Student Record System rebuild

Inspired by a challenge from @RowlstoneS, the lovely people at Burston Central are going to renew their Student Records system. Exciting, or what? I’m not exactly sure how to make this amusing, but we’ll see how it goes. Meanwhile, suggestions welcome in the comments box, or via @wadingtreacle on Twitter.

Simon looked round the table. He felt almost excited. His first significant development project since he’d arrived at Burston Central, and it was a corker: replacing the student records system. Mission-critical, stakeholder-sensitive, multi-platform, future-proof, enterprise class development*. If this wasn’t a passport to a Senior Applications Developer post, he didn’t know what was. Unconsciously, he stretched out the fingers of his left hand and pulled hard on them with his right, cracking his knuckles loudly. The conversation died away and everyone turned to look at him.

Simon returned to reality. It must be time to start. cleared his throat, and took a swig of water from his filter bottle. He glanced down at his checklist.

1. Welcome the task-and-finish group

He smiled broadly, but without sincerity, and launched into his introduction.
“Well, hello, everyone, and many thanks for giving up your valuable time to attend this inaugural meeting of the Student Records System Replacement Task-and-Finish Group. It’s lovely to see you all today to work on this critically important enterprise system.”
He was pleased to see that one or two people were already taking notes. Emboldened, he went slightly off-piste. “It’s not often that a big organisation like this gets a chance to really do a root-and-branch update of one of its underpinning technological systems and I’m sure we’re all going to work together with great synergy and, er, er….er, get the job done in style.”

He took another swig of his water and glanced at the checklist again.

2. Introductions

“Right, well, as you know, I’m relatively new here, so it would be great if we could just go round the room and introduce ourselves. Usual drill. Who are you, and why are you here?”
One or two people pressed their lips together at this. “Don’t be shy!” Simon had seen this kind of reticence in his previous job, working on customer relationship management for a large retailer. Some people were very nervous at being asked to contribute to big projects like this. He’d been like that himself, once.
He smiled encouragingly. “I’ll start, if you like. My name is Simon Edgerton, and I’m the senior applications analyst for registry services. I’ve been at Burston Central for about eighteen months, which I know makes me a very new boy by some standards.” He paused to allow for his joke to sink in. There was no perceptible response. “My role here is to co-ordinate the requirements of the UI, or user interface, and get those translated into some applications specifications for the new system.”

He looked to his left. “Shall we go clockwise?”
Shannon gave a self-conscious wave. “Hey, everyone. Shannon, Head of planning. I’m here to make sure that the new system collects the data we need for the HESA return.”
Simon looked a little sorrowful. “Shannon, sorry to pull you up in the first few minutes, but would you mind spelling out the acronym. Not everyone will be aware of what it is.”
Shannon raised her eyebrows slightly, and looked around the table. “Oh. Sorry. HESA is the Higher Education Statistical Agency. We’re legally obliged to send them data about our students and staff annually: the HESA return.”
Simon nodded encouragingly. “Brilliant, thanks, Shannon.” He looked at the next person to Shannon’s left.

“Anna, Head of Registry Services. We’re responsible for individual records in the system and making sure that all of the graduation information is correct.”

“Critically important, Anna, glad you could be here.” Simon’s gaze moved on.

“Niall, Professional Services. I’m here to provide input on the data input needs for new courses and modules.” Simon nodded slowly. He was already starting to look a little glazed.

“Jenny, Quality Officer from Faculty of Engineering. Here to explain how we approve new curricula elements.”

Simon brightened a little. “Great, so you’re going to be able to specify the workflows.” He nodded enthusiastically.

Jenny shrugged. “If you say so.”

“Yeah, workflows.” Simon noticed the blank looks around the table. “Well, we’ll get to those. All in good time!”. He smiled encouragingly and turned his attention to the next person.

“Gina, Head of Marketing. We need course information from the system to feed through into the prospectus.”

“Tony, applications interface architect. I’ve got an overview of all of the feeder and output applications which will need to interface into the new system.”

Simon nodded enthusiastically. “Brilliant. Key stuff, Tony. Glad you’re involved.”

Jenny put up her hand. “Um. Simon. Sorry to seem dim, but I didn’t really understand what Tony meant.”

Simon smiled kindly at her. “Fair enough, Jenny, fair enough. Well, Tony is responsible for making sure that all of the feeder and output applications will be adequately served by the new system. OK? I’m sure you’ll get up to speed with it all soon. OK, let’s keep going.”

Jenny’s eyes widened. She flicked her eyes round the table, but everyone was staring fixedly at Simon.

They moved on.

“Lawrence, Students’ Union President. Just keepin’ my eye on y’all, makin’ sure you don’t forget to put students at the centre of the system, y’all.” He put his thumbs up.

There were some weak smiles, and Simon dutifully provided a fake-sounding chuckle. “Good to have you with us, Lawrence. Just let us know if you don’t understand anything.”

Shannon winced. Lawrence was a systems engineering graduate. He would probably be better able to keep up than some of the others. He caught her eye and grinned. She felt sure he was plotting something. At least, she hoped so. Otherwise this group was going to be seriously tedious. She grinned back at him.


*thank you to for inspiration here