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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Portal Team Holds Usability Evaluations on Pages for Faculty, Staff and Students

A critical aspect of building any new tool is to make sure people have a good experience using it. Small variations in designs can mean the difference between a user finding what they need or failing to do so. The University of Minnesota’s Usability Services recently helped the new myU portal team test how well users are navigating their page designs. They recruited evaluators from across the U to assess the designs’ usability. The team spent three days observing students, staff, and faculty as they were led through designs tailored to their role at the U.

Some staff evaluators were surprised to find so much employee information in the designs. “I thought [myU] was for students, but this is for staff,” more than one participant said. The design team was happy to hear it. “One of the goals we’re trying to accomplish here is having a personalized experience in the new myU,” said William Dana, portal project director. “The purpose of the new myU portal is to help people be successful in getting their business done at the U. To do that, they need tools and information based on who they are and what they need to accomplish. We want to present those to the user in an easy-to-use format.”

There are often insights uncovered in usability testing that designers wouldn’t think of, especially when tailoring each experience to different audiences. When one faculty member took a look at the list of courses she taught, something was off. The list was sorted by title, but “faculty look at the course designator, not the title,” she explained. An easy fix, but one the designer might not have noticed. Getting these small details right can mean the difference between a good experience and a frustrating one.

Over all, the designs tested well with all three groups. “User friendly,” “more specific information than I thought there would be,” and “clean and well-organized,” were heard multiple times over the three days.

The next step is for the team to integrate this feedback and move into deep development on the designs. Stay tuned for a sneak peek of the current designs for myU navigation in the next few weeks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

‘One OHR’: HRMS launches high-level training for entire OHR staff

The HRMS work stream continued its high-level training schedule last week with the first of several training sessions for Office of Human Resources (OHR) staff. The purpose of the training is to provide all OHR staff with a common understanding of the upgrade project and its benefits and impacts.

Providing some level of system training and awareness to all human resource staff -- even those who are not regular system users -- is a unique approach among the ESUP work streams. Participants were introduced to the project and overall training approach, as well as major system changes and integrations. HRMS training lead Amanda Wolford also shared a few specific examples of how the system changes should enhance the work of OHR staff and encouraged attendees to think of others.

Finally, each table was asked to use what they had learned to develop an HRMS elevator speech: “If you were on an elevator and someone asked you about the HRMS Upgrade Project, what would you say?” Participants easily shared key HRMS Upgrade Project outcomes covered in the training, including:

  • Streamlined processes and reduced system customization;
  • Simplified appointment structure with a place for everything and everything in its place;
  • A new emphasis on Position data, which drives downstream functions;
  • Enhanced system integration and reducing data entry;
  • Online time and absence recording and approvals, eliminating paper processes; and
  • Improved data quality and reporting.

Post-training feedback was largely positive, with participants feeling better informed and equipped to communicate the benefits of the upgrade and to anticipate and prepare for changes in their work. OHR staff members are encouraged to register for training via ULearn as soon as possible.* A second round of more detailed and targeted OHR staff  training will be offered in the coming months.


*Note: This training is only available for OHR staff members at this time.

Monday, April 21, 2014

U Welcomes New Development and Testing Environments

ESUP is pleased to announce that as a final output of Test Move 2 (TM2), the program will begin a phased transition of the testing and development environments from CedarCrestone (CCI) to University hardware. The CCI lab has hosted these environments while the Infrastructure team worked to purchase and install the necessary hardware to house them on campus. This step is important because it allows the Test team additional time to work on the local environment and work out any bugs.

There were a number of reasons ESUP began development at CCI’s lab. Program leadership believed the University would benefit from the experience and expertise of CedarCrestone to host the development and testing instances. In addition, the University had enough space available to run current environments, but not much else. According to Tim Gagner, ESUP’s project director for Infrastructure, “These decisions allowed the University to determine the best long term solution that could support the PS applications and provide the time needed to purchase, install, and configure the new application platform.”

The new platform Gagner mentioned are Oracle’s Exalogic and Exadata servers, which will house ESUP’s production and testing environments. (Read ESUP’s blog post on the new servers from last summer, here.) These new servers were always slated to hold these environments, but now the process will happen earlier to allow development activities to happen on University-owned hardware and better prepare for ESUP production.

