Category Archives: Project management

#SCONUL12 Summer Conference 14th June 2012

Made a brief appearance on behalf of UCISA at the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) Summer Conference, held at the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool, for a panel session on sharing best practice in evaluation strategies – along with Kitty Inglis, University Librarian at Sussex, and Karel Thomas, Executive Director of the British Universities Finance Director’s Group (BUFDG). Plus a surprisingly large – standing room only – and vocal audience, and great chairing from Sara Marsh, SCONUL Vice Chair and Director of Learner Support Services at the University of Bradford.

I expected a rather dry session on what looked like a rather dry subject, but far from it! Each panel member gave their 5 minute view of the area, followed by a surprisingly lively discussion. Following bullet points are the usual vague, inaccurate and repositioned recollection of some of what was said:

  • Kicked off talking about ITIL for Service Management/Evaluation & Programme Management/Benefits Realisation for evaluation of development
  • Projects deliver the capability to do things differently; benefits management tries to make sure that we do do things differently
  • Particular challenge when the benefits have to be realised in changes in ways of working in areas outside of the management control of the project/programme – even more of a problem for JISC programmes where the benefits have to be realised in a different organisation
  • Information services need to be useful, usable and used (thank you JISC) – benefits are in the used part, needs more focus
  • UCISA/SCONUL collect a lot of statistics, but are they the right ones/much use?
  • When we evaluate, are we hard enough on ourselves?
  • Need to look at LEAN – being looked at more in the sector
  • Benchmarking – not enough effort goes into establishing where we’re starting from, which makes it hard to evaluate how far we’ve travelled
  • Strategy maps – important to make sure we retain the connection between institutional level objectives and project/programme outputs (benefits mapping could also be applicable here)
  • Need to get closer to our Finance colleagues – our Finance colleagues need to get out more – investment appraisal, cost benefit analysis and all that stuff needs to be shared venture between Finance, supplier departments and stakeholders
  • Do we make enough use of our suppliers, for their strategic input rather than just the functionality of their products?
  • & finally, pointer to what looks like a very useful report from the US Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) – Value of Academic Libraries Summit White Paper – which I shall read when I get the chance.

So – great session, poor summary from me, looked like a really good conference, and wish I could have stayed…

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JISC Enterprise Architecture Practice Group 26th January 2010

Slightly smaller but enouragingly large group carrying on from FSD meeting yesterday, but with focus on EA.

Kicked off by me with an impassioned – honest! – plea for the importance of EA. Then group discussion on where people are with EA on the maturity model – explorer, adopter, implementer, achiever, practitioner. Mostly explorers, which is both good & not a surprise. Reality: tend to be hovering around all 5 levels at the same time. Fear! Fear of TOGAF, fear of the hugeness of it all, elephant for breakfast etc. TOGAF = like PRINCE2. When digging a hole, the focus should not be on the spade. Back to the Dearing type 42 manager – EA articulates what that kind of leader does. Andy Jordan/Duke & Jordan – EA = a philosophical framework within which the right kind of thinking can be done – spot on.

Is there a danger in EA originating in IT? Is there a danger that IT is seen as driving the business? Is there any difference between IT & the business? Do you worry about aligning the spade with the hole, or do you just dig… Back to the idea of being useful: what does the VC/CEO want? To run a successful University. If EA helps with that, do it. Be useful.

Doing EA – P4; John Townsend/Liverpool John Moores University. Description of a practical problem, project, & programme based approach.

Big EA – John King/Roehampton. 7 steps to EA. No EA project! – exactly. Don’t need a business case for EA – do need a business case for EA awareness. Key problems: Governance & stakeholder buy in. Bonus: modelling.

Run Silent, Run Deep – Paul Hobson/Cardiff. Common theme – address real business change problems. JFDI. Ref http://congliffy.cf.ac.uk/display/LeanEA. Gleaned a lot of intelligence from the Burton Group. Imperial complexity in spades.

Exploring EA – Luke Taylor/Bristol. Scope: supporting process review. Bristol doesn’t see IT as the business -yet. Introducing EA into emerging projects. New Governance structure based round Strategic Programme Board – Programme Management structure, really = home for EA.

Followed by brief but interesting breakout discussions – but surfacing the usual problems/issues – not sure we got any nearer to any solutions. Learn by doing = MOTD.

