February 2012 Archives

Get to know a business analyst

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The title of Business Analyst is shared among nearly 30 employees in ASR, but what does a Business Analyst do? In sum, he or she clarifies the needs of a group of stakeholders and recommends methods for making a business process more efficient. A business process is a collection of tasks that produce a specific service, serving a particular goal, for our customers (e.g., students, faculty, staff, support units, or coordinate campuses).

Business Analysts provide maintenance support on existing systems and project support on new systems or business process improvements. They also complete upgrade and testing on new software and existing software, including testing new functionality and fixes to functionality in various systems.

Employees in this position often act as a liaison between the two sides of the business process: the functional user/customer (e.g., a college or department, including ASR departments) and the technical developer (e.g., Office of Information Technology). They offer support on implementing a new business process or a change to a process. Business Analysts translate the business requirements gathered from the user into system and/or technical requirements for the developer. Once this process is done, the system is tested and user training begins.

Though they all share the title of Business Analyst and many job duties, the specific job tasks differ depending on the unit.

Deb Edwards, business analyst, Office of Student Finance, Undergraduate Services

Deb Edwards has a background as a financial aid counselor at the University. She became a business analyst because she enjoys the daily challenges the job brings.

"I imagine a lot of people think my job sounds boring, but I enjoy helping people with problems that come up during the day," Deb said. "I love anything that takes me down a new road."

As a Business Analyst, Deb works on all systems related to financial aid for undergraduates. Deb also provides support to One Stop Student Services and the coordinate campuses with any issues related to financial aid.

Each year, Deb analyzes the Verification process of student's financial aid forms. In the verification process, the information provided on the verification form and the student's most recent tax returns are compared to the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If the information on the FAFSA differs from the information on the provided financial documents, the application data is corrected and the financial aid award amounts reflect those changes. Deb helps determine the criteria to set for selecting students in the upcoming year based on federal financial aid regulations. Much of her work is driven by federal regulation changes to the financial aid process.

She is also working on the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards for financial aid recipients, which is used to define a student's successful completion of coursework to maintain eligibility for student financial aid. For Deb's next project, she will begin working on estimating costs of the incoming freshmen financial aid packages.

Jack Kimmes, business analyst, ASR-IT, Student Financials

Jack Kimmes has a degree in accounting and came to the University with a knowledge of PeopleSoft. He enjoys looking for solutions to problems and thinking of new ways to do things.

"I really enjoy working with One Stop and the coordinate campuses with any problems they have. They are all great to work with," Jack said. "We are problem solvers for the University."

As a Business Analyst, Jack provides support to One Stop and the coordinate campuses with issues that arise during the day regarding calculating tuition, generating bills, and processing and making payments.

Jack is a member of the team working on the new version of the Tuition and Fee Management system (TFMS). Jack and others in ASR are meeting to define the requirements needed to upgrade the system. The new system is planned for an October 2012 release. In the meantime, Jack and others in ASR are in the process of evaluating preliminary user experience of the new system and solidifying the design to develop the most user-friendly interface. You can view details of the project at the TFMS project site.

The summer tuition set up will be completed by mid-March so he is currently working on configuring PeopleSoft so the fees are calculated correctly. Jack is also working on the upgrade to PeopleSoft 9.0.

Aileen Lively, business analyst, ASR-IT, Student Records

Aileen Lively has worked at the University for 32 years, much of it in the Office of the Registrar. She is a team lead in Student Records and is essentially the go-to person on campus about student record data. As a Business Analyst, Aileen provides support to all coordinate campuses on student records systems and system-wide tools such as Graduation Planner.

"With this job, you have to understand data: to know how it gets into the system and what it looks like," Aileen said. "You need to have a good understanding of the interrelationship of the user and the technical developer for each system."

A main part of Aileen's job is providing maintenance support on existing systems and upgrade support on new systems. Aileen is currently working on implementing the new PeopleSoft 9.0 upgrade as well as a technical upgrade to Oracle that focuses on the database behind many of our systems, including PeopleSoft.

