ACBO and Educause Recap

The week of October 24th was both important and demanding because two important conferences were being held – the biannual Association of Chief Business Officers Fall Conference in Indian Wells, California, and the Educause Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado.  Each convening focused on important topics that are directly applicable to the needs of California’s community colleges – and both convenings shared the theme of cooperation and collaboration between public agencies that serve similar purposes.

Association of Chief Business Officials (ACBO)

The ACBO Fall 2022 Conference was held at the Miramonte Resort and Spa in Indian Wells on October 24-26, 2022.  The conference represents the biannual convening of the system’s business officers, and is focused on priority topics (i.e. budgets, legislation and capital improvement), best and shared practices and problem-solving – which is similar to our procurement community’s Annual Purchasing Conference structure.

ACBO is comprised of various committees that are crucial to providing a balanced perspective of the state’s fiscal status and the resulting impact on community colleges.  The conference focused on the state’s anticipated 2024 budget, which considers some belt-tightening from the Legislature and Governor’s Office. Discussions revolved around planning to sustain local college operations and ensuring ongoing delivery of quality instruction and support services to students. Because the state’s budget remains hypothetical, discussions revolved around planning for scenarios and determining how to best protect community college budgets at the legislative level.  Undoubtedly, more concrete steps will be developed sometime in January 2023, when initial drafts of the state budget are distributed.

On a personal note, I was heartened by the efficiency, effectiveness, and pace to which ACBO diversified its ranks.  This year’s ACBO was more reflective of our state’s demographics.  Furthermore, there were procurement officers and procurement alumni represented at this year’s conference, and points to another diversity statistic – that ACBO is also looking to procurement officers as future CBOs.  I am thrilled to witness the upward mobility of many capable procurement professionals to business officer seats – this is an important distinction of progress considering that most CBOs in the past came from accounting ranks. 

Educause

The 2022 Educause Conference was held at the Denver Convention Center on October 25-28, 2022.  The conference represents an annual convening of technology thought leaders from all over the globe.  Conference tracks were divided between infrastructure technology which largely focused on information security, modernization of technology, and digitization of services for students, faculty and staff; and education technology which largely focused on quality course delivery, and provision of quality support service to students throughout their academic career. This year, I followed the infrastructure technology track as expanded conversations on common enterprise resource planner (ERP) and information security are occurring on the state-level.

Similar to the successes our system and procurement community have realized through CollegeBuys, it is apparent that collaboration between public agencies, at minimum, in the same sector, such as community colleges or public universities is imperative to encountering funding, operational and financial success.  Within the CCC, we have encountered this success in our Adobe, Microsoft, and Canvas (Instructure) partnerships. 

Common ERP: CSU System’s CMS

Evidence to the success of collaboration is the California State University system’s ERP – colloquially referred to as the Common Management System (CMS).  The CMS is a CSU-wide application project that mandated all 23 campuses to replace legacy administrative software with Common Human Resources System (CHRS), Common Financial System (CFS) and Campus Solutions (formerly known as Student Administration). The stated mission of the CSU’s CMS solution is to provide efficient, effective and high-quality service to students, faculty and staff. CMS is an Oracle/PeopleSoft software application, fully web-based, running on common hardware shared by all CSUs. The CMS system has been under active and continuous development since 1999. The first module developed was Human Resources, followed by Financials and Student Administration. The first campus began using the entire CMS system (Financials, Human Resources and Student Administration) in 2002. The system is now being used by all campuses and has resulted in almost $100 million of cost savings.

Common Information Security System: It’s Possible!

Discussions during the conference brought up the importance of common/systemwide information security infrastructure to protect college, student, and employee data as attacks and resulting breaches to public higher education continue to increase globally.  Though discussions did not provide finality on which solution is the best to support public higher education in combatting security vulnerabilities, the consensus is to have already deployed information security software from Microsoft, Cisco, or Okta. Regional groupings of education institutions are already exploring common security solutions, and the California Community Colleges recently activated Microsoft a5 security solutions across all its institutions. Perhaps at next year’s Educause, the CCCs can provide a robust success story in information security. 

Conclusion

Whether it be state budgets or technology, and perhaps a list of other topics, it is important to recognize the purpose of these conferences and many others like them – such as the Annual Purchasing Conference. The purpose is to identify and socialize effective and efficient approaches to problem-solving – build deeper cooperation between like-minded public agencies.  Solutions are stronger, and more robust when opportunities and challenges are tackled together – that we are all greater than the sum of our parts. 

Authored by JC Sales

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