FirstLink college activities (from the TCC ctcLink Vlog)

Earlier this week, Tacoma Community College’s ctcLink project director, Andy Duckworth, shared some key activities the ctcLink project team and the FirstLink colleges (Tacoma and Spokane) have been focused on lately.

Check out Episode 37 of the TCC ctcLink Vlog to learn a bit about the latest data conversion cycle, the upcoming Day-in-the-Life Testing, updates to the ctcLink Training Website (plus a catchy little tune in the background).

Thanks Andy! And, a big THANKS to everyone who has been working so hard on the ctcLink project: the ctcLink project team, the Ciber team, the SBCTC ERP support team, the Tacoma and Spokane ctcLink teams, SBCTC IT staff and SBCTC Finance and Payroll staff and all who’ve played a role–big or small–in the ctcLink project.

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A message from the project director

Just in case you missed it in the ctcLink Spring 2015 newsletter, here is a message from ctcLink Project Director Barbara Martin:


Barbara MartinBy now you’ve probably heard the ctcLink launch date for FirstLink colleges (Spokane and Tacoma) has been rescheduled to August 24, 2015. That’s one year later than the original target date the ctcLink and Ciber leadership set back in spring 2013, which included input from our previous project-readiness consultant, Gartner. Collectively, we thought it was a solid, doable schedule. And, together, we’ve since learned so much we didn’t know back then—about the many varied ways colleges are using the legacy system, about PeopleSoft, and the many differences between the two that has required painstaking work to translate required data and required business processes from the old world to the new. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. We’ve gotten a lot of things right along the way, but we got some things wrong too. When we discovered issues that needed to be or could be fixed, reconfigured, etc., we fixed them. That took time. And, as with any project of this size and scope, we’ve dealt with resource issues along the way (turnover, vacancies, rehiring, learning curves). There’s no doubt everyone involved is tired, frustrated and concerned. But they are also dedicated, tenacious and committed to ctcLink’s success. The Ciber, ctcLink and FirstLink teams are to be commended for working together through the good times and the bad.

The bottom line is ctcLink will be implemented successfully across the system. Some people within the college system have voiced or relayed concerns that ctcLink will fail—that it will be similar to a project that failed many years ago. That’s not going to happen. Yes, we’ve encountered roadblocks and the project has taken longer than expected, but, along with Ciber and our FirstLink colleges, we’ve addressed the issues head on and course-corrected where needed.

Recently, the SBCTC commissioned an external review of the FirstLink phase of the project and many of the recommendations in the report reinforced activities we are undertaking to ensure we meet the August 24 launch date. One of those activities is for me to get out of the daily operations of the project and focus more on our college and SBCTC stakeholders. I’ll be meeting with individuals, workgroups and commission/council representatives to listen and work through any outstanding concerns with the new ctcLink system or the project overall.

As always, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone for sticking with us through these challenging, yet trailblazing times. Together we will make ctcLink happen!

(You can check last week’s post for the full newsletter).

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It’s the spring 2015 newsletter!

In the ctcLink Spring 2015 newsletter, you’ll find a message from the project director, get a look inside how the financial aid team is prepping for go-live, get a sneak peek at the online ctcLink service desk tool, and a whole bunch more.

Enjoy and please feel free to share, print, post, vlog, re-blog…

ctcLink Spring 2015 newsletter!


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System-wide group takes a closer look at the Chart of Accounts

Several financial experts from colleges and the SBCTC met with ctcLink project team members in Bellevue late last week to review and make some needed adjustments to the Chart of Accounts in the new ctcLink environment. For those of you (like me) who don’t have a good working knowledge of what the Chart of Accounts is or what it does, it basically outlines the components and structure of how each institution budgets for and records accounting transactions. It is how accountants at our colleges and SBCTC keep track of all the financial transactions (revenue, expenditures, etc.) to allow accurate reporting to management, regulatory agencies and the general public. As John Ginther, SBCTC’s director of accounting and business services put it, “Without a cohesive chart of accounts, we would be unable to determine details about how we received funds and how they were spent.”

Sounds pretty important. And, this is why a Chart of Accounts workgroup was formed. The group went through each account chart-field value as it was currently set up for ctcLink, checking it for correctness and its ability to provide the tracking and reporting our college system requires. Through that process, the group identified several chart-field values in the PeopleSoft environment that won’t be used when colleges switch over to the new system. In addition, they also identified some changes made by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and by the state’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) that needed to be incorporated in the new chart of accounts.

“This process provided us the opportunity to clean out codes we currently have in the legacy system that aren’t or shouldn’t be used anymore,” said ctcLink Finance Functional Lead Emmett Folk. “The workgroup’s analysis will also help us structure our ‘account trees’ in PeopleSoft to help us generate better required state reports and better financial statements.”

