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Outside the corporate world, the nonprofit arena tests the determination and diplomacy of IT leaders.

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Because it wasn't obvious how hundreds of factors could be combined to show efficiency — indeed, how "efficiency" should be defined — the development process was necessarily an iterative one, says White, who describes himself as the "visionary" for the project but not the project manager.

"As we saw something work, it always raised the question, 'It would be nice if ...' Users had lots of great ideas for things they wanted to measure, and we did quite a number of iterations. In a traditional software development project, you might call that 'creeping featurism.' But it was our deliberate methodology," White explains.

Another challenge was to make the performance displays acceptable to the people whose operations were being viewed. "Even if all our units are performing terrifically, when we compare them against one another, some that are performing well are still going to end up in that 'undesirable' quadrant," White says. "That created quite a risk for this project, and it still does.

"Our culture is built on seeing potential in people and trying to identify the best in them. It's countercultural for us to put people in a negative quadrant."

His solution was to carefully position the Ministry Snapshot in a nonthreatening way. "We continuously remind people that this is not a report card," White says. "It's a business tool to help us know where to focus, to know where your time is best spent."

"Clarence White really caught the vision of capturing all our data streams and providing a visual tool for displaying the results," says Martin Hunt, assistant territorial program secretary. "The Ministry Snapshot is a fantastic tool for senior leadership and the local Salvation Army leader."

Michael H. Hites
CIO and vice president for planning and IT, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces

  • Project at a glance: Rollout of a comprehensive ERP system for students, faculty and administration at NMSU, which has 13 research and science centers and 27,000 students. The system encompasses nearly all the major business functions of the university, such as accounting, student aid and payroll.

  • Signature leadership move: Took the lead as project champion, with zero tolerance for scope creep.

"Typically, you wouldn't go down all these roads at the same time," says Hites, 39.

That's something of an understatement. Hites and his colleagues rolled out SunGard Higher Education's Banner ERP software for student data, finance and accounting, financial aid, human resources and payroll, and alumni and development — virtually all key business functions of the university — in one megaproject for 35,000 students, faculty and administrators.

At the same time, it installed several other systems, including e-mail and a Web portal for students. The project kicked off in October 2003, and the last module went live this past February.

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