ISA Client Projects Hit Close to Home

April 2013

In a unique role reversal, students in this semester's ISA 406 IT Project Management course are helping clients from within the University and sharpening their skills in the process.

Under the guidance of ISA professors Skip Benamati and Doug Havelka, and with the supervision and support of Farmer School's web applications developer, David Jones, the student consultants are pulling together disparate survey data and building centralized databases and sustainable collection methods. The clients for these projects are the Farmer School and Miami's Department of Housing, Dining, Recreation and Business Services (HDRBS).

The Farmer School client project team is working to improve the data collected through the FSB Senior Survey and the FSB Alumni Six Month Survey, as well as building an application to allow alumni to provide and maintain information. The information will be centralized and aggregated from year to year to provide a basis for analytics.

"The goal is to take the project to the point where the data is centralized. We have some sanity around how new data is collected, and we have the ability to run analytics long-term," said Benamati.

John Kearney, a senior ISA student on the FSB team, feels a personal connection to his project: "I am excited to be working on a project for my own school regarding a subject that is very relevant to my classmates and me as we prepare to take these surveys and graduate. In a way we will be able to leave our own legacy by providing this system for the Farmer School to use. I feel like a stakeholder in the project's results."

Another senior ISA student on the FSB project, Jackie Paplaczyk, was also struck by the value of the data: "It is a unique opportunity to be able to work on a project that will directly impact me now and in the long run. As seniors we can't forget that although we are on our way out, it's this information that helps determine the value of our degree. Three years from now when we are looking for a new job or applying for graduate school, and this data that will determine rankings that will still apply to us. I know it will be rewarding to look back and know I played a key role in this process."

The other ISA 406 project management team is assisting Miami University HDRBS improve and centralize feedback provided by dining services' customers in dining facilities across the campus. Eric Yung, Executive Chef, Student Dining, hopes the final system will allow food services to better understand student needs. "Currently, the department has a program in place to survey and collect student responses but I believe that this new tool gives us the ability to uncover emerging trends and needs with our student population. This would allow us to align our offerings most closely with the needs of our student population. It also helps us to drill down into categories. An indication for more ethnic food can be narrowed into continents, countries or regions with this tool."

As with the FSB project management assignment, students have an advantage in knowing some of the ins and outs of the current system: "Everyone on the team has experienced dining services and received a survey from them at some point," said Jeremy Williams, senior ISA student. "It has certainly made a difference on our project. That gives us quite a bit of creativity and insight into how to effectively develop a new system for the university."

Senior ISA student Sunita Yousuf agreed: "Being a student has definitely helped us to understand more about the survey system. We have much more information about how the current system works and we have also been able to identify the scopes and risks which I think would be a little difficult to find out if we were not a part of the project."

Both project teams are using Qualtrics, an online survey system, to create standardized and customizable surveys. They're also centralizing the data collected to make it available for data- driven decision-making going forward.