It’s Elementary!

Some recent conversations reminded me of an interesting problem my team had to resolve. Through some ingenuity, business process analysis and a little bit of grit we were able to find the issue that almost ground admissions at this particular site to a halt.

It was about a week after I started working with this client. I was working with the team of programmers when the complaints started flowing in. Approximately 50% of the students enrolling in courses that term were not getting their generated email IDs or system accounts.

Problem Identification

The initial review of all the workflows and systems showed no obvious issues. At a high-level, the student goes through the admissions process and then once accepted, has their data pushed through a semi-automated process that creates their accounts. As previously stated, a lot of those students weren’t getting what they needed. No recent software updates, no system changes – we were stumped.

Temp fix if needed

While the team dug in, we were able to implement a temporary ‘process’. One of the programmers could take student information and manually create the required accounts for students. The downside of this was that it took most of that persons’ time each day to process, not leaving much time for regular work. It got the job done and luckily it was only the summer session so it wouldn’t be as bad had it been registration for the fall.

The big question

“How can students get into the system?”  – Meaning – what are all the possible ways for data to get into the SIS? We knew the ERP software pretty well, so we knew that there were a few possibilities. After testing and ruling out the proper processes (these worked as expected), we focused on the non-traditional.  We noticed that in most of the cases of the issues, they were missing admissions applications. Note – this was a critical piece in the workflow which created the necessary accounts.

The Gathering

Given all the information we had, we decided that we needed input from the key players. During a meeting with Admissions and Registration, the truth was revealed. After the team presented our findings, it came to light that the Registrars office was skipping the admissions process and putting students straight into courses. By doing that, they bypassed the proper process components to kick off the workflow and create the accounts – hence the daily issues. Kind of humorous that two people who virtually sat next each other could do things so differently.

Win some, lose some

Now that we had the complete picture, we could implement a real solution. The most simple and straightforward path would be that the processes be followed and not skip steps.  Unfortunately, this is one of those times the executive level overruled the proposed solution. We had to develop a new workflow to accommodate the different student entry point in order to create the needed accounts.

In the end, the issue was resolved. Sometimes, that’s all that matters even if you are left scratching your head about it. Sometimes, you have to chicken-wire and duct tape things together…and that’s a lot of the fun of working in IT. There’s a lot of tech out there, the key is getting the right people and right tech to get the job done.

Cheers! TG


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