This earlier move also allows ESUP to work through operational support items and implement Stat, a migration tool that provides change and version control, and the ability to manage code migrations. With the large team of UMN and contractor staff developing ESUP, it is essential that structured migration tools are employed to mitigate project risk and ensure consistency in deployment activities. Developers can expect to be trained on using the migration software tool prior to the move.

There’s something reassuring about coming home. As Gagner summed it up, “This move gives our teams more time to prepare for ESUP’s launch by using the future production servers throughout testing. Teams will be more comfortable supporting the servers, databases, and application software locally...they’re excited to bring these environments to the U.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

'Preferred name'--big win for University

Oracle had exciting news at their PeopleSoft Higher Education User conference in March. They announced that they will deliver an update to PeopleSoft so the preferred name of students appears on class and grade rosters. This means that when the University goes live with PeopleSoft Campus Solutions 9.0 in February 2015, faculty will have class rosters and grade rosters that accurately reflect how their students want to be addressed. It's a huge win for our entire institution.

The University of Minnesota played a big part in this effort. The ESUP Student Records team built a national coalition around this issue thanks to the help of Product Advisory Group members Max Herman (ASR-IT) and Carla Boyd (Duluth). This included writing the "white paper" Oracle is using for their development.

What's in a name?
The University of Minnesota's enterprise system (PeopleSoft) uses the legal name of students, faculty, and staff throughout the system. Sometimes this is a requirement for law or regulation, but in many cases it is not. The University has long-been a part of the national conversation around the desire to use a preferred name (as identified by the individual) for instances not covered by law or regulation, as doing so promotes an inclusive and welcoming environment for a diverse population.

Making it happen
ESUP was an opportunity for the University to take the lead in this national conversation. As a result, a coalition of higher-ed institutions formed to urge Oracle to address this issue and develop a solution that could be provided to all institutions.

Oracle's announcement at their conference is exciting news, but since the delivery timeframe of this fix is unknown, the ESUP team is moving forward with developing modifications to the system to ensure that when we go live next spring, faculty will see the names their students prefer on their class and grade rosters.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ESUP Question...Will I still be able to use DeptID after the ESUP systems launch?

This article is part of ESUP’s ongoing series addressing rumors and questions about the program. Please email us at esup@umn.edu with any questions or rumors you’ve heard.

I heard that with the conversion to ZDeptID from Entity Codes, I will lose the ability to pull detailed information down to the department level. Is this true and will I be able to use DeptID?

One of the main reasons for moving to the ZDeptID value is to enable better reporting at the department level, so yes, you will absolutely be able to use DeptID for reporting. As part of the upgrade work, many HR business processes have been redesigned. As a result, certain reports need to change in both form and function. Details about specifics of what is happening in the reporting world for HR will be available soon.

Until the details are available, it’s important to understand the background of Entity and ZDeptID: 

  • ZDeptID is the name of the field used to roll-up departments (DeptIDs) in the financial system (PeopleSoft Financials, or “EFS”). DeptID values are rolled up to (or grouped by) ZDeptID values in Finance using a tree structure, similar to a simple organizational chart.  Entity Codes perform the same roll-up function in the human resources system (PeopleSoft HR, or “HRMS”). Both HR and Finance use the same set of DeptID values to indicate department, and they will use the same set of ZDeptID values for roll-ups after the upgrade.

  • The Entity Codes of today are based on the old financial system (CUFS) values for departments and were never converted to the “new” financial department structure and values. The ZDeptID values built in EFS in 2008 were not mapped to the Entity Codes in use in HR. There were good reasons for not mapping them at the time EFS was implemented. People have since found the use of the two terms and two sets of values confusing, especially since they don’t map nicely to each other.

As part of ESUP, collegiate leaders responsible for the HR and Finance functions are working together to reconcile these two sets of values to come up with a shared value that represents both the HR and Finance roll-ups. The roll-up value for both functions will be the same going forward and will reside in a field called ZDeptID. This will enable better reporting for departments, as combined Finance and HR data will then be more easily reported on at the department level, as well as being easily rolled up to a college, campus, and University level.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Q & A What is "Academic Advisement"?

Since ESUP announced the new Academic Advisement module in June 2013, that team has been hard at work reviewing and developing processes to support this new-to-the-University functionality for graduate programs. We asked them a few questions to learn what it’s all about and what it means for students, staff, and faculty. 

The Academic Advisement (AA) module in PeopleSoft is completely new to the University and the name seems a little confusing because it's not about advising students...can you explain a bit about what AA is?

