Thursday, May 10, 2007

Half an empty glass or...

The Campus Blend using Sakai (CBUS) project at the University of Twente is heading towards the end. This month we have to deliver our final reports (5 parts). During the vacation of my colleague Wytze Koopal I have to manage the writing process of three of these reports and also take account of the overall CBUS project management. On May 24 we have to present our reports and the conclusions to representatives of the management team of our service department. As a reader you may think, well in that case they will already know what their conclusion will be, but as a matter of fact it is not as straightforward as we thought it would be. It's not going to be a simple yes or no. Of course there are positive issues that came forward in our pilot projects, but we also heard some serious criticism. It is our (or at least my) ambition to present the results as objective as possible. Obviously, you have to start with presenting your research data as they are, give everyone access to your raw data. One of the difficulties here is that these data have been collected under various circumstances. This makes it easy to come up with alternative explanations. Our research setting was not a strictly controlled laboratory environment, but a realistic field experiment. Taking account of that matter it is still possible to identify some general issues and trends from the data. But we see a rather nuanced perspective. Some issues can be interpreted in favour of Sakai, some not. The major challenge here is to write down the conclusions in such a way that they correspond with your data and still provide enough information for the decision makers. Due to the rather complex data landscape, one can either choose to take the perspective of 'yes, but...', or 'no, unless....'. The data are exactly the same in both cases, and one could easily argue in favour of both perspectives. However, from a psychological perspective it is a major difference if you choose to start from a positive or from a negative mindset. The objective information behind the 'but...' or 'unless...' may be basically the same, but is a very important difference if you start from a 'yes' or a 'no' conclusion. In Dutch (and maybe also in other languages) we have a metaphor for this kind of dilemma: consider the glass half empty or consider it half full. What is it going to be? Finally, it is important to mention that the results are based on the current release of Sakai, but how will it develop in the next year(s)? What are the expectations? When should you start migrating to Sakai, if at all? Is it better to take an incremental approach or follow a big bang scenario? Is it reasonable to expect that current problems will be solved by the time you want to migrate to a campus wide production environment? If the answer to the last question is a 'yes', then it is more likely to take the conclusion from a positive perspective. Became curious? Well, I invite you back to this blog in a couple of weeks.
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