Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Just Do It?
So, kudos to Edgecombe and Bickerstaff. Instead of just prescribing policy changes from on high, they’ve actually looked at messy realities. There’s a difference between doing and “just doing,” and that difference is easy to miss from a distance. To find out why we can’t “just do it,” you have to look closer.
"Why are your programs so expensive? Why are you spending so much money on paper-pushers! We demand proof that you are spending this money well and producing results! Quick, somebody generate a report!"
This is as close as I get to having sympathy for the people in the admin building.
The natural response of the faculty was to have the administration immediately order the registrar’s office or the software company to make it happen. But the faculty is often unaware of the true cost of making such changes. The faculty often regards administrators as overpaid, soul-less bean counters who only think about money, but administrators are more keenly aware that just about everything the school does costs money, and that this money has to come from somewhere. In order to introduce thse changes, the school would have to hire extra staff, bring in expert consultants, or otherwise spend tons of extra cash.
Just about everything these days is controlled or monitored by computer software. In order to introduce these changes, the software would have to be rewritten or modified. As I learned while working with Large Telecommunications Company, software is never simple, and even the most innocuous change is bound to break *something*. Should we introduce these changes too hastily, we might break some existing functionality and throw the registrar’s office into utter chaos. Student transcripts might get randomly changed, might get entirely erased, or get hosed in some manner.
Then the whole matter would balloon out of control. Students would get angry, parents would get mad, the faculty would get demoralized, and the entire curriculum would be thrown into disarray. The whole school would end up with egg on its face. The media would get wind of the problem and TV news critters would swoop down on the school. Students would start staying away in droves and administrators would start hinting about layoffs. A whole bunch of junkyard-dog lawyers would jump in and sue the school. All of this because of one simple change!
Read it here: http://goo.gl/SisRZg
In my observation, there were two reasons for this:
1) transferring the data took a huge amount of time and admissions and financial aid rightly had priority
2) the system was billed as "customizable" and "flexible," but the college only paid for the "off-the-shelf" version. Which meant that IT was responsible for doing all the coding and building everything we wanted to do. This bogged down the process considerably.
I have trouble imagining that over 8 years, the school spent LESS (in terms of IT support, various interim programs/resources purchased to bridge the gap, lost time on other projects, PLUS HIRING the PeopleSoft representative to be a permanent member of the staff halfway through) than it would have cost to have the final product designed by the company.
As it was, there were in my opinion far too many instances where we were told "the system can't do that, so you'll have to change how you consider, count, gather, analyze and report that data."
Why, exactly, did we buy this program? To make our professional work run more smoothly and have a better, less expensive product at the end of the day.
I realize that an appeal to tradition and "we've always done it this way" is not a particularly compelling argument against innovation, but when you have to change almost everything (and not get a faster/better/cheaper result) for no other reason than "the program can't do it because we bought the basic model," you get a lot of disgruntlement and a lack of personnel buy-in to the New Tech Order.