Monday, October 10, 2016

IT Plan: Is Technology the Chicken or the Egg?

Technology is present throughout MVCC supporting our students’ Learning and Administrative needs. The processes for our faculty and staff serving our students, more often than not, also involve technology.

As we use and evaluate our processes, or perhaps build new processes, do we take the approach of “What can technology do for the process?” or do we look at it in the inverse: “How can we fit the process into the technology?”

What processes could be modified or added and how might technology play a role?
What is the role of the end-user in technology planning?
Are we involving a wide enough constituency in our planning?

This post is designed to take a look at the College’s inaugural Three-Year Information Technology Plan. Please give it a review here, keeping in mind the questions posed above, and perhaps respond with questions of your own. We’d love to hear your feedback on technology process/design and the planning process in front of it all.

So ... What comes first?
The chicken or the egg?
The technology or the process?

5 comments:

  1. More prominently the technology or the process develops first due to the outstanding functions of the Info Tech department. It initially incubates in a department's day-to-day workflow with curious minds trying to make a "process" run more efficiently. It is then presented to Info Tech as a "must-have" solution to make the work-flow of a particular process efficient with little guarantee that it will be utilized due to the lack of evaluation. Consequently, a work-flow can become hindered by Info Tech's involvement or the “must-have” solution just becomes an abandoned thought. Conversely, there are some functions and processes that do in fact, get improved by Info Tech’s involvement, which are then refined upon. Not all of the “must-have” solutions go sour, there are quite a few that have turned into relied upon practices within the College.

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    Replies
    1. Paul Katchmar - MVCC Director of Information TechnologyOctober 14, 2016 at 1:16 PM

      In some instances, the technology does indeed come first due to the fact that we rely heavily at MVCC on locally hosted "Canned Software Solutions" such as Banner, or "Software as a Service Solutions" hosted in the cloud such as Degreeworks and Blackboard. Although these types of systems have a certain degree of flexibility in customization to meet the exact "process needs", they don't have the full degree of customization of software systems locally developed from scratch by MVCC Staff. This is where the actual process sometimes needs to be modified to meet the software's functionality.

      When "curious minds try to make a process run more efficiently" and propose a "must-have solution", this is usually the ideal situation. Ultimately the end-users know what they are trying to accomplish and it then becomes the responsibility of "technology", and those developing the systems, to understand the process. Once that process is understood and the system is developed, tested and has gained acceptance from the "curious minds", the job isn't completed.

      The next phase is "system rollout". Often systems are developed and work perfectly as designed, but the overall success of the project depends on full user acceptance. The challenge for full user acceptance increases as the number of potential users of that systems increase.
      Take for instance DegreeWorks which has a user base in the 100's versus a Payroll System that is only used by 4-5 people. It's much easier to gain acceptance of a system for just a few users rather than 100's.

      Your post references "workflow systems" where "process flow" and "process decisions" will only work if there is 100% utilization. If only one person "in the workflow" does not utilize the system, the workflow stops and it has the effect of a "document waiting for a signature on someone's desk" and the process stops and doesn't flow to completion.

      But yes, I agree! Sometimes we develop "must-have solutions that go sour", but some are also homeruns that become mission critical and fully make the process more efficient.

      Thanks for your comment!


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  2. I would say that process first is typically the way I function in terms of implementation, I don't change a process to include technology, but if I come across a technology that appears to fit a process, then I attempt to incorporate it. I will look for technologies to help with processes that seem inefficient or problematic.

    I'm the cutting edge of technology however, so considering the addition of tech to an existing process always seems like a good idea since I can pick up the tech instantaneously. For those who are slow to pick up the tech (either due to disinterest in learning or actual difficulties), it can seem like the tech was forced onto a process that worked "just fine" before. Therefore, an important part of putting these pieces together is both adequate tech to make a process more efficient and adequate training to make the tech work.

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  3. I would say that process first is typically the way I function in terms of implementation, I don't change a process to include technology, but if I come across a technology that appears to fit a process, then I attempt to incorporate it. I will look for technologies to help with processes that seem inefficient or problematic.

    I'm the cutting edge of technology however, so considering the addition of tech to an existing process always seems like a good idea since I can pick up the tech instantaneously. For those who are slow to pick up the tech (either due to disinterest in learning or actual difficulties), it can seem like the tech was forced onto a process that worked "just fine" before. Therefore, an important part of putting these pieces together is both adequate tech to make a process more efficient and adequate training to make the tech work.

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  4. Paul Katchmar - MVCC Director of Information TechnologyOctober 17, 2016 at 9:15 AM

    I agree that the process should drive the design and implementation of new technologies; for the most part. But I also believe that prospective new technologies have the potential to generate positive and productive process change, thereby avoiding the age old adage of "we've always done it that way".

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