning system, a more methodical approach to addressing the differences is needed. For the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program (ESUP), this approach is called Interactive Design and Prototyping (IDP).

The first phase of ESUP is a fit/gap analysis. This involves a comparison of our current business processes with the upgraded version of PeopleSoft to see where there are “fits” and where there are differences, or “gaps,” between how we do things now and the functionality provided within the off-the-shelf (or “vanilla”) version of PeopleSoft.

The off-the-shelf versions of the HR and student PeopleSoft systems implemented in the 1990s were not yet sophisticated enough for our operations. Over the years, these systems have been heavily customized with groundbreaking applications to deliver functionality that PeopleSoft originally could not provide. Today, however, the off-the-shelf capabilities of PeopleSoft exceed those of many of our customizations, but they may work differently. Those differences are addressed in IDP.

The IDP process focuses on the business requirements of the institution and how the new functionality of the software will meet those requirements when the upgraded system goes live.  The approach ESUP is taking for IDP is process-centric. This means that technological gaps between current practice and how the new version of PeopleSoft works will be approached in the context of an entire business process (e.g., financial aid application processing, grade entry, hiring an employee, changing a job appointment). This process-centric approach helps identify opportunities to facilitate best practices, enhances the knowledge of both business and technological experts, and aids in knowledge transfer.

In order to be successful, it is critical that the right people participate in IDP. In addition to consultants from implementation partner, CedarCrestone, there will be University business analysts, subject matter experts, and members of functional steering committees (or their designees). These key decision makers will work together to make design decisions quickly and effectively by identifying business process requirements, reviewing the functionality available in the new version of PeopleSoft, and prototyping business processes to identify issues.
When the off-the-shelf version of PeopleSoft does not meet all of the business requirements, a gap in functionality is identified. The team will then work together to develop solutions for bridging the gaps and recommend their approval by the governance of ESUP. In addition to these solutions, the IDP process will also identify requirements for training, security, testing, and change management.

The IDP process is intensive and time-consuming--one business process may take several weeks of day-long work sessions. Sessions will run concurrently for approximately six months. At the end, solutions for how to move forward will be finalized and developers will have the information they need to complete the technological upgrade.

While ESUP is a multi-year project and most changes will not take effect until 2014 or later, how we operate in the future will be decided in IDP. These highly interactive and participative sessions are designed to gather the best collective ideas of system users and stakeholders. They should be intense, but very rewarding.

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