Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don't Fear the Vision

Earlier in my career, I hated vision statements. H-A-T-E-D. It always seemed to me that such exercises were empty, pointless, painful. Hours spent wordsmithing a paragraph or two, without any guarantee that anybody other than those seated around the conference room table would ever read those words. Only in the last two years have I have come around to understand the importance of strong and memorable vision statements.

Last July I blogged about a video I saw on YouTube about the simple "Message Map" technique for selling goods or services. That technique, first put to use in Harvard's OBIEE in-progress implementation, has really stuck with me and as I began my new role leading Harvard's student information system project, the vision statement was among my top priorities.

In molding the vision statement, I felt there were a few critical considerations:
  • Must be equally comprehensible to technical and non-technical audiences
  • Jargon should be kept to an absolute minimum
  • Must be exactly one sentence
  • Tone should be aspirational, even a little scary

After a couple hours and a round of feedback with the project sponsors, this is what we came up with:
Adopt a modern, secure, flexible, and intuitive technology platform that provides an excellent user experience, supports unique requirements of the Schools, and facilitates access to integrated student and course data.

When I deliver this to my constituents, there is generally a lot of nodding but also a glimmer of doubt in their eyes -- "why not throw peace in the middle east in the mix while you're at it!"

"Excellent user experience" is particularly bold and could get me in a lot of trouble; but it has to be our aim. We will define measures of success (unanimous, unequivocal adoration of the UX will not be the yardstick...) and strive for excellence. And the vision will be on the wall of our office suite, there for reference at any time, embellished with proofs of our success and failure in plain view of the team and our guests. (I will post photos once we have this wall of fame/shame in place!)

So don't fear the vision -- embrace it!


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