Technology is critical to any large organization, carrying significant potential for benefits. Unfortunately, when talking about technology, the conversation often turns to cost, difficult implementations and unfulfilled promises. Even within organizations, the view of success can be different. And, regardless of the technology or the vendor, it is easy to find customers with either successful or unsuccessful implementations. That’s because there has not been and never will be a technology silver bullet.
Technology is often implemented with the goal of changing an organization. But technology itself cannot change an organization regardless of the success of the technology implementation. Successful technology projects are focused not just on technology but on the organization, how it delivers value and its business processes.
The “Right” Solution
A significant key to successful technology implementation is the selection of the “right” solution for an organization’s business needs. In Higher Education, the goals of organizations and technology are both changing rapidly and are often at odds. For example:
- Top LMS vendors didn’t even exist just a few years ago. Now, providers are expected to offer MOOCs and other emerging technologies.
- Institutions are moving to a student centric approach, yet very little or very slow change is occurring with the ERP vendors to support this approach.
- CRM is gaining popularity and demonstrates great potential, but many implementations remain siloed and do not achieve their potential.
Getting Off on the Right Foot
Selecting the right technology requires careful analysis and considerable effort. Here are a few key points to consider:
- Understand the problem – Sounds obvious, but many times when organizations begin the evaluation of technology, they begin with a category like ERP, LMS, CRM or Imaging. Stating the technology as the problem constrains the options.
- You are not playing Jeopardy!– Technology sales people are very good at selling their product and how their product will fulfill your needs. Maybe, but ask yourself, if this product is the answer, what is the question? Start with the question, not the answer.
- Their problem may not be your problem– Reviewing sample RFPs from other organizations can be useful research. But if you’re looking for a new LMS and the RFP is focused on support of classroom teaching, the requirements are not the same as a pure on-line program. Your situation is unique and must be thoroughly considered before following the lead of other organizations.
- But you said you could do it during the sales process– Sales is sales. If the vendor did not demonstrate how a solution will meet your specific needs, there is no guarantee it will when you implement. If the solution was demonstrated, make sure it is covered in the agreement and implementation plan. Missing specifics leads to customizations, work-arounds or changes to the project objectives.
Higher Education and the technologies serving it are both changing—and changing each other—at lightening speed. Technology solutions must provide the agility organizations require. Projects that are delayed, over budget or do not meet the organization’s needs add a further burden to the challenges your organization already faces. When you ask the right questions, you can understand the unique needs of your organization. This understanding—and not the reassurance of technology vendors—provides a good start for any technology project.