M-Pathways Project (University of Michigan) Records

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M-Pathways Project (University of Michigan) Records

The materials in this Deep Blue collection form part of a larger record group held at the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index of content related to the M-Pathways Project, please consult the following online finding aids:

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Formed in 1996, the M-Pathways Project was charged with the design and implementation of new administrative information systems for the University of Michigan. Until this point, administrative business transactions were performed using the Michigan Terminal System (MTS). The University was a Beta partner for the development of the PeopleSoft Student Administrative System. The materials in this online repository include archived versions of the M-Pathways Project Website from 2000 and 2006, each of which include information on the system and guidelines for its use by university units.

Formed in 1996, the M-Pathways Project was charged with the design and implementation of new administrative information systems for the University of Michigan. Until this point, administrative business transactions were performed using the Michigan Terminal System (MTS), an innovative mainframe operating system put in place in the late 1960s.1 MTS served the university until the mid-1980s, when significant advances in technology made the operating system inefficient. Technology changes during this period of time included the developments of the personal desktop computer, a systems platform to support client/server architecture, development of a network infrastructure through the design of the Wide Area and Local Area Information Services, and lastly, the graphical user interface.

The origins of M-Pathways began in October 1993 when the Executive Computing Committee (ECC) charged the Strategic Data Planning (SDP) team with developing a comprehensive strategy for the integration of the university's administrative data systems. An objective of the strategy was to streamline business processes across organizational boundaries. The SDP team was led by John Gohsman of the Information Technology Division (ITD). In developing the strategic plan, the team actively solicited input through focus group interviews from over 350 administrative users in central administrative units and in schools and colleges. The entire process focused on defining institutional goals, formulating an institution-wide conceptual data and process model, integrating and analyzing processes and data resources, and creating and maintaining a strategic plan for process innovation, quality improvement, and systems development projects. The final SDP report, published in March 1995, resulted in identifying over fifty-five data and process projects as well as twelve projects focused on technical infrastructure improvements.

Goals of the SDP process included enhancing services to students from recruitment through alumni contact, providing accessible and shared data, supporting decentralized decision-making, and providing comprehensive data to support analysis of institutional needs. SDP projects were categorized into Data Infrastructure, Technology Infrastructure, Process Innovation, Quality Improvement, Systems Development, and Data Access projects. Underlying the recommendations resulting from the SDP process was the viewpoint that the university should integrate its databases to facilitate sharing data across organizational boundaries.

In January 1996, the university signed a $3.5 million contract with PeopleSoft, Inc. to provide the university with software to redesign the financial, human resources, and student information systems. PeopleSoft, established in 1987, was at this time a market leader for client/server technologies for enterprise-wide human resources information management systems. PeopleSoft was interested in developing software solutions for the higher education market. Contract negotiations with the university included the Student Administration sub-project of M-Pathways as a Beta Partner in the design of PeopleSoft's Student Administration Information System. Other Beta partners included Cornell University, James Madison University, Southern Methodist University, Houston Community College, Northern Arizona University, and California State University at Los Angeles.

It was estimated that the three administrative systems would be in place before the year 2000. The target year of 2000 was important since there was concern that systems dependent on date routines for processing would fail after December 1999. Following the decision to partner with PeopleSoft, team leaders worked to move from the conceptual plan to a working project by defining the scope and organizational structure for the project. It was in the months following the contract signing that the project formulated its identity by adopting a name and slogan, M-Pathways: Connecting people and information , drafting a project charter, and defining the project management and organizational structure. The management structure was designed to consist of two groups: the Process Management Lead Team (PMLT) and the Core Process Management Team (CPMT). The PMLT acted as the project steering committee. The PMLT was charged with overseeing, delegating, and monitoring all activities, including funding, to the CPMT. The PMLT charge included determining funding sources, facilitating the timely acquisition of resources, approving details of the PeopleSoft contract, facilitating organizational restructuring to support redefined business processes, reviewing policies related to data access and privacy, and providing project schedule guidance to the CPMT. The CPMT was responsible for directing the project implementation. This included developing the project structure, planning and administering the project budget, and planning and managing project communications, as well as training for project team and end users including documentation, consulting, and hot-line support. The next level in the structure consisted of the PeopleSoft Project Implementation Team (PS PIT). This team was responsible for process innovation and all activities related to the implementation of the hardware and software. The organizational structure was complete in September 1996 when Laura Patterson, University Registrar, was appointed Project Manager. At about the same time, a centralized working "space" was secured in the Administrative Services Building to manage project activities.

