JISC/LFHE Strategic ICT Toolkit Closedown Meeting

To the University of Nottingham for the final meeting for the project team – JISC/LFHE/JISCInfonet – & institutions who have participated in the SICT field test projects. Taxi ride from Nottingham station taking in a firebombed police station – not something you see everyday. Possibly a more than usually garbled commentary, but it was a very worthwhile initiative so I feel the need to get something down.

First session of the day was for each institution to do a Pecha Kucha presentation on their project. The following are a few interesting bits & pieces I picked up…

Bruce Levitan/Manchester Metropolitan University raised the interesting issue of the impenetrability of Enterprise Architecture for those from a non-technical background. Good point, although my experience suggests that as usually presented those from a technical background don’t necessarily find it any easier. Also see my closing comments. Anyroad, he suggested that some more engaging way of presenting EA was needed, & showed part of what looked like a very good Gartner EA animation. Which took me back to illustrating SOA/EA to LJMU management using the JISC SOA animation, & discussions in the EA Practice Group & beyond about how great it would be to have something for EA. Well, it still would.

Ian Hall/York had approached the project through the interesting mechanism of 1:1 interviews with senior managers using the toolkit. Comments: again, EA could be off putting, & not necessarily necessary/essential? Outcome – look into it. Equally, Shared services seen as a means to an end rather than necessarily a dimension on their own. Highlighted need to work on communications! & Information Governance. Started thought process. Will run again.

City of Glasgow College. Difficult to get off the ground but got conversations going. Separate toolkit for FE? EA awareness only with technical staff.

Middlesex. Academic view. Challenged dimensions ie not the ones they thought were relevant eg discarded shared services. Communications! Toolkit – jargon; limitations in spreadsheet; duplication, poor flow of questions. First real attempt at measuring ICT provision. Need to collect data over time – longitudinal.

& then things become rather more garbled than usual as it was my go & I suffered Powerpoint meltdown. My attempt at setting up a timed presentation for my Pecha Kucha (I can’t help thinking of gutta percha…) had resulted in an 0.06 second transition time between slides, which even my fast talking couldn’t keep up with. Attempts to fix it while continuing the presentation failed miserably, so I had to take time out – hence my recollection of other Pecha Kuchas is limited as I was labouring over a hot laptop, thanks for the loan, Lesley Huxley.

Clearly my new ‘zero or one’ strategy for slides is right for me – should never have gone for gutta percha.

So all I can say of the rest is: Coventry – Academic leaning, challenged the premises. Loughborough – scored Strategic! & devised their own simplified version. Bolton used it to support bringing in a Governance structure. & if I’ve missed you out completely whilst I was floundering around, apologies…

Next session: breakout to brainstorm around our projects. Lot of interesting stuff – particularly discussion around whether or not Shared Services should be a dimension, & the tension between generic/persistent dimensions – leadership, communications – & dimensions that may be time-limited eg if you did the exercise 5 years ago, or 5 years in the future, would EA & Shared Services appear? Emphasised the importance of focusing on the objective not the means ie an institution wants effective/efficient services; Shared Services may present a way of achieving these; an institution needs to understand the relationships between it’s people, processes & systems; EA is a way of articulating this. If you don’t go with Shared Services or EA it doesn’t mean you don’t need efficient/effective services or to understand relationships.

Also interesting discussion about how projects get prioritised/get senior managemnt backing, & where innovation fits into this. General rule:

Followed by a video conference session with Alex Hawker talking about the new Strategic Information Practice Group initiative, which will take on & progress the work of the EAPG and SICT, & the JISC call 11/11 for Transformation projects which will engage with these & other JISC-supported tools to deliver organisational change – very useful.

& lastly that I’m going to comment on, Lesley Huxley from the LFHE gave a rundown of how they might incorporate the SICT in their work, & led a very useful discussion around how it could be used in management development. One very straightforward idea: Senior management teams should be knowledgeable about the capability of ICT & what it can do for their business. They really should. Seriously. They should all be type 42s. They bang on all the time about the need to work smarter not harder, to be online, to engage with the digital natives – so plainly at the capability level they need to know about this stuff. So use the ICT Toolkit to find out if they do…

Also interesting discussion about how projects get prioritised/get senior managemnt backing, & where innovation fits into this. General rule: cheaper & better; can also go with better & the same; cheaper & the same; & sometimes even cheaper & worse, if a service is necessary but only needs to work rather than add value. Then raises the question: what about innovation? New things that by definition can’t be cheaper or better because they don’t exist. Suggested that innovation could be another SICT dimension.

Final comments:

– there was a lot of discussion around whether EA & Shared Services were really important strategic dimensions. I think the problem’s with the language. Using these terms can ghettoise them – they become magical technical things that can be put over there with the magical technical people – if you talk about services, which might be shared, or understanding relationships, which can be done with EA, you’re in a different ball game with a chance of winning.
– there still seems to be a lot of obfuscation around EA. EA is like Project Management – it’s just organised common sense. It’s not that complicated; it’s not as complicated as the experts make it seem; bring on the animation!
– Hell yes, JFDI

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