JISC Flexible Service Delivery Programme – STG Workshop “Working Towards Delivery”

In Birmingham for next workshop in the series. Missed first day – EA Practice Group workshop focusing on modelling – as attending JISC-CETIS Board meeting. Apparently this went extremely well, & very gratifying that presentation from colleague from LJMU – Sally Gannon – was extremely well received.

Key theme from introduction by Craig Wentworth – synthesis, exemplified by Brian Eno at the synthesiser – although analogy works on other levels…

Focus today very much on sharing between various projects & JISC/sector stakeholders/advisors – sharing artefacts, thinking, concerns, approaches, progress. Round table/world cafe approach to promote discussion working well. First session on themes – SOA; Shared Services; BI; Student Services; Student Retention; Internationalisation/Partnerships – & visualising synergies, where JISCinfoNet will be feeding back synthesis.

Followed by discussion on identifying assets that can be shared – models, presentations, case studies – & taxonomy. Clearly identified that key to sharing is common language; & key to stakeholder engagement is speaking their language & selling the benefits.

Taxonomy/tags: interesting to note that there is already a proliferation of Twitter hashtags with reference to EA that makes it hard to find stuff – hardly surprising given the absence of context. Wouldn’t want to get into the realms of ontology – because I won’t know what I’m talking about apart from anything else – but the usefulness of terminology will be dependent on contextualisation. Is this a job for the semantic web? Now leaving the shallow end of the pool, so I’ll stop there, with a final note that in plain English what we really need to do is make it easier for people to find relevant stuff.

Back to my point about conversations – what conversations is it possible to have? What language needs to be used in those conversations? At what level(s) can they take place? Conversation analysis – like stakeholder analysis/forcefield analysis but at a less formal level? Who can you talk to; what can you talk to them about; how should you do it – may determine strategy for promoting FSD-related stuff within the organisation. One key element – focus on benefits: what will be the outcomes of doing <x>, rather than how to do <x>. Craig Wentworth – focus on talking to people about what they’re bothered about, rather than what you want to tell them. Be useful out there!

After (excellent) lunch – affinity diagramming,challenged to identify expected benefits of FSD projects, & how they might be measured. Benefits, relatively easy; measurement hard (as usual!) Useful exercise – be interesting to see what comes out of JISCinfoNet synthesis. Good point – all good MSP stuff this – one person’s benefit is another person’s burden; need to say who the benefit is for, & should also identify disbenefits.

Followed by a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type session for each STG project to pitch the benefits that would accrue, & be challenged. Interesting but spirits flagging by this point…interestingly noted that benefits can be emergent rather than as initially defined, which is often the case but not often acknowledged. Problem with the traditional business case – can’t do a project without first defining the benefits, can’t truly define the benefits without doing the project – points to approach we are tending to take with projects within our Development Programme, project brief has outline benefits linked to defined programme benefits, more clearly defined as project progresses.

& that draws me at least to a close – another good FSD/STG workshop, & the JISCinfoNet synthesis to look forward to.

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