August 24 go-live date confirmed for FirstLink colleges

Tacoma, Spokane and SBCTC leadership have reaffirmed their commitment to the August 24 go-live date for FirstLink colleges. That is the day Spokane, Spokane Falls and Tacoma community colleges will turn on and begin using the ctcLink (PeopleSoft) system.

“This is a monumental and momentous milestone, which we couldn’t have reached without the hard work and dedication from our project team; our implementation partner, Ciber, and their team; all the SBCTC IT Division staff in Bellevue and Olympia involved in the project; and especially the staff at our FirstLink colleges who constantly must juggle their ctcLink work along with their regular college duties,” said Project Director Barbara Martin. “I know it’s been a long and winding road, but we are so close and everyone’s involvement and input has made all the difference.”

With the August 24 go-live date confirmed, “cutover” begins right away, which is the process of cutting over from the old (legacy) system to the new ctcLink system. Cutover is the last step before go-live and includes a final extract of data from the old system, conversion into the new system and final testing of the new environment before it is turned on, among many other activities to ensure the system is ready to go for each college. The ctcLink project team will be heavily involved in these activities and the college subject matter experts will play a role in some of the activities as well.

In addition to cutover activities, FirstLink college staff members continue to be involved in training sessions, which will continue through August.

Stay tuned for more FirstLink go-live news and thanks again to everyone who has been involved in the ctcLink project.

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Getting ready for FirstLink go-live

As the ctcLink project works toward the August 24 go-live date for FirstLink colleges, project manager Jeff Thompson recently reviewed several activities that are underway:

  • Tacoma and Spokane colleges have been heavily involved in Day-in-the-Life activities, with on-site assistance from Ciber and SBCTC staff. This activity is intended to provide end-users with an opportunity to practice their daily activities in the new system and validate that they can perform the key business processes of running the college and serving students. Ongoing support to address system issues during Day-in-the-Life is being provided by the SBCTC Service Desk in Olympia. This provides good practice for colleges and the service desk to prepare for the same support during go-live and beyond. This activity is ongoing as not all of the 20 business processes chosen by the colleges for Day-in-the-Life have been executed yet.
  • A go/no-go decision process is scheduled on or around July 22. The decision will be based on a readiness assessment checklist that project and college staff are monitoring weekly.
  • Plans are underway for plenty of on-campus support for go-live week and beyond. The SBCTC/Ciber project team is working with colleges to identify needs and assign staff to specific locations to provide support for a successful ctcLink launch. On-site support is expected to last up to four weeks depending on how quickly the system starts to stabilize and how well college staff are transitioning to using the new system.
  • In addition, the ERP Support Team in Olympia will provide real-time support through the SBCTC Service Desk. Colleges can log tickets for any issues they encounter and get quick assistance to remedy the problems. Command Centers will also be located at each college district, as well as at SBCTC Bellevue.
  • This mix of on-ground and online support is designed to assist the FirstLink colleges with using the system, resolving issues that arise and provide ongoing guidance.
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ctcLink “Day in the Life” is underway!

FirstLink colleges (Tacoma and Spokane) have begun the process of executing primary functions in the ctcLink system that tie to their day-to-day work activities. This Day-in-the-Life (DITL) activity will provide subject matter experts (SMEs) additional hands-on experience in ctcLink using their data (either converted from the legacy system or data they create in this DITL practice environment, such as a purchase requisition, a new hire, a transcript request, etc.).

For DITL, FirstLink colleges chose 20 business processes to perform from beginning to end, such as running a payroll; managing the course catalog and schedule of classes; tracking student data and managing enrollments; processing, awarding and packaging financial aid; and creating and processing online purchase requisitions.

As an example, for the payroll DITL activity, HR SMEs will use the online hiring process to practice hiring employees and enter their records into the system. Time, labor, leave, etc. will be entered for those employees to calculate pay and payroll SMEs will use that data to process payroll. Finally, finance SMEs can validate that the payroll posted properly to the general ledger in the Finance Pillar. During the DITL process, SMEs will also have the opportunity to use a change impact analysis worksheet to document any changes they find along the way to how tasks will be performed in ctcLink, who performs them, etc.

