Chapter 4: Knowing What to Get
By the time you finish this chapter you will be able to:
At this point in the process, you have defined your needs, taken stock of existing resources, and, in some cases, developed a set of functional specifications (or a technology plan) describing what your technology solution should be able to do. In other words, you have done a lot of work. The problem is, you still have nothing to show for it. To make matters worse, your organization's requirements may be changing, threatening to make your needs assessment obsolete.
This is the time you may encounter the dreaded "whisky (or whiscy) syndrome" among users and managers. This refers to the impatience that occurs while the preliminary steps such as the initial analysis and documentation are being executed. This frustration is crystallized in the question: "Why the heck isn't Sam coding yet?" Your job is not only to preserve your own patience, but everyone else's as well.
If you are a district superintendent or a school principal, you are being asked the same kinds of questions. Teachers want to know when they can get on the Internet and principals are ready to use online applications to send reports to the central office. In any case, it's natural that people want to know that plans are turning into results, whether you're starting from ground zero or just upgrading the system.
Take heart. You're on the right track. By taking the time to become educated and informed, you can avoid making big mistakes (i.e., building an inappropriate or useless technology solution) that could cost your organization many times the money and effort that you've spent thus far. These precautions will allow you to progress to the point at which you can start finding solutions.
The results of the needs analysis and the current resource assessment must now be reviewed together. Whether or not the needs analysis and resource assessment were done by different individuals or teams, key decision makers must look at them both in order to draw sensible conclusions and take the next steps.
The solution that you are seeking during this phase is how to most effectively fill the gap between what you need for your technology system (e.g., the software you want to run and the hardware and networking needed to run the software) and what you already have. Deciding how best to fill this gap - by building or buying a new system or by making major enhancements to an existing one - is the subject of this chapter. This chapter will walk you through the process of deciding exactly how you're going to fill this gap, how are you going to arrive at a solution, and what it will take to build and support it.