How are project decisions made?

Implementing a new student system is an exercise in decision-making. The Project LionPATH team has to make many decisions, ranging from establishing timelines for bringing the system online to configuring the software to changes in business processes. With so many decision to make, the process must be expeditious and clear. In addition, it is critical to document the basis for each decision and exactly what it entails.

Many of the decisions can be made by team members who are knowledgeable about the business of the offices they represent. Decisions around system configuration are detailed in documents that explain the setup for PeopleSoft Campus Solutions. Other decisions may touch University policy or broad topics that need to be reviewed by the Project LionPATH steering and executive committees. Many of the needed decisions pertain to long-standing issues that may be easier to resolve now, because of options that the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions software offers or simply because Project LionPATH focuses attention on addressing problematic business processes.

How does Project LionPATH track the need for decisions?

To help track the broad decisions that need to be made, the project team uses a Decision Log that resides on the LionPATH SharePoint workspace. Any team member can enter a request for a decision in the log. Each decision request is reviewed within the appropriate functional or technical area. Then the real work begins! A team member with appropriate subject matter expertise will initiate a “decision document” that must first define the problem to be addressed. The “problem” may be something apparently very simple: Campus codes are confusing because they don’t match the campus names. Or, the problem may be far more complex: Does the new system need to hold all noncredit as well as credit courses?

After articulating the problem, the next step is to provide background:

  • How did Penn State arrive at the practice or problem that Project LionPATH is trying to address?
  • Are there policies or external regulations that must be considered?
  • Who does this problem impact?
  • What data illustrate the situation the team is trying to address?

The project team then provides one or more options for addressing the problem. The decision document will include pros and cons for each option, along with the team’s recommended solution. While a document may originate within one functional area, before it is ready for a decision, it may be read and modified by many reviewers. The goal is to facilitate decision-making by presenting a full picture of the problem and clearly defined approaches to addressing it.

So, who makes the ultimate decision?

Some decisions may be made at the team level. Examples might include which technology the team uses to handle some technical need, or how we use Campus Solutions capabilities to address a business problem. However, decision requests will always go to the LionPATH steering committee when they involve policies, project timelines, budget, or issues that extend beyond the scope of the project. The steering committee may be able to come to a decision in a single session, or they may refer the issue to a LionPATH advisory committee, or to one of the existing University governance groups.

Ultimately, the steering committee will shepherd each decision request to resolution, deciding some within the steering committee, or moving them forward to the executive committee for final approval. The decision documents will reflect any changes made through the process, and will stand as documentation of the discussion around each issue.