Currently, she is working on a system that will send out emails to instructors, informing them of when a student has withdrawn from their class. She is also involved in the transition of over 10,000 student records from the Graduate School to the individual colleges and adding graduate program information to the Program and Curriculum Approval System (PCAS).

"This job has a lot of variety to it. It's not the same job every week and there are always different tasks and problems," Aileen said. "I focus on what benefits the students most because that is our highest priority."

Aileen's next project will be cleaning up the old PeopleSoft system and eliminating parts that are not needed after the upgrade. Aileen is also eager to begin work on business analytics and reporting to coincide with the Business Intelligence initiative.

Interview Questions

How do you determine when a business process needs streamlining?

Jack: Generally, the functional users are aware that a process needs streamlining. They can tell that it is taking them longer than it has in the past, the results are not what they should be, or they are being asked to put through a higher volume. Sometimes the computer processes reach a point where they negatively impact the business process.

When acting as the liaison between all stakeholders of a business process, what strategies do you employ to make sure everyone is satisfied with the outcome?

Jack: The approach to acting as a liaison is twofold. First, you need to be able to communicate clearly with each side - the functional user and the technical developer. You also need to convey the importance of the business process to the technical developer and technical challenges back to the functional user. Secondly, you need to make sure the focus is on solving the business problem and not on buying the latest gadget, using the coolest technology, or maintaining the status quo just because we've always done it that way.

Deb: I think communication is vital. Usually, we can find an outcome that completely satisfies the stakeholders or at least improves a business process. But sometimes what stakeholders want simply can't be done or won't be done due to the amount of work that would be required to implement the desired change. I've found ASR staff to be very accepting of even these negative outcomes, as long as they understand the reasons behind the decision and what the other people involved are thinking.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Jack: Not to sound too corny, but it truly is making a positive difference in students' lives. When we are able to improve a system or implement a solution to a problem, we create a better student experience. This might be on a system with direct student impact (tuition calculation, billing, or UMPay) or one with indirect impact (Tuition and Fee Management System). Either way, it improves the overall University.

Deb: I most enjoy the problem-solving aspect of my job--finding out that a student has a mistake with his or her financial aid, for example--then writing queries to determine if other students are affected by the same problem, figuring out what caused the problem, and planning how to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again. It's very satisfying to know that a problem has been resolved and that students have been helped as a result.

Planned system downtime March 3 & 4

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There will be planned system downtime to complete a required upgrade to both the software and hardware for the Oracle databases that support PeopleSoft (both Campus Solutions and Financials) and associated web applications. Systems will be unavailable starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, 2012. Systems should return to production by 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, 2012.

More detailed information is available on the OIT news site.

Google's new privacy policy

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The Office of Information Technology posted an article addressing potential concerns regarding how Google's new privacy policy might affect U Google accounts. The gist of the article is that the University has a separate contract with Google that is not affected by its new privacy policy. So, I think we're all okay.

Networking for introverts

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We've all been told to invest in our network. You should link in, tweet happy thoughts, power lunch while power walking, and sell yourself (but not past the close). But networking isn't easy for those of us more inclined to absorb and reflect before putting ourselves "out there." If you consider yourself an introvert, you may want to check out this recent article on networking for introverts. Fair warning: the article notes that social media may be a good venue for introverts to put themselves "out there."

Karen Kaler to speak at ASR staff event on May 16

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Karen Kaler may be best known as the wife of current University president Eric Kaler. However, she is accomplished in her own right. In Seattle, Karen started her own design firm. When the couple moved to Long Island, she was an active fundraiser for the Tanzanian Children's Fund. At the next ASR staff event on May 16, Karen Kaler will share her own experience of supporting an active, public figure while fulfilling her own goals and mission.

Spring cleaning

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There's no date set just yet, but there will be a date announced shortly for the next half-day spring cleaning in ASR. You have some time to take stock of the items around you to see what can stay, go, or be turned into that fabulous art project you've always planned...involving manila folders and paper clips.

