Tag Archives: Governance

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


EA, Service Design & Performance – getting busy

First blog of the New Year, & catalysed by an excellent Ovum OpinionWire report ‘Break up the IT organisation at your peril’ by Tim Jennings.

Starts with some findings from the Accenture 2010 Global IT Performance research – interesting stuff, as reported by Ovum top performers were focused on:  ‘advanced virtualisation & dynamic provisioning of infrastructure…adoption of a well-defined service catalogue…architecture and measurement…’  they have: ‘a well-defined architecture and apply it to all initiatives…a more formal process for planning and measuring their IT-enabled business investements…develop a business case for all IT investments… measure and report on whether the benefits are realised…’

All good stuff, can just look like common sense, but then common sense isn’t necessarily that common. This is also just the kind of analysis that is useful when you’re trying to make the case for EA, service approaches, benefits management etc.   ‘Ovum believes strong IT governance and enterprise architecture initiatives are crucial for both cost efficiency and value creation’ – music to my ears…

Interestingly, also a brief comment on ‘developments without architecture’, which is something close to my heart at the moment as I’ve just completed the first draft of a service approach to dealing with such eventualities.   ‘From a design standpoint, it is preferable to review all initiatives against the target architecture, even if a variation is granted for business reasons’ – couldn’t have put it better myself.

So a good summary of things to keep the focus on in the coming year, & a helpful validation of some of the stuff we’re doing: continuing to build on EA work; redesigning ourselves as a service organisation with standards and perfromance measures; working out how to merge EA & ITIL (& designing a service to cater for developments without architecture is a good first); refining the Governance structure; and getting going on our JISC/LFHE Strategic ICT Toolkit project. & that’s just for starters…

So things seem to be coming together quite nicely at the moment – but it often seems that way at this time of year, just have to hope it lasts…& remember, you don’t need systems, you need services – be careful out there…


Enterprise Architecture & the Office of the CIO

Interesting presentation on EA & the Office of the CIO by George Paras, MD of EAdirections – & thanks to Helmut Schwindlick @EA_consultant for the tweet.

Definition of the functions to be carried out in the Office of the CIO – eg EA, PP3 – similar to what I would place in the Programme Office – & all very pertinent for us given that we have a new CIO & are in the process of working out where such functions are best located.

Also raises a key question: “How can an enterprise establish a reasonable idea for all that has to happen in a complex organisation to accommodate necessary change in support of business transformation”?

By doing EA, would be a reasonable answer.

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.

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.

A Janus Moment

Looking back, looking forwards, looking random, & maybe trying to look sideways at the same time.

Back: highs & lows from the last year, from an IT in/& HE perspective:

  • very pleased at the take up on the JISC FSD Programme (& the website is great!) – didn’t expect as much engagement as we’ve got, still think it’s a really important initiative, do have some concerns about things getting a bit diffuse/amorphous/unfocused but Alex Hawker & the Programme team are doing a great job so should be OK. I’m personally still adamant that taking an Enterprise Architecture approach is core/key to the Programme rather than being an optional add-on, so I’ll keep banging away at that; & we really need to clearly tie down how we want suppliers to engage, but I think the last STG meeting made progress on that front so it’s at least heading in the right direction
  • quite pleased also at progress being made internally with the EA approach being both embedded in projects & adopted as a tool for developing strategy/change management; hampered as always by resource issues but it’s on the agenda/understood at senior levels so that’s a result
  • as blogged before, disappointed at reactions to the ‘changing world’ agenda ie everything is changing fundamentally, driven by economic & environmental realities & catalysed/facilitated by new technology – so let’s do some SWOT analysis, dust off the five-year plan, & do what we’ve always done because that’ll work won’t it…I wonder
  • picked up some good tips from presentations at EDUCAUSE 2009, particularly from Jim Collins & on Leading the University as a Platform – stop doing lists, questions to answer ratios, Stone Soup…
  • a bit disappointed with the new JISC Strategy – would have liked to see something more radical/less timid, although fully understand why it isn’t
  • started on our first steps towards introducing Mobile Applications, looking at CampusM
  • disappointed internally that we haven’t done more to publicise the great things we’re doing within our new Information Management Governance framework – communication, communication, communication of course being the key – but will fix that in the new year
  • & finally delighted & amazed that over the last 12 months we’ve managed to go live with Oracle HCM/Payroll – including bringing Payroll in-house from a bureau service – & Oracle Financials, got off to a good start with Oracle Campus Solutions, introduced a Student Administration for Staff portal using Oracle technology, a Student Portal in Blackboard, & loads of other stuff too numerous to mention, with (almost) the same excellent set of staff we started with – & the wheels still haven’t (quite) come off

Forward – things that are/maybe/might be coming up:

  • at LJMU, significant changes in the senior management of the IT function make the future interesting, uncertain, loaded with threats & opportunities – but then, isn’t the future always like that?
  • everything cluttered with financial doom & gloom – which sadly is the reality we have to deal with; new government old government blah blah blah, if you go by the IFS analysis of the PBR then HE is looking at reduced government funding of 8% pa year on year from 2010 – which makes looking at 10% budget cuts seems a little conservative, & it isn’t going to get any better whatever. Plenty of unknowns – who will be ‘governing’ us? what will happen to student fees? – but the basic picture stays the same
  • Shared services – the train keeps a rollin’, best to be on board. FSD is setting the groundwork/ground rules but we really need to see some significant HE/supplier partnerships with some skin in the game on both sides. Hopefully this will arrive soon – the promise is still of savings, but they’re needed in the short-term.
  • Enterprise Architecture – I still think that economic conditions/the need to be lean, mean, green etc will bring EA into its own – the recognition that it’s not necessarily about buying new stuff, but about getting a better understanding of what you can do with what you’ve already got, & building a strategy for doing it, is key – I mean, if we’re saying that it can enable you to do more with less, who’s going to say no?
  • Benefits Realisation – will be a very big thing. As will mobile applications, service disaggregation, service aggregation (we need both!), & general cloudiness.
  • The Way We Work – I can almost feel a new Programme coming on – raising our game in terms of the capacity of our staff to engage with new ways of working at all levels/in all ways is just basic to everything. It’s the people, stupid.

Don’t follow leaders, watch the parkin’ meter. Happy New Year!