The importance of convergence

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
The 2018 event marked the conference’s tenth year and having been a business analyst for approaching fifteen years now, this conference has been on my radar for some time. Over the years I have watched longingly as more senior colleagues, freelance peers and even co-workers nominated for ‘Business Analyst of the Year’, have departed for London for three days of sharing ideas, networking and learning and returned positively sparking with inspiration. This year, my turn came and I spent much of the week before preparing and planning, determined to gain the most I possibly could from this experience.
I returned, somewhat exhausted, but brimming with ideas, inspiration and a newfound pride in my profession. As a blogger, I also have inspiration for articles and blogs to keep me and my readers happy until Christmas! Over the space of the three days, I attended fifteen talks and workshops and left each one more enlightened that when I walked in, from gaining a new nugget of information, a shift in my attitude and approach towards the BA profession, to learning an entirely new technique.
More detail will follow over the coming weeks, but in this article I discuss the first of a number of key themes that seemed to permeate the conference: convergence.

Convergence

Many years ago I completed a lengthy application process for an industrial placement with a global corporation and on my application form I ticked ‘marketing’ and ‘IT’ as my two business areas of interest. In the interview stage, I was quizzed for some time on what the recruiters perceived as a most unusual juxtaposition; how could a person wanting to work in the technical discipline of IT also harbour an interest in the creative field of marketing?
Marketing has been a career-long interest for me. I chose to pursue a career in IT, but have often tended towards marketing in my personal development, attending the occasional CIM training session, self-studying related online courses and eventually undertaking a Masters which comprised at least 50% marketing modules. But why, if I had chosen a career in IT? Well, firstly because I find marketing theory and customer behaviour fascinating and secondly, perhaps because I approached IT from the field of web design and running my own business in the early 00s, I’ve always mentally linked marketing with IT.
Unfortunately, my industrial placement hirer’s attitude was not in isolation. Throughout my career, many potential employers have been perplexed and in some cases even turned off by my multi-disciplinary set of interests. Given this, it was a great reassurance to find that a significant proportion of the discussion, theory and techniques at Business Analysis Europe had roots in or strong connections to marketing.
Technological innovations and developments have disrupted almost every industry. The pervasive use of digital devices and social platforms by the majority of the populace, certainly in the Western world, has led to digital becoming a primary channel for many companies to engage with their customer base; pushing communications to them, engaging them in two-way conversations, facilitating digital communities of like-minded customers and of course ecommerce.
These digital marketing systems and platforms require IT professionals, just as with any other system and as with any other project, business analysts need to understand marketing theory and strategy if they are to design, build and successfully implement systems to support organisations’ marketing strategy.

I draw on marketing as it is an area of personal interest and because it was indeed a key area of focus at the conference, but the same applies for all areas of business; sales, operations, asset management, HR and certainly customer service and PR, as previously explored in my earlier blog article ‘Blurred Lines’.  As Mark Smalley (@MarkSmalley) stated in his The Digital BA session: “In the digital enterprise, business and IT are converging and we <as Business Analysts> need to consider the consequences of this”.

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Creativity
  • Customer focus
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
This blog originally appeared at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-rachel-drinkwater/.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Planning to get the most out of FORCE2018

Alice Gibson
Research Publications Officer
Library & Archives Service
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Preparations for attending FORCE2018

With under a week until I set off, I am greatly looking forward to attending FORCE2018 in Montreal as a UCISA bursary winner for 2018.
FORCE2018 is organised by FORCE11, a community of scholars, librarians, archivists, publishers and research funders that has arisen organically to help facilitate the change toward improved knowledge creation and sharing. Working individually and collectively, their aim is to bring about a change in modern scholarly communication through the effective use of information technology, and to maximise efficiency and accessibility to the communication.
I will be attending pre-conference workshops on 10th October hosted at Concordia University, including participating in Springer Nature’s roundtable discussion, to discuss metrics for open access books. From 10th – 12th October, I will be at McGill University attending sessions and presenting a poster.

Engagement

The theme of FORCE2018 is ‘engagement’, so as an attendee I wanted to set myself the task of organising an event on my return, where I can utilise the new knowledge and skills I hope to acquire while the event is fresh in my memory. The fruits of this labour will be an event for LSHTM’s extended open access week (#LSHTMopenaccessweek), running through October: our ‘Creative Commons Workshop’.
LSHTM’s Creative Commons Workshop’ builds on a blog post ‘Creative Commons outside of Academia’ that in turn expands on the poster that I will be presenting during the poster sessions at FORCE2018. My poster takes up the theme of ‘engagement’ and merges this with the intricacies of open access policies, specifically those concerning what licences scholarly works should be made available under. In doing this, I seek to suggest that encouraging active participation with projects that utilise Creative Commons licences outside of academic life can serve to demonstrate the purpose of some of the licences required within in it.

