JISC FSD Launch – Barriers & Possibilities for flexible & shared ICT service provision

Launch event held at the Grafton on Tottenham Court Road, 2nd October.

Very good attendance/range of participants. Following are my usual random comments, hopefully of interest…

& must mention great early comment from David Rose/the Open Group – if EA needs a burning platform to focus activity on, are the EA practitioners firemen or arsonists?

Key points (for me) from Strategic Technologies Group presentations on Maturity & Readiness Towards FSD

  • Oxford. Clear commitment to SOA; barriers identified as organisation, vendors, VAT. Key work in area of student systems: currently using the Oracle Student System which is being desupported by Oracle in 2013. Unlike LJMU, where we are moving to Oracle Peoplesoft Campus Solutions as the natural follow on to OSS, they have taken the view that at the moment they want to avoid moving to another big monolithic system, plus they find the available alternative student systems ‘uninspiring’. Currently planning an incremental replacement of OSS based on a service approach – one concern is whether  OSS will enable/support SOA/FSD. This looks to me like a valid & creative approach – albeit also very ambitious.
  • Imperial College. Looking at the use of EA as a strategic planning aid – can’t argue with that, very much the approach we’re  taking, seeing the ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ modelling as a very powerful way of developing strategy. Also referenced importance of Governance. Barriers: vendors, organisation, (lack of) governance
  • Thames Valley University. Intelligent Decision Support in HE (IDS-HE). Project on reporting on student retention issues & making interventions. Collecting data sources, data integration, data mining, student intervention. Not sure what this has got to do with FSD quite yet, although good project – probably lies in aim to identify scope for sector-wide reusable solutions. Not yet addressing attendance/PBS – but it could. Comment from Peter Tinson – Home Office are not expecting insitutions to develop/put in new systems to monitor attendance, but expect them to use systems they’ve already got – so if you are putting in new systems, stop it! TVU open to expressions of interest ref joining an IDS-HE Special Interest Group.
  • Leeds Metropolitan University. All about integrated student-facing services. Service diagram – essentially an EA model but not presented as such – so would benefit from common representation of such models, eg Archimate. Objective – be able to say why we’re using what we use, & how things fit together – very good articulation of an aspect of EA. Barriers: institutional change; availability of expertise; supplier engagement; economic climate. <Note: deployment of shared modelling language across FSD/STG/EA work would have great benefits in terms of shared understanding, key objective for JISC – at the moment there is a risk that everyone will be doing this modelling using different languages/tools/approaches which will make it difficult to compare/contrast/share>.
  • Cardiff. STG membership very much informed/based on EA work. Fragmented IT governance, difficult to defragment in a devolved environment. Good handle on reality of EA & what it means. The cake driven approach to EA must be the way to go.
  • Roehampton University. JISC funding has enabled investment in modelling software – standard/exchangeable way of representation, very important, ref Leeds MET. Develop understanding of business & enhance abilityof IT to support it through modelling exercises. http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/cairo.
  • Nottingham. Common themes important – EA; Governance; Data Management; etc

Next presentations from possible consortium members, introducing projects:

  • RMAS Consortium/Exeter University. Research management at Exeter = burning platform. Another modelling approach. Market research has not identified a clear supplier solution. Very tight timescales to move through procurement to pilot. Expectations from STG: access to technical expertise; forum to share approaches to governance (key area!); knowledge & best practice.
  • Bloomsbury Consortium. The Bloomsbury Learning Environment – started with Blackboard. Since 2006/7, Blackboard hosted. Now extending into other services – huddle, Wimba, google docs, iTunes U etc. Key lessons in governance area? Apparently no MoU, SLAs etc, which was surprising.

& then lunch was followed by an excellent Affinity Diagramming session looking at barriers & enablers to FSD, facilitated masterfully by me & Andy Jordan – joking aside, it did go very well, got lots of ideas out clustered into useful themes, & will be useful to the JISC in thinking about what they might do to drive the agenda forward. Themes were as you might have expected: Culture; Senior Management Buy-In; Suppliers; Governance; Resources; External Factors; Drivers (lack of) – but there was some valuable detail in there. Interesting that there were as many post-its on enablers as on barriers, which is unusual as there are usually far more on barriers; that not that many were about technology; and one post-it from barriers said ‘900 years of institutional independence’.

Followed by presentation from Paul Hopkins/De Montfort on the Student Tracking & Engagement Project – demonstrator on student attendance/retention, then round table sessions on EA, Support, & Supplier Engagement – don’t know about others, but I was flagging by this point (after 3pm on a Friday afternoon), so commentary almost ends here – but it was a worthwhile event & I think JISC/the FSD Steering Group have a lot of useful information to process/inform future activities. Hopefully it was also useful in engaging STG members & other attendees.

Final points – ref the EA side of the street, which personally I think is a very valuable avenue to go down (?), I have lingering concerns about: lack of clarity about what EA is; continuing focus too far over on the technical side; & I think an impression still being given that this is somehow something complex & difficult & requiring education in a whole new language, when it should be presented as a simple & obvious tool that helps the organisation to make a better job of lining up its information systems with its business processes & its people & to make better informed decisions about future direction. EA as strategic change management tool – that’s the way to go. Plus I would advise strongly against anyone ever having an ‘EA Project’ – what would that be for? – & wish there was a way of depicting this stuff that didn’t involve boxes & arrows (usually lots & lots of boxes & arrows). Mime. Song. Street theatre. Please.


2 responses to “JISC FSD Launch – Barriers & Possibilities for flexible & shared ICT service provision

  1. John,

    Thanks for the synopsis – very interesting. Wish I had been there.

    Can I ask about your comment “…I would advise strongly against anyone ever having an ‘EA Project’ – what would that be for?”

    Do you mean that EA is the change management framework for all programmes and projects?

    We have a change programme (Support Services Process Review) which is underway. I’m looking to try to initiate a (technical) EA project to support this change programme. I approaching it this way because I just don’t see senior management buying-in to using EA for the whole change project.

    Do you think this approach is valid?


    • Luke

      I think your approach is perfectly valid – my concern is that the focus can end up being on ‘doing’ EA rather than ‘using’ EA, so that EA becomes an end in itself, whereas really it’s a tool to help get you there. We’ve taken the decision to adopt EA as an approach in all of our major information systems/process projects, as an effective tool for linking through people to business services to applications to technology – which means there is no ‘EA project’ as such, it’s an approach that cuts across everything.

      I suppose you could use EA as the overall/main change management tool but in a context where there’s lots of others around – eg we’ve got EFQM Excellence Model, Balanced Scorecard, IIP, MSP etc – this could be difficult and even counter-productive. There’s been a lot of discussion in the EA Practitioners Group about whether it should be top-down, bottom-up, middle-out etc – I think EA should be used as a tool where it fits best in the context of the organisation, rather than there being any hard and fast rules.

      Hope this is helpful/makes sense – & happy to discuss further.


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