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ITS Enterprise Applications team members have quickly adapted to support the University’s ever-changing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enterprise Applications is in one respect doing what it knows well — supporting campus entities’ requirements for information and analysis from ConnectCarolina, the University’s integrated administrative system of applications for finance, human resources/payroll, and student administration functions. That’s where the familiar ends. Enterprise Applications has had to pivot again and again while contending with a wide array of logistical unknowns.

Mechelle Clayton
Mechelle Clayton

Employees of Enterprise Applications helped facilitate changes when UNC-Chapel Hill shifted to primarily remote operations. More recently, they’ve been helping Carolina prepare for an on-campus Fall semester that will be like none the University has ever experienced, while the globe continues working toward a vaccine.

For these various new needs from the ConnectCarolina system, the team has changed configurations and code, updated data, added additional software licenses, tested scenarios and analyzed information. Most of the need, said Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor Mechelle Clayton, has been in the human resources/payroll and student administration sections of ConnectCarolina.

Pandemic-related efforts

On the student administration front, the Enterprise Applications team implemented changes to support:

  • A new grading basis specific to pass/fail options for faculty
  • Additional notes for official and unofficial transcripts about COVID-19 grades
  • Refunds on ParentPlus loans (a form of federal student aid)
  • Changes to class fees for Carolina Courses Online summer classes
  • Changes to the Financial Aid Satisfactory Achievement Progress due to impacts from the new grades

“That means,” Clayton said, “we’re having to update the code for transcripts to reflect the grading basis.”

More recently, Enterprise Applications has been helping the Office of the University Registrar and a University-wide subcommittee on the planning and logistics for classes to be held with new social distancing guidelines in place. This has required testing multiple scenarios (distance between individuals in classrooms, different times between classes, different start and end times for class days, etc.) to identify what Fall schedules will look like for students and faculty. Once the decisions have been made for the preferred scenario, Enterprise Applications will have to apply all these adjustments to Fall schedules in ConnectCarolina by July.

“The University is trying to stagger people exiting classrooms so there are only so many people in the hallways at once,” Clayton said.

Adjustments for employees

In support of HR and payroll, Enterprise Applications has worked closely on many adjustments from tracking Communicable Disease Mandatory Employees to adjusting straight salary pay to allow for critical operations workers to get a temporary supplementary hourly rate for working on campus during the University’s partial shutdown.

Enterprise Applications has also added thousands of short-term software licenses for Time Information Management (Carolina’s official time log system for employee hours) and activating new account values to enable the Finance & Operations team to account for leave payments and additional pay. Implementing these changes happened in multiple waves and required extensive testing.

Enterprise Applications has also worked on dining refunds, analysis and testing of parking refunds for students, and a temporary stop of parking deductions from paychecks. In support of the University procuring all its needs during the pandemic, Enterprise Applications has made changes to configurations, modified code, developed new queries and supported colleagues by providing data.

Delaying some non-pandemic projects

The fluctuation of new projects has disrupted the team’s normal operations.

“While the team is working very hard to keep other projects on track, we’ve had to put some work on hold,” said Clayton. The HR/payroll team, she said, had the greatest influx in pandemic-related work as decisions were being made to support remote operations.

“The student side has been more ebb and flow,” she said. The team was able to resume pre-pandemic projects after adjusting to the new grading patterns.

But some of these projects have been put on hold again as the focus has shifted to bringing students back to campus for the Fall semester.

Leading during a pandemic

While the variation of tasks has been difficult, Clayton said the most challenging part of leading Enterprise Applications in the pandemic has been holding meetings.

“It’s challenging on large meetings when you can’t see body language and facial expressions which you normally rely on to see if everyone is OK and in agreement,” she said.

To address this challenge, each manager is maintaining a touchpoint of contact with smaller teams.

“We’re trying to make sure people know we appreciate all of the work, and we know it’s an extraordinary time,” Clayton said.

Reacting quickly with support

Another challenge Enterprise Applications is facing is the wide array of logistical unknowns concerning how the University will operate in the Fall semester.

“We have to be prepared that once decisions are made, we’re going to have to quickly react in support of them,” said Clayton.

Despite its many tasks, Enterprise Applications’ foremost goal is to stay in touch with what is changing for students.

“We’re working on how we can quickly transition to give students enough time to make decisions they need to make and to support them in their decision making,” Clayton said.

Successful WFH transition

Enterprise Applications team members are not letting the increased workload and decreased turnaround time slow them down.

“As a whole, I think EA has transitioned well to remote,” Clayton said. “We’re fortunate that our jobs are easily transitioned to be performed anywhere.”

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