Monday, April 14, 2014

We Know SPoF Exists. So What Do We Do About It?

Common Application is the college application processing system used by over 500 colleges and universities, including our Seaver Admissions Office at Pepperdine University. Throughout the last half of 2013, Common App appeared in many news channels because of the seemingly-endless systematic issues the organization faced after launching a new system without first thoroughly testing it. These systematic issues, unfortunately, gave our prospective undergraduate students and their parents much anxiety and frustration.

While Common App's problems were not caused by Pepperdine or any of the 500+ members, appearance-wise from the prospective students and their parents' point of view, Pepperdine's application processing system failed.

Needless to say, this is hardly the first impression we want to give to any of our prospective students and their parents.

On April 11, Inside Higher Ed published an article titled "Fixing the Common App."
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/11/common-application-releases-consultant-report-technical-problems.

The postmortem-like article touches on a topic that all CIOs have in their list of things that keep them up at night and a situation which all organizations dread the most ... "A Single Point of Failure."

When Common App was experiencing its systematic issues, there was no other way - except of course paper submission - for the prospective student to submit an application to Seaver College. There was no redundancy and there was not an Option B. Nothing.

Business continuity is essential for any organization wishing to stay in business. Common App's systematic issues can sadly happen again and this type of application processing system failure can also easily happen to other Pepperdine schools. As we implement Salesforce CRM across the University, we need to address this single point of failure and put into place an Option B. We need to do the same for any other single points of failure that we become aware of.

Note that single points of failure are not limited to technology. Single points of failure can also happen when it comes to people and processes. As +Juan Mena shared in his March 31 blog post titled "People, Process, and Technology" (http://engagingwavesblog.pepperdine.edu/2014/03/people-process-and-technology.html), these three components must work in great synergy to achieve optimal results. When only one person handles a particular function, that is a single point of failure. When there isn't an alternative way to perform a business function, that too is a single point of failure.

As we implement Salesforce CRM across Pepperdine, let's make sure we identify and diligently address each SPoF. Not addressing it is not an option and will prove to be costly down the road.

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