Supervisor expectations

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Past ASR survey findings have underscored the impact of supervisor behavior on staff in a number of ways, including their morale; feelings of inclusion; understanding of one's role within ASR and the University; and overall job satisfaction. We know people approach supervision in different ways, and that's good; however, there are some universal ASR expectations for supervisors. One of ASR's expectations is that units hold regular staff meetings. These meetings can take a variety of formats (e.g., informal stand-up meetings, walking meetings, regularly scheduled formal meetings) but the underlying principle remains: a consistent venue to interact with colleagues and/or a supervisor and share information on unit projects, ASR projects, and University initiatives. Aside from staff meetings, other expectations include: giving regular feedback on performance (not just at performance appraisal time); bringing ASR staff suggestions forward to management; working to create an environment where staff are comfortable suggesting areas for improvement; and treating staff with respect.

President Kaler's call to action

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President Kaler wants to know your story. More specifically, he wants you to share it with the world.

Hundreds gathered to attend the annual Legislative Briefing on Wednesday, February 1 in McNamara Alumni Center. President Kaler urged the group to tweet why they support the U (in 140 characters or less, of course) using the hash tag #UMNproud. A dozen students wielding iPads helped many in attendance set up a Twitter account so they could begin sharing their stories. For more information, visit the "Support the U" website.

Highly productive habits

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Some of these are familiar (e.g., multi-tasking hinders productivity). Others might be new (e.g., if you need to reply more than twice to an email, pick up the phone instead). These habits of the highly productive can be a useful framework for getting control over your schedule, even if you can't follow them to the letter.

University Veterans Services

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University Veterans Services is part of One Stop Student Services and is a holistic service environment for military members, veterans, and their families on campus. The unit consists of Carin Anderson, manager, four One Stop counselors: Jenni Hoffman, Amanda Erdmann, Josh Martin, and Bob Phaneuf, and five student workers.

Funny Event.JPGThe University Veterans Services team just before the 2011 Veterans Appreciation Day event.

In 2006, management recognized an increase in veteran students and the need to provide services for these individuals, so University Veterans Services was created. They partnered with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and the Higher Education Veterans Program Office to offer a comprehensive resource center to veterans.

The Veterans Services staff assists student veterans, military members, and their families with applying for education benefits, answering questions about benefits, and submitting enrollment information to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Student workers assist with answering calls, working with students, and printing paperwork needed for certifications. All student workers in the office are paid with Veterans Affairs Work Study funds.

The Veterans Services staff is a valuable resource to student veterans. Carin, Amanda, Bob, and Josh are veterans whose knowledge and experience in the military provides them the ability to help veterans through unique challenges. Though Jenni is not a veteran, her experience and expertise as a One Stop counselor proves invaluable to the office.

They also provide training for advisers and new faculty about military policies and to ensure that veterans are getting career advice that best match their skills. There is a Veterans Advisory Committee on campus composed of members from the Office for Student Affairs, Office of Admissions, Career Services, Boynton Health Services, Disability Services, the Student Veterans Association, and One Stop Student Services. This group meets to create and enhance campus initiatives and engagement opportunities for student veterans such as resume workshops to help veterans translate military experience to a working resume.

In Fall 2011, it was reported that approximately 750 veterans were using the GI Bill at the University. Annually, the unit hosts the Veterans Orientation Program, where veterans can learn about receiving benefits through the GI Bill and other resources available, and an annual Veterans Appreciation Event to honor student veterans on Veterans Day.

The University was recently announced as a Tillman Military Scholar University Partner with the Pat Tillman foundation recognized the unit and its staff for its support services of student veterans. The University of Minnesota is one of 14 institutions selected as a partner. Each University partner helps identify and select final candidates during the screening process and, upon selection of Tillman Military Scholars on their campus, supports the building of communities regionally throughout the U.S.

The University of Minnesota stands out as a leader in veteran services with staff that works hard to keep up with the complexities in the University Veterans Services office.

