ctcLink Frequently Asked Questions


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Questions

General

Implementation Process

Specifics of the New System

Funding

Questions With Answers

General

What is the ctcLink project?

ctcLink is the implementation of a single, centralized system of online functions that will give students, faculty and staff 24/7 access to a modern, efficient way of doing their college business. Called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), ctcLink will provide a set of interconnected software modules to help us streamline and standardize many of the things we do at our colleges today.  But, it’s about much more than new software. As the existing legacy software is replaced with modern technology, all college districts will also redesign and align current business processes.

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Why do we need ctcLink?

The community and technical colleges’ (CTC) current administrative systems are old and outdated. They use database reporting tools from the early 1980s. This limits the CTC’s ability to streamline policies and practices across all colleges and support the current and future information needs of students, faculty and staff. A common suite of online tools is needed to create efficiencies system-wide, keep pace with innovations in teaching and learning, and provide the services students and staff expect in today’s digital world.

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What are the benefits?

ctcLink will be a massive upgrade for the entire CTC system. Students, faculty and staff will have access to information from anywhere at any time, with many processes available from a mobile device. Students will use online tools for doing their college business and they’ll have a more common experience across the CTC system, whether they transfer from one college to another or attend two or more CTCs at once. They will have one student ID and use common online tools for everything from admission to graduation. Among many other things, colleges—and the system as a whole—will benefit from a single source for accurate and timely data and the standardization of select administrative processes to support efficiency and effectiveness across the system.

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How will it affect me?

It depends on your role at your college or at SBCTC. If you use the current legacy systems in your work, (such as FMS, SMS, PPMS or FAM) you will learn an entirely new system and process for inputting and accessing information online. Those who don’t use the current system on a daily basis will see changes too, such as the addition of online workflows for certain tasks and, for everyone, the added benefit of new, online tools to access and manage their personal records.

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Will there be training?

Yes. For many, it will be required. A comprehensive and timely training program is a critical component of the ctcLink project. An overall training plan will be developed, which will include college-level training plans that can be customized for each college. College subject matter experts and core project team members will participate in training delivery and training will be available immediately before, during and after deployment to best meet the needs of users. In addition, a self-guided, online training component that can be used at any time is part of the software package and will be available during and after implementation.

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Who is involved in the project?

A project of this size, scope and complexity requires the involvement of many individuals across the entire CTC system, from beginning to end. Those who are or have been involved in the project include: 

  • Steering Committee:  A CTC system leadership team, led by SBCTC’s CIO, will address policy, budget and procurement issues related to the project and will be responsible for providing guidance to the project team, monitoring the project and ensuring successful implementation of the ctcLink system and new processes.
  • ctcLink Project Team: Responsible for overall project management, organizational change management, training and communications. This team is the daily point of contact between the ctcLink implementation vendor and CTC community members involved in project implementation. The team also includes all the process/functional and technical staff who will work with the vendor team and key college staff during software implementation and business process redesign.
  • System Integration (SI) Partner: Ciber
  • Quality Assurance Consultant: Moran Technology Consulting
  • Project Management Consultant: Jeff Thompson, Collegiate Project Services
  • Gartner Consulting: A technology research and consulting firm, hired by SBCTC to assist with initial project planning, development of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for ERP vendor selection, and overall strategies for project governance, communication, organization change, training, risk management and budget development.    
  • Subject Matter Experts: Will be recruited from colleges to participate on system-wide advisory teams for specific functional areas during key phases of the project. SMEs will work with colleges to analyze current business processes across the system and align them with best practices in the new ERP system. SMEs will spend up to10 hours per week on ctcLink to work on such things as business process reviews, policy discussions around centralization, and ERP configuration decisions.
  • ctcLink College Team: Each college district has formed its own team to provide leadership and involvement in the project on each campus; each college has also identified Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for their campus in areas such as student services, finance, research, HR and payroll. The college SMEs will work closely with the ctcLink Project Team during their college’s implementation.
  • OCM and Communications Advisory Teams:  Teams with representation from across the system to assist with Organizational Change Management and Communications strategies.

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Implementation Process

How long will the project take?

ctcLink is a large and complex project. It’s going to take time to get it right. It is estimated to take about 5-6 years to fully implement software and new business processes across all college districts and the SBCTC. The goal is to have all colleges and SBCTC online with the new software by the end of 2017.

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Why is it going to take so long?

With a system our size—serving 470,000 students annually and employing about 21,000—this is not a project that can be done all at once. It must be planned out and deployed in phases: Global Design; FirstLink (pilot) districts implementation and subsequent deployment waves (about 8 colleges per wave; 6 months per wave). A five-six year ERP implementation is not uncommon for a higher education system like ours.

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What is the Global Solution phase?

It is the process of aligning our system’s core business processes with the delivered solution (new software). The process will be solution-driven, meaning the pre-configured software will be the driver. Any adjustments made will only be those determined necessary for the entire college system. Global Solution also includes designing the right approach for interfaces and data migration and building the infrastructure and initial test areas to confirm the baseline configuration decisions. In other words, first, we must understand and define our existing business processes across all colleges, align them with the processes that already exist in the new software modules, and address any gaps or system-wide configuration necessary to meet our system’s business needs. Next comes the actual building of the solution infrastructure, configurations and testing areas. Finally, there will be intensive testing of the completed configurations, including all interfaces and modifications, which is critical to validate the complete design, configurations and workflows prior to deployment at the pilot campuses.

