SMUDIE Project ReportActivity report for the Project Steering Group meeting January 23 rd 2012.1. SummaryThis report covers the initial activities undertaken for the SMU Data Integration Exercise(SMUDIE) project in the two months November 22nd 2011 – January 22nd 2012. During thatperiod the small project management team was established and arrangements for the initialround of data gathering were agreed. A project Blog was set up as a reflective diary ofproject activities and issues, available as and information source for both the internalproject stakeholders and the JISC Programme team. Simon Gibbon represented the projectat the Transformation Programme Start-up Online Conference and reported back to theproject team. Nick Potter had an initial discussion with the project Critical Friend, DaveWhite at the University of Oxford, and this was followed up by Tony Toole.Tony Toole completed the first round of interviews with key stakeholders in Registry,Information Services and the Faculties. The outcomes of these interviews were used tobegin the process of modelling the student information management systems in place atSMU and to form an initial assessment of its effectiveness. The overall impression gained atthis early stage was that the systems underpinning student information management at theUniversity were basically sound, although several areas were still in development as part ofan intended migration towards a single integrated system.2. Stakeholder Interviews2.1 Registry, Quality, Learning and Teaching ServicesDuring the reporting period a restructuring took place in the management of Registryservices, academic services, quality assurance, learning and teaching. As a result, Nick Potterbecame Head of Academic Services with responsibility for all these areas, and Paul Osbornebecame Deputy Head of Academic Services. The following interviews took place in this area:Name PositionDr Nick Potter Head of Academic ServicesPaul Osborne Deputy Head of Academic ServicesTanya McIver-Janes Head of Registry Support ServicesGemma Green Head of UK/EU AdmissionsKristina Kirby Management Information Officer (FADE)2.2 Computing and Information Services
Name PositionLyndon Shirley Head of IT ServicesDave Smith IT Services Support OfficerJohn Millward IT Services Support OfficerSimon Gibbon TEL Development Officer2.3 Faculty: FADEName PositionLouise Harris Secretary to the DeanSusan Lambert Faculty SecretaryRhian Pole Admissions TutorKristina Kirby Management Information Officer3. Interview OutcomesThese initial twelve interviews were loosely structured and aimed at gaining anunderstanding of the roles involved and the general student information managementsystem(s) at the University.The overall message from CIS was that the goal was a fully integrated Student InformationManagement system that began with the original application and continued through tograduation and alumni management. The current system is based on the Unit 4 Agresso QLSstudent management system and is expanding to include the Agresso CMS. The system atpresent integrates well with the UCAS application system and the online student enrolmentsystem has been a significant and successful move forward. On enrolment, the systempopulates the Moodle VLE with student information linked to their courses and electivemodules. There is still manual entry of part-time and international student applications, butthis is seen as something that will be progressively addressed. An issue for implementationis the level of CIS manpower available for the engagement with Registry and academic staff,and the ongoing development collaboration with Unit 4. Coupled to this is the issue ofsuccession planning and the risk of expertise loss if staff leave or retire.Once enrolled, student academic progression information input is the responsibility of staffin the Faculties. All academic staff use the QLS system to enter information and this is seenas an area of potential weakness as there are a great many staff involved and consistency inthe quality of data entry may vary. This initial survey has indicated that the role of theFaculty MIOs is very effective in addressing this risk of inconsistency. This link between theFaculties and Registry is valued by staff on both sides. The checking of student moduleregistration, assessment result entry and similar activities, particularly in preparation forexam boards, indicates an important and efficient quality control intervention.
There are as number of areas being identified as candidates for improved integration intothe centralised student information management system. This includes all instances wherelarge scale data input from paper format is involved, and also where information cannot beeasily extracted form the system, as appears to be the case with official student transcripts.Other areas for development include attendance monitoring and the ACMS, but this isalready known and being worked on. The general impression gained so far is that, centrally,all the key areas for improvement are already known about and that limiting factors relateto available manpower and the ability of Unit 4, in particular, to respond to the problemsidentified.The other area that is emerging as a likely focus for improvement is in staff engagementwith, and understanding of, the student information system. Staff in the Faculties, and inRegistry, are understandably, only familiar in detail with the data they are responsible forand their user interface(s) with the system. The lack of a full picture of the system, lack ofawareness of ongoing peripheral changes that impact on their habitual way of doing things,and the existence of conflicting data formats, are all things that will need to be addressed. Acomprehensive review of data formats, addressing, for example, the anomalies in gradereporting, is certainly going to be a recommendation from this exercise. Anotherrecommendation is likely to be a system of staff development/awareness that not onlyensures the maintenance of data consistency, but also ensures all staff are aware of anyinformation management system changes when they are implemented and know how toengage with them.4. Enterprise Architecture ModellingThe SMU Data Integration Exercise Project will be using Enterprise Architecture modellingtechniques to aid its student information management analysis and planning activities.Enterprise Architecture is one of a number of modelling techniques used in management.Others include Checkland’s Soft Systems Modelling and Beer’s Viable Systems Modellingand each have their strengths. EA will be used here as it explicitly links the business layermodelling of management procedures and processes to the system applications layer thatsupports them, and the technical infrastructure layer upon which the applications run.At this early stage in the project only the business layer is being developed, based on theinformation for the interviews. The real benefit of the visual models emerging from theprocess is that they facilitate conversations about the issues they represent. It invitesparticipants, firstly, to modify the model to so it accurately portrays the managementstructure as they see it. It then allows the identification of anomalies/control/managementand communications issues and energises improvement planning.The two images below illustrate the models that emerge. Each of the elements represents aparticular business function, role or activity and the links between them representinformation flow and control/trigger functions.
The Smudie project is progressing as planned. The original project GANTT Chart included as part of the project proposal has been updated to reflect thetiming changes arising from the activities and management decisions in this first phase. This is shown below.