4 Obvious But Overlooked Ways to Shorten the IT Decision-Making Process

Estimated Read Time: 6 minutes

decisionmakingprocessSometimes, it can feel like Higher Ed IT moves at a snail’s pace; it can be slow to adopt new technologies, slow to get projects underway and slow to make key decisions on projects that go through multiple departments at an institution. While these snags are often unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to help shorten a lengthy decision-making process and minimize its effect on your progress as much as possible.

Get Ahead

With each major decision, try to have a plan and a process set up for arriving at an outcome, including any timelines and contingencies that need to be accounted for.

The key to avoiding project slowdown during the decision-making process is to realize the issue ahead of time and take actions to prevent it before it starts. Sit down with the project sponsor, decision makers, and stakeholders and agree on what the scope and deliverables for the project should be. Getting this out of the way early will help avoid having to ask important questions as you implement, which can be incredibly messy and could potentially delay the project. It may sound obvious, but thoroughly documenting decisions that are made in each meeting can also save time and potentially prevent those decisions from coming up again in the future. With each major decision, try to have a plan and a process set up for arriving at an outcome, including any timelines and contingencies that need to be accounted for. Some delays may be unavoidable, but with the right preparations, you can work to minimize their impact.

Be Inclusive

Including the right people in your project at the right time can substantially improve decision-making speed. If possible, bring in key decision makers for meetings on at least a monthly basis. If that isn’t possible, work with them to appoint a representative who can make decisions on their behalf. It’s also important to engage with those who will be impacted by the decision–whether they’re faculty, staff, or students. Reaching out to all related parties when making key decisions will help to expedite the process significantly. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the opportunities that working in Higher Ed affords your steering committee; depending on your institution, you may be able to contact highly qualified academics with specific knowledge on the topic you’re deciding on.

Communicate

Getting stakeholders together to discuss the decision will be much more effective than trying to come to a decision by conference call or email.

Effective communication is important in all stages of a project’s life cycle, but it is especially valuable when trying to guide a committee or project team towards a major decision. Start off by conveying the decision-making process to those involved early on, and have them commit to following it. Once everyone is on board, have them agree on the nature of the question at hand and what the final decision will entail. While having everyone in the same room may seem impossible, getting stakeholders together to discuss the decision will be much more effective than trying to come to a decision by conference call or email. Individual meetings with committee or team members may also be necessary to ensure that everyone is on the right track.

Take the Lead

If you’re looking for ways to reduce the impact that downtime can have on your project, the most effective way to approach the decision-making process is to treat it as a project. Think of your steering committee as a project team; every committee member must understand and agree to their role in the process for the design-making process to be truly effective. Engage with decision makers to ensure that deadlines are met and that the plans that were initially agreed upon are followed. Establish a risk mitigation plan that covers what could go wrong, how likely it is to go wrong, and what can be done to minimize that risk. This will help prevent unnecessary delays in case something goes awry. As the “team lead”, you might be put in a situation where you need to trust your gut instincts in regards to a major decision rather than relying on hard data to back up your approach. Moments like this require strong leadership skills but can be made easier with the right preparation. Every project needs a lead, and your steering committee will benefit greatly from your willingness to take an active role.

While these four tips may be obvious to some, it’s easy to overlook the little things that can make a lengthy decision-making process easier for everyone. Making your steering committee as efficient as possible and preparing for any potential delays can work wonders towards minimizing the effects that a setback may have on your IT project.

This article was written in collaboration with Andy Barbeau, senior IT management consultant; Anna Tomecka, senior project manager; Glen Low, e-learning strategist; Nicolas Alvargonzalez, senior engineer; and Nuno Couto, senior project manager.

Summary

  • Sit down with the project sponsor, decision makers, and stakeholders and agree on what the scope and deliverables for the project should be.
  • Thoroughly document decisions that are made in each meeting.
  • Try to have a plan and a process set up for arriving at an outcome, including any timelines and contingencies that need to be accounted for.
  • Bring in key decision makers for meetings on at least a monthly basis.
  • Engage with those who will be impacted by the decision.
  • Convey the decision-making process to those involved early on, and have them commit to following it.
  • Individual meetings with committee or team members may be necessary to ensure that everyone is on the right track.
  • Treat the decision-making process like a project.
  • Engage with decision makers to ensure that deadlines are met and that the plans that were initially agreed upon are followed.
  • Establish a risk mitigation plan.
Do you have any advice for how to shorten the IT decision-making process? Let us know in the comments!
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