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From Dateline (September 16, 2004)

IT Manager Deployed as Campus Agent of Change

This spring, Cal State Fullerton embarked on a systemic change in the fundamental way it operates beyond the classroom.

In that respect, Fullerton has joined its sister California State University campuses in a effort to institute one standard system for the common business practices – record keeping, enrollment, human resources and finances – all the universities perform. All 23 CSU campuses and the Chancellor’s Office, are making, or have made, the switch to CSU’s Common Management System using PeopleSoft applications.

The CMS project began in 1998 with the mission of providing an efficient, effective, high-quality service to students, faculty and staff.

“Several of the campuses were faced with a decision: what to do with their aging computer application software involved with financial and student records. In addition, campuses were recognizing the need for sophisticated human resources systems,” said Amir Dabirian of Information Technology, who is Fullerton’s CSM project director. “In a world of changing information technology, these systems were on the verge of obsolescence; they were cumbersome, monolithic, expensive to maintain and unable to keep up with the growing demands and complexities of information management.”

Hence, a multiyear effort to bring a common interface system to all the campuses. Completion of systemwide implementation is expected in 2008.

In his role as Fullerton’s project director, Dabirian is responsible for overseeing the project plan and keeping it moving. Overall, he stresses, the project is collaborative and involves people from throughout the campus. Here, Dabirian explains what CMS will do for Cal State Fullerton.


Q: How will CMS affect the campus?

It will touch every single individual. CMS includes integrated software applications that manage data and communications for human resources, finance and student systems. So faculty or staff members who look up student data, anyone involved in hiring or maintaining attendance records – be it student, staff or faculty members; anyone buying supplies or performing accounting duties for departments – all will be using CMS.

Every campus operates differently, but we all have common functions that we perform. It is these common functions that CMS will affect, and everyone on campus either performs tasks involved in these functions or is affected by them.


Q: What is the timeline for our campus?

We began the process with human resources first and hope to “go live” in November 2005. We kick off the process of implementing the finance section in November and expect to have it in wide-spread use by July 2006. The last segment, student systems, will begin in September 2005, with completion sometime in July 2008.


Q: What has happened so far?

We established a campus steering committee that will meet regularly to discuss issues, review progress, provide resources and make decisions. In May, members of the human resources project team began visiting campuses similar in size and makeup to Fullerton. One of our visits was to Cal State Northridge, where we became familiar with some of the planning and issues they faced prior to implementing all three modules in October 2003. We also visited San Francisco State and Cal State San Marcos.

We looked at the strengths and weaknesses of each campus’s efforts and have come up with ways we hope will make the process go smoothly on our campus. One very important component is to keep the campus informed of what is being done and how individuals can be involved.



How can members of the campus be included?


For starters, they can attend one of the information forums we’re hosting about the project, and its status – and we want colleagues to ask questions. We want everyone to feel comfortable, to understand how this will be a part of their lives. And we want feedback. We don’t want to go into this in a vacuum – because it will never work if that happens.

The first is slated Sept. 30 with others to follow throughout October. [See box for specific dates and times.] We plan to have such forums every semester until the project is completed.

In addition, we have a Web site [See box at right] dedicated to providing information and updates on the process.

We’re also organizing selected user work teams to review application design and the reengineering of our business process, as well as to test the system, identify issues and suggest solutions before we move to broader implementation. People in this group will be committed to the project for about four hours each week.

We’re asking each division to name one or two staff members – not managers – to be our testers. These people will be the ones we go to consistently throughout the process for their feedback. When we
visited the other campuses, one of the points we heard from users is that they wished they had been consulted or had been involved earlier. That’s why we’re organizing these teams now – at the front end. We want their feedback. Users will impact the design of new and reengineered processes.


Q: Will there be training?

Definitely – and we are already planning a support system, like the Help Desk, that will assist individuals using CMS. We’re trying to build an infrastructure that answers all the questions that come up – not just during implementation, but also for the long term.


Q: CMS is being characterized as the best opportunity the CSU has for the campuses to be involved in how we change things – how so?

A major part of the effort is to review how we do business and to make improvements in the process. By participating in business process analysis, many members of the campus community will be able to reflect their experiences, expertise and ideas about the final product. An article about the business process analysis can be found at