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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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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