My Schedule

There are a wide range of sessions available across the three days and having been through the programme, I have already planned which ones to attend.
Of course, as a PhD student studying Philosophy and working in research support, I could not miss the opportunity to attend a talk concerning using Wittgenstein’s thought to consider how we can appeal to theory to help us overcome some of the challenges we face in scholarly communication, an event which will be happening in the morning on Thursday.
I am also particularly looking forward to attending the session run by the cofounders of Impactstory, Heather Piwowar and Jason Priem, on Friday. Their Simple Query Tool has made tasks that would be endless if done manually, straightforward and manageable in my daily role, and filled the void left by the closure of Lantern, the service that Cottage Labs ran to facilitate checking the open access status of articles.
The entire conference is full of fantastic opportunities to address my professional and personal interests and I expect some other highlights to be the workshop on blockchain in scholarly communication, the talk on open access journals in Latin America, and the workshop run by Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer concerning envisaging optimal workflows.
Between all of these sessions, talks and workshops, I hope to have the opportunity to meet with some people who I have come across already in my work in open access, and to meet new colleagues and learn of innovative projects and initiatives to bring back to our team at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. As a note-making mechanism, I will record ideas and resources that I come across throughout the conference on the online tool, Padlet, which will be available for anyone to read here.
On a more personal note, I am very excited to explore the city having never been to Montreal (or Canada) before, and intend to make the most of the wonderful opportunity made available to me.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

“We are really important to the future of education”

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

Last month, courtesy of being awarded a UCISA bursary, I travelled up to Manchester (the city of 100,000 students) for the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018. While it was my first ALTC, it was actually the 25th in the series and there was considerable reflection on changes to the learning technologist role and in learning technology itself.  In my posts about ALTC, I want to share some of the noticeable themes and my favourite moments.
The ALTC 2018 committee team launch the conference

I am woman

This year saw three inspiring women providing the ALTC plenaries, unfortunately, unusual enough an occurrence that it warrants comment. On day 1 Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, gave a sociological unpacking of educational technology and explored the idea that context matters and learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Tessie suggested that the time is right for us to deconstruct learning technology and consider how we want to put the pieces back together. Learning technologies have (in the US) emerged as administrative units but would they benefit from being a unique academic discipline? She shared the example of the born digital programmes she has led on where “edtech is not just a set of tools but a philosophy about how we think about things” – offering opportunities to the non-traditional student.
On day 2 Amber Thomas, Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick, gave a wonderful talk considering ‘Twenty years on the edge’. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.  Way too much good stuff to write about here but the main take away was a pat on the back for those of us working with learning technology in HE.
ALT’s 25 year anniversary playing card pack
Things aren’t easy – not only do we suffer from impostor syndrome when we do well but there is also a misapprehension that innovation is isolated to the commercial sector and that governments and agencies are blockers of change. Amber pointed out some of our collective work, from 3.5 million spent on MOOCs, to great collaborative projects and organisations including Ferl, Jisc and EU projects. However, change in universities requires patience and it is important that we listen to the mainstream, after all digital is really about people. We need to be ethical, respectful and useful, for we are “really important to the future of education”.
Dr Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of ALT, gave the last plenary of the conference ‘Beyond advocacy: Who shapes the future of Learning Technology?’. She brought together the conference themes, a good dose of ethics (“equality is everyone’s responsibility”) and empowerment pants.
Amber Thomas presents her twenty years on the edge
She considered the difficulties learning technologists face in being both advocate and critic in a “risky business” where things often go wrong. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing our failings. Maren concluded with a personal reflection that “EdTech is a field of practice, not a discipline”. You can read Maren’s recent post on the state of Education Technology in HE on WonkHE.

Beetastic Manchester
More to follow on the noticeable themes and favourite moments at ALTC.
This blog first appeared in the ‘Digital Transformation at RAU’ blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of an international view of humanities digital content

Sarah Ames
Library Learning Services Support Officer
University of Edinburgh

DHC2018 part 1: some key themes

I was fortunate to receive bursary funding this year from UCISA to attend DHC2018 (Digital Humanities Congress – not to be mistaken with the 16th International Symposium on District Heating and Cooling, which tops the Google results). DHC is a biennial conference organised by The Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield, exploring digital humanities research, as well as its implications for the cultural heritage sector and IT support services.
In this first blog post, I’m going to list the key themes raised at the conference and in my next post, I’ll summarise some of the papers that I found particularly interesting.