Participants in the workgroup were Susan Dresser, Everett; Marian Paananen, Edmonds; Sharon Waymire, Cascadia; Janell Whitely, Olympic Sylvia Derrick-James, Pierce; Carie Edmiston Peninsula, Pam O’Connor and Lisa Hjaltalin, Spokane, Janice Stroh, Tacoma and John Ginther, SBCTC, along with ctcLink project staff and Ciber consultants.

“I’d like to give a big thanks to everyone for their time and expertise,” Emmett said. “I appreciate those who braved the commute to Bellevue and also those who stuck through the two days over WebEx. Both can certainly be a challenge and I want to acknowledge everyone at the colleges, our project team participants and our Ciber counterparts for all the hard work and attention to detail.”

Based on the workgroup’s findings, the ctcLink project and SBCTC finance teams will develop a plan for addressing values that aren’t needed or used anymore as it relates to the legacy system as well as PeopleSoft.

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New FirstLink Go-Live Date: August 24, 2015

From Left: Michael Scroggins, Deputy Executive Director, SBCTC IT Division; Mike Dillon, Ciber VP of Oracle Practice; Barbara Martin, ctcLink Project Director; J.C. Chappell, ctcLink Program Director for Ciber; Jeff Thompson, ctcLink Project Manager, Collegiate Project Services; Dick Hol, ctcLink Project Manager for Community Colleges of Spokane; Andy Duckworth, ctcLink Project Manager for Tacoma Community College

From Left: Michael Scroggins, Deputy Executive Director, SBCTC IT Division; Mike Dillon, Ciber VP of Oracle Practice; Barbara Martin, ctcLink Project Director; J.C. Chappell, ctcLink Program Director for Ciber; Jeff Thompson, ctcLink Project Manager, Collegiate Project Services; Dick Hol, ctcLink Project Manager for Community Colleges of Spokane; Andy Duckworth, ctcLink Project Manager for Tacoma Community College

Last week, the ctcLink project team confirmed August 24, 2015 as the new go-live date for FirstLink colleges. The official announcement was made following the SBCTC Board meeting in which a ctcLink panel of SBCTC, Ciber and FirstLink project leadership spoke to the board about project status and issues. (Spokane, Spokane Falls and Tacoma colleges are our FirstLink colleges). All panel members were in agreement that the August date provides the extra time needed to finalize all required activities, test, and train on the new system.

In addition, based on the current project plan methodology, ctcLink leadership projected an August 2016 go-live timeframe for Wave 1 colleges, which is currently being discussed with ctcLink project leaders from Wave 1 colleges in greater detail.  (Wave 1 colleges are: Clark, Columbia Basin, Grays Harbor, Green River, Lower Columbia, Peninsula, Pierce District). The timeline for waves 2 and 3 were not confirmed, but ctcLink and Ciber leadership project 9-12 months will be needed between each wave.

The panel explained to the Board while much of ctcLink is ready to go and works well, there are several key areas that need more work (such as some outstanding testing and fixes to the payroll functionality to make sure the new payroll system works well and meets the needs of our 34-college system).

Both the ctcLink project and FirstLink college representatives shared some of the challenges they are facing due to the schedule extension and the overall enormity of the project, such as keeping the momentum going, staff turnover, workload and fatigue. Despite these challenges, the panel said their teams remain committed to the project.

FirstLink project managers Dick Hol (Spokane) and Andy Duckworth (Tacoma) both called their SMEs (subject matter experts) “rock stars” and commended them for their hard work, time and expertise. They also said their SMEs feel good about the August date based on the tasks that remain and the time allotted to complete them. They said their teams will also take advantage of this additional time to become more familiar with the ctcLink system in the ‘sandbox’ environment that has been set up for FirstLink colleges and they will use that familiarity to determine and document how the new system will affect/require changes to existing college business practices.

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New FirstLink go-live date coming soon!

ctcLink, Ciber and FirstLink college project leadership has been working diligently the last several weeks to determine a new go-live date for FirstLink colleges. After extensive review of the remaining tasks in the project plan, as well as allocating project and college resources to each task, the team is focusing in on a late August timeframe. The team is reviewing the schedule in more detail and the FirstLink college project managers are in the process of verifying the proposed timing with college leadership, subject matter experts and others in their campus community. It is expected that a go-live date recommendation will be made to SBCTC board members at their board meeting later this month, at which time it is expected the new go-live date for Tacoma and Spokane colleges will be announced. The schedule for Wave 1-3 implementation needs further review, but the team is working hard to determine if deploying each wave in 8-10 month increments is feasible.

“We’ve gone through a variety of steps to do our due diligence to pick a date that we are confident we can meet,” said Project Director Barbara Martin. This included an external review, which was conducted recently to look at the project plan, current status, and the project management process in order to provide recommendations for the project going forward. In addition, college activities, such as payroll due-dates, student registration activities, financial aid and other key college business activities are being reviewed before a specific date is chosen.

During a recent project planning meeting, Project Manager Jeff Thompson thanked everyone involved in the lengthy and tedious planning process that took place over the last several weeks.

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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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