As I write this, I gaze out the window. It is spring, the sun is out, the trees are leafing, and flowers are blooming – a new day is dawning, for the earth and also for the Kuali Community. Having had the privilege to be a member of the community since 2007, and the honor to serve on the Kuali Foundation Board since 2011, I have had the opportunity to see “a tale of two Kuali’s.” It is my privilege to provide this update on the positive developments in which we as a community are engaged.
All with whom I have conversed, who attended Kuali Community Workshop, are of the opinion that we had an extremely successful gathering. Feedback from attendees was that the community continues to see this event as very valuable – that meeting face to face, both within the product teams and cross-products, is important for our success. However, we also internalized the feedback of the need improve on some of the facility aspects. Rest assured we take that feedback to heart, and will be acting upon it.
Before I espouse on our past, present and strategic directions, let me encourage you each to become more engaged in our community as we move forward together in some very positive directions:
- Consider reengaging in community activities, discussions, and planning as we move forward with Kuali 2.0. We are at a critical juncture, and the Kuali Community’s participation and input will be crucial as we proceed in new, positive directions.
- I urge you to attend Kuali Days 2016 in San Diego, November 14-18. While November seems distant, now is the time to engage and help to create a fantastic event.
- A very positive new direction for Kuali Days includes Kuali DevCon; a week-long workshop for those who write and support code. And new for 2016 is a track for those who support Kuali at their institution, either on-premises or in the cloud; called Technology Management, Operations, and Support. Please consider having your developers attend and enjoy the fruits of the best and most contemporary professional development available anywhere.
- Consider submitting a proposal for a session at Kuali Days 2016 – the deadline has been extended to June 10, 2016, and you may be able to sneak in a really good proposal for a short time thereafter! You are what makes this community different. We urge you to engage—present—volunteer and help build on the momentum.
Now, I turn attention to our history, our “pivot” to Kuali 2.0, and our future directions. I recall painful discussions the Board had for over three years, “Where’s the stampede?” – that is, “Why are Kuali adoptions so low?” We struggled with the projects being a little too independent and the code bases not fitting together as intended (we sold KFS and KC, the pair, here at CSU as the only two such products that were fully integrated), our inability to make fast enough progress with Rice, the large technical debt incurred by outdated code, having to restart Kuali Student twice, too many versions at too many institutions reducing the effectiveness of contributions back into a unified code base, and insufficient resources for Kuali HR, etc. Some of these challenges are true of all big software systems, and some were unintended artifacts of our evolutionary journey.
Nevertheless, being a member of the Kuali Community has been one of the best experiences we at CSU have ever had with administrative software in higher education, due to the excellence, commitment and dedication of so many in the community - we remain thankful for those from Arizona, UC Davis, and Indiana who supplied the critical development skills necessary for us go live with pre-release KFS 3.0 in July 2009. Indeed, as the Kuali Community, we have experienced both the “best of times” and the “worst of times” (thanks, Charles Dickens).
We at CSU, and I am sure many of you, remain convinced that Kuali is the best and the least expensive option we have for administrative software. Given current pressures on higher education, there has never been a time of greater need for enhanced functionality and reduced costs.
The key for us as a community is to retain the best aspects of Kuali and improve or eliminate the non-productive aspects; to introduce the discipline needed across products; to address the large technical debt we have in old code; to evolve to an agile coding environment; and to accelerate progress. After two strategy workshops with the community, we created Kuali, Inc., with four overarching goals in mind:
Speed – The Kuali company actually ramped up quickly, insofar as new companies go. It has hired an incredibly talented base of dedicated people, including many premier developers who previously worked for Kuali, buttressed by some of the best agile code developers in the world. If you have not visited their office in Lehi, Utah, we encourage you to do so – you will experience a vibrant, positive, productive atmosphere. Agile code is being produced quickly and effectively. We are seeing this now in Kuali Student, Kuali Research, Kuali Ready, Kuali Financials, and Kuali Core. However, because of the large technical debt in some of our products, many in our community will not see the results of this - in terms of systems running on their campuses - for some time. But the path has been established, and we must now continue to invest in the products through the company and community, and continue to explore ways to increase our speed.
Suite – From its inception, the company assumed responsibility for Rice, the glue that binds all Kuali products. Rice is being completely overhauled as Kuali Core, a truly modular set of independent services including authorization, notifications, groups, forms, and workflow. It exhibits some awesome functionality - I can’t wait until that functionality appears in Kuali Financials and Kuali Research. And, after two false starts prior to our pivot, Kuali Student is finally on an excellent development path, hitting milestones, etc. I am confident you will be impressed at Kuali Days 2016 in San Diego. The configurability in Student is far superior to that of any other administrative software product, and will be incorporated into all Kuali products over time. Finally, the company at the advice and urging of the Board, intends to consider establishing Kuali HR development activity. Then, we will have the “big four” products: student, finance, HR, and research.
Sweet – The configurability and clean user interfaces in Core, Student, Ready, and the new Research Conflict of Interest module are indeed “sweet.” These represent a quantum improvement, and the company is meeting this goal admirably. “How sweet it is!”
Sustainability – The company has experienced strong growth in the number of customers using our hosted solutions, a critical component that brings a new, sustainable source of investment to our products. Additionally, through numerous Kuali Foundation Board discussions and interactions with the community, I believe we finally embrace the strategy that for Kuali to be maximally successful, the company must accommodate both hosted and on-premises solutions. The company recently led the community in comprehensively inventorying the customizations in Kuali Financials, and are doing the same for Kuali Research – this has required a monumental effort, but it is essential to define and establish baseline versions of these codes, an imperative for sustainability. This is something that we were unable to do effectively as the “old” Kuali. I believe we are finally on a path to sustainability, and will get there as long as we “stay the course.”
Thus, we have much reason for optimism. I believe we have been successful in defining directions and establishing the structures required for Kuali to be successful – the four “S’s” are being realized. Kuali, Inc. is a new instrument that is necessary to allow us to be successful, and we must hang together as a robust community for us to pass the “sufficiency” test for success.
Patrick J. Burns, Chair, Kuali Foundation Board