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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
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Project ENABLE will change computing

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 11 - November 3, 1994

(Editor's note: This is the first of a series of articles designed to inform the university community about a major initiative that is an integral part of the Phase II restructuring commitment currently under way within the university. This article is provided by the Project ENABLE staff support team. The team is composed of members from various administrative areas of the university. Follow-up articles will focus on different aspects of Project ENABLE and will provide progress reports as the project is implemented.)

Project ENABLE is the name selected to identify one of the most significant and aggressive endeavors ever undertaken by Virginia Tech. As an integral part of the Virginia Tech restructuring, the university has recently committed to a major initiative dedicated to improving the university community's work/service environment.

The Project ENABLE initiative focuses on replacing all of the university's major administrative computing systems with new state-of-the-art systems. A special feature of this replacement strategy is the intention to complete the project on an aggressively accelerated and fast-tracked schedule. Project ENABLE also focuses on redesigning the fundamental business processes underlying administrative functions targeted for replacement computing systems.

Aside from the fact that the state has mandated all higher-education institutions to develop and implement major initiatives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations, the need for a major restructuring at Virginia Tech has become apparent. Decreased financial support from the state, combined with generally diminishing resources, obsolete information systems, and ineffective automation tools, have resulted in a work environment characterized by overpowering workloads for employees and a general inability to provide efficient and effective quality service. The objective of Project ENABLE is to provide a multi-faceted response designed to address these problems directly and aggressively.

Since Project ENABLE's objective is indeed aggressive, it should not be surprising that the primary goals for Project ENABLE are equally aggressive and ambitious. The project's goals include:

* enhancing the quality of services provided to the university community,

* increasing efficiency and productivity of the university's resources, and

* improving the collective work environment.

Other initiatives are under way at Virginia Tech that clearly support the Project ENABLE goals. Information Systems is in the process of developing more effective philosophical and practical approaches to overall information management. This will enhance accessibility to information and impact the way everyone interacts with administrative processes and systems. Other projects include the Faculty Development Initiative and the Administrative Workshop and Literacy Project, both designed to provide financial, technical, and educational assistance to faculty and staff members making the transition to new hardware and software systems; and an ongoing communications infrastructure-improvement program designed to accommodate the enhanced computing systems. Several university initiatives that complement Project ENABLE have been described in the recently published document Restructuring Virginia Tech. The complementary role of these initiatives will become increasingly more apparent as Project ENABLE moves forward.

One particularly interesting feature of Project ENABLE is the unique approach being used to organize and manage the project. Project ENABLE is organized around cross-functional and multidisciplinary teams. The team approach greatly enhances management and organizational flexibility and provides the project with a variety of benefits that would not be possible working in a traditional work environment.

Project ENABLE teams are composed of both technical and functional/operational personnel. The latter provides the opportunity to get those most familiar with the day-to-day operations and special needs of the processes being redesigned directly involved in the project. Project ENABLE will realize the benefits of more productive thinking, increased coordination, greater levels of employee satisfaction and development, and enhanced organizational productivity. These teams are being staffed through a reallocation of resources within the university.

One final note of curiosity--an answer to the question "Why the name Project ENABLE?" The word ENABLE was chosen because it so accurately reflects the overall intention of this innovative project. The dictionary defines ENABLE as the process of "supplying the means, knowledge, and opportunities to be or do something." That is exactly what the people of Project ENABLE will be doing as they proceed with the work of redesigning the university's administrative processes and computing systems. They will definitely be "Enablers of innovation...enabling the university to be its best!"

The next installment in this series of articles will focus on the objectives and expectations of Project ENABLE, and address the personal issue of what impact the project will have on the people of the Virginia Tech community. How will it enable you to do a better job?

(Additional information and news about Project ENABLE is currently available electronically by accessing, through MOSAIC, the Virginia Tech Home Page. To do so, open URL http://www.vt.edu The VT Home Page will come up. Select "University Initiatives," then select "Project ENABLE: the Administrative Systems Initiative." This will bring you to the Project ENABLE Home Page.)