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Leading and Managing Deployment of a Complex IT Solution

Delta Initiative is frequently engaged by organizations that are about to take on or are in the midst of deploying a high complexity technology solution. Many of these deployments are in Higher Education and involve systems such as ERP, Student Information Systems (SIS), Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Constituent Relationship Management (CRM). Recently EDUCAUSE published a series of articles focused on IT leadership. The three strong IT leaders highlighted each revealed their thoughts on aspects that have made them successful. Although the article was ostensibly on leadership, what struck me was that each was also a strong manager.

Balance between two large gold spheres.

Here’s why that is so important. First, Higher Education has a culture that values inclusion. Often, institutions strive to reach 100% buy-in regarding key decisions – including those having to do with technology. We all know that is a very difficult, if not impossible, task and it takes time and energy to reach a point of consensus. Leaders provide the vision and work the team through issues and decisions driving to a point of agreement.

The second point is that complex IT projects must be managed for scope, time and, ultimately budget. These two points can often be in conflict.

Enter managerial skills.

To better understand the differences between leadership and management I suggest reading Warren Beennis’ book “On Becoming a Leader,” which provides a good comparison of the requisite traits:

Manager Leader
Administers Innovates
Is a copy Is an original
Maintains Develops
Focuses on systems and structures Focuses on people
Relies on control Has long-range perspective
Asks how and when Asks what and why
Has his or her eye always on the bottom line Eye is on the horizon
Imitates Originates
Accepts teh status quo Challenges it
Classic soldier His or her own person
Does the right thing Does the right thing

In today’s fast paced environment, Higher Education, by necessity, has become lean; oftentimes sacrificing either leadership or managerial aspects. By doing so, complex technology projects may languish and falter. Leaders have to adopt managerial traits and managers have to adopt leadership traits in order to deliver value to their institution. Otherwise, your IT project is fated to fail.


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