In this TechRepublic blog post Mary E. Shacklett, president of Transworld Data, points to ten common IT problems, or sand traps, and offers suggestions on how to avoid them. Mary’s list is accurate but I want to consider that the list has much more to do with managing people and their expectations than it does with technology. The list includes:
- Uncooperative users
- Unhelpful users
- Lack of tool integration
- Platform loyalty
- Poor project management
- Lack of documentation
- Poor data quality
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Lack of people skills
Other than “lack of tool integration” all of these problems are people problems not technology problems. But even lack of tool integration has its roots in people because someone or some group chose the tools that the organization is using and that individual or group didn’t challenge or vet the tool venders adequately to determine how well the tools API work with other tools within their infrastructure.
Another potential technology problem that has its roots in people is poor data quality. Once again it is people who develop the methodologies, policies and procedures for putting the data into the databases. The better a data collection systems is configured the more effectively it is used and the less duplication or corruption of data exists.
These IT issues are a major sources of problems for higher education because they reliance so heavily on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Resource (HR), Student Information Systems (SIS) and Learning/Course Management Systems. The problems with these systems and the resources required to maintain and support these system takes time and resources away from other educational technology initiatives that have the potential to have an even greater and direct impact on the student learning experience.
IT departments in higher education need to get so good at implementing and supporting these infrastructure systems that it appears that they simply go away. Once IT gets to this point and the fundamental IT infrastructure works so well then time and resources can be spent on the online, mobile, social, media and communication technologies that are so important to our students and their future.
To do this, IT must hire individuals who have people skills not just technology skills. This may also mean that promoting your best technicians may be a wrong move if those technicians are not able to lead and manage people effectively and, more importantly, are able to interact with the user and user groups in a language that is jargon free. Furthermore, IT in higher education needs to hire leaders and managers that are able to communicate in “Geek” and Acadamise” because the ability to translate between the two groups is so important in resolving so many of these typical IT/people problems.
Implementing and managing technology is the easy part for IT, the management of people and their expectations is the challenging part. Finding the right leaders who can build and lead an organization culture that can understand and work to resolve these challenges is the key to mitigating these common problems.