Setting Goals without Making Loopholes


I notice people seem to set goals for their IT development that are either undefined, too general, or too specific. This causes a waste of resources and time, and often a declaration of SUCCESS! without any real results backing-up the excitement.

I think common sense can tell you where I am going with this, so I will not drag out the philosophy. Instead I am just going to outline an example that most of you can relate to, and may have even experienced.

Let’s say that the school calls a meeting and asks this question, “How can we reduce paper consumption.” After much debating and creative thinking the following directive is given : Within 2 years all of our forms, event registrations, accounting submission, and paperwork must be process electronically.”

OK that seems common and simple enough. So with this directive, the IT department makes a bunch of online forms that send emails to people and they place many well organized documents online for people to download, complete, and email.  SUCCESS!

FAIL! Utter failure. Epic Failure. Completely pointless exercise. Why?  Because the IT department does not know anything about making and implementing legal protocols related to documents. Nor do they work day-to-day with people who are joining the community. People who do this type of work are found in the legal department, human resources, registration, accounting, etc.  IT did execute the directive, but in the end all their work will tossed-out as soon as someone challenges information that was sent.

The directive needed to be more specific and drafted by multiple departments. It needed to include a checklist of objectives. This allows all stakeholders to track the success of the directive from various points-of-view. If it were me I would have written it this way:

Within 2 years our organization will establish a set of protocols and procedures for electronically processing all forms of communication between the organization, its stakeholders, and external partners. These protocols and procedures must meet all local, regional, and national requirements for secure electronic processing. In addition all community stakeholders and external partners must be fully informed and compliant with these policies and procedures. Anyone not wishing to comply with this new direction in data-management and paper reduction maybe asked to leave the community and/or supplement these procedures legally and at their own cost when paperwork is required. 

Then of course a set of criteria needed to determine success:

Human Resources:

  • Research and confirm legal requirements.
  • Document and present best-practice case studies from similar organizations with the same directive.
  • Identify areas that electronic processing is not legal.
  • Determine the legal amount of time data must be stored.

Information Technology Department:

  • Determine which forms of secure processing and authentication best meet the legal requirements put forth by HR.
  • Create a prototype solution for the legal department to evaluate. The prototype needs to include various types of electronic processing such as accounting, event registration, “calling-in sick”, etc.
  • Determine backup and archiving solutions that are redundant and cost effective.

I could go on and on. This is just a sample that I came-up with on the spot, but I do believe that setting goals and defining success is critical to real growth in an organization. We need to spend less time congratulating ourselves for empty achievements, and more time building a framework that truly measures SUCCESS!.

Tony DePrato 

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