About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 10, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 2
How's It Going? HopkinsOne Director Looks Back--and Ahead

By Glenn Small

Ten weeks into his new job as senior director of Johns Hopkins Business Systems and HopkinsOne, John Tikka says he is encouraged by signs that users are adapting to the system. But, he says, he also appreciates and understands the remaining hurdles, including providing faster response time to user issues and problems and a more focused approach for making system fixes.

An IT veteran with extensive project experience, including with the SAP software that HopkinsOne uses, Tikka joined Johns Hopkins in June to oversee the institutions' initiative to update their business software systems in finance/sponsored projects, human resources/payroll and supply chain. He recently sat down to answer some questions about his early impressions.

Given what you've seen and heard so far about HopkinsOne, what's your overall assessment of this SAP implementation?

Overall, this implementation has gone as well as can be expected given the ambitious goals of harmonizing a common system across the different cultures and ways of doing business in the health system and university. Most institutions — whether they're in the commercial sector, higher education or health care — struggle with the types of things that we're struggling with now.

How would you describe the size and scope of this project?

In terms of the size of the implementation and what was done at "go-live," it's big, no doubt about it. But it's not atypical of SAP implementations. I think the degree of new functionality that SAP needed to deliver for Hopkins surprised many of us. For example, the way we manage grants, and our volume, posed challenges that we haven't fully resolved yet.

What are some successful aspects of this project?

At a high level, the fact that the organization went live with a single solution across finance/sponsored projects, human resources/payroll, and supply chain across the JHHS, JHM and JHU organizations is a tremendous accomplishment. It's one that comes with a lot of the pain that we're feeling. And certainly the benefits of being on one system haven't fully been realized yet. But they're going to be.

Could you describe some of the challenges we face?

Our most important challenge rests with stabilizing the end-user experience. When users feel that they've returned to business as usual, we will have stabilized. Another big challenge is how we prioritize the literally hundreds of requests that we get from the user community. It is a monumental task to prioritize and then deliver on all the requests.

For things to improve, what needs to happen?

There are three problems I'm trying to solve. One, improve our responsiveness and resolution times of problems reported. The simple questions need to be answered quickly. The complex problems need regular follow-up and progress communication. Two, create sharper focus on HopkinsOne teams. At the moment, each analyst has on average 10 to 15 items they need to work on. Getting focus to complete items without interruption will improve our turnaround times for complex problems. Three, create stronger relationships with our end-users. This will happen through deploying teams of HopkinsOne team members to work with our customers in the business directly.

How will you address these challenges?

One thing we're doing is establishing a permanent HopkinsOne help desk. In addition, we're reorganizing the project team and, as part of that, creating a new team of specialists called business solution managers. They will be assigned to different parts of the organization, and their main job is to resolve issues, help users understand SAP and become a conduit for positive changes to the system. These individuals will understand SAP, the Hopkins-One solution and JHHS and/or JHU policies and procedures. Secondary skills may include business process design, training, organization development and project management. As this team deploys in early September, we believe responsiveness and communication will improve. As users gain knowledge and work with their business solution managers, the HopkinsOne team will be able to focus on completing their work. I think the whole process will work better that way.

Now that you've been at Johns Hopkins for a few months, is there anything that's particularly impressed or surprised you about the organization?

I'm impressed with the commitment of each member of the HopkinsOne team. This group of individuals has persevered [through] an almost yearlong sprint to support this application. During the early days, this team worked around the clock solving a myriad of issues to keep the institution running and truly deserves our gratitude. Also, the business users across all three organizations have also endured a major change and long months of frustration. The dedication and patience are appreciated, and help us make the system better. Finally, and this is rather personal, I'm most impressed with how supportive the leadership team has been during my transition onto the project. It's motivating and humbling.

Is there anything that you would like to convey to employees who use the HopkinsOne system?

What I'd like to say is, HopkinsOne hears you, understands the challenges that you're experiencing with the system, and it will get better. We will focus on making improvements to the system so that our system supports and enhances our mission.


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |