While many resources are available to provide software, hardware, and network services for institutions escalating their technology infrastructure, it is considerably more difficult to obtain effective guidance through the maze of planning and implementing technology projects.Because more than half of technology conversion projects are alleged to fail, according to the “literature,” we have devoted considerable effort to adapting project management principles to technology conversion management.And we have not had a project failure or budget over-run.
Our approach to technology development has been described by one president as a “survivor’s guide” to technology conversion.The role is that of a counterpart who keeps the process on course from the earliest planning date through the main event and until the partners (usually the institution and one or more vendors) have fully completed the project and the result is functioning as intended.This approach is sometimes described as “turn-key,” meaning that one is accountable for the project from beginning to end, with specific performance measures defining the acceptable outcomes.
The process components are described in sequential order, all or some of which might match an institution’s current need.It all begins with a defining need which usually leads to the development of an overall technology plan.The technology plan contains an assessment of the current environment and a vision for the future (in such areas as instructional technology, distance learning, administrative database management systems, and technology networks); objectives are formulated and projects are determined, complete with tasks, milestones, timetables, and resource requirements.With this document, the institution must prioritize and choose the projects to implement.A structure is established for technology management, including roles for Information Services, a policy guidance group, and user groups.Embarking on a major project (such as conversion from mainframe to client-server system) requires a project plan, contracts, operational schedules, and a project management structure.The work then begins: project kickoff, organizational meetings, work phases, monitoring, change orders and modifications, development and installation, testing and acceptance, training, “go live,” and project wrap-up.
The implementation of technology projects is an opportunity for achieving specific deliverable products and non-specific but important institutional change and improvement.The following outcomes illustrate both types of results:
• Completion of an institutional technology plan that defines directions and strategies • Hardware, software, and network solutions to information systems • Distributed responsibility for information management and sharing • Significantly improved work processes including quality and cost-effectiveness