The college SMEs are together in one room performing these day-in-the-life activities so they can experience the workflow process that will take place in the ‘real world’ of handing off a certain step to the next module/pillar. Both Ciber and SBCTC have committed staff on-site at the colleges to provide support for DITL, which is expected to run through July 8. In addition, the SBCTC Service Desk is set up so colleges can log tickets/issues during DITL just as they will after they go live with ctcLink. This provides practice for the end user in logging issues and gives the ERP Support Team in Olympia a chance to resolve issues that come up in DITL and get more familiar with the new service desk software.

A big thank you to everyone who is participating in and supporting ctclink day-in-the-life activities for FirstLink colleges! It’s a practice run, so there will be issues. Better to find them now.

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Update on payroll testing

Making sure Payroll is set up and working properly in ctcLink is crucial. That’s why there have been 5 payroll test-runs for FirstLink colleges (FLCs), with another one underway. In addition, a separate payroll testing process is scheduled for later this month to give FLC payroll Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) a chance to perform their day-to-day tasks in the new system and validate the results.

To recap payroll testing activities: Two “gross to net” payroll tests were performed in late 2014 and early 2015. This process entailed taking a snapshot of the FLCs November payrolls after they had all their payroll entries in, but before they ran their payroll process. Using that data, payroll was executed both in a test environment in the legacy system and in the new ctcLink (PeopleSoft) environment to compare the complete payroll run in the old system vs. the new. The test run was then evaluated to see if everything matched up and if employees’ deductions and pay calculated correctly. These first two runs included a sample set of part-time faculty and moonlight employees rather than the full population of part-time faculty. That work informed the development and testing of the new part-time faculty and moonlight pay component that was created specifically for our community and technical college system to address the many and varied pay plans (contracts/bargaining agreements) in place throughout our 34-college system.  The next three payroll tests used FLCs payroll data from December and January. These were smaller and targeted to test configuration changes identified in the first two complete gross to net tests, and identify and address any new issues with end-of-year and new-year payroll. There were bumps in the road in these initial rounds of testing and plenty of frustration to go around, and that was to be expected. The goal was to find and fix the issues prior to the final testing round and go-live.

The project team and FLC payroll SMEs have now embarked on one final round of ‘gross-to-net’ comparison using April data from FLCs to make sure everything calculates correctly in ctcLink. The prep work to ensure the data is staged correctly is progressing. This work is vital to a successful payroll process once Spokane and Tacoma colleges have switched over to ctcLink. “This is our chance to do a mass gross to net comparison of a nearly complete payroll and make sure everything we thought we caught is, in fact, fixed,” said ctcLink Tara Keen.

When FLC SMEs do the Day-in-the-Life activity later this month, they will get a chance to practice business processes from beginning to end of a complete payroll run that crosses all PeopleSoft pillars. “SMEs will be generating contracts, running payroll, and pushing payroll expenses and liabilities over to the general ledger in the Finance pillar,” Tara said. “It will be a true day-in-the-life of payroll business processes in ctcLink from beginning to end.”

“Day-in-the-Life is a critical process that will give our subject matter experts the exposure to the system they’ve been seeking,” said Spokane ctcLink Project Manager Dick Hol. “Anything we can do to assist our SMEs prepare for life in the new ctcLink world is a step in the right direction, but we also realize there is much more to be done before August 24. People are understandably anxious and concerned as the go-live date approaches. Tacoma’s project manager, Andy Duckworth, and I have been working closely with ctcLink project management on the project plan, timing of activities and how we can best support our SMEs.”

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ctcLink May 2015 update

Fair warning! This is a long one. But, here are some important updates on current ctcLink project activities. No need to read them all. Just the ones that interest you. If you have a question about something you don’t see below, let me know!

Data Conversion and Validation
Data Conversion Cycle 8 was a huge success! All FirstLink colleges’ (FLCs) employees and students were successfully converted (100%!). In addition, 99.9% of enrollment data converted successfully, which is a major milestone as that includes all students, courses, classes and program plans. Finance had 100% success for the General Ledger Summary (the conversion for closed fiscal years) and 99% success for the Detail Year (the monthly extracts for the current open fiscal year). HR/Payroll had great success as well with 98 – 99% for Balances and Job Conversions. That will reflect well in executing successful payrolls. Next Steps: FLCs have begun validating the converted data and will continue through June. The scheduled Data Validation Workshops will provide FLC SMEs an opportunity to address validation questions and concerns and receive assistance on continuing data validation activities. The workshops will also cover the post-go-live data cleanup steps.

