Last week saw a dramatic increase in comment activity on the blog, which is great. So in case you're not following the comments, (and even if you are), I thought I'd review some of the issues that folks have been raising -- adding my own comments of course. :)
There was a thread of conversation about the ASU Data Warehouse, and its role as a "reporting database". Some wonder why we need "reporting databases" other than the Data Warehouse, others assert that not all the data needed to generate reports is in the DW, or that the DW is too hard to use.
I have to agree that the proliferation of “shadow” databases is a response to not being able to do what the customers need quickly and easily enough doing it the "right" way. I figure if it was easier and cheaper to do it the "right" way, then people would do it that way, as long as they know what the "right" way is. So, given that people set up these "shadow" databases up, I figure either:
- its too hard to do it the "right" way
- its too expensive to do it the "right" way, or...
- people don't know / don't believe there is a "right" way
Of course, while shadow databases may solve a local problem, they create a global one; local improvement at the price of global confusion. Effective coordination is the key to this challenge, but its a tough organizational nut to crack.
So my question, and I think its an important one, is what do we have to do with the Data Warehouse to drastically reduce the number of "shadow" databases that are out there? So let's hear from the "Shadow Masters". Could you have used the data warehouse to accomplish the same things you do in shadow? Is the DW too hard to use? Is it too slow? Is the data not there? Is there a lack of conformed queries? Does everyone just hate John Rome? :)
Cat put forward a plan based on the idea that we need to hit the low hanging fruit. That's right in tight with the CPI vision. My view of CPI is:
- identify fixes hanging the business units up and do them nimbly to free them to help the people
- identify simplifications that reduce redundancy and position us better for ERP
- bring to online/self-service those things that are offline/expert service
So Giddy Up Cat.
Another comment asked how we were planning to seperate policy decisions from technology decisions, or, to say it another way, how we will allow policy to drive technology. The commenter pointed out that all the systems are integrated (the strong ERP argument) and so care must be taken to ensure that the systems implement the policy decisions, and that those policy decisions take place globally.
Max echoed this:
“We need to apply continuous improvement to our business processes not just our technology. Technology must not only be continually improving but technology must also be flexible and nimble enough to support the continual improvement of business processes”.
Good advice, but a word of caution. Analyze the successful ERP implementations and you'll find that Vanilla is the most popular flavor, not Rocky Road. Customizations are expensive and risky. But this implies that software to a certain degree drives business process, not the other way around as our commenter suggests. Wonder how our community feels about that tradeoff?
Several comments focused on the need to improve coordination between activities in centralized IT and those taking place out in the departments. Since 2/3 of the personnel is outside of IT, this is a critical issue. What most folks point to is that they don't know the standards they should conform to, or that there are stumbling blocks that central IT can't clear on the customer's time frame. There are committees and user groups, but no way to enforce cooperation. The result is duplication of effort. True?
...we have a lot of disparate 3rd party products being acquired and used in the enterprise. At the scope of a shrink wrapped desktop piece of software, not a problem. However, when we start talking products like Vignette, EMC/Documentum, Verity’s Teleform or LiquidOffice, I hope we can find better ways of collaborating and sharing to acheive an economy of scale and standardization for the university.
Sounds like a governance issue to me.
The major debate though was about the idea of CPI itself. And the major argument from several knowledgeable players, was:
Aren't we already doing CPI? Isn't CPI the process that put us here in the first place? With CPI we've been falling behind as the New Amercian University picks up speed. If we can't afford an ERP system today, lets figure out when we can afford it, or hold a bake sale or something...
I'll say it again. The issue is not money alone, but money and risk. To build the institutional will, the level of risk needs to be reduced. Risk is reduced by showing an unbroken stream of improvement. Rewiring the backend, using a vendor based product, has to be part of that plan, but I claim we can't wait till the back end is fixed to make improvements that the customers (that's right, the customers, not the natives!) need to run the business NOW. Acknowledging that reality will help build the institutional will we need.
Even Max, the champion for closing the gap, had some kind words for a CPI approach:
There are some existing services we can portalize. We can develop new services with the portal as the end game. [As] we go the ERP route we add or swap modules as they are ready to come live.
There's a difference between the CPI I'm proposing and the strategy we have been following for the past several years. AS Roger said:
While we have been doing continuous improvement for several years, it has not been as unified and systematic as it needs to be. We lack a set of common standards that need to be followed by ALL developers, regardless of whether they work for central or a distributed IT shop.
...we need to encapsulate the inner system and provide a set of common database and business rule objects for all developers need to use and adhere to:
- Ensure consistency between applications;
- Minimize the redundancy of data;
- Provide a set of tools that can enable a developer to ramp up and become productive faster;
- Lessens our dependence on the legacy SIS.
Its gotten a little quiet in the past few days comment wise. Is everyone getting bored?