Three tips for a successful cloud implementation
Barton Community College shares key learnings from their cloud migration
- Do the homework to determine the value of moving to the cloud for your institution
- Dedicate time to regularly meet with stakeholders and track and resolve issues
- Test your reporting and make sure those reports point to your cloud database
Located in the middle of Kansas, Barton Community College began its cloud migration in the spring of 2019. After just 10 months, they were ready to complete the move but then the coronavirus pandemic threatened to derail the project. Instead of postponing, they proceeded with their go live date and experienced a smooth migration on March 23, 2020. Here Michelle Kaiser, Barton’s chief information officer, shares three tips from their cloud implementation.
1. Do your research and homework
Barton Community College began its move to the cloud several years ago, first by moving just their websites. Before moving 55 on-prem servers to the cloud, however, Kaiser did thorough research. This included completing worksheets that helped her determine if the move was right for Barton.
“I took about three years to research moving to the cloud,” Kaiser explained. “The team at Ellucian had me do a lot of homework sheets—a stack of Excel worksheets—it made me realize there was no other choice, really.
Doing those worksheets, I was able put hard figures to what it actually costs a year per server. Then I took that number and multiplied it by our 55 servers and figured that we were looking at $250,000/year in operations just to manage. That includes securing, hardening, patching, updating—my people doing physical contact on those servers to keep everything up to speed and up to code to prevent exposure or cyber risks.
I would really push you to do those worksheets to realize the value of it. You need to own this, so you need to do your footwork. You need to dig in, and you need to understand and appreciate the value that there is in it going forward. Unless you do this homework, you're not going to truly understand the value you're getting out of this.”
2. Meet regularly and track progress
For Kaiser and her team, the key to a smooth cloud migration was regular, dedicated meetings and clear communication between key stakeholders and the technical team. Their project manager tracked the issues that came up and the weekly meetings provided the team with the opportunity to review and resolve those issues on a regular cadence.
Kaiser shared Barton’s timeline and process. “As soon as we were approved last March, we started the paperwork rolling, and kick-offed on June first. We scheduled weekly meetings for the core group and dedicated every Wednesday to Ellucian Cloud. It was called E-Cloud Day, and we didn't allow anything else to be scheduled during that time. We had our training room reserved for the core group to meet with the technical staff, and we would push through some of the testing.
Our project manager tracked all of our connectivity, integrations, and any issues on a spreadsheet. We all could see that spreadsheet, see the resolves or further issues, and we could knock things out between our team and the Ellucian Cloud team pretty quickly. I really liked the method. It was pretty coordinated and organized.”
3. Review and relink your reporting
One of the lessons that Kaiser learned from the cloud migration process was the need to review all reports to make sure they linked to the cloud database. The error turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave the team the opportunity to reevaluate how they were using reports and to get more training so they could better utilize their ERP.
“We knew we had a lot of Microsoft Access reports out there, but it wasn’t until we went live that we discovered we didn’t relink the tables to point at the cloud database,” Kaiser shared. “So, when we went live, we had all these reports that didn't work at all. It took us a few days to figure it out. If it was simple queries, it worked, and I would have never noticed the lag or ever received any errors.
During this period, we’ve had fewer students on campus (because of closures for the coronavirus pandemic) and we’ve had less demand for reporting. It's giving us time to rework some of those reports. In hindsight, it’s a good thing because it allows us to clean up and bring back in more training.
I would say my advice for the next person is to sit down with your user, and if you're doing any Access reporting or any kind of reporting at all, make sure you're testing it and pointing it to your cloud database.”