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Situation: Doing More with Less

Like other state higher education systems across the nation, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system faces lower budgets and higher scrutiny from state government. Under increasing pressure to “do more with less,” state-wide college and university systems like CSCU are looking to reduce costs and conserve resources by consolidating support services like information technology (IT).

That’s the daily reality for the CSCU Office of Information Technology (OIT) of the Board of Regents. The OIT is responsible for managing system-wide IT, coordinating IT activities for individual campuses, and promoting collaboration among CSCU institutions to help them optimize the benefits of the centralized system.

“When the college system merged statewide in 2011 into a single system for all community colleges and four-year universities, that created a patchwork of disparate, aging legacy systems across the individual entities,” says Joe McAuliffe, OIT Senior Director of Business Information Systems.

While budget cutting and consolidation are uncomfortable realities, these trends are also inspiring higher education institutions and systems to adopt innovative approaches.

 

Challenge: Change is Good, But it’s Hard

Many CSCU institutions struggled to manage events and room schedules efficiently, accurately, and cost-effectively. Across the system, the tools and processes used for scheduling space and managing events were mostly archaic, manually intensive, and error-prone. Most scheduling and events management departments handled the lion’s share of tasks with manual processes based on Outlook, spreadsheets, paper, and Post-It Notes.

While the OIT already hosted a centralized student information system (SIS) that had strong academic capabilities, that solution was inadequate to meet the scheduling and event management needs of the state-wide system.

OIT leadership recognized the opportunity to improve productivity, reduce costs, gain efficiencies, and realize new revenue streams by standardizing the CSCU system on a single, modern scheduling and event management solution.

“We started the implementation process by doing exploratory visits to each college, and did a needs analysis, to understand how they conduct their day-to-day facilities management. We came up with a report out of each college. We looked for the commonalities across colleges, and adjusted the implementation to best fit them all.”

Jama Yusuf, Development Manager, CSCU

Solution: Implementing a modern scheduling platform

The OIT team knew they needed scheduling software that would easily integrate with the existing SIS. They wanted a robust platform that could both handle system-wide requirements, and offer flexibility for unique, campus-level needs. After reviewing potential solutions, the selection team chose EMS Software.

“It helped that EMS easily integrates with the existing SIS,” says Jama Yusuf, OIT Development Manager. “Just as important, EMS was flexible enough to support standardized processes and data management across the system, while also handling some specific, unique needs for individual campuses.”

EMS already had some fans in the CSCU system. A few of the schools owned a single, departmental instance of the tool -- users were enthusiastic about the tool’s ease of use and performance, and their positive vendor relationship.

Still, in the beginning, there was some resistance to change. “We did one-to-one calls with the deans to clarify the benefits of the solution, and bring management on board,” says Yusuf. “The EMS consultants helped our team talk with our management, deans, and university presidents, and get their buy-in that this was the right path to take.”

Other challenges were structural. For example, some colleges had centralized models for managing facilities, while others had distributed models. Fortunately, EMS is flexible enough to handle either approach. “It was a challenge to implement a single system for the 12 community colleges,” says Yusuf. “The EMS consultants immediately recognized that and they were very flexible and patient, offering ideas and solutions to different challenges each college was experiencing.”

“For our 12 community colleges, we broke the project into two phases. The first phase we had 5 and the second phase we had 7. We rolled out each phase in 2 cohorts, each led by a consultant, that were fully implemented within 3 to 4 months, says Yusuf.”

Throughout the implementation phase, the EMS professional services team visited the campuses to review processes and requirements and provide a comprehensive foundation for rolling out the implementation and getting users up to speed. Tim Kowal, OIT Senior Programmer, enthuses, “I can’t speak highly enough about how great a job they did.”

 “The consultants I worked with were really great at dealing with our uniqueness, and understanding the needs of our system,” says McAuliffe. “They looked at is as a great challenge, were the opposite of intimidated, and made it a success.”

 

Results: Helping users across the system drive value

All of the schools use EMS to schedule both classrooms -- credit bearing academic activity and non-credit bearing activity -- and non-academic space. The departments that schedule events have seen the biggest early wins.

“The events management departments run really lean, and we had to give them time to ramp up. But it’s become a success,” says Yusuf.

For CSCU, the integrated EMS platform provides visibility into space availability, automates scheduling processes, ensures data accuracy, and makes reporting simple. With EMS, a college or university in the system can easily share facilities utilization data with their Institutional Research Office.

The software helps a scheduler – who may be part-time or temporary – stay on top of requests and avoid becoming a bottleneck that results in long wait times to reserve rooms or book events. With EMS, the scheduling and events management departments can operate with less staff while boosting user productivity, improving space utilization, and driving event revenues.

 

Future: Wrapping up the rollout, preparing for an upgrade, keeping users engaged

“I work with each of the community colleges on a day-to-day basis,” says Kowal. “We’re still on the learning curve, but our users are liking the software better and better over time.”

The next project – ­to roll out the solution to the four-year universities – is nearing completion. After that, the OIT team plans to get the colleges and universities up and running with the EMS Web App and complete the rollout of Master Calendar.

Longer term, the OIT team plans to work closely with EMS Professional services on initiatives help maximize the value of the solution across the CSCU system and facilitate collaboration among campuses. An upgrade from the current system-wide EMS version is in the works, along with an initiative to establish a system-wide user group forum to help users share tips and tricks, and keep their skills sharp.

“It was a challenge to implement a single system for 12 colleges. The EMS consultants immediately recognized that and they were very flexible and patient, offering ideas and solutions to different challenges each college was experiencing.”

Jama Yusuf, Development Manager, CSCU

About Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU)

CSCU provides affordable, innovative and rigorous programs in settings that permit an ever increasing number of students to achieve their personal and career goals as well as contribute to the economic growth of the state of Connecticut. Find out more at: http://www.ct.edu/cscu

About EMS Software

EMS Software™ removes the barriers to inspired work by connecting your people, tools and technology within a single platform. GSK, Yale University, Citi and thousands of other leading companies and universities in more than 75 countries rely on EMS Software's comprehensive, enterprise-class resource and space management solution to power their dynamic work and learning environments. The EMS platform integrates with both hardware and software infrastructures to provide the visibility, control and insight needed to increase productivity, reduce costs, attract and retain people, and differentiate enterprise brands. For more information, please visit emssoftware.com.

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