GAP GAP hooray! New cloud-based portal transforms managing graduate appointments

02/01/2017

In April 2017, the Graduate Appointment Portal (GAP) will replace Web Grad Aid as the web-based data entry tool for processing graduate appointments and awards. The new GAP system integrates with MIT’s student information systems and SAP, providing significant improvements in managing graduate appointments. This academic year, MIT has 6852 graduate students on board.

A bit of background

Web Grad Aid, the current system of record, is accessed by about 300 people at MIT, from graduate administrators and AO/FOs to staff working for the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), Student Financial Services (SFS), and the Office of the Vice President for Finance (VPF).

While a graduate appointment system is essential at MIT, Web Grad Aid has been showing its age. An Oracle database, it was built in 2001 with minimal integration with other systems on campus. Data needs to be entered multiple times and calculations are done on spreadsheets outside the system, complicating reporting and audits. In addition, the data in Web Grad Aid is processed overnight, not in real time, leading to delays and inconsistencies in payroll system data.

Enter GAP

The development of GAP involved extensive collaboration and efforts across campus. Started in 2015, the initiative was overseen by an eight-person steering committee. The portal was developed by a 16-person project team and continues to be tested by a user group composed of 49 participants from 33 departments.

In redesigning the application, the project team focused on several goals:

  • Integrating real-time data
  • Improving the user interface
  • Leveraging standard SAP appointment structures
  • Eliminating shadow IT systems
  • Creating reusable application programming interfaces (APIs)

The team also sought to achieve extensive business process improvements, from built-in reasonable compensation calculations to a robust workflow approval process.

All told, GAP offers users over 20 new features, including weekly status reports, cost object validation, an appointment change log, and the ability to add attachments. The bottom line? GAP offers efficient appointment creation, improved data quality, and simplified reporting.

GAP is also an impressive architectural achievement. Built natively on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, it integrates several MIT databases – such as MIT Roles and MITSIS – with the MuleSoft API platform and MIT’s HANA Enterprise Cloud. Interactions between these systems all happen in real time, improving the accuracy of graduate appointment data in the payroll system.

As is already the case with Web Grad Aid, GAP will be linked from Atlas.

Go live and support

The GAP Go Live is scheduled for April 2017. Historical appointments from Web Grad Aid will be available in GAP, allowing graduate administrators to view and modify existing appointments based on appointment change policies. Starting May 1, administrators will be able to process new appointments for Aid Year 2018 in GAP.

Questions

If you have questions about GAP, feel free to reach out to Keiko Tanaka, Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, or Kevin Lyons, Information Systems and Technology. There will also be three 90-minute information sessions during which GAP will be demonstrated. These sessions are scheduled for February 14, 21, and 28 from 1:30 to 3:00 pm, in Room 1-190. All those interested are invited to attend.

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