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Building a Vision for a Student Information System Future Design: Ideal State Process Analysis

The Student Information System (SIS) project team has built a rich body of knowledge developing a process landscape and current state maps. We’ve arrived here with the help of 233 subject matter experts from campus and UC San Diego Extension. After conducting over 200 working sessions we identified 117 processes on the process landscape. We looked for improvement opportunities and prioritized 67 for further review, which has resulted in more than 170 current state process maps. 

Why have we done all of this work? Because we need to understand how things work now before we set out to improve and optimize processes. With this knowledge as a baseline, we now ask: 

  • Is this the best process to accomplish our goals? 
  • Can we find opportunities to eliminate or reduce process inefficiencies that exist due to the limitations of our current student information system, ISIS?
  • Can we identify inefficiencies caused by communication deficiencies between systems?

To answer these questions, the SIS project team is now conducting system agnostic ideal state process sessions. By constructing a vision of the future, the SIS project team will be able to use this as a guide when the time comes to create the detailed design in the new SIS. 

This vision is the North Star that will guide us towards a better way of working. When applied, we aim to accomplish the following:

  1. Begin with the end in mind: What do we want to achieve?
  2. Look backwards to facilitate design discussions: How best to get there?
  3. Move step by step towards the vision.

Ideal state sessions are being held in the form of dedicated half-day workshops spread over a period of 11 weeks. So what are we doing spending all this time together?

First, we use the Lean Six Sigma methodology to walk through the current state maps to identify instances of rework, over-processing, wait time, and error rate. Then, through the facilitation of various brainstorm activities, we work to identify quick-wins, medium effort opportunities, and also difficult – maybe impossible - opportunities for improvement. The idea is to build the best-case scenario, the “have our cake and eat it" option. At the end of this process we will have clearly described, documented and envisioned our ideal state.

The subject matter experts involved in the ideal state mapping are applying their expertise, experience and perspective to build and document high-level system requirements.

Ideal state sessions are organized into five design tracks:

  1. Courses and class scheduling
  2. Enrollment and registration
  3. Academic records
  4. Billing and payment
  5. Financial aid and scholarships

Ideal state workshops for the financial aid and scholarships design track concluded the last week of February. Work is currently underway for courses and class scheduling, which will be followed by the remaining three design tracks.

“The ideal state workshop was more than each area giving a wishlist of our hoped-for tools: with each exercise the facilitators asked thoughtful questions and pushed us to expand our view of what a new SIS could be,” said Courtney Aguila, one of the subject matter experts for financial aid and scholarships.

Aguila further reflected on the power of participating in this exercise as a team, saying, “Having worked on campus for 10 years, I know that we are interconnected in the work we do. Even knowing this, it was almost a revelation listening to the other subject matter experts explain their processes and highlight even more areas where one process has downstream effects for other processes, other people, and whole other departments. It was a fascinating experience that I was so happy to be part of.”

With each ideal state workshop, and through the formulation of this vision, we are able to get one step closer to collectively defining our requirements for a future student information system. Whichever new student system the university chooses, we realize it will have limitations that prevent an ideal state from being fully realized. However, the ideal state gives us a clear target to aim for - and while we may not get a bulls-eye every time, our future state will be closer to ideal thanks to this effort.

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