I was engaged as the part-time CIO for a global NGO specializing in supporting business and economic development, where I helped manage multiple IT projects for global impact. As part of an effort to improve service delivery, we undertook the implementation of significant upgrades or full replacement for all information systems.
Managing multiple simultaneous information system replacement projects is complicated, presenting an extremely daunting challenge for any organization—and therefore is not a challenge that I would recommend. However, when opportunity knocks (in this case, in the form of a funding window), the brave respond. I do indeed count the many client stakeholders participating in these projects among the brave, for they selflessly gave talent, time, and tenacity to help ensure success. Did these commitments guarantee success? By no means! But it did guarantee that we would have a very decent shot at meeting our goals.
The challenges of managing multiple simultaneous implementation projects with limited resources are severe but not prohibitive. The keys to success are:
- Frequent and consistent communication
- A dedication to taking the time to get things right
- A mutual recognition that not every desire will be met with a response (prioritization is the key)
- Above all, a team approach in which the business units share ownership of the systems with IT, and in which both parties are willing to share responsibility for success/failure
In a super-compressed execution timeline such as we had with this client, it is critically important to acknowledge roadblocks in real time and develop effective approaches to circumnavigation. Don’t wait to have these conversations! I was consistent with this client in discussing both potential and actual project risks, and we had candid discussions that not only helped with the implementation projects but will also shape the IT strategy and ecosystem at the organization for years to come. When they felt I was off-track or out of step with a stakeholder, they let me know about it. Thus, as a team we worked through the many obstacles and stresses associated with such a massive undertaking
The reward for all of the hard work is the opportunity to extend the organization’s ability to create a global impact, whether in Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, or wherever the opportunities lead! The vision is to create a global, technologically connected, informed, and enabled community of consultants and volunteers to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.
Need to Successfully Manage Multiple IT Projects for Global Impact?
If you have a funding opportunity or see a program opportunity that could be enabled by wide-scale IT information projects, respond bravely. By being mindful of the above keys to success and keeping the communications open and honest, your organization will have a strong shot at achieving your project and mission goals. Massive undertakings are stressful and not for the faint of heart. But with dynamic leadership and a realistic assessment of your organization’s capacity and risk factors, you can pursue big projects with big payoffs.
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