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Project ENABLE: College of Engineering, Project ENABLE form team

By the Project Enable staff support team

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 31 - May 4, 1995

Early last year the College of Engineering began planning for the administrative system initiatives known as Project ENABLE. The college's faculty and staff members had some concerns:

* What type of equipment will we need to be compatible with the new systems?

* Will our own business applications, which are Windows based, be compatible?

* Will we need training on new equipment before we can use the new Human Resource Information System (HRIS)?

* How will our user-support needs be met as the university moves more functions to computers on the desk-top?

In response, Associate Dean Jack Osborne formed a special task force to pursue the following goals: 1) assess the current computing environment of the departments; 2) plan for the integration of existing college systems with the new university administrative systems; 3) promote the internal sharing of systems within the college; 4) determine equipment needs; and 5) develop a plan of action to prepare the college for the changes expected within the university administrative computing environment.

Task force meetings provided the opportunity early on for discussions between Osborne, Assistant Dean for Engineering Computing Joe Tront; Erv Blythe, vice president for information systems; and Theta Bowden, Project ENABLE leader. As a result, the task force has been kept up-to-date on planned changes to the university's computing environment.

Last fall, the College of Engineering proposed an arrangement whereby Mike Harness, department administrator for the mechanical engineering department, would work with a designated liaison from Information Systems. Osborne felt that this arrangement could provide "the nucleus of a mutually beneficial partnership....The college would be prepared for the new systems and Information Systems would get the opportunity to field test the new applications."

While Information Systems was immediately receptive to the proposal, ENABLE project leader Bowden had some reservations about actually implementing it. "I was concerned about whether or not we could afford to allocate the resource(s)," Bowden said. "Our people are already stretched very thin and I initially didn't see any way we could really do it."

After discussing the proposal at Project ENABLE Steering Team meetings, Bowden and the other group leaders agreed that Engineering's proposal was an efficient way to ensure that the college would be prepared to operate effectively in the new environment. "There were two keys that convinced us the proposal was the right way to go," says Bowden. "First, the fact that the college was willing to commit their own valuable resources and accept significant responsibility was very compelling. And second, the experience we would gain through implementing the liaison relationship would give us a good deal of insight into ways we might help other university units get up to speed with the new system. We realized that this relationship could suggest to us some rather creative ways to accomplish outreach to the university with our limited resources. Besides, we just felt that we had to respond positively to such a proactive proposal," Bowden said.

In January, Bowden assigned Richard Stock, a member of Project ENABLE's Staff Support Team, to spend a portion of his time assisting the College of Engineering. As the college rep, Stock functions as a communication conduit between the college and Project ENABLE. "We see Rich's role as being one of making sure that project information flows both ways," Bowden said. "It's every bit as important that concerns, questions, and ideas raised by the user community be communicated accurately and in a timely fashion to Project ENABLE teams as it is for information to flow from the project to the users. We want the College of Engineering to think of Rich as `their person' in Project ENABLE--someone who will speak for them in the project and someone who will make sure they get the information they need from the project."

Stock works directly with Osborne and Tront, Harness, and the other members of the college's Task Force. "When Rich sits in on our meetings, we treat him as a College of Engineering employee who has special connections with Project ENABLE," says Osborne. "We wanted to play an active role in the project. Having a direct relationship through a mutual resource is undoubtedly the best way for us to achieve that goal," he adds.

In addition to ensuring an effective flow of information between Project ENABLE and the College of Engineering, the college rep is empowered to assist the college in other ways.

Harness and Stock have visited with key staff members in each of the college's departments. "The goal of these visits was to introduce Rich to our folks and allow him to get an idea of how the various departments in the college operate," Harness said. "Rich wanted to get an understanding for how they felt about Project ENABLE and especially what concerns they had about the project." In addition to establishing relationships with each department, Stock and Harness have developed a list of tasks that will prepare the college to effectively interact with the new HRIS when it is activated in January 1996. Organizing these tasks against a time-line has produced a readiness plan which will make it possible for the college to "hit the ground running."

Project ENABLES' HRIS project leader, Linda Woodard, sees even more possibilities from the relationship. "As a result of this collaboration, we will be able to use some Engineering departments for HRIS pilots to test the new electronic processes and to critique training sessions and materials," says Woodard. "The new system," she adds, "will operate on a variety of equipment, both Macs and Windows machines as well as terminals in `character mode,' and the pilots will give us a chance to determine what support is needed."

Everyone involved in the effort so far agrees that the combined effort of the College of Engineering and Information Systems is clearly providing mutual benefits. More importantly, the partnership is also laying groundwork that will help the entire university community move to an improved administrative computing environment.