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Trustees Learn the Latest about ctcLink

June 07, 2019 by ctcLink Communications

Dr. Michele Johnson, Pierce College District Chancellor, and Christy Campbell, ctcLink Project Director, teamed up to present a ctcLink update for Washington’s community and technical colleges trustees during the Association of College Trustees (ACT) conference in Walla Walla in late May. 

Project Evolution

Campbell gave a high-level overview of initial ctcLink efforts: from 2009 when the college presidents adopted enterprise resource planning (ERP) guiding principles, to the rocky 2015 go-live for pilot colleges (Tacoma Community College and Community Colleges of Spokane), to 2016 when the implementation partner filed for bankruptcy and the ctcLink Project paused to plan and regroup.

When Campbell arrived in June 2017 she found, among other things, there had not been enough training, testing, nor organizational change management.

Thanks to the combined effort of the colleges, SBCTC, the ctcLink Project team, as well as external oversight and quality control entities, the work started up again in March 2018 with a new methodology, new budget and new governance model.

“While there will always be some bumps in the road in a project this size,” Campbell said, “We will address them as they arise,” noting that all colleges in every deployment group are now engaged, either in pre-work or implementation activities.

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is the Key

“This really is a ‘change management’ project,” Dr. Johnson said. “I know we focus on the technology, but our approach is ‘how are we able to better serve our students and do the work of the college in a way that gives us access to — and use — better data?’”

Dr. Johnson presented a few ideas for implementation success, based on OCM principles:

Solution-focused, not problem-focused

Attitude is critical in how we approach a large project. “People are weary and wary,” she said, especially those who were in prior conversion efforts. “You may be hearing, ‘Not this again. I don’t want to go through this again.’”

She suggested trustees mitigate the conversation in a way that says: “We are going forward and we will be better on the other side, because we cannot stop.”

At Pierce, we want to hear not only the issues, but also ideas for how to fix them. 

It’s easy to stand back and just complain, “Oh, that doesn’t work.” But we all have to be ready with “that doesn’t work … AND we need to fix it,” with the focus on the fixing, not the complaining.

ctcLink is an important solution and it won’t be the last. There will be technology changes in the future, so the more we can shore up our institutions to be solution-focused, the better off we are all going to be.


Colleges are encouraged to have broad involvement of individuals participating in ctcLink activities. The wider the awareness of what is going on, the less of a challenge it will be.

Each college should interact with other colleges, both in their own deployment group and with those who have gone before.

When Pierce College staff went to assist Tacoma Community College during its first go-live, they weren’t just being magnanimous. It was also a learning opportunity for Pierce staff to see what they will be working with.

Prepare for a responsive, connected system

In a systemwide implementation, we won’t always get exactly what we want as an individual college (which has been true for every systemwide initiative we’ve undertaken), but Johnson encourages trustees to think about the strength of the overall system.

ctcLink is not customized to every college; nor was the Legacy system, so colleges developed many workarounds. At Pierce, they know they are losing some functionality in some areas, while in other areas, they will gain a great deal more functionality.

Dr. Johnson said she is a strong proponent that we are best as “a system,” so we build on one another’s expertise and support each other.  “It’s our job as CEOs and yours as trustees — to help our institutions look at this as a joint effort to create the best system overall,” she said.

What Should Trustees Focus On?

In response to a trustee’s question about what trustees should focus on and which questions to ask, Dr. Johnson suggested:


Do we have the organization in place to be active and engaged in the implementation?

A significant amount of work falls to the college employees and subject matter experts as they are expected to do their regular jobs, while being expected to participate in ctcLink project activities.

Dr. Johnson said sometimes colleges need to be willing to slow down on additional initiatives and projects. Multiple large projects can overtax the same people time and again.

The day-to-day work still has to get done, so the Pierce budget includes overtime and release time for staff who need to travel for ctcLink training and testing.

Positions are either backfilled to support the ctcLink project directly or to support other positions to free employees with expertise to participate in the many project activities such as business process mapping, data validation, configuration, and user acceptance testing.

Pierce has also hired a few positions in the three pillar areas Campus Solutions, Human Capital Management, and Finance.

Bridget Piper, Community Colleges of Spokane Trustee, thanked Johnson for mentioning backfill and additional resources, because Spokane hired six people in January to assist in the accounting/finance department.


Are we putting adequate resources in place to make the conversion successful?

She suggested trustees ask their president or chancellor about what ctcLink looks like in their college and/or district’s budget.

Dr. Johnson reminded trustees the ctcLink Project budget does not include costs for each college's project manager, college travel and staffing expenses, or other local costs incurred by an individual college.

She described how Pierce College — with approval from its Board of Trustees — budgeted a significant amount of money from college reserves to do the work needed to get ready for implementation.


Ask to see your college’s dashboard to see how they compare to other colleges in your deployment group.

Jaqueline Rosenblatt, Pierce College trustee, suggested it’s essential ctcLink regularly be on the trustees’ agenda.

At their college, they have been kept apprised of ctcLink progress at every trustee meeting.

Looking Ahead

Dr. Johnson acknowledged and thanked Community Colleges of Spokane and Tacoma Community College for being pilot colleges (First Link Colleges) and going first. Every deployment group and college to follow will benefit from their lessons learned.

“We are looking forward,” Bridget Piper, Community Colleges of Spokane trustee, said. “We are not looking back.”

Piper also relayed a message from Community Colleges of Spokane Chancellor, Christine Johnson, expressing how appreciative they are of how the project has turned around since its relaunch.

Where to Find ctcLink Documents and Resources

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NOTE: Members of certain community and technical college distribution lists — SBCTC all staff, ctcLink Executive Leadership Committee, ctcLink Steering Committee, ctcLink Working Group, ctcLink Executive Sponsors, PM/OCM, Presidents, PIOs — are on the regular distribution list.

Last Modified: 8/3/22, 1:19 PM
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