Driving Digital Innovation at MIT

By Alex Fishlock – Digital Marketing Associate.

On Tuesday 27th September, at The Shard in London, Mendix Solutions will host an exclusive round-table event for higher education institutions. We are lucky enough to be joined by Olu Brown, Director of Application Platforms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who has over 18 year’s experience as an IT professional. Olu is responsible for IT application platforms, data science and business intelligence teams, which are all key parts of driving IT innovation at MIT using the newest, cutting-edge technologies.  According to the Times Higher Education 2016 University Rankings, MIT is currently the 5th best University in the World, and 1st for social sciences.

Olu will be leading a discussion on digital innovation within the higher education space and explain why he chose the Mendix platform to accelerate MIT’s 2020 IT vision, which aims to enable innovation at MIT’s academic departments, labs and admin units via platform services. The aim of the event is to exchange ideas, experiences, discuss challenges and to create future connections.

Olu will cover MIT’s IT 2020 vision, common challenges faced by universities, the Mode 1 and mode 2 IT environment and where the Mendix platform works best, lessons learnt from working in a mode 2 environment at MIT, example MIT developments & what it has allowed MIT to achieve, a general discussion and of course drinks and networking to round off the day.

Planning this event with my colleagues got me thinking that I should re-cap the work we have done with MIT. Over a year we have completed 20 administrative applications so far, with more being developed as I type. Here are some that stand out:

  1. Holiday Tracker:

Need – Previously individuals would maintain a personalized Excel file to keep track of accruals and vacation days available. All requests were previously done through email. This was not an efficient process.

Application – The application allows visibility and workflow management for vacation requests within a department. It keeps track of accruals, available days and sending email notification to requesters and approvers. Built with enterprises in mind it allows for multi-departmental use and is for both mobile and desktop devices.

  1. Project Portfolio:

Need – The reporting and measurement of projects was managed through excel with the associated issues associated with disparate systems.

Application – A project system that keeps track of the financials, milestones, allocations of resources and risks of ongoing projects. It captures new project ideas, which then will be submitted for approval and created as a new project.

  1. Compensation Merit:

Need – To collate data from numerous sources in order to support HR in the award of Merit payments.

Application – A tool used by the HR leadership to evaluate and determine the amount of merit distributions to employees based on the collective analysis of data in SAP, Success Factors, and other systems.

  1. Agreements:

Need – Agreements between departments was through email and verbal communication. This informal structure made the access to agreements difficult and time consuming.

Application – The agreements system store sand displays all the current agreements between departments in an accessible and easy to use format, which saves times and resources.

Graduation Caps Thrown in the Air

  1. Time Collection:

Need – Improve the time recoding process when booking time against a project. The previous process could take up to 6 weeks to be able to see the actual time booked to a project and resulted in budgeting and reporting issues.

Application – A weekly time collection system for use by the project management team to capture actual time booked to all projects across their portfolio, with integration into project management applications.

  1. Receipt Capture:

Need – The automation of reporting on how research grants are being spent and to stop “chasing receipts” for P-card (Purchasing Card) transactions and matching them to SAP financial transactions

Application – An application that allows a purchaser to submit a receipt for a purchase by taking a picture of their receipt via a mobile device or by uploading an image or document via their laptop or desktop computer. The receipt will then enter a review and the approval process and once fully reviewed and approved will update SAP (the system of record) with approval, workflow history and the receipt.

  1. Technology Licensing Office:

Need – A paper process existed to cover the process of licensing IP or invention. The process was difficult to manage and cumbersome.

Application – The application allows a single form to record different processes. These forms include; discloser of invention, biological and tangible materials, or software code. The application included workflow with authenticated electronic signatures.

The Outcome:

The result so far of using Application Platform as a Service technology (aPaaS) has been a significant reduction in project timescales. Historically, IT projects took a year to complete – rapidly developing applications reduced this to 3-4 months, with the first app being delivered in 30 days. This was 10 times faster than MIT’s original estimate and at a quarter of the cost, saving an estimated $396k (£305k) in development costs.

The series of projects has also significantly improved the student experience, increased the agility of admin processes and reduced operating costs of the institution.

I hope this has given you a brief overview of the innovation projects we continue to develop with MIT. To learn more about digital innovation in higher education discussion in conjunction with MIT, access the case study here. We look forward to seeing you there!


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