Digitisation

This one isn’t new: without digitised content (and digitised content at scale), libraries’ DH offerings begin to fall short. While, in some academic libraries, DH tools and skills will become a key focus, ultimately, without making available collections, content, or data to interest researchers, partnerships with digital projects becomes problematic.

Data

One paper (Bob Shoemaker’s ‘Lessons from the Digital Panopticon’) discussed a project bringing together 50 datasets to trace the lives of individuals convicted at the Old Bailey; another drew together 4 different library datasets, to investigate the provenance of manuscripts; many others reflected on similar experiences. As libraries look to release collections as data, considering the most appropriate and accessible formats for these will be important. The need to bring together a mix of data types, formats and models, and often ‘bespoke’ formats, complying with no particular standard, is a barrier to research, requiring technical skills that most don’t have.

Global DH

A number of papers raised the issue of the ease of slipping into a Western-focused digital humanities, to the detriment of the field itself. With web and programming languages written largely in English, the focus of research, and particularly of text analysis, has been predominantly English-language. With papers focusing on Asia and Australasia, the global view of DH produces plenty to learn from – with much for libraries to consider, particularly in the relationship between libraries and DH in other cultures and countries.

Sustainability

A repeated issue raised in talks was the sustainability of DH projects going forwards – particularly in relation to web platforms. How are these projects to be maintained post-project completion, and who is responsible for this? What kind of documentation, languages and platforms can be used to assist with, and standardise, this? Is a website an output or a transient resource? How can library and IT services support this?

Funding

Of course, a major part of sustainability is funding: funding models need to meet the cost of web resources over time; not maintain their current short-term focus. The possibilities of crowdfunding to enable ongoing access to tools were raised, but ultimately this remains too fragile a source to rely on.

Digital preservation

With these exciting new platforms and tools becoming part of research outputs, the challenge of how to preserve them becomes ever more pertinent. Unusual data formats; new, innovative research using AR; and the function, importance and relevance of the front end of a website, in comparison to the data it surfaces, are all issues and challenges that need to be considered by libraries.

Publishers

Gale launched their new DH tool, sitting on top of their platforms, enabling researchers to analyse their content at scale without the use or in-depth knowledge of manual computational methods. Although raising issues of ease of use – while this is important to increase accessibility, an understanding of what the tools are doing under the surface remains important, particularly in relation to built-in biases – the platform looked good, and is currently in its early stages. However, this emphasises just how much work libraries have on their hands. With both the content and the tools increasingly in the domain of publishers, there’s a lot of catching up to do.
This blog first appeared in the University of Edinburgh’s Library & University Collections blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Communicating with brains in survival mode

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

UX Week 2018: Tools we can use

An early contender for my favourite talk of UX Week 2018, which I attended courtesy of a UCISA bursary, was Laura E. Hall’s on ‘Caring for Players in Real World Spaces and Beyond: Lessons from Escape Room Games’.
I’m a huge fan of online puzzle and room escape games, and loved hearing about Laura’s work designing real-world ones.
For starters there were so many crossovers between escape room game design and web design: the need to manage users’ cognitive load, minimise stressors, and communicate story or message, and the importance of accessibility.
Further, I’m writing this during University of Glasgow’s registration and enrolment period: one of the most stressful and most digital-centric times of the year for students. If we could apply Laura’s ideas on how to communicate with the brain when it’s in survival mode, maybe we could smooth this out…
I highly recommend watching the whole of Laura’s 34 mins talk below, or for just the ‘survival mode’ chunk start at 15 mins in.

Phew

All this just from 1 talk and 1 workshop?! More soon…in the meantime, you can watch many of the other talks at the official conference recap.
This blog post first appeared on the UofG UX blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

A new way to build personas

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

UX Week 2018: Tools we can use

Thanks to the UCISA bursary scheme, I was lucky enough to attend UX Week 2018 in San Francisco.
The best thing about going to conferences is meeting and learning from lots of lovely people who are trying to do the same things I try do to. UX Week surrounded me with hundreds of such lovelies, from all over the world, for 4 full-on days of talks, workshops and social events. It was big, bright and — in the best possible way — exhausting!
The other best thing about going to conferences is picking up new ideas and methods I can apply in my work. UX Week certainly lived up to its fantastic reputation for delivering ‘new tools you can put to use immediately’.  I took so many notes that I’m going to have split up my write up across several blog posts.
I’ll start with the ideas that lodged themselves the deepest; the ones my jetlagged brain still churns through at 3am.

