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[grat-i-tood, -tyood]
  1. the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful, as in "He expressed his gratitude to everyone who worked so hard."
Regardless of how many ERP implementations one has under one's belt, you’re never quite prepared for the stress and emotional roller coaster that ensues when you are racing towards go-lives, working through disagreements on how to reduce scope to make deadlines, validating conversion data that are not even close to being clean, preparing business offices across campus for the substantial changes they don’t see coming, and explaining to executives why these projects are so difficult, so expensive, and how all of that has very little to do with the technology itself.
But we did it.
I think the most amazing thing that has been accomplished at the University of Georgia through the ConnectUGA project has less to do with the new system and its capabilities but is really more about a group of people who came together and two years later accomplished things that most of them once thought were impossible. Together, we have experienced the hype cycle of ERP projects (peak of inflated expectations, trough of disillusionment, slope of enlightenment, plateau of productivity) and come out on the other side stronger than when we began.
There are lots of people to thank and it's time to get started.
To Nancy, congratulations on once again admitting the most academically qualified group of freshmen ever to enter the University of Georgia. You and David did a remarkable job, having this success for the first time using the new Athena system. Of course, you didn’t do it alone; you had Sarah, Tim, Stephen, Jason, Todd, Ramsey, Melissa, Patrick, Alan, Karen, Julie, Melanie, Kimberly, and Dee to help. A special thanks goes to Jason who did some miraculous work at the end in straightening out some very ugly transfer course data that did not come across cleanly.
To Fiona, you loaded and converted hundreds of programs and thousands of courses, and then you and your team worked round the clock to make sure everything was perfect for our students the first time they registered for courses. You also carried a huge load as the chair of our advisory team and we have all benefited from your wise counsel throughout the project. You had lots of help too, with Paree, Shefali, Amy, Brooke, Caleb, Mary, Melissa, Elizabeth, and Ron playing key roles. Others including Paula, Austin, Mary, Wendy, Melissa, Tracie, Jayne, and Bill were also key supporters.
To Bonnie, you successfully awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to our students and your team’s eye for perfection made sure that our students could count on having this critical support available to them on a timely basis. You undertook significant new responsibilities as a result of some business process changes and you also delivered new modules for awarding our HOPE scholarship – one of the most critical resources we in the State of Georgia have for higher education. Lots of key players in your area provided their support, including Melanie, Donna, Gary, Nancy, Jay, and Mitzi. Additional help came from Joseph, Mandy, Elaina, Audrey, Kimberly, Michael Jason, Cheng-Yu, Pam, Jared, Joanne, Robert, Chris, Heather, and Dee.
To Jan, the heaviest part of our data conversion and validation burden fell to you and the burden was heavier than any of us ever anticipated. But you came through it and for the first time UGA was able to register over 35,000 students on the Web. This fall, we have one of the largest populations of students ever to enroll for courses and they all did so using new systems that you delivered. You had lots of help too, with Rosemary, Josie, Amy, Nikki, Donna, Julia, Melody, and Andrea consistently going above and beyond. Other support came from Tracie, Mary, Melissa, Kay, Claudia, Beau, Karen, Margaret, Julie, Melanie, and Teresa. A special thanks to Rosemary for stepping up and accepting greater responsibilities when the University required it and for carrying such a heavy load for so long.
To Lisa, your go-lives came at the end of the project and you made it look easy. Over the course of the past few weeks, the University has accepted millions of dollars in tuition and fee payments, all of them through the new modules that you delivered. Therese was your right hand person and you both had help from Melissa, Robby, Marcie, Shannon, and Nicole. Other key individuals working with you included Lena, Amy, Suzanne, Kristie, Jill, Deidra, Jennifer, Amber, Michelle, Julie, Shannon, Teresa, Kimberly, Jason, Dee, Carla, and Bill.
To my colleagues on the EITS student information systems support team, I owe you so much. Throughout this project, you all consistently worked above and beyond and I know that a 40 hour work week is a really foreign concept right now (which should begin to change soon). As we have worked over the past two years, the technology itself was never a problem and we have delivered these new systems with a flawless operational record. You all have my gratitude, including Larry, Mike, Ilir, Jenna, Connie, Aaron, Joel, Wanda, Todd, Gohreen, Angela, Mike, Renee, Andrew, Abby, Al, Angie, Seema, Imran, Yvonne, Lynn, and Margaret.
Others throughout EITS played critical supporting roles getting our network and server infrastructure ready for the implementation and supporting it day-to-day. This list is not exhaustive, but there are many who deserve a heartfelt thank-you, including Brian, Christian, Chris, Rayid, John, Andrew, Matt, John, and many others on the network team who made sure the entire network infrastructure worked. To Michael, Jeff, Stephanie, Chris, Stewart, Ryan, Chris, and John, who made our data center, storage, and server infrastructure hum. To Lynn, Kerri, and Tracy who made our communications strategy one of the best I’ve ever seen. To Shawn, Keith, Kristi, Basit, and others who made sure Athena worked well with our existing identity management systems. A big thanks also goes to Patrick and Stacey, who have led and organized meetings, kept the teams on track, and escalated issues as necessary – you’re the best project management team I’ve ever had.
To Chris, Holley, and Laura, thanks for being such strong partners and collaborators through both the good times and the challenging moments over the past three years. I think you may have thought I was a little off my rocker when I said we would experience a “trough of disillusionment” along our journey, but by now you certainly understand what I meant by that. Thanks for your wise counsel and for being willing to insist that I take some tough medicine when I needed it. You set the right tone and pace for all of our teams by being thoughtful, supportive leaders while also being willing to make the tougher decisions when necessary.
To Danna, a heartfelt thanks for stepping in at a critical time and helping us all see the larger forest for the trees, which helped us stay on track at some key moments in the project. I hated to lose you, but I can accept losing a great employee when they get the opportunity to move on to bigger and better things. You’ll make Stanford a better place over the next few years.
And finally, to Larry. You said 'yes' when I asked if you would relocate your family from Texas to Georgia and you stepped into a project with much tougher circumstances than you probably ever expected. But you have made the project a resounding success. Your dedication, hard work, long hours, and willingness to help anyone at any time about any challenge they have makes you one of the real gems at the University of Georgia. I owe you so much; a simple thank you doesn’t cover it. I’ll be in debt to you for a very, very long time.