SIS Co-Chair Tammy Aagard leads UF toward a ‘connected campus’

University of Florida’s COMPASS (Campus-wide Modernization Project to Advance Student Services) SIS Co-Chair and Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Tammy Aagard is no stranger to student information systems (SIS) implementations.  At the University of Wyoming, Tammy oversaw an implementation designed to support more than 1,000 on-campus users and 15,000-plus student, faculty and staff users. 

Having experienced the growth and innovation fostered by Wyoming’s SIS project, Tammy now leads COMPASS toward its initial implementation date, August 7th, with an expectation of further growth and opportunity here at the University of Florida.

Along with Associate Chief Information Officer and COMPASS Technical Architect Dave Gruber, Tammy has co-led the project since 2015.  Her role is to guide the configuration of the project’s technical solution.  In other words, she is working with staff to translate UF’s business needs into the technology that supports and accomplishes those needs. 

Together, Tammy and Dave’s work defines the project’s work scope, develops and refines its goals, and ensures that project plans and outcomes align with UF’s strategic goals and initiatives.

One of the exciting things about a project with the size and impact of COMPASS, Tammy says, is the shaping of UF’s business practices through enhanced technological capacity and innovation. When design of the project’s scope began in 2015, she, along with project leadership, determined three overarching principles that would provide a framework and guidance for the project:

  • Connected Campus
  • Free the Data
  • User Experience

The first piece, “Connected Campus,” concerns integrating technologies campus-wide so that faculty and staff across campus can access the same comprehensive data, not just their own or a unit’s own piece of it.

“Across campus, we tend to see data in very narrow silos, and when we’re looking to see a full view of what a student has done here at UF, we have to go to various places to pull that all together,” Tammy said. “One of the things that Connected Campus means to me is being able to bridge across colleges and business units so that individuals can have a full view of the student, of their courses, their interactions with UF, of all of these important pieces.”

“Free the Data” refers not only to making data more available and easier to access by consumers, but also the standardization or, at least, indication of definitions of data to its users.  At UF, Tammy says, there has been a reliance on individuals receiving data loads and then running those themselves in a secondary system.  Having a clear sense of the identity of the data users are compiling is important so that they know exactly what information they’re looking at.

“When you’re trying to pull data together, you want to make sure that it is not only defined but consumable, so our goal is really to provide information in a way that busy people can consume it in order to make decisions,” Tammy said. “That’s where I think we’ve had a lot of growth, particularly at the individual college level, because deans need to make decisions… so by freeing the data we gain a more complete data set, strong definitions of what those data fields are and the ability to present it in a way that is consumable in order to make decisions.”

“User Experience” really intertwines the three overarching goals.  COMPASS strives to provide its systems’ users the best possible user experience: intuitive use and navigation, smartphone and mobile-device support, and reliable and accurate data.  In order to provide UF’s constituents an optimum user experience, Tammy says, be it by virtual self-service using ONE.UF or in person at the Computing Help Desk, those resources must have central “Connected Campus” and “Free the Data” components.

“With User Experience, we tend to focus a lot on the web presence, the ONE.UF piece.  But the User Experience is also the person walking up or calling on the phone, and us being able to have a full view of their interactions with the university, and them not having to tell us ‘well, I called the University of Florida’ already, because they don’t see us as different units,” Tammy said.  “User Experience is not just the self-service piece on the web, it really is how constituents interact with the university in any method: in person, on the phone or via the communications we’re sending out.”

Using these overarching goals to guide COMPASS will also ensure that UF’s resources, both human and fiscal, are being used wisely, Tammy says.

“We’re not only concerned with the user’s side, but also the resource side,” Tammy said. “Are we using our resources, both human and fiscal, and technology wisely?  Are we duplicating a lot of things that we shouldn’t be duplicating?  Are we investing in things that aren’t bearing any fruit?”

At the outset of the project, Tammy says, the installation and integration of a new SIS was the project component that had the highest “wow” factor, with immediate functionality and impact to users and UF constituents.

While the SIS’ capabilities and impact on its users is still a central component of the COMPASS implementation, Tammy says the future implications of a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system have opened her eyes to new and improved uses of “Free” data, a Connected Campus and an enhanced User Experience.  CRM software is designed to help professional entities maintain relationships with their constituents or customers, like UF and its students, faculty and staff, and also its prospects, applicants, alumni and donors.

In the higher education sphere, a CRM tracks “touchpoints” or interactions with these different constituent groups.  More touchpoints translates to more data about a UF constituent, which leads to more informed decisions surrounding how to best communicate and interact with any given constituent.

COMPASS’ first official go-live date or “release” comes August 7th, and Tammy says she is encouraged by the success of the project’s testing phase, thus far, and excited to show campus the new technologies aimed at a Connected Campus, an optimum User Experience and Free Data.

“With testing now underway and progressing steadily, I’m excited that campus will begin seeing some of the new COMPASS-implemented technologies in the near future,” Tammy said. “It’s going to take some time for these technologies to gel and optimize, but with our goals of ‘Connected Campus,’ ‘Free the Data,’ and ‘User Experience’ in mind, we’re going to be bringing innovation and optimization to a classroom or workroom near you.”

Learn more about COMPASS elements supporting “Connected Campus,” “Free the Data,” and “User Experience.”