Connecting Up Australia conference wrap-up

We all know time is scarce and so are resources. When it comes to starting, extending or changing an ICT initiative there’s a temptation to dive straight in.

At the Technology leadership for the (sustainable) win workshop, run on the third day of Connecting Up Australia conference, NTEN Executive Director Holly Ross, was encouraging (or even urging) us all to spend some time upfront on strategy before jumping to the selection of a particular tool.

She wasn’t talking about a mega high level ICT planning, with a three year horizon. Rather strategy for smaller chunks of work. Things like recording client data to improve services, reaching new audiences, encouraging supporters to be more active, improving communication between branches or offices, empowering workers to access information while in the field. Things like this.

The important thing to do is start this before the project kicks off, before any choices of tools are made, and definitely before you ask for money.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the familiar sequence of starting with objectives, defining audiences, detailing what content is around, discussing indicators for measuring success and so on. It’s such a common framework it applies to everything, not just ICT projects. Yet even though this is so, so familiar, thinking through these things is a process that is too often bypassed or not done properly.

The discipline of strategy upfront is something that will improve the quality of virtually all projects. The benefit comes not so much from what is recorded on paper, but from being open to unstated assumptions being challenged. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, as the amount of effort going into strategy needs to be commensurate with the size of the project.

There were a couple of other speakers at the conference addressing topics related to project planning (including Michael Dovery talking about, and Robert Samuel talking through Consult Point’s advice on selecting and justifying the right business technology). Generalising wildly, there was an emphasis at the conference on topics related to social media and the cloud, with hardware and systems almost entirely absent (something a few people noted as a gap).

I don’t know a lot about how Maree Ireland, from field, prepared for the Self-directed approaches blog she set up in 2009. However it’s obvious Maree has achieved many of the things she set out to: give a voice to people with disabilities using the self directed funding model, inform policy making, identify issues of importance to people out in the community and more.

This was an example of a super project reaching out to her audience needs, and how taking time to reflect on the project feeds into improvements. As I tweeted, “Initially no comments 🙁 Talked it over, realised new concept for audience, prob nervous like I was when I started writing -Maree.” After realising some of her audience may face barriers to participate, she took many steps to involve her readers.

If it’s not already obvious, I thoroughly enjoyed my six days in Melbourne. Thanks to the Connecting Up Australia conference organizers for once again making me so welcome. I’m looking forward to coming back.


When published, I’ll add a link to Holly Ross’s presentation and handouts.