DAILY INSIGHT: 7 tips for avoiding tech-implementation failure

By Miguel Guhlin, CIO Advisor

Team leaders, I'm told, take responsibility for their team's failures. You know, when the Titanic hit the iceberg, and it sank, the Captain went down with the ship.

I recently found that I fumbled on a project. Here are some tips I came up with to avoid having it occur again. As I read these, I realize that they are obvious. I can't help but ask, Why didn't I do this in the first place? The reality is that everyone missteps and other factors can force your hand. For example, consider what might make you set aside these tips for avoiding technology implementation failure:

  • Perceived need for speed. In my situation, I felt we were under an imperative to fix a technical issue and, as such, taking shortcut in implementing a solution that has worked in the past seemed OK. Be on guard for the "need for speed."
  • The boss says, "Do it."Trust me, even when the boss says to get it done, the intensity will be increased when what gets done fails.
  • Foolproof solution that will work!We've all encountered foolproof solutions that are going to be "slam-dunk" and then ... you get slammed.

Here are the 7 Tips:

  1. Contact other districts and find out what’s been done previously. If I'd done that in this particular situation, I would have found that the mistake we made in implementing had already been explored and done by others. Learn from others' experiences is a piece of advice I forgot.
  2. Do a mock walkthrough of the technology implementation and detail the steps. This is important because, in one situation, I realized that while several team members individually knew something needed to be done, that wasn't articulated as a team and failed to become part of the group knowledge that we could tap into. If we had walked through the process, we would have realized we needed to take more steps.
  3. Consult with stakeholders prior to scheduling—when possible. One of the challenges I encountered included a failure to appreciate how serious a temporary lack of access to the technology implementation would be for stakeholders. What seemed pretty short time to be without something was of incalculable concern to stakeholders. When we went over schedule on the implementation by a few hours, stakeholders were concerned.
  4. Notify stakeholders using different methods (e.g. email AND phone calls).Although I always notify folks when I'm moving their cheese, I failed to pick up the phone.
  5. Develop a fallback plan if it all goes poorly. Having a fallback plan in mind is important. In our case, the primary plan failed to work as well as expected. We had to come up with a fallback plan at the last minute, which meant stepping back and relying on equipment that was less than desirable.
  6. Make it easy to receive stakeholder feedback on the tech implementation. This seems pretty obvious, but sometimes we forget to take the necessary steps.
  7. Shut down the old technology. Switching from one technology to another? Make sure that you shut down the "old technology" so that users won't keep using it when the new one is put in place. That way, you're not caught trailing data from one system to another.

Miguel Guhlin is director of technology for a 5A school district in Texas and past president of the statewide TCEA Technology Education Coordinators group. This blog is cross posted at Around the Corner.