IT Lays Plans To Improve Information Architecture

“We believe it’s going to be hard and long,” said President Tom Gerety, who spoke first. “We hope this will open up a lot of possibilities for us in the Amherst community.”

The project, which will be implemented by Datatel Technology, is to unify the College’s data systems so that information can be shared across administrative departments.

“This really isn’t about, ‘Can we enter prospective application into the system 25 percent faster?'” said Director of IT Phil Fitz. “It’s about the things that we may do in the future as much as it is about what we do now.”

Fitz cited four goals that he hoped the project would help the College achieve: direct access to information, improving services, flexibility and improved research and development.

“We really, in our current system model, don’t provide much direct access to information,” said Fitz, who added that the system would allow individuals in different departments to find information electronically that previously needed to be printed out.

Fitz added that, in general, the new system would “improve services to the whole community.”

He also said that offices would now have more flexibility to make modifications to the way they store and input data. “It becomes possible to move and make changes,” he said.

Finally, Fitz said that with the system, Amherst was essentially buying into Datatel’s research and development team. “We can’t hire enough people to do that type of research in-house,” he said.

Sandy Miner, who is the project manager, discussed the “phased implementation” schedule that the school would be facing.

Miner explained that the three-year schedule would move rapidly, citing the fact that some departments, including finance and advancement, would be online with the new system in July 2001. “This is a fairly aggressive schedule,” she said.

The “student systems,” which include the offices of admission, the dean of students, financial aid and residential life, would begin a sequential implementation in 2002.

“It’s been lots of work and it will be lots of work still,” said Gerety. “This will help us in our relationships with one another.”

“It’s going to open up a lot of possibilities,” said Fitz.

Miner said that it would take a while to train employees. “They’re not going to be good at [using the system] to begin with.”

Fitz could not be reached for comment about the cost of the new system.