Walk by the desk of Nicole Jeffers at the wrong time and you just might get a Tom Brady-like stare down. It’s nothing personal, of course. Just the gaze of someone with no time to waste. Nicole, a 12-year University of Florida Information Technology veteran, alumna and diehard New England Patriots fan, heads COMPASS’ Technical Team.
James Martinez, COMPASS Reporting Team lead, database specialist, and every bit of 6’5”, must then be the project’s Rob Gronkowski – albeit a much smarter one.
Together, Nicole and James quarterback the effort of two foundational project pillars: applications, i.e., the software behind UF’s computer systems, including the Student Information System (SIS), and data, or the information that feeds the applications.
These efforts are paramount to the project’s vision of upgrading applications across campus, and ensuring they’re connected to secure, accurate and real-time data.
Turning a vision into reality also plays into Nicole’s role. Her team of four UF developers and 10 Sierra Cedar consultants, which she co-leads with Sierra Cedar consultant Bill Dillingham, takes the needs and wants of the COMPASS Functional Team and makes those a reality within the systems best designed for those jobs.
“That’s the kind of design that the Technical Team is focusing on: how technically we’re going to solve their functional problems or needs,” Nicole said.
Her developmental work focuses more on modifying and enhancing UF’s existing computer system applications, like myUFL, more so than the relatively few “built-from-the-ground-up” university applications. COMPASS technical experts are working toward a truly “connected campus” by upgrading these adaptable modern systems. The upgrades also provide the UF community with interfaces that are user friendly and modern in performance and appearance.
“Now everything we’re doing is web-based and online for the staff who won’t be interacting with ONE.UF but within the Student Information System,” Nicole said. “Users are going to find easier-to-use interfaces and better availability today.”
Along with application development, data management, including security and performance, is also on the mind of James Martinez’s Reporting/Warehouse Team.
James, a Tampa native and UF alum, has been working in UFIT since 2009. His specialty and team, database administration, means that they host and manage data from over 150 databases storing over 75 terabytes of data with high availability configurations. He’s also involved in database performance tuning and data architecture.
“I really do enjoy database administration. It’s a very interesting position because you’re involved in everything. I don’t know how to build directly in PeopleSoft [the software behind UF’s SIS], but I have enough exposure because of database administration that I can interpret how PeopleSoft interacts with the database. It’s involved me in lots of applications and different areas and has a wide variety of options,” James said.
As the COMPASS Reporting/Warehouse Team lead, James facilitates the data replication and transformation between heterogeneous systems for reporting and system integrations. He says he is seeing “huge internal performance upgrades” because of COMPASS.
“Things like ‘too much load’ or ‘excessive activity,’ from a system-performance perspective - these are huge constraints that we fight today. And things then have to be bottlenecked or performance has to be degraded. But in the future, that’s going to be near-nonexistent from the way the new infrastructure is configured. We’re going to have so much additional capacity and scalability to handle database and system load.”
He also says the new SIS will improve the university’s data integrity.
“Another benefit of the new system will be that we’re getting some level of assurance of data integrity with the student data. We’re going to go through a conversion phase, but going forward data consumers should be able to accurately and consistently reflect what the data looks like rather than looking in multiple locations or looking at difference references. It should be easier to find out what the data actually looks like.”
More secure and accurate data, combined with better system performance, Nicole says, means staff and faculty should see some job functions get easier, like producing Board of Governors (BOG) reports.
“UF is required to produce BOG files, and I suspect some of the work that the staff does today to get those files in order will take much less time. The data should be more accurate and presented in a more standardized way for individuals to consume. And we expect that the data staff will have to clean will continue to be less and less.”
After completion of the COMPASS SIS implementation, both Nicole and James expect to return to their regular UFIT duties. That will include the development and deployment of any outstanding technical features – known as “parking lot” items - not yet addressed via COMPASS. It will also include some game planning for future professional development.
For James, that means continuing to work with cutting-edge database, and replication and transformation tools, and helping the university to move toward cloud-level integration technology.
Nicole, too, says she aspires to learn new tools and software being deployed by UF, like Salesforce, Slate, DataStage and others.
She says she’s also looking forward to a repeat Super Bowl victory.