Michigan Housing gets an Upgrade

Michigan Housing approached Student Life Technology Solutions (SLTS) in late 2019 to address the need for a new occupancy management system, as the existing product was destined to be sunsetted. Through the SLTS project prioritization and onboarding process, SLTS determined that replacing Michigan Housing’s platform would be a high-effort and high-impact project. SLTS consulted with Student Life leadership to ensure buy-in and financial support. 

After an extensive RFP process, Michigan Housing selected the StarRez platform by StarRez Inc. for its new occupancy management system. The platform offered numerous opportunities to improve the prospective resident experience, including online housing applications and electronic contract signing. StarRez automated processes previously reliant on a combination of paper and electronic records, leading to more efficient housing assignment processing.

The project commenced in 2022 with extensive conversations with the vendor to understand and map existing business processes, prioritizing the most critical ones. Data maps were created to document current data integrations and identify other systems with which the new platform might interact. The project team then developed new business processes to maximize the capabilities of the StarRez platform.

The vendor and the project team collaborated to integrate several external systems, including student data in the campus enterprise data warehouse, Salesforce/Marketing Cloud, and SSO via Shibboleth, among others. These foundational data integrations enabled the automation of critical business processes.

During the project, additional modules beyond occupancy management were incorporated, including package management (to handle the thousands of packages received by residence halls each year) and advanced waitlists (to simplify the management of residents reapplying for housing the following year).

“By using the built-in functionality of StarRez, we’ve been able to eliminate standalone systems, like our previous package management application. This saves staff time and reduces the number of data integrations required to support package management,” said Michael Zabriskie, Associate Director of Michigan Housing.

StarRez’s phased implementation allowed Michigan Housing to focus on relevant seasonal business processes throughout 2023. These processes included initial applications and assignments for incoming first-year students, reapplications for graduate students, Fall 2023 move-in, and Winter 2023 move-out.

Throughout the phased implementation, the project team identified potential areas for improvement. Notable examples include additional data integrations for access control (such as student room locks and other doors accessed via card reader) and the Michigan Dining meal plan management system. The team also identified opportunities for process improvements, automations, needed documentation, and operational support.

“The new system has improved the timeliness of our communications with current residents by using live building rosters to send time-sensitive emails to a building, group of buildings, or all buildings in the Michigan Housing system,” Zabriskie added.

Although the initial implementation project has officially concluded, ongoing work continues with Michigan Housing, ITS, SLTS, other campus partners, and StarRez Inc. to implement these identified improvements. A continued focus on people and processes ensures that the most impactful enhancements are prioritized and executed.

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