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Have the pilot colleges been chosen?

Yes. Following a self-evaluation process in April 2012, nine college districts submitted letters of interest to the ctcLink Project Team explaining their college’s readiness and commitment in piloting the new system. Tacoma Community College and the Community Colleges of Spokane were chosen as pilots, which we are calling FirstLink college districts.

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When will we have an implementation schedule for all colleges?

We won’t have a detailed schedule until Ciber has had time to work with the ctcLink project team and our system to determine the most logical, efficient implementation plan. Our pre-implementation partner, Gartner Consulting, has recommended implementing in waves, with up to 8 colleges per wave as a possible approach; however, the Ciber team will bring their experience and ideas to the approach, which will influence the ultimate planning around deployment. See the current ctcLink project timeline.

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What if our college wants to go first or last?

Many college leaders have already indicated their preference to go earlier or later within the implementation cycle. Those discussions and decisions will become more concrete once a timeline and number of colleges per wave have been defined, and whether implementation by region is recommended.

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Can you explain more about the implementation plan?

Following Global Solution (see above), the two FirstLink (pilot) districts will be implemented and go live first.  The Wave 1 college districts will begin initial planning and readiness work during the FirsLink pilot phase. Gartner Consulting recommended an approach of 8 colleges per wave, with a new wave starting approximately every 6 months; however this is dependent upon the collaborative decision made by Ciber and the ctcLink project team.  The Ciber team will bring their experience with previous implementations like ours and make recommendations on deployment cycles that have been successful for them in the past.  We will make a determination once the vendor has had time to develop our configuration design and provide a best case recommendation.

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That means some colleges will be on the new system, while others are still on the old system. How will that work?

The detailed implementation plan will address this challenge.  There will be temporary system interfaces developed to support system-wide functions, such as some regulatory reporting and payroll processing.

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We aren't one of the pilot colleges. Should we be doing anything yet to prepare?

In preparation for ctcLink, each college appointed a ctcLink College Team to lead the ctcLink effort on their campus, with assistance from the ctcLink Project Team. Colleges have also identified subject matter experts (SMEs) for specific areas (e.g., financial aid, data/reporting, HR/payroll, student academic, finance).

Project activities that involve college teams and SMEs have begun, for example, the process of gathering documentation and materials associated with existing business processes. Also, a readiness assessment survey was piloted at the FirstLink colleges and will be available to other colleges in the near future. Survey outcomes include an Organizational Change Management plan tailored to each college, with specific recommendations about communications methods and project engagement activities.

Finally, if you haven’t signed up to receive the ctcLinkCONNECT news by email, do that if you’d like weekly tidbits about ctcLink: ctcLink.wordpress.com.

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Specifics of the New System

Will colleges be able to customize the new system to fit individual business needs?

The goal of the ctcLink project is to standardize business processes across the colleges with the least amount of customization and college-unique configuration as possible. Customization will be considered only as mandated by statutory requirement or a business case that benefits the system as a whole.

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Will we appear as one, centralized system or as individual colleges?

Both. There will be a centralized access point into the system and there will be college access pages/points into the system. Colleges will retain their individual identities. While there will be standardization necessary for centralized functionality, ERP systems are designed for accommodating the needs of federations such as ours and have local configuration options built in.  For example, individual college look and feel can be accommodated through configuration.

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Will there be one, system-wide transcript for students?

No. Since each college is individually accredited, we cannot provide a single “official” transcript for all colleges in the system.  However, we will be able to provide access to a single ‘student record’ that will display coursework completed at all colleges within our system as well as biographic data for the student.  This functionality will be made possible with the adoption of a single student ID for a student to use at any of the colleges in our system. 

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Will there also be a single, common employee ID for employees?

Yes. This will facilitate the ability to share employee data across colleges as needed; for example, to assist with benefits eligibility and benefits coordination.

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Will we see automation of workflow notifications as part of this project?

There will be a ‘work center’ which includes the ability to configure automated workflows with notices that will show up in the employee or student workspace. 

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Will there be guidance on global standards, such as formal business rules, business processes and workflows?

Yes. We will be developing data standards as part of data migration planning and implementation. There will also be system-based business processes and workflows.

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Funding

How much will it cost?

ctcLink is estimated to cost up to $100 million (about $3 million per college) and take about five years to implement.  Ongoing maintenance of the ERP solution is estimated to cost approximately $6 million per year.

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How will it be funded?

The 2011 Legislature established the CTC Innovation Account, funded by up to three percent of tuition. For academic year 2011-12, the State Board authorized collecting 2% of tuition from colleges to put in the account. This was increased to 3% beginning with academic year 2012-13. (This funding mechanism is very similar to the system’s current building fee, operating fee and the 3.5% set-aside for the financial assistance fund).  The SBCTC sought and received authority during the 2012 Legislative session to sell up to $50 million in Certificates of Participation for financing over the life of the project, to be repaid from the Innovation Account.

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Page Manager: jrunyon@sbctc.edu
Page Reviewed/Updated: March 01, 2013, 9:32 AM

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