Inaugural Blog Post

ctcLink RFP hits the streets!

picture of ctcLink RFP

Photo courtesy of Tara Keen

April 24, 2012 ~ The day has arrived! The Request for Proposals (RFP) for ctcLink is out the door, on the streets and already in the hands of many interested vendors. In all, the document is nearly 500 pages, giving bidders much to read and a clear, thorough description of our CTC system’s unique qualities and needs when it comes to a new software and business process solution for all 34 colleges.

“This is a big step in the right direction for our students,” said Charlie Earl, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges’ executive director. “ctcLink will provide anytime, anywhere, online access to the educational services our students expect and need in today’s connected world.” In addition, Earl said ctcLink will help colleges and the SBCTC make better use of data across the system to drive decision-making, improve student success and increase administrative efficiencies.

Interested vendors have until June 22 to submit a proposal. See highlights of the RFP Vendor Selection Schedule for timeline details.

It’s approved!

Before the RFP was released, it had to make its way through some approval and review processes.

At the March 28-29 SBCTC board meeting, Mike Scroggins, SBCTC deputy executive director for information technology, updated the board on the ctcLink project.

Scroggins explained that ctcLink is the basis for how our system will do business and deliver educational services in the future. He described the RFP development process to date, noting that many SBCTC staff and hundreds of college staff from across the system volunteered their time to participate in the RFP development.

“Releasing the RFP is the next big step for ctcLink,” he said. “This is a project we can all be proud of and I know we are all looking forward to completing for our students and staff.”

“ctcLink is needed and it’s really going to help students in the long run,” South Puget Sound Community College student Matthew Shrader told the board. “When staff members have efficient systems, policies, and procedures at their disposal, the group that benefits most is students,” he said, adding that ctcLink will create efficiencies for the entire CTC system, which will enhance the level of service that all students receive. “This is an investment in electronic infrastructure that will benefit generations of students statewide for decades to come.”

After further discussion, the board unanimously approved the project and next steps of releasing the RFP, evaluating the responses, and recommending an apparent successful vendor for ctcLink.

The SBCTC also required approval from the state’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), which has the role in state government to create clarity and alignment for IT investments. The OCIO reviewed and approved the ctcLink RFP earlier this month.

Finally, the financing plan for ctcLink includes the sale of up to $50 million in state bonds (Certificates of Participation). In the 2012 supplemental capital budget approved during the last special legislative session, the 2012 Legislature and the Governor provided the authority needed to sell the bonds.

“ctcLink is a game-changer for our state system of community and technical colleges,” said Christine Johnson, Community Colleges of Spokane chancellor. “It will unleash the potential of our colleges as innovators and entrepreneurs in talent development. Our employees, students, employers and citizenry of our state will reap the benefit of our policymaker’s strategic investment in human capital. Governor Gregoire and the Legislature deserve our gratitude for building capacity that will sustain and enhance Washington’s rightful place as a leader in workforce and economic development for the intensely competitive domestic and global marketplace of the future.”

It takes a CTC system

photo of RFP workshop participants

One of 20 functional and technical requirements sessions held to gather input on the RFP

Behind the scenes, in front of ITV cameras, in meeting rooms, around conference tables, and in numerous conference calls, hundreds of people across our system had a hand in developing this RFP. To all of you, a big THANK YOU from the ctcLink Project Team. Input from CTC leaders and subject matter experts across the system was crucial in identifying all the functions we will require of a new administrative software system and the support and involvement we will expect from the successful vendor.

In all, there were more than 600 participants in the various RFP workshops and discussions and 100 percent system involvement, with one or more participants from every college and SBCTC Olympia and Bellevue staff participating in the process.

“This entire project has been robust and allowed for multiple inputs which is very impressive,” said Lisa Matye Edwards, VP for Student Success at Lower Columbia College. “Having previously worked at a college that implemented an ERP solution, I am excited for the meaningful change this will bring for students and staff and as a VP for Student Services, I will be able to focus on student success rather than how to afford separate software or make an outdated system manage information or processes that are time consuming.”

