Date Finalized: August 31, 2023
Most Recent Update (see below): October 1, 2023
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the ASEE Data & Technology Services Roadmap. We're embarking on this initiative with the firm belief that transparency and collaboration form the bedrock of any successful strategy.
The creation of this roadmap represents a significant step in our ongoing mission to provide an efficient, effective, and user-friendly experience for all members. It is a reflection of our commitment to improving how we employ technology, acknowledging past challenges while focusing on delivering a more stable and robust future.
Our roadmap is not simply a plan put together by our Technology Solutions Team in isolation. It has been collaboratively designed in consultation with various stakeholders who understand our mission and members' needs at a granular level. These include our Membership and Conferences Staff, who have direct, day-to-day contact with our members; the Board of Director's IT Committee, who provide strategic oversight and ensure our technology aligns with our organizational objectives; and ASEE's Senior Leadership Team, whose insights are key to harmonizing our technology with broader institutional goals.
This roadmap offers a glimpse into the projects we have planned for the next six months. Our goal in future years is to release a comprehensive, year-long roadmap, but we have chosen to start with a half-year plan to allow for more agility and adaptability in these early stages of our roadmap journey. We want to ensure we are responsive to the needs of our members and can flexibly adapt to any unforeseen circumstances or opportunities that may arise.
In releasing this document, we hope to invite feedback, encourage dialogue, and foster a sense of collective ownership over the direction our technology strategy takes. Your engagement is integral to our success, and we look forward to shaping the future of ASEE together.
Over the past decade, the ASEE has intricately woven together a rich tapestry of tools and technologies. These are designed not just to manage the extensive membership data but also to streamline content delivery, facilitate seamless communication, and securely store pertinent data. As educators and innovators yourselves, you'll appreciate the complexity of meshing legacy systems, some of which have been with us for over a decade, with newer, agile Software as a Service (SaaS) systems introduced during the challenging pandemic era.
Let's demystify some of these integral systems:
Association Management Software (AMS) - Impexium: Adopted in 2019 and fully integrated by 2021, this platform is the backbone of our member management. It transcends simple member data, encompassing institutional details, demographics, invoicing, and membership tenure. The interoperability of Impexium with Kentico, Personify (our ASEE Hub), and NeMo ensures a unified experience for our members.
Content Management System (CMS)/Website: The hub where information flows! Integrated with our AMS, it's not just a platform to share but a smart system that restricts or allows access based on membership status and permissions.
NeMo - New Monolith: A testament to our commitment to adapt while retaining our legacy, NeMo is an enhanced version of our time-tested Monolith software. Quantifying its value, it's a culmination of over 117 person-years of developer effort, translating to approximately $15 million in developmental costs. NeMo boasts of a staggering 400,000 lines of code. Given the unique 'conference of conferences' model of our annual meeting, switching to a Commercial-off-the-shelf software like EasyChair would entail significant organizational restructuring, a testament to NeMo's irreplaceable value.
While these are our core systems, the ASEE tech landscape is further enriched by a myriad of other software tools that support our principal operations and grant-funded initiatives. For those who wish for a more detailed technical deep-dive, Appendix A offers a comprehensive breakdown. In addition, we also manage over 50 servers for all our systems, including Windows and various Linux distributions.
In conclusion, we remain steadfast in our commitment to harness technology to enhance your experience, keeping you informed, connected, and engaged in all ASEE endeavors. Your understanding of these systems not only provides transparency but strengthens the bridge of trust and collaboration between us.
Constraints and Principles Guiding the Current Work
The primary ambition for my team this year is to significantly refine and stabilize the user experience within our membership and conference systems. The enhancements reflect lessons learned and feedback accumulated over the past years.
To this end, we've strategically fortified our tech roster. The software developers we've welcomed aboard over the past year are not just coders; they're seasoned technologists. Their proficiency in Ruby on Rails, coupled with their vast experiences spanning from 4 years to a remarkable 17 years, sets a robust foundation. Further enriching our team's dynamics is the diverse educational and professional backgrounds they bring, allowing us to adeptly navigate the intertwined realms of legacy systems and modern SaaS platforms unique to ASEE.
Our development roadmap is primarily segmented into three pivotal categories:
Technical Debt: This encapsulates components in our existing tech stack that warrant upgrades or intricate debugging.
Membership Systems: Inextricably linked with the Impexium platform.
NeMo (Conferences): A system intertwined with both the original Monolith and its evolved version, New Monolith.
While we're charting a clear path forward, it's essential to note that we've earmarked developer bandwidth for emergent tasks. These include catering to unplanned requests, roughly half to a full day each week, and obligations towards our federal grant work, which takes up minimal time, around half a day monthly.
However, like any technology-driven venture, we have our set of challenges. Two major pieces of technical debt have recurrently hampered the user experience:
Database/Page Indexing: The process of updating pages by either the user or developer has presented issues. This affects conference authors being able to search and locate sessions or their own papers.
Impexium-NeMo Integration: The melding of our Association Management System with our conference management platform has been a source of recurring challenges for our community. During the last conference year, several hundred users experienced an array of issues.
