Who: Marlies de Roode (1976)
What: Head of SAP Application Management
Studied: Business Mathematics and Computer Science at the VU
First job: Peeling bulbs
Favourite place at the UvA: The 14th floor of Leeuwenburg, the building where I work. It has the best views of Amsterdam
Essential: Colleagues. I wouldn't have any work without them and together we achieve great things
Marlies de Roode (1976) is Head of SAP application management at the UvA. While studying Business Analytics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, she won the thesis award; she served as a logistics consultant at IBM; in Barcelona, she started a successful bicycle touring company; and today, she is leading the way as Head of the SAP Expertise Centre.
So you found yourself working at the UvA. How is it going?
‘I started out as a programmer because I wanted to learn to understand technology and I found the puzzle-solving aspect of meeting the end users’ and clients’ needs appealing. I started out with UvAdata, the platform used to compile the management reports for the UvA. These reports provide crucial support for academic management and the administrators of the University. Before that data can be used to enhance the UvA's quality, it has to be linked together in a logical way. I frequently meet with end users to ask about their needs and find out what information is necessary in order to meet those needs. That lets me create the right connections within the available data. It's a very exciting and continuous process, and as a consultant you are involved from start to finish. After almost five years at UvAdata, I had the opportunity to become department head for the entire SAP team. At that point, I took on responsibility for managing and developing the software package for both operational aspects and management information at the UvA.’
The UvA is leading the market when it comes to IT developments.
ICTS is quite a change from IBM. Or not?
‘You might say that ICT services has a bit of an image problem within the faculties. While that is not always deserved, I do agree with the suggestion that ICT Services should try to respond more effectively to developments in the market and to what users want. IT projects take a long time. This means that end results are outdated by the time they are delivered, as they will have missed out on technological advancements in the meantime. Innovations often prove disappointing, which is frustrating for ICT Services and users alike. We are now doing something to change this way of working. When you invest your energy there, virtually anything is possible.’
I get an incredible amount of energy from the dynamic atmosphere within our teams.
How much innovation have you pursued?
‘We introduced the agile working method this year. The intent is to deliver our IT projects in a more iterative fashion. Every two to three weeks, we present our progress: where are we now? We deliver and implement minor changes immediately. That way, the end user can start using them right away and we are able to adjust where and when it's necessary. We in the SAP Expertise Centre are true pioneers in this area. We've broken down the walls separating the different departments and the staff is now a team that bears responsibility for the entire process. At the UvA, we are now also leading the market with regard to SAP (System, Applications and Products) developments. I get an incredible amount of energy from the dynamic atmosphere within our teams. In addition to team development and other standard management tasks, I'm now able to make a real contribution to helping ICT services become more agile.’
At the UvA, personal development doesn't stop for a moment.
So all that pioneering has a purpose. What’s your goal?
‘Eventually, the agile method will yield many benefits for students and academic staff as well. They interact directly with the applications and the algorithms in the timetables and the online learning environment, of course. If the continued development of those IT aspects is done in an agile fashion, the sum total will be more flexible. We are continuously working to improve the applications, and staff and students are able to make use of those improvements straight away. We also want to give staff and students a voice with regard to the improvements we make. The client comes first – and in our case that's the students and staff. That's why we are setting up stakeholder meetings in which staff and students will be able to participate. Without their input, we wouldn't be able to provide the right support. It's something we have to do together.’