CIO Symmetry

Jun 17 2010   8:00PM GMT

New England GiveCamp: One NERD and multiple IT project success stories

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

A lot of projects fail. If business requirements aren’t clear or gathered effectively, or if the scope of the project is inaccurate, failure happens. But this past weekend, at New England GiveCamp (a Microsoft-sponsored volunteer weekend held at New England Research & Development Center — or NERD), it was refreshing to see some IT project success stories.

So, does it take a NERD to bring business and IT together effectively? Nonprofits without the time, budget or technical expertise necessary for application development projects or website overhauls rendezvoused with tech volunteers assigned to their projects, on a mission to make some big changes in a short amount of time.

It was the ultimate interface between IT and the business — and, as such, not without its challenges. In a lot of cases, those on both sides of the table initially struggled with the requirements portion of the IT projects. The business side was trying to describe what it wanted or needed, or even what was possible. The technical side was trying to translate these business requirements into something that makes sense and is totally workable in a 48-hour time frame.

Yes, some of the goals for IT project success were lofty — from brand-new website designs to customized desktop applications — but, amazingly, all were practically finished (I say practically because there were a few projects that still needed some fine-tuning or visual tweaks) by the end of the weekend.

How can this be?, I thought. It takes other companies, large and small, weeks, months, sometimes years to get an IT project completed. How can you get something up and running in just a few days?

The budget was limited (in most cases, nonexistent), the timeline was tight and there was a technical language barrier. However, there were no political barriers, approval processes, instances of organizational pushback or creative constraints. There were also a number of Scrum masters on hand — “an invaluable asset,” according to one volunteer, because they helped the groups set and follow tasks.

Interestingly, when all was said and done, there weren’t two sides of the table anymore. Working closely toward a common goal brought together each group, tech savvy or otherwise, and provided an excellent roadmap for IT project success.

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