Ditch the demographics: segment users by thinking style

For prospective applicants, instead of: ‘Lower GPO’ / ‘Higher GPO’ / ‘Older Student’ / ‘Low-Income’, Indi proposed: ‘Passionate About The Topic’ / ‘Means To An End’ / ‘Looking Forward To The University Experience’ / ‘Exploring Paths’.
Indi Young proposed this new way of building personas in her workshop Paying Better Attention to the Problem.
The idea stuck with me because I’ve really struggled with persona-building. Also because, marvellously, one of her slides covered the thinking styles of university applicants, making it instantly relatable.
During the University of Glasgow UX project, I don’t think it ever occurred to us to categorise our users as anything other than students at different levels of study, and staff in different job families. But when it came to assembling our ‘Digital Life’ interview findings into personas, we found it almost impossible to generalise within these broad categories.
Worse than that, in hindsight I see that personas based on these categories wouldn’t actually help me! I produce internally-facing content for our current students and staff, much of it quite technical. When I’m rewriting, for example, the instructions for connecting to campus wifi, how can I consider the need of First Year UGs vs. Final Year, PGRs vs. Professional Services Staff? They all just need to get connected!
But what about the needs of ‘Help, This Is My First Smartphone’ vs. ‘I Got This, Just Tell Me The Settings’? Now there are two groups I can work for 😃.
I’ve made up these thinking styles, but I fully intend to go back through the interviews we’ve done so far (you know, when I’ve got a spare month…) to identify our users’ real ones.

More tips for demographic-free persona building

  • No photos: Sophie Dennis has observed “One client used a photo of a young blonde-haired woman. That persona would get dismissed as ‘The Blonde.’”
  • Use gender-neutral names, or no names at all, and write bios in the first person
  • Phrase the thinking styles so that users would be happy to identify with them
  • Understand that one person can switch between multiple thinking styles depending on the circumstances.

Empathy = listening

Indi also went into great and fascinating detail on the concepts of cognitive bias, empathy, separating the problem space from the solution space, and how a UX designer should aim to be “woke”:
  • Try not to fall prey to cognitive bias
  • Recognise what systemic bias is
  • Aim for more goals than only ROI
  • Avoid using demographics to refer to a user
  • Be aware that your own culture is one of many.
More on UX Week to follow.
This blog post first appeared on the UofG UX blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The 2018 Business Analysis Europe Conference – a plan is formed

Rachel Drinkwater
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Creating a well-rounded agenda

