Applied Information Management

The AIM Alumni Project: Working with Information

The AIM Program continues its series of profiles about the professional work of graduates. The goal is to explore the diversity of work of the information manager and to examine how the field is evolving.

AIM alumni who wish to submit a profile should send an e-mail to the AIM Program at, or call us at 800-824-2714, and we'll send you a suggested framework. To date, profiles have been provided by Joel Tachau ('07), Linda Ballas ('05), Peter Battan ('98), Travis Luckey ('09), Connie Atchley ('10), Michael Wright ('06), Hope Angel ('11), Brandon Gatke (’08), and Scott Fenton (’95).

Project Management—An Interview with Connie Atchley ('10), senior project manager, SunGard Higher Education

Connie Atchley ('10), senior project manager, SunGard Higher Education

What is your current job?

SunGard Higher Education designs software solutions for higher education and purchases and implements complimentary products as part of a suite of solutions to meet the broader needs of a campus. They are specifically known for Banner, their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application. I am a senior project manager for SunGard Higher Education working on software implementation and technology projects in the Western Region. My region includes the Western United States, Western Canada, and Guam.

How do you spend your work time?

My time is split between site visits working directly with clients and remote work. All project managers within SunGard work from home offices, so my administrative responsibilities are accomplished through e-mail, phone, and WebEx. Depending on the size of each assignment, a project manager may be responsible for one to ten projects. Regardless of the size, the project manager must compete internally for resources from a national pool of consultants. This process and weekly financial and resource reporting can take up significant time depending on the project phase. The majority of time is often spent with customers setting expectations and creating a shared expectation for processes and deliverables and then ensuring those agreements are kept throughout the life of the project. Regardless of whether my tasks are with SunGard or the customer, I spend a great deal of my time creating a virtual work environment and building relationships that facilitate smooth processes for current projects while laying the groundwork for future ones.

Do you work alone or in a small or large group?

I work within both the larger SunGard organization and smaller project teams. Within SunGard I am responsible for securing project team resources, forecasting resource requirements, and conveying expected revenue. These interactions support the work I am doing on current projects and inform decisions regarding hiring, services, and product offerings within SunGard Higher Education. I also work within project teams consisting of SunGard consultants and local team members. The local institution has an appointed project lead that I work closely with to coordinate all aspects of the project, so together the combined project team will range from eight to twenty individuals with various areas of expertise.

How does your job fit in to the larger organization dynamic? How does it make a difference?

Initially SunGard sold only the Banner application and implementation services. Over the years the modules within the application have become more interdependent and SunGard has increased the number of solutions in their suite to address the broader needs of higher education campuses. The growing complexity has created a need for SunGard to redefine their project management services. Project management as a discipline has evolved from scheduling resources and executing tasks to managing expectations, creating shared vision, and facilitating organizational readiness. When a customer has purchased a suite of applications to change their business processes and pay for services that include a project manager, they expect the full services of project management rather than a resource scheduler. SunGard has recognized this expectation and, in response, is developing their Higher Education Professional Services to include a more relevant project management approach. I was hired as part of the effort to provide project managers with the soft skills to deliver a full range of project management services and to inform the internal effort to help cultivate the new skill set in current project managers who are struggling with the shift.
This incorporation of soft skills as key project management competencies is critical to the success of SunGard Higher Education Professional Services. While the number of competitors for SunGard applications is few, there are several competitors in the area of services. It is the area of services that provides the opportunity for repeat sales and future revenue with each customer and is the path to growth for the company. Customer perceptions of service and success are critical to growing market share for these services.

How do you measure success in your role?

As with all projects, meeting the deliverables on time and within budget is a quick measure of success. Although these are reasonable measures, I measure my success more in terms of relationships than deliverables. It is my belief that you cannot build a trusting relationship with a customer without following through on technical commitments and meeting the project's key constraints so, although I measure those aspects of the project, my personal success is measured more by the quality of my interpersonal relationships. If the customer finds working with me easy and pleasurable and they feel that I have brought value to their process, then I believe I have successfully served them.
Success seldom represents an individual effort and always comes with lessons learned, so components that have significance in my personal measure of success include what I have learned personally or professionally and my recognition of the part each team member plays in my success.

Are there more people doing this kind of work now, than there were five or ten years ago?

Project management has grown within SunGard over the pasts few years due to the complexity of the systems that they sell, support, and implement. Recently, project management has been regionalized to reduce travel and build ongoing customer relationships and therefore project management services are being expanded. So, not only are they growing in numbers, they are taking on a much more mature role in the organization and with customers.

How do you stay current in the field? (Resources, organizations, journals, etc.)

I am working on my project management credential and am a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the PMI—Willamette Valley Chapter. I also avail myself of Project Management trainings presented from leaders and trainers in the industry. Fortunately, SunGard Higher Education is very supportive of continued learning and provides notifications of online project management, communication, and organizational readiness training.

How do you use your AIM education in support of your work?

While in the AIM Program, I was the associate director of an IT unit and enjoyed many aspects of that position. However, I realized that organizational relationships and their impact on the business culture really pique my interest. I often found myself wandering from the course subject matter to its interception with organizational culture, context, and change. As my position shifted toward greater management and less project and inter-organizational work, I began looking for a new career path.
The well-rounded content of the AIM Program provided a solid foundation for my role as a project manager in SunGard Higher Education; two areas helped me a great deal. First, my project teams consist of individuals who do not report to me and are located across the US and internationally. The course work on virtual work spaces, remote, and collocated teams has been very valuable in helping me maneuver my new professional setting and build appropriate business and personal relationships within the organization. Second, the introduction to technologies I had not previously encountered has helped me learn technologies necessary in my new position and quickly comprehend some of the technologies being implemented in my projects. My time in the AIM Program was a well-rounded investment. I gained insight into my next career move and exposure to the tools necessary to be successful in it.

POSTED: September 30, 2011