May 2010 Archives

Orientation Reg: Close-Out

What Worked

We met all six of our goals for this project, from providing better service to students to gaining efficiencies in the office. Along the way we learned how to query the Data Warehouse.

I improved communication frequency (a goal of mine in 2010) by providing updates even when there was nothing to report, or worse, when there was bad news. Our timeline was compromised by more pressing project and I did a respectable job communicating that to Rebecca. Hmm, Rebecca was also the person I worked with on the urgent project so maybe this wasn't a fair test. I'll take the win and keep working toward improvement.

Regarding the method of communication, using this blog and iChat worked well. Rebecca's a short walk away and many times, unable to compose a blog or chat, I wandered up for a face-to-face.

The Take-Aways

This project succeeded because of an e-mail Rebecca sent to Jodi in March 2009. What's so great about it?

  1. Followed the process. Instead of going directly to IT, Rebecca submitted her request to Jodi, at that time LAC's IT liaison. Jodi ranked this project in terms of priority and place in an overall strategy before turning it over to us. This is a very effective way to work with IT.
  2. Articulated the project. In several concise paragraphs, Rebecca outlined the problem: we don't know who's coming to orientations, then suggested a solution: we need an online form to gather RSVPs. We expanded the e-mail into a Statement of Work where the implications of not knowing who's coming to an orientation made a compelling case for tackling the project and the benefits of the solution translated into clear, measurable goals.


I recorded 45 hours between November 24, 2009 and May 25, 2010.

Performance Review: Part I

1. Work with OIP IT Manager to analyze, implement, and document system solutions including:  client/server database systems, web-based database systems, UofM-provided technology tools, and others (55%)

Last year I wrote:

Though I have no shining examples of a complete web initiative based on the new templates, I've been laying a solid foundation for rapid development in the near future.

Indeed. I hit my stride in my second year. I completed several projects that featured both a robust FileMaker client back-end and a slick web front end. To list a few:

  • Orientation Registration: This project both improved the user experience for our students and erased hours of busy-work performed by EA staff.
  • Support Tickets: A real game changer for how IT serves the units. While quality service had been there all along, this project brought a new level of accountability and transparency to the relationship.
  • Confucius Institute Online Catalog: This project provided an opportunity to build a solution for the public not just staff. We created a simple online shopping cart and integrated it with the existing database.
  • WIV Tracking: This tiny two-page website forced us to add Central Authentication, file uploads, and complex data validations to our skill set.

2. Updating of current solutions (15%)

A few victories, more to come. I recently completed LCTL for CARLA and Lib Ed for LAC. Both solutions existed before with the same functionality but relied on outdated technology (CDML in the case of LCTL and IWP in the case of Lib Ed). Updating old technologies will be a priority in the coming year.

3. Provide website consultation and complete project work relating to website management and/or development for OIP units (15%)

Competed, though perhaps not in the way we intended. I think we anticipated I would assist units in updating their websites. We were never asked and instead the units relied on their own expertise. One exception is LAC, which until recently wasn't on a sure footing with regard to ownership and direction.

As an achievement in this category I would point to the research and documentation I did for CARLA. I posted it online in order to serve the entire FileMaker community. There are nearly 30 articles with supporting sample files that document how to build a custom solution with FileMaker and PHP. It serves as a getting-started guide for CARLA and a reference for me. I continue to add, correct and expand the articles based on user feedback.

4. Work with OIP IT Manager to establish and maintain connectivity to existing University enterprise data warehouse system (10%)

Great developments and exciting potential for the coming year. For the sake of two projects — Orientation Registration and DW Connect — we struck a connection to the Data Warehouse. My inchoate queries succeed in pulling data but they're inelegant and inefficient. The challenge ahead is to expand the range of fields we pull and do it in a single pass.

5. Perform other duties as assigned (5%)

The mother of all "other duties as assigned" was stepping into the Peoplesoft project to collect and prep historical data for upload. All-consuming for a month or more, my contribution kept the project on track, ensured data was as accurate as possible and lightened the load on OIT.

Performance Review: Part II

Your objectives for development on the job and/or career development (e.g., training you would like to receive, new responsibilities you might like to try, etc.)

I want to continue working through the backlog of projects. I'm looking forward to my class later this month. The exposure to Usability and Information Architecture may spark an interest in a career focus.

Is there anything more your supervisor might do to help you? (e.g., provide more frequent feedback, consider reorganizing the work, etc.)

I feel I get all the support and guidance I need to be successful in my job.

Bonus Question: What else do you want to add?

  • I'm happy with the training and career development opportunities at the University and grateful to have support from Christopher to pursue my interests.
  • I'm proud of starting, with Elleni, a FileMaker User Group. I'm disappointed in myself for not studying to get my FileMaker Certification.
  • I'm satisfied with the progress I've made toward bringing a project management rigor to my work. Nailing requirements with a written Statement of Work means I'm delivering closer to expectations. Using this blog to communicate is engaging stakeholders. Concluding projects with a Close-Out meeting is building confidence and good will.

Lib Ed: Wind Down

Woo Hoo! Lib Ed is live! Awww, but wait, there's more...

Pending Courses from Old Database

We still need to close the loop on courses pending in the old database. There's a lot of junk but on the chance there are valid submissions waiting to be acted upon, we should carefully scrub it. I've suggested a strategy.


I will schedule a training session with Emily (anyone else want in?) where we'll review the back-end database. At the conclusion of training, we symbolically "turn over the keys" to LAC, who from then on is responsible for training new users and managing the solution day-to-day.


We met with and trained the evaluator last week. She suggested several enhancements to the solution. We went live without incorporating them because to do so would have delayed our release and we need time to consider them. The suggestions are list below. If you want to incorporate them, we'll open a new project.

  • Add file upload capability so students can attach documentation
  • Add a way for the evaluator to recognize a re-submission following a request for more information
  • Collect the students EmplID
  • Add fields for resident or transfer credits
  • Add fields for local or external sponsor
  • Add rollovers or pop-ups that explain fields, processes or policies
  • Add fields to learn if the student has taken the course already
  • Add another field or change the label on an existing field in order to get the department in addition to the course number
  • Clarify what URL the student should provide (link to department or specific course)
  • Add field to collect term (spring, fall, winter)

When to Stop

I don't know enough about the subject matter to tell for sure, but I wonder if these enhancements extend our solution too far into the Office of Admissions. I don't advocate slamming the door as soon as it acheives our objectives. I want to dovetail with their systems or processes so there's a nice hand-off, making it easy and seamless for both staff and students. Perhaps there's a query, a feed, a printout, an automatic e-mail that achieves this.

I'm wary, however, that additional fields detract from the primary purpose of the solution; confuse the student by encouraging improper procedure; or create a back-door to Admissions that runs through the LAC. Another concern is the time required of IT staff to implement changes and provide on-going support. While we understand and endorse the concept of greater good, we are primarily responsible to OIP.