Earlier this year I was granted a bursary by UCISA to attend the IRM Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018, which is to be held in Westminster, London on the 24th-26th September 2018. Having worked as a business analyst for the last fifteen years, this conference has naturally been on my radar as a ‘must do’, but the cost has been prohibitive, so I’m delighted and excited to be able to finally attend.
One of the conditions of my bursary is that I will disseminate my learning from the conference to others in the education sector. Taking this further I’m hoping to combine the knowledge and ideas that I gain from the conference with those I have from my own experience to create a blog series, instructional vlogs and infographics to share with my network both in education and wider industry.  In addition to this, I intend to devise a session to present at upcoming conferences.
I’ve pre-selected my conference sessions and rather than focusing on one of the five streams (‘BA Careers’, ‘Techniques’, ‘People’, Innovation’ and ‘The BA Conference Through the Years’), I’ve instead aimed to create a well-rounded agenda for the three days I will be attending.
Day 1 will start with a practical and energetic-sounding full-morning session on ‘Gamestorming’  (I’m hoping there will be plenty of coffee to facilitate this!). I’m intrigued by the Gamestorming concept and how it differs from the workshop facilitation and requirements elicitation techniques which form what I consider to be one of my core skill sets. Even if it transpires to be the same practice rebadged, I’m expecting to learn some new techniques that I can bring straight back into the office and perhaps include in the public speaking skills workshops that I am delivering at the moment.
My afternoon is set to keep the hands-on approach, looking at ‘Digital Customer Journeys’. As one of my personal areas of interest is digital transformation and strategy, my agenda inevitably has a little bias towards those sessions addressing new ways of working in and the challenges posed by our digitally-focused society.
As if to illustrate that point, I’m starting Day 2 with the ‘The Digital BA’ session within the ‘BA Careers’ workstream. A question that is raised time and again on BA forums and in industry at the moment is ‘What does the digital world mean to us and our practice as Business Analysts?’ I am hoping that the discussions within this session will go some way to uncovering the answer. In fact I’m feeling a blog article coming on with that exact title! The remainder of my day is split between some core BA sessions within the ‘Techniques’ and ‘Innovation’ workstreams; investigating how to approach projects where there are no clear requirements  and managing difficult agile projects and some intriguing-sounding neuro linguistic programming sessions.
My choices for Day 3 kick off with a session within the ‘BA Careers’ workstream led by fellow education Business Analysts, Ed O’Regan and Suzi Jobe, from Nottingham Trent University, entitled ‘From Analyst to Strategist’. As I have progressed from business analyst to senior business analyst in my career, I’ve found that involvement in strategic work is forming an ever-increasing part of my role and it is certainly the direction in which I’m aiming to take my career. In addition to this, at Coventry University we are moving the Business Analysis team towards being a more strategic function and as such I’m keen to hear other organisations’ experiences of this approach. This links quite nicely with the following ‘Innovation’ session in which we will look at ‘Emerging Technology and the BA of the Future’.
To conclude my choices for the conference, I will be attending the very exciting-sounding ‘Stakeholder Skills for Drug Busts – Reflections on Dealing with Difficult People in Dangerous Situations’ delivered by former Police Officer, Charlie Payne. Whilst it’s unlikely that I’ll ever encounter a Breaking Bad-style scenario in the office, conflict does happen and I’m hoping to learn some skills and techniques to defuse and handle such occurrences.
Amidst this action-packed agenda, there are some excellent keynote speakers, a number of networking opportunities and of course the obligatory first night drinks reception. I wholly expect to be catching the train home on Wednesday evening exhausted, but brimming with ideas and inspiration, that I will be distilling into some interesting and informative materials to share with you all. Watch this space and follow me on Twitter at @REDrinkwater to read about what I’ve found out and my thoughts and theories on the content from the three days.
This blog post first appeared on: https://racheldrinkwater.com/the-2018-business-analysis-europe-conference-a-plan-is-formed/
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Making the most of a UCISA bursary award at ALT 2018

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

Planning for ALT 2018

It’s only 12 days and 17 hours till ALT 2018 – ALT’s 25th annual conference and the biggest meet up of Learning Technologists this side of the Atlantic (possibly?)
I have been lucky enough to be funded to attend by the UCISA bursary scheme and I intend to make good use of my subsidized ticket.
There is so much on it’s hard to know where to start but in traditional festival fashion I have a list of potential topics and sessions, though who knows what will happen when I actually get there!
Student engagement – At the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) we really want to get better at asking the students what they think. This year we ran the Jisc digital student experience and it was both enlightening and a little scary. I’d like to hear more about how other institutions have been using their data so will be attending Rating their digital experience – what do our students really, really want?.   I might follow this up with What organisational variables support a positive student digital experience? – which also looks at the broader tracker data. The session on Students as partners in technology initiatives: How does the technology aspect affect partnerships, and how can we make the most of this? also looks interesting.
Staff  digital skills – We also need to improve our staff digital literacy so the session on Witchcraft to Wonder – My journey empowering staff with technology sounds like a definite.
Data – I’m a big data fan and it is an area we’d like to explore at RAU. The session on Getting to grips with Learner Dashboards: a research informed critical approach to understanding their potential will be useful as does the well-named session Honey I shrunk the data: small design steps towards a data-informed blended learning approach .  I might also attend the workshop session on Using learning analytics to inform evidence-based interventions on live courses. Hopefully we can get some dashboards up and running in the next year.
VR – Virtual Reality offers so much potential. I’m hoping the Creating VR: what we learned along the way session will give some good pointers on how to get started. There is also Virtual Learning Environments: Walking in the Park or Wandering in the Jungle?. Sounds appropriate for an agricultural university!
Multimedia – Video is where it’s at. If I get time I will take a look at OSCEs at the Oscars: how video assessment has stolen the show and I like the look of the workshop Capturing Imaginations: Why it’s important to consider alternative uses of (lecture) capture technologies .
Distance learning and course design – For the Catalyst project, we need to design four blended learning programmes from scratch so any ideas are useful. I might try OSCAR: A Structured Approach to Course Design. We also know that we will be using ePortfolios for a considerable chunk of the assessments and the talk on Eportfolios in placements: unlocking the potential through collaboration could prove useful.
I’ll also be catching the keynotes from the fantastic all-female line up: Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Dr Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas.

