Keys to a Successful Implementation

In Brief:

  • The North Dakota University System has 11 separate entities, making this implementation complex.

  • For this implementation, three planning tips were crucial: Scoping, Pilot, and Visualizing.

  • For this implementation, three planning tips were crucial: Scoping, Pilot, and Visualizing.

Blog Post

At Alliance 2022, the Higher Education User Group (HEUG) conference, Nelnet Campus Commerce presented on keys to a successful implementation, focused on the successful implementation of student payment and ecommerce solutions at the North Dakota University System (NDUS). This session was hosted by Virgil Lloyd, Senior Business Development Executive, and Shelly Currin, Product Manager, Higher Ed Product Development, both of Nelnet Campus Commerce. They were joined by North Dakota University System and Core Technology Services associates Ashley Hanson, Business Analyst, and Angela O’Leary, PMO/Planning Manager.

Background on the North Dakota University System

The NDUS has 11 separate entities including: six universities (two are research institutions), and five community colleges. All campus locations share a single instance of PeopleSoft ERP. Since they are all individual intuitions, they have their own needs, requirements, and key stakeholders which added to the complexity of this implementation.

Nelnet Campus Commerce partnered with NDUS in 2021 and began implementation that summer with a final go-live date of May/June 2022. The implementation focused on student payments, payment plans and billing with our QuikPay platform and eCommerce solutions via Storefront, Commerce Manager and Checkout. They were on their previous platform for over 10 years, so this implementation was multifaceted and accomplished with a phased approached. “To move all of that over for 11 schools, we decided we had to be very strict in our scope to be successful,” shared Angela who is the project manager for this implementation.

It Takes a Village

According to Virgil, over 100 different people were involved in various areas of this implementation. These areas included:

  • Integration Specialists and IT Resources
  • Core Project Team
  • Key Stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts
  • Executive Steering Committee and Project Sponsors

“At different points of the project, different people are brought in from the Nelnet side as we have a deeper knowledge of the products and we can listen to the needs of the campus and help with the implementation team to figure out a solution,” Shelly added.

Planning Tips to Consider for this Implementation

For this implementation, three planning tips were crucial: Scoping, Pilot, and Visualizing.

Sending out scoping surveys was an efficient and effective way to collect the top needs from the various stakeholders, so nothing was missed. Thorough scoping set the table for a streamlined kickoff.

For this implementation, two institutions volunteered to pilot phase 1 and lay the groundwork for the other schools to follow. This approach was critical in getting buy-in from the other stakeholders across NDUS. These pilot schools provided a successful roadmap to follow and navigated challenges that cleared the path for the remaining schools and phases of the project.

Throughout the project there were pauses to demo and provide a visual overview and garner feedback. This approach was crucial for working through the configurations on the student dashboard, electronic bill, and Storefront hierarchy. Taking the time to provide a visual spurred thoughtful discussion and helped move initiatives forward throughout implementation.

Best Practices used for this Implementation

Some of the best practices used during this implementation were central repositories, communication, and configuration. Virgil said they selected Microsoft Teams and HubHelp as central repositories. This worked as a dedicated environment to store project documents, manage tasks, and communications— cutting down on emails while streamlining communications. HubHelp is Nelnet’s central repository for training materials and resource documentation.

When it came to communication, Angela explained they had weekly calls, monthly status reports, and at the beginning of this implementation, they used scoping surveys. As for configuration, they had a hierarchy for this project, and they used visual diagrams to help show their plans for this implementation.

Lessons Learned by NDUS and Nelnet Campus Commerce

Towards the end of any implementation there comes a time of reflection and thoughts on what could have gone differently. For this project, the top three lessons were the use of Teams, terminology, and third-party integration.

When it came to onboarding new users to Teams, the process was time consuming on the Nelnet side due to security constraints and the number of users. Angela explained she liked the use of Teams, but she would have utilized the NDUS Teams environment rather than the Nelnet channel to relieve the on-boarding challenges.

Even though there was a glossary of terms created, that doesn’t mean there will always be consistency in language. Also, it’s important to not assume that everyone knows the definition of terms, especially acronyms.

Third-Party Integration
The project team wished they started the project in an earlier phase due to the multiple vendors and parties involved. They recommend to outline clear priorities and remember that when it comes to working with third-parties, you are at the mercy of their timelines.


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Natalie Schwarz
Author: Natalie Schwarz

Natalie Schwarz is a former Content Marketing Writer for Nelnet Campus Commerce. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing and has over a decade of professional writing experience.

View all posts by Natalie Schwarz