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Top 10 Countdown: Ten IT Collisions

Rory J. Weaver

Rory J. Weaver is associate director of Networking and Computer Services, and project manager, ERP, at Utah State University. During his 30-year career, Weaver has worked both in higher education and at multinational companies including IBM, WordPerfect, Novell, and Kronos. Weaver founded Professional Research Inc., a consulting and service enterprise focusing on human resource optimization, and has presented at numerous professional conferences, including Educause, CUMREC, WebDevShare, and SETA. In his work with USU’s ERP system, he leads the team of IT professionals charged with implementing SCT Banner ( on campus. But he’ll tell you he’s really an interpreter between “front office strategists” and “back office techies.”

“Ten IT Collisions…and how to avoid them. Here, Utah State’s Rory Weaver gives us an ERP project manager’s view of the intersection of people and process.

10. Opinion vs. Knowledge

  • Those most willing to venture an opinion are often those with the
    least knowledge.
  • Make sure planning is based on real knowledge, not someone’s bias.
  • Include subject-matter experts in the early stages of planning.

9. Discussion vs. Communication

  • Consider: Is an application a computer program or a form to fill out?
  • Never assume that discussion participants understand each other.
  • Always clarify terminology, jargon and, especially, acronyms.

8. Supervision vs. Accountability

  • Exhibit excellence in your instructions and you’ll get excellence in response.
  • Anyone included in decisions will share ownership and accountability
    for outcomes.

7. Perks vs. Paychecks

  • Don’t count on salary alone to reward IT professionals.
  • IT pros love the latest gizmos (iPods, cell-phone cameras, high-end workstations). Give them the current “tool” and you’ll reap your investment tenfold.

6. Dictatorship vs. Diplomacy

  • From dress code to coding, back-office programmers and IT pros resent being dictated to.
  • Demanding compliance without clear definitions and justifications
    generates resistance.
  • “Asking” for technical help yields dividends.

5. Order vs. Chaos

  • A business pro’s idea of order can be an IT pro’s straightjacket.
  • Straighten your own tie but not a techie’s desk.
  • Programmers “iterate” until order is achieved (it’s called ‘debugging’).
    The process may appear chaotic to the uninitiated—don’t meddle with it.
  • Strive for structure with flexibility.

4. Exploration vs. Conclusion

  • If conclusions are not reached in meetings, make sure all understand:
    Discussions are discussions.
  • Document, publish, broadcast, and implement decisions quickly.

3. Mission Statement vs. Work Ethic

  • Business strategists may have clearly articulated mission statements,
    but back-office IT pros might not be as tuned in.
  • The best business leaders capitalize on IT pros’ passion for their trade.

2. Committees vs. Teams

  • Business leaders prefer committees of stakeholder members (square pegs)
  • IT shops prefer team models where members contribute individual talents (round holes).
  • Good business strategists utilize both models to advance enterprise mission.

1. Ivory Tower Strategies vs. Grass Roots Realities

  • Know the difference between needs and wants. Be realistic.
  • Management requests sometimes exceed system capabilities. Techies
    know capabilities.
  • Include techies in high-level strategic planning. They help keep “pie in the sky” on the table, so all can enjoy the fruits of their labors.
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