IT Doublespeak for the Unintiated: Complete v. Done

We’ve been working on our Enrollment Management (EM) processes here at Armstrong, and I’m delighted to say that while we are not done, we are in a much better place than a year ago. Many of the issues we faced were around processes that hadn’t been updated or questioned since they were put in place about 15 years ago. Correlated was the lack of continuing education for staff to keep abreast of current practices in EM and the technology advances.

The highs and lows of this undertaking are for another posting, but in the midst of this we’ve had some interesting conversations among president’s cabinet members. The conversations have been around when something is “done.”

Consider this conversation a process of IT and institutional maturation as we learn to be a planned and proactive institution. Also, this has been a process of learning how to engage and do things as partners rather than the unsuccessful approach of IT as short order cooks. This leads to much better satisfaction and outcomes for everyone.

In a nutshell

The crux of the discussion was that IT was calling a project complete when the functional outcome wasn’t achieved. Both are correct, and that isn’t very satsifying. To be successful, the business units and the IT units need to manage engagement and expectation.

You: Aaarg! You IT rabble are playing doublespeak again. (sigh). 

Me: At least there were no acronyms. That means we are getting better, right?

You:  (Hey! I can’t print that…this is a family oriented blog)

Over-simplified version

Complete=the technical deliverables have been met, and IT thinks that it is ready for testing by the client.

Done=the clients have tested and affirmed that the solution meets the desired outcome/specification.

Many times there is an iterative cycle before reaching “done.”

Here is a picture.

Slide1But wait, there is an analogy too.

You have taken some pants to a tailor to be hemmed. The tailor measures, and you leave with an idea of when the pants will be ready and the cost. The tailor does his thing and hems the pants. (complete)

You still need to come back and try on the pants to make sure that the work is done to your specification/satisfaction. If you never pick up the pants, the tailor has still completed the work. If you pick up the pants but never wear them, then the tailor has still completed the work.

If the new hem is too short/long, then the tailor will have to make adjustments. (Too many of these iterations and you will know you’ve got a bad tailor and won’t trust him with your pants anymore!)

If you decide you want a cuff, then that is new work and the tailor must do more work. (Too many of these new requests on the same dime, and your tailor will realize he’s got a bad client!)

Once the tailor has finished and you are satisfied with the pants, then you are both done for this engagement. (done) Enjoy your pants.

Caution: pitfalls all along the way.
1) Bad specifications=bad output.
2) Shoddy IT work=burdensome testing cycle for clients and delays in achieving outcome.
3) No client testing=outcomes not achieved and IT in a hostage situation not able to cross project off list.
4) Feature creep/nibbling for extras= this can add delays to getting to other work. It happens but should be managed through good original specifications and joint prioritization of overall portfolio of requests.
5) Finished product that works, but no one uses in favor of the old way=waste and unachieved outcomes
While 1-4 are quite common, #5 scares me most of all, which is why outside of the technical components of an implementation, the training and organizational change components must be accounted for (think Lewin: unfreeze, change, freeze).
The worst situation is to have spent resources developing something miraculous that will help out students and also the staff delivering a service only to have it not be used because you spent resources developing the technology and not the people side. Again, a topic for another post.

The Takeaway

Clearly communication plays a vital role in reducing the risk for the pitfalls mentioned, and these outcomes require joint participation throughout. Please make sure to manage engagement and expectations to get better, more satisfying, outcomes!

Congratulations! You are now initiated.



1 thought on “IT Doublespeak for the Unintiated: Complete v. Done

  1. Signs of a maturing organization. The tailor and the client begin to agree on the definition of complete as equal to the desired outcome. The rest is just journey.

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