The primary mission of Northcentral Technical College is to provide high-quality, learner- and employer-focused educational pathways committed to enriching lives and strengthening the economy.
The College has six convenient campus locations in Wausau, Antigo, Medford, Phillips, Spencer, and Wittenberg, as well as a Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill, a Wood Technology Center of Excellence in Antigo and an Agriculture Center of Excellence, that also includes a Transportation Center, just north of the Wausau Campus in the Village of Maine.
River Run supported Northcentral Technical College by evaluating current technologies being used and by poising them for future technologies needed, letting them experience IT at its best.
River Run Technology Evaluation Services help identify Systems and Processes needed for better Customer Service, Project Management and Staffing
Northcentral Technical College (NTC) was looking for a technical consulting team to help them address key elements in the areas of Customer Service, Project Management, and Staffing, as well as in other general elements. The decision to hire River Run for their Technology Evaluation Services was made by their Finance, HR and IT department leadership. “Our main goal was to get a thorough evaluation of the technologies we were currently using and poise ourselves for future technologies needed,” said Roxanne Lutgen, Vice President of Finance and General Counsel. "We wanted River Run to evaluate us against industry standards and benchmarks so that we could understand where we were and where we needed to be,” she added.
Some of the challenges faced by NTC included project backlogs in certain IT areas, delivering a high level of Customer Service for staff and students, and assuring the appropriate skill set for current and future technologies. “We wanted to identify the best ERP technology for Customer Service, Project Management and Staffing,” stated Chet Strebe, Associate Vice President of Information Technology/Chief Information Officer.
River Run’s Executive Summary Report suggested meeting with and gathering information from faculty members and staff throughout the campus over several days. “I liked the fact that they met with individuals from different departments, in groups and as individuals,” says Lutgen. “They asked the same questions and garnered feedback from around the college. Our main concern was replacing one of our core systems due to a discontinuance of enhancement services. This was the heart of our Student, HR and Finance System,” she added.
Customer Service Alignment and Improvements
After interviewing customers, River Run proposed aligning the Mission of IT with the Overall Organizational Mission of NTC to further the goals of the College. River Run also suggested each department create their own Values Statement to reflect the ideals that the department seeks to live up to in the fulfillment of its mission statement.
Customer Service recommendations included Time Tracking, Service Level Agreements, Reporting and Service Thresholds, Standardized Service Processes and Department Metrics.
Project Management Office Reduces Project Backlog
Using industry benchmarks, River Run helped NTC develop guidelines for Best Practices, including an optimal IT organizational structure and procedural improvements for recruiting IT positions. River Run reinforced some of the initial thoughts NTC had regarding staffing needs. Project Management capabilities were enhanced, resulting in a reduction of project backload. “We are streamlining our IT Projects, adding resources, and creating a Project Management Office,” says Strebe. “After helping identify staffing needs, River Run also provided market rates for those positions to help in our planning,” states Lutgen.
Staffing Structure, Recruiting and Other Needs Identified
River Run helped NTC identify roles and job descriptions to differentiate between directors and managers, and administrators and engineers. “This advice really helped us when we hired new staff,” says Lutgen. NTC modified some job descriptions and made sure that the positions were focused on the items they needed. “For example, we wanted to make sure our network engineers are focused on network engineering, and no other IT tasks,” says Strebe. “We realized that some positions need to be specialized instead of jack-of-all-trades positions.” he adds.
Recruitment is difficult because NTC is competing with competitors and non-competitors for the same resources. “The thing that makes it really tough is that Wisconsin is in a period of record low unemployment, so it is difficult to find the skill levels and the resources we need,” states Lutgen.
Executive Summary Report acts as a Blueprint
The Executive Summary Report helped NTC implement selected River Run recommended changes. NTC believes the evaluation process will improve customer service levels and have a positive impact in the long run. “I think we understood their recommendations, discussed them thoroughly with all levels of our organization, including our Executive Leadership, and we effectively and efficiently utilized the information to make desired changes,” states Lutgen.
Budget constraints are always a factor in the educational services industry, and specifically within the Wisconsin Technical College System. “We are a public institution, taxpayer funded, so operational and capital expenditures are limited,” says Lutgen. “If we could just replace our ERP system with anything, we wouldn’t need to have such a serious discussion. Obviously, whatever system we choose, and how we staff up to get ready for that replacement, that choice must fit within our budget,” she adds.
User Interviews will track Customer Satisfaction
NTC continuously interviews its users through various tools, and believes that communication channels have improved. The IT Department communicates project lifecycle and status information through various modalities. “Project communication is the main reason we created the Project Management Office and our ultimate goal is to increase the satisfaction of customers through improved project communication,” says Lutgen.
Improved Performance Promises a Strong Future
NTC appreciated River Run’s flexibility working with the team on Scope, Agenda, Meeting Dates and discussions with Staff and Student teams. The improved performance promises a strong future for NTC. “River Run accomplished their work quickly, produced the Executive Summary promptly after their on-site visit, and met with the top leaders in a timely fashion. I was very satisfied with the engagement performance and the work product produced.” ends Strebe.