The planning with FirstLink colleges continues

FirstLink college project managers Dick Hol (Spokane) and Andy Duckworth (Tacoma)

FirstLink college project managers Dick Hol (Spokane) and Andy Duckworth (Tacoma)

In preparation for determining a new go-live date for FirstLink colleges, the project managers from both Tacoma and Spokane were in Bellevue Wednesday to meet with ctcLink core team leadership and walk through the master project plan in more detail.

Andy Duckworth (Tacoma) and Dick Hol (Spokane) spent several hours with the team, going through the plan, reviewing duration of tasks and the people responsible for each item.

“Wednesday’s session helped us allocate resources effectively and gain a better understanding of outstanding project tasks,” Andy said. “I think these sessions will be very useful in increasing transparency around the project, which should help us all be on the same page.” Dick agreed and both project managers said the face-to-face planning every other week will be very helpful.

Both Andy and Dick said staff members are anxious to hear about the new go live date and they appreciate the time project leaders are spending to review outstanding tasks in order to make this decision.  They also agreed that the resource allocation work being done on the project plan will help staff have a better understanding of the tasks they have before them and expected time commitments.

In addition to working on the project plan to determine a new go-live date, the project team and the FirstLink colleges have continued at a fast pace working through the remaining activities needed for a successful implementation of ctcLink.

It is still estimated that, by mid-March, we will be able to announce a new go-live date for FirstLink colleges, and that date will include a recommended timeline for Wave 1 implementation.

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New FirstLink go-live date under review

Ciber's J.C. Chappell discusses the master project plan with FirstLink Project Managers Dick Hol (Spokane) and Andy Duckworth (Tacoma), while Project Director Barbara Martin captures a 'parking lot' item.

Ciber’s J.C. Chappell discusses the master project plan with FirstLink Project Managers Dick Hol (Spokane), Andy Duckworth (Tacoma) and other team members, while Project Director Barbara Martin captures a ‘parking lot’ item.

The process for determining the new go-live date for FirstLink colleges is underway. Last Wednesday, the ctclink core team (SBCTC and Ciber) got together and reviewed the ctcLink Master Project Plan in great detail. The team went through all critical path line items one-by-one and took a deep dive into all of the outstanding tasks. In some cases, this resulted in a re-estimation of the time needed to complete each task. In a few instances, the discussion prompted the addition of activities the team felt were needed to fully and successfully complete a particular task. The team then confirmed the resources (specific people) required for each task and drilled down to the detail of the percentage of time each person was assigned to that task. One next step will be to level-out the plan to ensure no one is allocated more than 100% of their time on a given task or tasks, and that their needed involvement in particular tasks doesn’t overlap on calendar days.

“With so many project activities going on at once—such as training, testing, interface and extension development just to name a few—it’s important that we take a serious and realistic look at our resources and plan down to the day and hour,” said Barbara Martin, project director. “Everyone on the project team and at the colleges is working extremely hard, but this is a huge project with hundreds of moving pieces and we simply can’t underestimate the enormity of it.”

Using the information gathered Wednesday, the leadership team met with the FirstLink colleges’ leadership on Thursday and went through the same detailed process. Input from both days will go into additional analysis and the determination of a new go-live date. The cutover/conversion approach for financial aid will play a large role in determining the new go-live date so the team has carved out some time to review all options for financial aid conversion before determining a new date. Project management estimates a new FirstLink go-live date will be determined by mid-March and that date will include some suggestions for the timing of ctcLink implementation for Wave 1 colleges.

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FirstLink ‘go-live’ update…and the training continues!

Late last week, after careful consideration and assessment, ctcLink project leadership and FirstLink college leadership agreed to delay the February 23 ctcLink launch date for FirstLink colleges.

The decision came after a planned readiness assessment was conducted on all aspects of the project to determine a “go/no-go” decision. The analysis revealed more time is needed to complete all the critical tasks required for a successful rollout of ctcLink at Spokane, Spokane Falls and Tacoma community colleges.  A new launch date will be proposed by mid-February.

Meantime, instructor-led training continues at Tacoma and Spokane. This week’s ctcLink training sessions included self-service for advisors, how to use the online Student Services Center, how to manage the online course catalog and schedule of classes, billing and invoices, online travel authorizations, processing expense reports, accounts receivable and much more!

In addition, training was provided for administrative assistants who work in academic departments to learn how to use the new software tools to assist in the enrollment process, make changes to courses, schedule and modify classes, provide information on the grading process, run reports and queries, review budget information, purchase materials, assist in travel arrangements and complete expense reports.

