UCISA Director’s Forum – Leadership 27-28th April 2010

In the Radisson Blu Hotel at Manchester Airport. Just seems wrong going to an airport and then staying there – kept thinking I’d forgotten something, like say my passport…

Anyway 30+ IT Directors & associated types gathered together for an evening & the day after to consider where we are, what we’re here for, where we’re going, & what it might be like when we get there. Health warning: this blog is absolutely not a report on the Forum, rather the usual collection of snippets, tweets, comments & random thoughts catalysed by the occasion.

  • evening of the 27th excellent dinner & lots of chat with an after dinner speech from Chris Cobb, PVC Roehampton, on how to go to hell in a handbasket – oops sorry, I meant to say on the future of the sector & how IT Directors will (won’t?) figure in it – actually really good analysis, insightful & pointers to where we should be looking to do something about it
  • reinforced by Peter Tinson, UCISA Executive Secretary, in his introduction to the main event the next day, with the in my view conservative (would be worse with a big C) estimate of 25% cuts over the next three years
  • referenced the need to do a full service analysis – keep, drop, reposition, share, outsource etc – definitely a key activity
  • also mentioned the need to line up technology/processes & people – I tweeted at the time “If we didn’t already know that we have to line up technology/process/people to be effective/efficient, might be a bit bloody late!” & now make no apologies. I’m sure I’m not the only one around with slides from 10 years ago representing this requirement – but unfortunately Peter’s comment was still valid, which could be a problem
  • Bit of commentary on the new £20m for Shared Services coming from HEFCE under the Modernisation Fund – this was discussed at the JISC Flexible Service Delivery Programme Virtual Town Meeting on April 22nd. Possible projects – an HE Enterprise Service Bus run through the cloud? (I knew the forecast was cloudy); suggested by Chris Cobb, an evaluation of Kuali to test for fit & see if OS solutions were applicable for shared services, as opposed to the big suppliers carving the whole piece up between them
  • Collaboration collaboration collaboration: very much needed but in a context of increasing competition & where institutions may in whole or part have inward looking cultures, not-invented-here syndrome etc. May be less of a problem than I imagine – may be more
  • Next up Chris Yapp, an independent consultant with years of experience in futures & technology. This is all my paraphrasing, but he talked about IT being part of everything, something you just do, a tool you use to do something else – which all seems pretty on the button to me – leading me to the perhaps slightly facetious conclusion that having an IT Department is a bit like having a Departmentof Reading & Writing (maybe we do?)
  • Does innovation equal loss of control? Referenced local departments doing it themselves because when they ask the central IT department then overheads, best practise etc mean that something they can do themselves in four weeks becomes a six month project – which incidentally can’t take place until next year due to other conflicting/existing priorities.
  • Reminds me of the description of IT maturity that I picked up years ago, keep referencing, & can’t remember for the life of me who I nicked it off – the one that goes from end users having it done to them, to for them, to with them, & finally to having them doing it to themselves. Certainly a way of shifting cost out of the central department!
  • Perhaps the end goal of an IT department should be to make itself redundant by empowering (horrible word I know but best I can think of) the business, & projects/programmes etc should be treated like interventions in social/community etc work – go in there, get it going & then leave them to it. But isn’t that the idea already?
  • Semantic vs. Bayesian statistical analysis – or something like that – look it up. I did, & discovered that my brain isn’t big enough – yours may be
  • VPEC-T. Lost In Translation. Picked up through approaches to EA, focus on the soft skills, trust etc & well worth a look.
  • The afternoon was a session run by David Chan from the Centre for Information Leadership at City University. Introduced their Master of Information Leadership programme, & then took us through an interactive role-playing session about customer-supplier relationships. Barring some logistical difficulties – the teams were too big! – it was an entertaining exercise, but the main thing I took away from the afternoon was that IT leaders need to be business-focused, not technocratic, & that soft skills are more important than technical skills. Which I think we knew already. Which I hope we knew already. Perhaps what we need is less on what we need to do & why we need to do it, & more on how to go about it.

& then I pretty much had to leave. So – overall an interesting/stimulating event with lots of opportunities to network & that kind of stuff – but still disappointing, going to an airport & never getting on a plane.

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One response to “UCISA Director’s Forum – Leadership 27-28th April 2010

  1. Pingback: Lee Stott » Blog Archive » Politics and the potential future solutions to IT issues faced today

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