A quick look inside the RFP

For the software portion of ctcLink, which is a very large component, the preferred option is a product that already has proven success in other higher education systems similar to Washington’s CTC system. The RFP lays out all of the ways the software must meet the system’s needs in the functional areas of finance, human resources / payroll, and student services, which includes financial aid and degree audit functionalities.

The RFP asks that the selected vendor assists our system in accomplishing many key changes and features, including:

• A single electronic record for each student, with one student ID number available to all colleges (the same applies for employee IDs)

• A single admission application process regardless of which college or which quarter a student decides to attend

• A common financial aid process

• A degree audit system for all colleges

• Self-service features for students, faculty and staff

• A financial aid system that is integrated into the student management system

• Tracking part-time faculty salary and benefits based on employment at multiple colleges

• Consolidated payroll processing and consolidating some purchasing functions

“ctcLink is going to allow us to utilize technology to efficiently manage processes that are currently manual and time-consuming,” said LCC’s Lisa Matye Edwards.  “In turn, staff will be able to refocus time and energy on working with students instead of manually managing processes.  I cannot wait for the change this will bring to our interactions with students!”

Along with the software, we are also asking the vendor for a comprehensive set of services to assist in the implementation process, including organizational change management; configuration and testing, software installation and risk management across all 34 colleges.

While implementing the new software, college staff and the ctcLink team need to be focused on setting up the system to best meet the needs of students, faculty and staff, which is why we’re requiring that the technology portion (servers, hardware) be hosted off-site, by the vendor. We want our focus on people, training and business process change, not glitches in hardware and technology issues.

Another key component of the RFP is that while it is open to individual companies/vendors, it also invites a partnership approach in which two or more vendors can get together and bring their best modules to the table for what is called ‘best of breed.’ One vendor may excel in Student Administration, while another might have a very strong HR/Payroll product.

“This allows us to explore the marketplace and consider all the options out there today so we can find the very best functional product for our system,” said Barbara Martin, ctcLink project director.

The RFP also asks for a “system integrator” or expert in helping a large system like ours transition from our current business processes and systems to new tools and a new way of doing business —with as few glitches as possible. The system integrator (SI) will help us manage the organizational changes that come with business process change. In addition, the SI will provide services that help us understand our data and move that data onto a new system, lending their experience from past projects to help our system configure the software solution to meet our changing needs.

Again, many thanks to everyone involved in developing and/or reviewing the content of the RFP!

FirstLink Colleges announced!

The ctcLink project includes the implementation of two FirstLink (pilot) college districts prior to the full-scale implementation of the system’s new ERP solution.

Recently, college leaders were asked to evaluate their college’s resources and readiness for being one of the first colleges to implement ctcLink. Nine colleges responded and the college districts chosen for FirstLink were the Community Colleges of Spokane and Tacoma Community College.

Congratulations Spokane and Tacoma!

Based on the project’s tentative implementation schedule, this means students of these FirstLink colleges—which, combined, make up 10 percent of the CTC system’s students—will be enjoying the new software system in a little more than two years.

“I’d like to thank all the colleges who took the time and made the effort to meet with staff and evaluate the FirstLink criteria and commitment,” said SBCTC’s Mike Scroggins. “The desire for a better educational services system for students and staff is clear and we appreciate the enthusiasm and momentum-building across the entire CTC system. The Project Team and I look forward to working with all colleges toward a successful implementation across the entire system as we go forward.”

We’ll share more about the FirstLink colleges and their project teams soon.

2 Responses to Inaugural Blog Post

  1. Leanne Foster says:

    Thank you for this very informative inagural blog post. Congratulations to all of the Colleges …. there is a shining light at the end of the “blue screens” tunnel.

  2. There are times when centralization provides opportunity and efficiency. I know from family experience that integrating financial and academic information statewide will significantly improve a potential student’s decision-making abilities about when and where to attend college. Peer-to-peer contact will no doubt improve as well. Thanks for this explanation.

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