Here are some of the happy participants from one of those sessions in Spokane!

This week in Spokane, Rebecca Meeder (far right, front) led the ctcLink training for administrative assistants who work in instructional/academic departments.

This week in Spokane, Rebecca Meeder (far right, front) led the ctcLink training for administrative assistants who work in instructional/academic departments.

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First week of ctcLink just-in-time training for FirstLink colleges

ctcLink “go-live” is just 5 weeks away!

To prepare for the planned February 23 go-live date for FirstLink colleges (Tacoma and Spokane), this week FirstLink colleges embarked on week one of just-in-time training, which will continue through February. This week’s training was held in Spokane and several Tacoma finance/purchasing staff members made the trip to attend the training there.

This week’s topics included Requisitions, Purchase Orders and Purchasing, Managing the Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes, and the VERY important process of Activating and Enrolling Students. Next week the training moves to Tacoma and will include Academic Advising, Grade Evaluation and several Financial Aid courses. THANKS to all the trainers for the hard work you’ve put in so far and THANKS to TCC and Spokane trainees for being there and to TCC and Spokane project leadership for your time, expertise, logistics assistance, and beyond!

On the slim chance that any of you FirstLink college trainees are reading this blog post before you head out for the weekend ;-), just a quick reminder that if you haven’t already, please review the ctcLink “Fundamentals” course in your subject area before you attend any training. See the Fundamentals links at left on the ctcLink Training website.

Have a great weekend everyone. GO HAWKS!

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So long 2014 and Thanks to FirstLink colleges

ctcLink testing and training has been ongoing this month for FirstLink colleges as we march toward their February 23 ‘go-live’ date. It’s been a busy, busy month for all involved, to be sure!

As we wind down 2014 and look ahead to 2015, the ctcLink project team would like to extend a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone at Spokane, Tacoma and Spokane Falls community colleges for all your hard work and perseverance. You know who you are and all the ctcLink things you’ve done, while simultaneously handling all your normal college duties. It’s a lot of work and now it’s time for a much-deserved tiny break from ctcLink, so we’ll keep this short and sweet:

Happy Holidays and thanks again for your time, expertise and patience. We’ll see you next year!

If you have a few minutes, check out these photos of recent ctcLink happenings.
Click on a photo to enlarge the slide show and see the captions…

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Update on Financial Aid

One of the most important (if not THE most important) processes the ctcLink project team and FirstLink college SMEs are focused on is ensuring Financial Aid runs smoothly in ctcLink.

“First and foremost, we must make sure students get their financial aid checks on time,” said Kim Wasierski, ctcLink Financial Aid Lead. “But it’s also extremely important that all processes are running smoothly at Go-Live for colleges to not only determine student eligibility, but to make sure they are able to report out as needed to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal financial aid regulations.”

For a brief overview of Financial Aid activities and some of the work going on behind the scenes, check out the Spotlight on Financial Aid.


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Update on ctcLink Testing, Training and FirstLink Go-Live

In preparation for a February 23, 2015 Go-Live date for FirstLink colleges, several activities are taking place to prepare the ctcLink system and its users for a successful launch.

  • User Acceptance Testing (UAT) continues and is now 80% complete. (See the Spotlight on Testing for more details and kudos!)
  • Select FirstLink and SBCTC/ctcLink staff are involved in in-depth PeopleSoft training this month. Financial Aid subject matter experts (SMEs) already completed their in-depth training in November. This week, the focus is on General Ledger, Cash Management and the Campus Solutions (CS) pillar, including Student Financials. Next week is dedicated to Human Capital Management (HCM) and the following week will cover Grants, Contracts and Project Costing.  Slots were limited for this training and FirstLink college leadership determined who on their campus would be attending.
  • The ctcLink project team (Ciber and SBCTC) performed a Practice Go-Live last week to test out specific activities that will be performed during the “cutover” process, which is when the final configured system and all FirstLink colleges’ data is loaded into the true “live” ctcLink environment. The practice run helped the team determine the actual time it will take to perform these activities. A payroll parallel test is scheduled for this month.

PS – If you are new to your college or are just now learning about the ctcLink project, “FirstLink” refers to our pilot colleges and “ctcLink” is the name for the entire project of implementing our new student and administrative systems. If you or someone you know needs to get up to speed, check out and share these ctcLink FAQs.

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