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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Does the PMO Need a Login?

Does a project manager have a responsibility to experience (hands-on) an information system s/he manages? What about the members of the governance bodies weighing in on decisions about scope, design, etc.? Does their judgment suffer from lacking an empirical perspective?

Last week I asked a colleague for his thoughts on effective project management. Although he offered a host of personal insights gleaned from twenty years in business analysis and information systems projects, I latched onto one nugget: “they should at least have a login to the system!”

The comment struck a chord. Early in my career, I decided that to be an effective manager of ERP strategy and execution I needed first to walk a day in the developer’s shoes. I paid my dues, in frigid machine rooms, code-development caves, UAT sessions, and conference room pilots. The benefits of those days in the trenches serve me well.

Many project managers believe that their talent is to apply a set of tools and best practices to any project; for them, the what, the why, and the for-whom are irrelevant to the job of arranging tasks, completing core deliverables, and delivering projects on-time and on-budget.

Clearly, this colleague disagrees. In his mind, a project manager’s ability to parse complex issues of scope and change management depends on a certain willingness to know the system, its inherent complexities, the business problems it intends to solve, and its efficacy at doing so. For him, a lack of interest in getting one’s hands dirty is symptomatic of an overarching detachment that ultimately renders the project manager ineffectual. In some ways, this colleague might say such detachment prevents other members of the team from viewing the project manager as a member of the team—which in turn could have broad implications on engagement and dedication, openness and honesty, and the overall success of the initiative.

What do you think?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gearing Up for Spring Conferences

I am excited about presenting for the fourth time at the Higher Education User Group (HEUG) Alliance conference. The cheesy title I picked for this year's presentation? "Dude, Where's My Budget: An Innovative Budget-Entry Solution in Hyperion Planning" (C'mon, you've gotta have a cheesy title to fit in!)

A lot of work remains to whip this story into shape for the mid-February upload deadline, but this year I face an added challenge -- converting this year's presentation into a more in-depth white paper and slightly modified presentation for my appearance two weeks later at the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) Collaborate 11 conference in Orlando.

On the face of things, this may seem a little bit like taking two college courses with an overlapping reading list -- but I am trying to think carefully about the unique characteristics of these two audiences. For example, how might the needs of a homogeneous higher education crowd differ from the multiple-vertical audience at OAUG? Should I have more technical emphasis for one group vs. the other?

Plenty to think about in the next 2-4 weeks!

NOTE: Check out my previous HEUG presentations by clicking on Presentations in the menu bar at the top of the page.

A Brief Statement of Purpose

Welcome to my new blog -- Putting ERP to Work in Higher Ed. I realize that's a terrible title, and hope to have an epiphany soon. This is my fifth or sixth foray into blogging, but my first attempt at something resembling a "professional" blog about my day job.

In the coming weeks, look for information about my upcoming presentations at the Higher Education User Group (HEUG) Alliance 2011 and the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) Collaborate '11. Read about lessons I've learned for managing projects, implementing systems, and trying to keep up with the rapid (or is it "rabid"?) pace of information technology. Also, learn about the ongoing challenges for managing the financial systems footprint at Harvard University.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter -- @jasonshaffner.