Introduction to Modelling – Yvonne Howard/Southampton. Modelling is a spectrum of activity, from soft to hard. How do you tell a well socialised software engineer? They talk to your shoes. Modelling enables conversation. Not really for me, as I don’t/won’t do any actual modelling – shame the business analysts who do aren’t here. Interesting point ref audience for FSD/EAPG activity. SSM – hasn’t popped up for a little while. Could be interesting/beneficial to introduce VPEC-T into this conversation.

& on reflection from the train back to Liverpool…

Overall good event, although I felt today/EA was better than yesterday/FSD. Latter seemed more amorphous/harder to get hold of, although maybe this is the nature of the beast – EA is a tool, FSD is an outcome – or rather a wide range of possible outcomes dependent on the context/strategy/objectives etc. Words like agile, flexible, lean are great but low on tangibility. Perhaps FSD would benefit from some further application of MSP ie a blueprint, a future vision state, a definition of what FSD will look like when we get there. I think the business case is made, at least within the Programme – just going to be hard to make the journey to a place lacking definition. Or maybe that’s the point – the journey will define the destination. Starting to sound like rambling to me – or me rambling.

Also interesting discussion over lunch about need for flexibility/dynamic architecture or development without architecture/the expansion of end-user computing/the need to create whitespace/the need for the IT department to just say yes. End user computing as a response to the need to cut costs in central IT. Sounds good to me. In fact, hold on to your hats, it sounds like a paradigm shift! Phasers on stun, and me signing off, before things get ugly.

JISC FSD STG Workshop 25th January 2010

So, attending 3rd workshop of Programme at Goodenough College, London – ‘Flexible Service Delivery – First Results’

Intro: Sarah Porter/JISC – Why FSD is important today? (my underline). Finance, more (same?) with less, flexibility, responsiveness. Understand environment, be open, disaggregate etc – integration/hosting – so that’s my pitch from tomorrow gone then!

Point: FSD = all about sharing/collaboration; evidence across sector is that response to difficult times is dog eat dog, divide & rule, noting already published commentary about fragmentation/heightened competition/sector  groupings/failure of sector to present united front. FSD/EA should sit above this as positive community.

SOA Middleware Pilot Project Results: Paul Hopkins/De Montfort & Fulcrum. Student Tracking & Engagement Proof of Concept – STEP-C. So far very generic, then history ref SOA etc from Fulcrum. Not sure where this is getting me yet – SAMO so far. Solid/liquid/gas analogy – database = solid; middleware = liquid; presentation = gas. Quite neat, not sure if it works, but – quite neat.

One thought – proof of concept ref can SOA/ESB enable extraction of information from disparate systems? Would have thought the answer was yes before we started.  Also as essentially a reporting solution, could have been done in other ways. Seems to be an assumption that big vendors want to tie SOA/ESB into own applications – not sure that this is really the case? Comment from Paul Hopkins ref service reusability etc – have to believe what Fulcrum tell us – so who else might we believe?

Undoubtedly we do need a new approach to delivery, so what could we call it? – ooh, how about the aggregation of tservices at the point of delivery to the customer, or something like that…

Far, far too technical & detailed for me, but maybe I’m not the audience, albeit I’m in it…

Interesting discussion around standards & degree to which HEIs want to be vendor-independent. But again, do vendors all really want to avoid standards to create tie-in?

Centre for e-Research/Simon Waddington, King’s College. EA in Research. Interesting that benefits include collaboration, & barriers include competition – probably a common theme. Focus on research, but looking at integration points with other systems. Producing Archimate/BiZZdesign models. Guerilla EA – building bottom up. Great set of acronyms! Looks good.

Learning Support Systems/Robert Moores, Leeds Metropolitan. FSD/EA explorer. Staff: appointed Technology Architect; also IS Liaison Officers; Lean Team for BPR. Governance – EA Steering Group to report to ISG, senior body responsible for Information Strategy. Took idea for common framework for Projects/Programmes from LJMU! Investigating Oracle SOA Suite & OS alternatives. Principles: just enough, & just good enough. See a lot of synergies between ITIL & SOA. BIILS – holistic service costings method. Have existing in-house ESB – Calopus – to be replaced. Creating models brings benefits, rather than correctness of models themselves – good point. Again, looks good.

