Partner Spotlight: Functional Analysts
As one of the few departments at UW-Platteville that serves every other department, ITS must partner with a wide array of individuals and groups to make sure the campus’s needs are understood, and our strategic goals are met. This month we pay homage to functional analysts who, in addition to the duties of their respective core areas, serve an important role as liaisons from those areas to the Information Systems & Reporting (ISR) teams in ITS, focusing on Business Intelligence reports and PASS customizations.
The key to creating valid, relevant reports and efficient, reliable customizations is communication. Functional analysts must understand the business processes of their areas and communicate their needs to ITS. Functional analysts then work with the PASS or Business Intelligence staff to test the new data and features to ensure accuracy before approving changes to the production environment, where the day-to-day work is done. Finally, functional analysts are often tasked with training staff in their areas on the new functionality and providing basic support. It is this constant flow of information and feedback that keeps PASS and Business Intelligence relevant and beneficial for faculty, staff, and most importantly, students.
The functional analyst position was created as a result of the RePASS project in 2010, which integrated the Distance Learning Center (DLC) into PASS (PeopleSoft Administrative Software System), the source of all student data from prospective status through alumnus. Functional analysts represent the core areas of Admissions, the Registrar’s Office, Financial Aid, Financial Services, and the DLC within the PASS Administrators group, which has provided formalized guidance for PASS developers since its inception in 1999.
Prior to RePASS, IT directed campus by relaying what functionality was possible. After RePASS, the focus shifted to a partnership model with functional analysts serving as liaisons for campus and informing IT decisions to best meet campus needs as part of the PASS Administrators group.
Today functional analysts join 63 other members of the PASS Administrators group--IT staff and “power users” from the core areas as well as representatives from Housing, Textbook Center, Pioneer Athletic Center (PAC), Academic and Career Advising Center (ACAC), and Student Support Services. Members meet bi-monthly to discuss changes that affect the Campus Community in PASS, how information flows through departments, and how the various areas will be affected by proposed changes.
Kathy Nechvatal, a 36-year veteran of the Registrar’s Office, has been the functional analyst for that area since 2011 and a member of the PASS Administrators group since 1999. “The PASS Admin group is important for keeping all areas updated with what’s going on in PASS with new projects. We bring concerns and suggestions for new functionality to the table.”
Recently PASS Administrators have been working on the use of preferred names, a process which will allow a student or employee to choose how the individual’s name will display in email, PASS, and other systems. Past projects that PASS Administrators have advised on and tested include CourseLeaf (the new course catalog software) and the Hardin room reservation system. These are but a few of the 900 customizations in PASS resulting from the collaboration between ITS, PASS “power users”, and functional analysts.
Michelle Zasada, Student Services Manager for the Distance Learning Center (DLC), has been a member of the PASS Administrators group since about 2011. “What’s most important is what best serves our students, is user-friendly, and gives our staff what they need to do their jobs. Teamwork is the key thing. I couldn't do what I do without ITS staff and other analysts.”
Adam Hess, functional analyst for Admissions, has been utilizing information in PASS while a transition to Business Intelligence takes place. Admission and Enrollment Services is working with the BI development team to create a weekly snap-shot report that will make the information in BI much more manageable and useful for finding trends.
Guiding Business Intelligence
Business Intelligence, UW-Platteville’s reporting tool, is much newer to campus than PASS, being first implemented in 2012. To date over 100 reports have been created from the 10-day census report to Class Availability to Active Majors, Minors, Emphasis, and Advisors.
While there is no formal Business Intelligence administrators group, the Business Intelligence team in ISR works closely with functional analysts and academic and administrative areas on campus to determine what reports and data are needed as well as how the areas can use existing data in new ways, such as student retention and recruiting.
Adam Hess’s role as functional analyst for Admissions includes making dashboard pages, creating analyses, and validating data. He serves as the liaison between director of Admissions, Heidi Tuescher-Gille, and the Business Intelligence team. One particular void that Adam has championed is the lack of historical Admissions snap-shot data in Business Intelligence. Adam is working with Valerie Wachuta and Amy Crist of the BI team to develop snapshot capability. Though it will be a good two years before enough data is collected, eventually Admissions will use demographics collected for improving recruiting and increasing admissions.
Vetting new functionality requires building relationships with a network of collaborators from IT to functional analysts to faculty, advisors, administrators, chairs, and deans. Adam notes, “The key to making this a successful and meaningful transition is to have constant communication not only between Admissions and the BI team, but also with the other areas on campus to ensure the data definitions meet the expectations of the institution.”
“Everything has to start somewhere,” Adam continues, “and with the creation of Admissions snapshot data now, we will be making a positive impact on reporting for years to come. I have nothing but good things to say about working with the BI/PASS teams.”
Leading on campus and beyond
The commitment to students extends beyond the UW-Platteville campus. Many UW-Platteville functional analysts and developers participate in the Higher Education User Group (HEUG), a “non-profit, international organization consisting of higher education institutions that use application software from Oracle Corporation,” in this case, PeopleSoft (PASS) and Business Intelligence.
Michelle Zasada serves as member of the regional conference planning team and as a product advisor on a national committee, taking feedback from UW-Platteville to Oracle, and bringing back information to our campus.
“UW-Platteville has become a leader in PeopleSoft technology in UW System,” states Luke Korzieniewski, PASS security administrator and leader of the PASS Administrators group. “We were the first UW campus to update to PeopleTools 8.54, the second to have a PeopleSoft mobile app, and [our staff have] presented [at conferences] on how to do upgrades and security.”
In the end, the most important aspect of any IT initiative is how it impacts students. Functional analysts help IT build data and systems that improve the student experience on the front lines and behind the scenes. Stay tuned to Discover IT for more Partner Spotlights as the year continues.
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