Rest assured, we're not only cognizant of these hurdles but are actively dissecting them to pinpoint and rectify the underlying issues. Our roadmap, stretching from the closing quarter of FY 23 to the inaugural quarter of FY 24, provides a detailed trajectory. While we've set deadlines, adaptability remains our strength; timelines might shift as we progress. At the heart of all our endeavors is an unwavering commitment to amplifying the user experience for our vast membership while safeguarding ASEE's financial integrity.
Your patience, understanding, and feedback will undoubtedly be pillars of our success in this journey. We're actively engaging with various leadership groups, including the IT committee, PIC Chairs, and the Membership committee. Our aim? To comprehensively understand the pulse of our members' needs and concerns about our systems, thereby directing our future work in ways that resonate best with our community. Additionally, this fall, we're excited to collaborate with a design class. Through a class project, we aim to conduct an exhaustive user acceptability test for our conference management system.
While we're eager to address all concerns, it's important to note that immediate redressal for every feedback point might not be feasible. However, your insights are invaluable. They not only help us address current concerns but also play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of our improvements in subsequent years. Your voice aids in ensuring our endeavors are aligned with the evolving needs of our members.
The challenges detailed in this roadmap stem, in part, from our attempt to transition from our bespoke core software (Monolith) to a new array of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms from 2019 to 2022. The journey wasn't smooth; in particular, the adaptation of the conference management system faced significant hurdles.
Given the obstacles, we found it prudent to revert to our customized system, NeMo, for managing conferences last year. However, for other facets of our operations, we have continued with the new SaaS platforms. This entire process coincided with the pandemic, further complicating matters as we had to swiftly pivot to virtual conferences, often making decisions in a time-crunch. An relevant example of the challenges faced was the initial unsuccessful attempt to migrate the user database to the new system in 2021. Though subsequent efforts were made, we're aware there may remain lingering issues. Another pressing concern is the indexing discrepancies; members updating their details sometimes find these updates not reflecting consistently across platforms. At its core, this issue stems from the incompatibility between the new SaaS platforms and our legacy custom database/system.
Addressing this paramount challenge has ascended to the top of our action list. Our focus remains unwavering: to bolster NeMo's stability and enhance the experience for our members this year.
The annual conference presents a unique set of demands that shape the focus and priorities of our technology solutions team. Critical tasks associated with the conference, such as the opening and closing of abstract submissions, naturally take precedence. This might momentarily affect our ability to address individual concerns as they emerge.
Our primary mission is to elevate the stability of our conference management system beyond what you've experienced in the past. We're currently operating based on a well-defined calendar and a meticulous task list. Should any alterations to this plan arise, rest assured they won't be made in isolation. We will continually update this document with any changes. Additionally, such decisions will be made post thorough deliberations with key stakeholders, including the IT committee, the conference and membership teams, and the staff of the data and technology sector.
Approved by PIC Chairs 7/26/2023
Days Allotted to:
Abstract Submission Open
Abstract Submission Deadline
Abstract Review Deadline
PC Abstract Accept/Reject
Draft Paper Submission Deadline
Reviewer Draft Deadline
PC Reviewer Feedback Deadline
Revised Paper Submission Deadline
Reviewer Revisions Deadline
PC Paper Accept/Reject
Finalized Paper Submission Deadline
Division Best Paper Deadline
PIC Best Paper Deadline
Conference Best Paper Deadline
Change Management: Changes to this roadmap and tasks will be published in a change log.
October 1, 2023 Update and Assessment
These technical tasks are meant to have the following impact on users when completed:
As of October 1, 2023: Both are partially done. For (1) we have a daily task (not automatic) For (2), 2023 papers are in peer with corrected information. 400 requests, 87 currently outstanding for prior year updates.
Detailed Accomplishments Below: Green indicates commentary on partially complete tasks. A strikethrough indicates a task has been accomplished. The Technology Solutions team has accomplished a lot and has mapped out better solutions as we move forward.
Search Functionality Upgrade
Setting up dedicated solr indexing server for nemo
Use separate instance of SOLR for Nemo
Upgrade to version 8 (Stabilized at Version 5; not able to upgrade 8; dependencies on packages (gems) don’t allow)
Getting solr indexing working in developer local setup (2 of 3 developers complete)
Email Notification Issues
Fixing several mailer queue errors for auto notifications (one outstanding mailer error remains with exihibtors, but reviewer and paper author notifications all seem to work)
Nemo - Paper Management Process
Data cleanup - duplicate entries for Papers::Reviewers (all validated duplicates were removed)
Remove the Best Paper Rubric from the system. Currently, a reviewer is asked to employ the rubric once a draft or a revised draft is accepted. This change will help to alleviate the reviewer's workload. Note that this rubric will still be used, but only with the actual Best PIC and Best Conference Paper competitions.
Fix Crossref issue with DOIs for papers (Much Bigger Issue (we’re close))
AD HOC Requests from July to September
The Technology Solutions department could not provide support for the items in red (1)-(5). Item (6) is still being discussed.
These technical tasks are meant to have following impact on users when completed: