Magazine article University Business

IT Links In: Collaborative Project Management, Courtesy of the Information Technology Office

Magazine article University Business

IT Links In: Collaborative Project Management, Courtesy of the Information Technology Office

Article excerpt

In today's higher ed world, no department can work in a vacuum, least of all IT. From understanding the business plan to knowing how a web page or application will be used and by whom before it is designed and built, the days of CIOs and their teams working independently are gone. IT administrators are spending more time than ever before collaborating with other departments to ensure there is a clear understanding of a projects mission and to generate a more successful outcome.

At Purdue University in Indiana, Gerry McCartney is trying to bring representatives from every department together to collaborate on a universal content management system. "This would give the entire administrative campus access to photo and video resources they didn't previously have," says the CIO and vice president of technology. "And we just set up a group to look at whether we would benefit from a unified system."

Steve Tally, a senior strategist who works in marketing but takes direction from McCartney, also sees the potential in unity. "We have a tremendous amount of published assets, including text and video, and we are looking at a way to store all our content in a single repository so it can be accessed quickly and easily," he says. "A unified system would also allow IT to track and improve how digital assets are being used across the university."

Collaboration is not easy, because it requires asking people to give up control. The CMS group has extremists on both sides: those who want to unify and those who want to stay independent, and IT "is somewhere in the messy middle," McCartney says.

Collaboration isn't about each side giving something up--it's about everybody benefitting, he says. "It will work as long as both sides are benefiting from it. The advantages to both sides have to be communicated clearly so each person can explain the collaboration to others."

Here's how some schools are making collaboration work.

Redefining project management

At American University in Washington, D.C., associate CIO Kamalika Sandell says collaboration gets projects started on the right path and reduces or eliminates redundancy and waste.

"This is a new way of doing things," she adds. "Ten years ago, I would have gone to the business unit and said, 'Give me your list of project requirements and we'll either build or buy it. But if I did that today, I would get blank stares. That's not a valid response anymore."

Instead, she says, when she meets with people from other departments on a project they requested, they turn to her and say, "'You tell me what's possible."

"And it becomes a whiteboard session where, together, we discuss what we are trying to accomplish," she says.

Sandell, a speaker at UBTech 2014 in Las Vegas this month, is currently building a new website for graduate admissions. In addition to IT, 12 departments have a say in the end product and are represented at meetings: marketing, directors of graduate admissions for each of AU's seven schools, general admissions, registration, alumni and the career center.

Even before they understood the project's requirements, they "conceptualized," Sandell says, noting that this was where everyone's input was most valuable. "Prior to discussing things like objectives, target audience or what the site needed to deliver, we took two sessions just to talk about 'Who requested this site?', 'Why do we need another new thing?' and 'How do you think this one is going to be different from what's already available?' Then we looked at something similar that another university did."

Married over a mobile app

The Ohio State University's IT department experienced its first cross-collaboration effort in 2010 when Steve Fischer, director of web and mobile apps, was approached by a student government officer to request development of a mobile app to provide students with maps, schedules, phone numbers, event announcements and other handy information. …

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