Payroll Parallel
One more gross-to-net Payroll Parallel test is scheduled May 26 – June 12 using 04A (first half of April) payroll data to make sure everything calculates correctly in ctcLink prior to FirstLink go-live. This gives FLCs and the project team the chance to do a mass gross to net comparison of a [nearly] complete payroll and make sure everything we thought we caught is, in fact, fixed. FirstLInk college payroll SMEs will be involved in this work for a majority of the schedule.

CEMLI Testing
CEMLI is the abbreviation for configurations, extensions, modifications, interfaces, reports and other changes or additions to the out-of-the-box software that must be designed, developed and tested before go-live. The majority of testing that remains is testing of CEMLIs. ctcLink Project Manager Jeff Thompson said it is the critical path item and mechanisms have been put in place to meet the June 1 completion date for System Integration Testing (SIT). SBCTC/ctcLink and Ciber team testers are in a dedicated testing room performing testing on a daily basis. After SIT comes User Acceptance Testing (UAT), in which college SMEs do the testing. The target date to complete UAT is June 15.

Chart of Accounts
ctcLink Finance Functional and Project Management staff have been working with State Board, FLC and Wave college SMEs, and committee/council groups to create plans for first-time Chart of Account development and deployment for the Wave colleges as well as potential redeployment plans for FirstLink colleges should they want to make changes to their locally defined Chart of Account values sometime after go-live. Emmett Folk will be at the Budget Accounting & Reporting (BAR) meeting on May 28 to provide an overview of the new PeopleSoft Chart of Accounts, emphasizing work the Wave colleges can begin to engage in now to help in that first time deployment effort.

Item Types
In PeopleSoft, an Item Type is a sub-type to an Account Type. For example, within the Account Type “Fees” might be the Item Types “Parking Fee” and “Lab Fee.” Validation spreadsheets that show how college Fee Codes are being translated into PeopleSoft Item Types in Student Financials (including accounting distribution information) have been sent to FirstLink colleges for review. This initial load of Item Types has also been done as part of the test conversion Cycle 8 work so they can be available for FirstLink “Day in the Life” testing as well as in the FirstLink colleges’ Sandbox practice environment.

Cash Management
The project team continues to work with the various banks involved in the initial FirstLink go-live for local college operations as well as for Central Payroll. Cash Management testing was recently migrated to User Acceptance Testing (UAT).

Activate Your Account (AYA)
The tool students and staff will use to activate their ctcLink account and set their password has been migrated to the FirstLink colleges’ Sandbox environment. FirstLink college SMEs and testers can now try out the AYA process and login as themselves, just as they will after go-live.

Day-in-the-Life for FirstLink colleges
This activity will give FirstLink college SMEs the chance to practice their day-to-day work in ctcLink and see the integration points between pillars/modules using real-life examples with real college data. It is scheduled to begin mid-June and continue through the first week of July.

ctcLink training—for just-in-time-training and beyond—is now the responsibility of the SBCTC ERP Support Center in Olympia. The project training team is now part of the ERP Support Team and they are working closely together to help prepare Tacoma and Spokane staff for FirstLink go-live. The Training Manager for the ERP Support Center started this week and the training schedule for FirstLink (FLC) colleges was shared with FLC Project Managers on Friday, May 22.

Responsibility for the implementation, delivery and use of the full suite of reporting tools provided by SBCTC has been consolidated under the SBCTC Data Services Department in Olympia. This includes PS Query, BI Publisher, OBIA and direct access to near real-time transactional data through the use of Golden Gate replication. PS Query is the functionality within PeopleSoft to extract data without writing SQL statements.  BI Publisher is a template-based reporting tool that leverages standard technologies which allows users to create, manage, and deliver reports and documents. Oracle Business Intelligence Applications (OBIA) are pre-defined dashboards by pillar and module, such as Retention, Budget Summary, Payroll Analysis, At Risk, and Progression. Golden Gate is a replicated environment that provides each college district with their own database containing all tables for each of the three pillars, Campus Solutions, Human Capital Management and Finance. Any questions about Reporting or any of the tools can be directed to Carmen McKenzie at

Service Desk
The ctcLink Service Desk is up and running and ready for business. In addition to being ready for production (go-live), it is currently set up to support FirstLink colleges in their Sandbox and Day-in-the-Life practice environments. It has also been set up to support general questions from Wave 1 project leaders.

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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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