Project teams formed for each of the sub-projects drew much of their personnel from the university's administrative offices. Persons appointed to a Co-Development role had a 50% appointment to the project and 100% appointment time was expected of persons selected to work on the implementation teams. Persons with technical expertise were selected from the Information Technology Division (ITD). The project itself was divided into five "sub-projects": Financial, Human Resources, Physical Resources, Research Administration, and Student Administration. Each sub-project was designed to have both a functional and a technical project manager. It was the responsibility of the sub-managers within each sub-project to implement the software within their system area, assign resources, manage the budget for the sub-project, determine the need for consulting, and to direct the development of integrated end-user training across the project. Functional managers were drawn from the administrative business offices and technical leads were largely drawn from ITD. As the project geared up Anderson Consulting, Inc. supplied additional resources. Anderson Consulting provided the overall project methodology, technical support, and staff support in the area of "change management."

In addition to the functional and technical components of the organization, the project structure incorporated an integrated communications effort. Communication to administrative users was viewed as a top priority as the implementation of the systems involved rethinking how current business processes could be improved rather than just automating existing processes. To facilitate the transition from the current to the future way of doing business, Gretchen Weir was appointed communications coordinator for the project. Communication efforts included targeted electronic mail communications, faculty and staff "Interchange" sessions, a comprehensive project website, and regularly published articles in theUniversity Record . In addition, to further facilitate the change process, an unit liaison program was formed. The program included one representative from each unit that would be affected by the PeopleSoft systems. Unit Liaisons received regular communications from the Unit Liaison Coordinator, Jan Eckert, and were asked to attend Unit Liaison meetings, workshops, and focus groups for each of the sub-projects. Unit Liaisons were charged with communicating the information they gathered about changes in process, policy, and procedures back to the appropriate persons in their respective units. While the project had personnel in place with responsibility for communications to the end-users, the Change Management aspect of the project was represented both horizontally and vertically in the structure of the project organization. Change Management efforts included assistance in developing training guides, teaching courses, facilitating focus groups, communicating project developments including policy and procedural changes to end users, and end-user support services.

While the Human Resources System was originally earmarked to be the first system in operation, it was the Asset Management module of the Physical Resources System (PRS), headed by Mike Easter, that was first to roll out to the university in the fall of 1996. The Financial Resources System followed the roll-out of the PRS on July 1, 1998. While it was hoped that PeopleSoft would develop tools to support Research Administration, it was decided in August 1999 that the Research Administration sub-project would resume systems development within the university's Division of Research Development and Administration (DRDA).

As the first phase towards seamlessly servicing students from recruitment through admission and graduation, the Recruiting and Admissions module was the first module of the Student Administration system to roll out in 1998. All other student modules except for Degree Audit were put in operation in July 2000. Starting with the fall 2000 term, students registered for classes on-line through a specially designed interface called Wolverine Access. The "new" Wolverine Access was an extension of the Wolverine Access system developed in 1994. Initially, Wolverine Access functionality provided students on-line access to term grades, to the unofficial transcript, and to personal address information. The M-Pathways project further enhanced a student's view of student related data to include all components of the registration process, views of the current time schedule, account information, and a view of the university's course catalog data. At the time this history was written, the last PeopleSoft system to be implemented, Human Resources, was scheduled to be in operation on July 1, 2001.

In 1999, project management began efforts to address what was referred to as "Life After M-Pathways." It was realized that once the systems were in operation the project needed to move from project status to an organization designed to enhance, service, and maintain the systems. The first step towards moving the project from project to organization was the development of a Core Process Unit (CPU) for each of the sub-projects. The organizational structure of the CPU would mirror the project organization. Each CPU would have functional, technical, and communications support personnel. For the next phase of envisioning the type of organization needed to support the systems and changed processes across the university, an external consultant with expertise in organizational structure was utilized. The change in organizational structure would include personnel from the project, the Information Technology Systems, and the Data Administration Systems Center. To facilitate the change to the new organization, project management led numerous sessions with project personnel affected by the change both as a means to conceptualize and to facilitate the change. Comments on possible organizational models were solicited throughout the process. The end result was the formation of a wholly new organization, the Michigan Administrative Information Services (MAIS). MAIS officially began operation on July 1, 2000. The organization is comprised of five units: Financial/Physical Resources, Student Administration, Application Services, Technical Infrastructure Operations, and User Services. Laura Patterson was named Vice President for Administrative Systems effective September 22, 2000. MAIS later became part of Information and Technology Services (ITS) as part of the campus-wide IT rationalization project initiated in 2010.

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Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan

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