The Educause annual conference is the nation’s largest gathering for higher education IT professionals and Daptiv was present for the well attended 2012 conference in Denver. Issues that attendees were concerned about were diverse but several interesting themes emerged over the course of attending sessions and having one-on-one conversations with end users and CIOs. One particularly well attended discussion on Project Management was intriguing, many pain points seemed common across education IT departments and Project Management Offices. Here are some of our takeaways from the conference:
Increasing Demand Placed on IT: Demands placed on IT departments are becoming large and disparate with multiple university departments demanding conflicting projects from an increasingly resource strained IT staff. With this increased pressure, CIOs and managers are looking for a way to streamline and manage their suite of projects.
Prioritization: Many attendees were seeking best practices and methodologies for prioritizing their portfolio of projects. Several attendees shared their successes and failures but several threads were common though all successful processes: easy to communicate and simple to deploy. Many attendees sought visualizations and reporting that would allow them to quickly judge the size of a project vs. its projected benefit. The easier it is to demonstrate relative importance and prioritize one project over another, the easier it is to communicate with and receive buy in from competing university departments.
Communication: Ensuring everyone is in the loop on project decisions is critical. Lacking a single source of truth for project management, implementing an effective communication plan can be difficult. Project Managers and IT needs to communicate early and often with stakeholders. Schools and universities which emphasized their success in communication reiterated this point. Every stakeholder needs to feel that they are part of the dialogue.
Flexibility vs. Standards: Project Management Offices, once built to solve the above issues often face their own hurdles. Being flexible enough to maintain engagement with stakeholders while ensuring accountability with standards is itself a challenge. Flexibility needs to be built into the DNA of the PMO and IT Department early and must be matched in any tool used to manage their projects. It should be up to the department to develop the processes, not have an outside process thrust upon them. In the words of one attendee, “The tool used should be process agnostic”.