University Veterans Services Staff:
Carin Anderson, manager
Jenni Hoffman, senior One Stop counselor/veterans coordinator
Amanda Erdmann, One Stop counselor/veterans coordinator
Josh Martin, One Stop counselor/veterans coordinator
Bob Phaneuf, One Stop counselor/veterans coordinator


What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of working in University Veterans Services is the complexity of the benefits. Every student has a different situation that could impact the benefits and sometimes this can be difficult when working with the Veterans Affairs (VA) to make sure the benefits are correct. The staff in our office can only do so much before we have to refer students to the VA, which can be a frustrating process for students. We try to assist them with this process the best we can.

You mentioned that you provide services to help veterans transition from a military setting to a university setting. What tools do you implement to ease this process?

University Veterans Services hosts Veterans Orientation at the beginning of each semester to help incoming student veterans understand their benefits, submit paperwork, and meet the staff. They learn about the benefits process which helps them through their career at the University of Minnesota. We have also held staff and faculty training so they understand what student veterans are going through.

What methods do you use to train faculty and staff on the military policies?

In the past, University Veterans Services has hosted workshops and training sessions for University staff and faculty. We have also created a training document for new faculty that is added to the new faculty flash drive so they have the information about the policies and benefits and have better knowledge about working with student veterans.

Discuss the impact the Pat Tillman Scholarship will have on the University Veterans Services.

We were recently notified about this are learning about the process. It's exciting to be recognized nationally and it has the potential to provide great opportunities for University of Minnesota students who apply.

Director's update: Budget information

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We received some good news on the budget front. Here's what I know:

  • We received an internal loan of $2 million beginning fiscal year 2013 (FY13) for physical upgrades to Keller, Borlaug, and Vincent halls, and the study spaces in Willey and Wilson Library.
  • OCM will receive one-time funding ($500K) for high priority maintenance of classrooms and study spaces.
  • Our request for $200K to replace the classroom scheduling system was approved.
  • Beginning in FY13, costs associated with the Consumer Relationship Management (CRM) license will be assumed by OIT.

These items are critical to furthering our mission, but there is still more work to be done. I will keep you informed as I hear more.

Delayed launch of new online transcript ordering system

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Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, the launch of the new online official transcript ordering system (through Avow Systems, Inc.) and pricing structure has been delayed until February 8, 2012. The current system and pricing structure will be used until then.

Google+ training

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If you are interested in learning more about how Google+ might help you in your work, notify Ingrid Nuttall. Please indicate the specific types of features you are interested in learning more about. ("I don't know where to start" is a perfectly acceptable reply.) If there is enough interest, there will be a Google+ brown bag coming to a meeting room near you.

Tell ASR what you think

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The third of four mini-ASR employee surveys is now open. If you haven't already done so, please take five minutes and complete the 2011 ASR Employee Survey #3. As always, the survey is anonymous, and your thoughtful feedback is requested. Please help ASR by completing the survey by Friday, February 17.

Get your walk on

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Looking for a way to stay fit while you work? The Walkstation in 160 Williamson Hall might be your answer. You can sign-up on a sheet located right at the station, or contact Debbie Henderson and she can sign you up for a half-hour walk.

Walkstation.gif(Robert Bode, hard at work.)

Security badges required for student workers

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All ASR student workers will now be provided with security ID badges that must be worn during their work hours. When new student workers meet with HR Cluster staff, they will be asked to sign a staff identification badge acknowledgement form that outlines their responsibilities. The HR Cluster has already begun ordering badges for current student employees in all units (OCM student workers are exempt and may continue to use their current badges). Student workers will receive an email when their badge is ready to be picked up at the U Card office in Coffman; they do not need to complete this form. If you have any questions about this process, contact the HR Cluster.

New sign-in pages for University systems

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The Office of Information Technology recently announced a new look for the sign-in page for the University of Minnesota. More information, including a visual comparison of the current and new sign-in page, can be found on the OIT News blog entry.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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March 2012 is the next archive.

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