Making the Business Case/Luke Taylor, University of Bristol. Recap of December workshop. Questions: what does FSD mean for my organisation? Where are you starting from? How will you get started? Next steps? – good ones. Key point: Governance is highly dependent on organisational context.

We do seem to be covering/recovering the same ground: how do you get started; how do you get senior management buy-in; how do you introduce a Governance framework; what’s the business case; etc. Probably needs a dose of JFDI.

Seems also to be some push to promote BPM as an end in itself/divorced from EA: a route that I would counsel against unless within the context of an overall FSD/EA roadmap and related to an Operating Model, even though it is a perfectly legitimate activity seems to me to go against the holistic spirit of FSD and misses out the understanding of relationships between strategy, people, processes and systems that EA enables. Plus BPM does not necessarily include the critical service-oriented aspect.

Beating Information Mess (Without SOA)/JISC-CETIS. Certainly beats me. Semantic web/web architecture. Linked Data – see www.data.gov.uk, for example. Very interesting stuff, but outside my – area? No. Mental capacity? Probably.

Pause for breath. Back for EA Practice Group tomorrow.

Revisiting Your IT Governance Model- Kelly Block, University of Illinois

Reference www.itpc.uillinois.edu

Be interesting to see what their definition of IT Governance is – starting off with a description of “an ERP, surrounded by chaos”, & their Enterprise System Structure for Administrative IT systems – which isn’t where I’d start.

Governance process focuses on Administrative IT systems, process for directing the enterprise systems structure, & what projects will go through the governance process. Controlled by an ITPC – which I think was the IT Process Committee – & has a $1.5m budget pa. Looks to me more like Programme Management/a means to manage a portfolio of IT-related projects or rather the way that our Systems & Projects Development Programme functions under the auspices of the Development Programme Steering Group (in place since 2003) – but this is subordinate to our Information Management Steering Group, & also we look at all IS projects, not just what would traditionally be called ‘administrative’. Where are Architecture & Principles? Their IT Governance model is clearly/really a process for prioritising & managing IT projects – so a good thing but not what I thought it would be.

In terms of their process – seems very resource driven, budgetary constraints are making this more rigorous. Looking for projects that are mission critical, at ROI, more rigorous prioritisation. Looks effective as a means for engaging the business in decision-making about IT projects, which is important of course. Mission criticality review – good exercise, some projects removed, some higher/lower priority, some reduced budget – could be a good approach to follow.

Use a PPM tool from Clarity – very useful for measuring effectiveness of projects. Supports a more rigorous approach to programme evaluation. Our own PMO should look into this. Very comprehensive information available about projects at all stages – pipeline, in progress – & particularly in terms of resource profiling.

So – overall a good presentation on a comprehensive PPM process, but not what I’d call IT Governance – no mention of ‘encouraging desirable behaviour in the use of IT’, also at the PPM level no mention of benefits realisation. Mentioned that need to do more about ‘post-project surveying’ which looks like the benefits realisation process, but not articulated as such.

Process has improved direction & accountability, strategic alignment, transparent prioritisation/resourcing, & raised profile with senior management – pretty much what our stuff is intended to do/has done quite successfully, but makes me think we maybe need to tighten up a bit.

Programme Management – Software Solutions

Just a quick one but someone may find it useful!

A couple of years ago, we did some work with a company looking at how we might use MS Sharepoint, or something built around it, to do Programme Management – rolling up all the projects at the high level, having everything joined up, maintaining all documentation in one place etc. We didn’t go ahead for two main reasons a) it just looked like too big an overhead maintaining it all and b) it didn’t integrate with MS Project, which we were already using for project planning, and without this facility it seemed pretty pointless. I don’t know enough about Sharepoint or Project to understand how you might integrate, but it certainly looked pretty complex at the time, in a context where we after something reasonably lightweight/easy to use which would make managing our programmes easier.

So more recently we’ve gone ahead with what I imagine is the fairly common and prosaic approach of using Sharepoint to manage shared documents/meetings/workspaces for project/programme management, but without anything that helps manage the process of project/programme management – and this is slowly having a reasonable degree of success, and is helping with PM without adding too much overhead.

Final point is that we have recently been having discussions with a company called CQC Solutions who do seem to have a software-based approach that could be more helpful in the PM area. We’ve done a webinar with them and it looked pretty good, particularly their PMO Out of the Box. Early days and we’re still thinking about it, but there may be some mileage in it.