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Three Project Teams Earn FY21 Q2 Project Team Excellence Award

Posted Date: 9 Nov 2021

Effective Date: 9 Nov 2021

Recently, three different projects qualified to win the Northwestern IT FY21 Q2 Project Team Excellence Award (PTEA). The quarterly award recognizes teams that have executed a successful and significant project based on various criteria. While typically, one project receives the award each quarter, three different projects met the criteria, and each core project team was recognized at the recent Extended Staff Meeting.

Zoom Implementation

In March 2020, the Northwestern community transitioned operations to Zoom—a critical move as everything shifted to remote for the pandemic. Since March 2020, Zoom has become an integral part of the student, faculty, and staff experience. The project team that implemented Zoom received exceptional scores from the awards committee, which unanimously recommended to award them with the PTEA.

The committee cited the incorporation of many different voices in the project as a reason for scoring the team highly on collaboration. Additionally, the team joined forces with other groups across campus and within Northwestern IT.

Notably, the team received a perfect score in the University Impact category, exhibiting excellent project management methods that supported the entire Northwestern community in the transition to remote teaching, learning, and working. The transition to a new web conferencing platform proved successful, providing initial cost savings to the University and facilitating a connection between students, faculty, and staff during a time of significant adjustment.

"The folks who normally support classroom technology quickly pivoted and became Zoom experts overnight,” said Ken Panko, director of Media and Technology Innovation at Northwestern IT. “This was really, really collaborative."

Congratulations to the core project team members: Deirdre Lee (project manager), Mike Curtis, Mike Dice, Zoran Ilic, Jake Collins, Anna Luce, Jonathan Diehl, Rachel Goc, Reggie Jackson, Chris Puente, Javier Huerta, Mylowe Wooley, Josephine Anderson, Natalie Gillespie, Robert Zilligen, Christine Ganjani, Blake Wehlage, Lester Greenman, and Joseph Kline.

Advising System Replacement

Undergraduate advising is utilized by scores of Northwestern students and faculty each day, and this project provided an opportunity to evaluate the existing system and consider potential improvements. In the end, the project team replaced the University’s legacy advising system, Inspire, with a new product, ConnectNU.

The committee noted the team’s focus on customers in its approach—the team selected a new vendor that had all the features of the previous platform but incorporated additional services that benefited students and advisors throughout the integration process. This made for a seamless transition from the old system to the new, ultimately meeting the campus community's needs.

The team’s original project management strategy was a significant success—so much so that the team will use this strategy in other projects in the future.

After completing the new system implementation in November 2020, 15,000 advising appointments had been made by the end of FY21, according to Allison Porterfield, director of Enterprise Systems Human Resources and Student at Northwestern IT.

“In addition to having a successful implementation of ConnectNU, this project has already been used as an example of best practices in the way that they worked with implementing a cloud-based enterprise solution,” Porterfield said.

Congratulations to the project team members: Elizabeth Summers (project manager), Phil Tracy, Serena Christian, Samatha Bodanapu, Swathika Ganesan, Lucy He, April Zhang, Heather Barnes, Jeff Wilson, Terry Collins, Ron Blitz, John Llanes, Ken Turner, Meerim Musabaeva, Charlotte Stowe, John Taflan, Nicholas Tonozzi, David Zohfeld, and Lee West.

WebSSO Upgrade

WebSSO is a critical step to accessing University services for the Northwestern community. According to the project team, WebSSO authentication sees hundreds of thousands to millions of logins per month. This project upgraded WebSSO from an unsupported version, a major step in improving security for the thousands of users who utilize WebSSO authentication each day.

The project team implemented application programming interface-based solutions to ensure a smooth transition, giving clients less responsibility to support or update custom codes. The project’s results have proven successful and flexible—more than 200 implementations across the University have utilized the new WebSSO. And, WebSSO administrators can now track and catalog more implementations across Northwestern.

The committee unanimously agreed that the project should receive the PTEA award, citing exceptional communication about customer changes and understanding customer needs. The project received high scores in the University Impact category due to these efforts. Additionally, it was executed with consistent stakeholder communication and solid project management, giving it high marks in Team Collaboration.

"It's such a critical piece of infrastructure that we all depend on so much,” said Sean Reynolds, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Northwestern.

Congratulations to the project team members: Perla Ledesma (project manager), Myndi Brown, Phil Tracy, Sudhir Kalapala, Brent Billows, Jason Miller, John Llanes, Darryl Baker, James Neal, Dan Landerman, Matt Cantrell, Terry Collins, Wil Tumbaga, Ron Blitz, Ryan Kelly, Chris Hart, Ke Gong, Ken Turner, Jean Policape, Christine Ganjani, Blake Wehlage, and Tyler Maclean.

As a quarterly winner, each team is now available for the Annual Project Team Excellence Award. To learn more about the Project Team Excellence Award, including nominating a project team, visit the Inside IT Staff Recognition page.

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