Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems (ES) department is charged with installing and maintaining the administrative computing systems of the institution, this also includes numerous third party on premise and cloud-based applications. A suite of Banner applications as provided by the vendor Ellucian is the primary enterprise wide administrative system, also known as an ERP. There are often situations where a systems development process is utilized, such as acquiring a new application and its integration with the Banner ERP, maintaining currency for existing applications via software upgrades, and the occasional development of a custom application.
When a new application/system is required, ES follows a systems development life cycle (SDLC) methodology as outlined below. The more complex the application/system, the more closely these guidelines are followed. The general outline in process order, follows:
- Project planning, feasibility study: Establishes a high-level view of the intended project and determines its goals.
- Systems analysis, requirements definition: Refines project goals into defined functions and operation of the intended application.
- Systems design: Describes desired features and system functionality in detail, including screen shots, business rules, process diagrams, and other documentation.
- Implementation: The actual system acquired.
- Integration and testing: Brings the various applications together into a testing environment to check for functionality, errors, bugs, and interoperability.
- Acceptance, installation, deployment: The final stage of systems implementation, where the application is put into the production environment.
- Maintenance: Changes, application updates/enhancements, moves to a different computing infrastructure and more.
Processing Requests for Services
Lehigh’s ES department utilizes Footprints to initiate, document and monitor users’ requests for services. The Footprints system is set up to mirror the structure of the University’s departments. Product areas have been established for each of the Banner’s applications which include student, financial aid, human resources/payroll, finance, and development and alumni relations. Product areas are also available for the numerous ancillary applications that are integrated with Banner. Primarily, data stewards, data managers or assigned designates have the authority to make a service request utilizing the Footprints application. The Director, Assistant Director and Manager of ES monitor all requests. In addition, staff within ES see all requests that come under their purview. Correspondence applicable to each request is also handled through the Footprints system. In this way, all relevant information regarding requests for services is managed in a central location. When applicable, ES will add others to the request when support outside of ES is required.
Requests generally fall into three categories: product upgrades to existing vendor based applications, installation/integration of new ancillary applications, and problem analysis and resolution of any application supported by ES. For the first category, ES works with the applicable functional areas to ascertain the software upgrades to be installed and applicable timeframes for testing and production implementation. This process is similarly followed for the acquisition of ancillary applications. Problem analysis and resolution is an ongoing process, again primarily initiated by authorized users submitting a Footprints ticket.
If a Footprints request calls for the modification of an existing Banner program or an integration application maintained by ES, the original version of the code is maintained, and a copy of it is created which will be the starting point for requested changes. These modified applications are identified by a unique name and/or presence in a unique directory on the applicable server. As applicable, ES staff also document their changes within the code itself.
A complete copy of the production environment is available to ES staff members and functional users for comprehensive testing. These applications reside on separate test servers so as to have no impact on the production environment. Once a system modification or enhancement has demonstrated satisfactory results, it will be further tested by the initiator of the Footprints request. As appropriate, the system modification is migrated to the production environment by authorized ES staff members. It should be noted that as the Banner ERP applications continue to evolve, the need for application customizations continues to diminish.