Academic Advisement is just the name Oracle gave a set of functionality in PeopleSoft. It can do a lot of things, but right now the University is focused on using it to track the progress of graduate students completing their degree requirements.

Right now, that work is done mostly on paper, so this will be a big and positive change for graduate programs and students in them.

How will things change for students? Staff? Faculty?

As we mentioned, the current process for tracking degree requirements for graduate students is mostly paper-based. Until now, that’s actually been the most efficient way to track the complicated set of requirements for each student (e.g., majors, minors, tracks, policies, exceptions). There is already a system that handles this for undergraduate students (APAS), but it isn’t flexible enough to handle the sometimes very individual requirements graduate students have.

Moving to a more digital (and more automated) process will be a big change from the way students, staff, and faculty have done this in the past. The data will be more transparent to everyone involved, so students will have a better understanding of where they are in terms of their degree progress and what requirements they still need to fulfill. This should lead to better degree progress and more meaningful conversations between advisers and students seeking graduate degrees.

What have been the challenges up to this point?

Because graduate degree requirements are more varied than undergraduate degree requirements, the challenge has been in making sure we maximize the efficiencies technology can bring us while still being flexible enough to accommodate the wide variety of programs the University offers.

What has been a big win?

This has been a great opportunity to work really closely with representatives from colleges. The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) has been a terrific partner in this process and has even agreed to be the pilot college for the Academic Advisement implementation. This is a big win because CEHD is one of the larger colleges with a wide variety of curriculum requirements across their graduate programs. The Academic Advisement team is therefore able to test many different student scenarios to ensure it works as planned.

What’s next for Academic Advisement?

We’re working on configuring the system to handle curriculum requirements and getting ready for the testing phase of ESUP. We’re also developing a post go-live schedule for bringing in the remaining colleges with graduate programs.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

ESUP Removes OIM from Program Scope

ESUP planned to implement Oracle’s Identity Manager (OIM) as a replacement to the University’s existing legacy identity management system, x.500. The phased migration was set to begin this spring, ahead of ESUP’s launch next year.

However, implementing OIM has proven to be more complex than anticipated and cannot be completed within ESUP’s timeline, according to Identity Management (IdM) project director Gordon Korbel. Program leadership agreed with the recommendation to decouple OIM from ESUP, and the program will instead go live in the spring of 2015 using the x.500 system.

This decision will have little impact outside of ESUP. "Most people at the University will not notice any changes -- in fact, the decision to bring forward x.500 will result in an almost identical end-user experience," said Korbel.

The IdM team will continue implementing the changes required for ESUP. The OIM-specific activities will return to the Office of Information Technology (OIT) where staff will have more time to consider the larger scope of work. OIT will leverage the knowledge the team gathered and will work on a separate timeline for implementation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ESUP Question...Is UM Reports going away?

With a project as large as the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program (ESUP) there are bound to be questions and rumors about what’s changing and what’s really happening. Thank you to Stephanie Betterman, from the Department of Horticultural Science, who emailed the Program with a question around the topic of reporting. Stephanie wrote, “There are rumors in my department that with the implementation of the new portal, the University will be taking UMReports away. Is there any truth to this?”

This rumor is false. UM Reports is not going away as part of ESUP, however what is changing is how University faculty and staff will access reports contained in UM Reports.

The majority of current, individual UM Reports will be available in the new Reporting Center. Data for some reports will be delivered through new functionality like PS Reports or PS Pages. In the near future, a list of current UM Reports with information on what is happening to each report as a result of the upgrade, will be posted on ESUP’s web site.

When Finance, HRMS, and Student launch their upgraded systems in spring 2015, users will access their UM Reports using the new Reporting Center, which will be available through the myU portal.

The Reporting Center will centralize reports people need to do their job. It won’t be the only place to find reports but it will provide a place that consolidates access to University reports from multiple reporting tools, including UM Reports, UM Analytics, and PeopleSoft (PS).

The Reporting Center will:
  • categorize reports based on their function (i.e. finance, human resources, student)
  • include search functionality
  • allow users to bookmark their favorite reports
  • offer a ‘Need Assistance’ feature to get help
Please watch this short ‘Sneak Peek’ video about the Reporting Center for an introduction to this new tool.

Thanks again to Stephanie for submitting her question and letting us use her name in this publication. Please email other questions or rumors to esup@umn.edu. We will contact you before we use your name and question in any of our publications.