I will be presenting a poster during the poster and talk session entitled From little acorns…growing a learning technology culture.  If you’d like to discuss what it’s like being part of a one-person team then please find me. As I explain in the brief the poster is “of interest to anyone who wants to hear about how ‘more with less’ is possible if you make the most of collaborations and outside help. There will be lots of useful tips and far too many agriculture analogies!” I’ll post up my poster as soon as it’s finished.
Of course, as we all know the networking opportunities are what really make a conference. The Awards Evening and Dinner at the Midland Hotel will be great and I’m looking forward to hearing who has been voted ALT Learning Technologist of the Year.
I’ll also be catching up with my fellow UCISA bursary winner Karl Luke (Business Change Officer from Cardiff University). Karl and I bumped into each other at the recent Panopto user group meet up in Birmingham. We’ll clink glasses on behalf of UCISA!
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

New UCISA Toolkit makes it easier to get effective IT communications right

UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit (www.ucisa.ac.uk/ITComms ) was officially launched at the 2018 Support Services Group conference in Crewe in the summer. Designed specifically for the UCISA community by UCISA members and accessible as a dynamic standalone microsite, the Toolkit has been well received.

Below HENRIK BROGGER, project contributor and Head of IT Service Delivery at Queen Mary University of London, offers his thoughts on why communication can sometimes be problematic and how the new UCISA toolkit is now the go-to resource for the why, how, what and who of getting your message across. You can also hear from some of the other members involved in its creation in this short YouTube video.

 

NEW UCISA TOOLKIT MAKES IT EASIER TO GET EFFECTIVE IT COMMUNICATIONS RIGHT

When contributing to the development of UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit, there was a lot of debate about the outcome we wanted. Personally, I was keen we didn’t produce a printed booklet because a static product is difficult to update or interact with if you are somewhere and don’t have it to hand.
We needed something digital — and we were all on board with the idea of an agile web space that could evolve and be added to. Now, if we need to rewrite or update a section, we can meet tomorrow and do it rather than having to start producing a second print edition from scratch.
Simplicity was our watchword. We wanted to make it really easy for you to get to the information you want and to give people real-life examples that they can look through, learn from or replicate themselves. As a microsite, it’s meant to be something you can dip into and out of easily. In that sense it’s almost bite-sized learning that you can refer to any time for examples, downloadable templates and other resources.
So yes, we fully embraced digital (and it was Blue Sky thinking, I think the next step would be some sort of App). We also embraced digital in project delivery — using Trello to monitor the project, track progress, list responsibilities and share comments with colleagues around the country and Google Docs and Google Hangouts for virtual meetings.
When I shared UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit with the senior management team here at QMUL, the immediate feedback was ‘This is really good. We can use it to have a communication strategy and plan for IT here’. I’d already floated this thought with peers but having one of the senior managers come out and back the idea so enthusiastically was a real result.
So now we’re doing it. We’ll be applying the learning to IT first because that’s the area we’re responsible for but it will link to, and support, the wider professional services strategy and the University’s overall strategy. We will of course be meeting with the marketing and communications people here as part of all that.
In fact, one of the things that came through loud and clear when discussing Toolkit content, as you can see on the website, is the need to ensure everything correlates. A communications strategy for IT is not a standalone piece — it has to tie in with the strategy for the rest of the University.
When it comes to communicating IT, I think that we tend to be fairly good at communicating down time and fairly good at communicating when something goes wrong — but less good at communicating when things go right, such as projects and tasks completed and the good feedback we’ve earned.
Communicating and celebrating success, not only with outside audiences but among ourselves, was something we talked about a lot and there’s a dedicated section on ways to do this within the new Toolkit.
There are challenges when communicating with the rest of the University. You’ve got to think about the needs of individual schools and institutes so the way you communicate might have to be different. You are addressing very intelligent people who are paid to think and question so you need to draft your content accordingly. It’s not like the private sector where someone might send one email about change to the whole organisation. Adopting a consultative approach, rather than diktat, is key.
As well as making sure your message is clear and pitched at the right level, I think we should all – whether within or outside IT – spend more time making sure the method of delivery is right.
Email is actually a very poor communication tool. If you are always sending emails it is often a zero-sum scenario because people will just scan and bin them. When a really important email comes through, they’re not going to be reading it. That’s why all other ways to communicate need to be considered. It’s really important to think about your audiences and what’s going to work with them.
Personally, I’ve found reflection on different ways to communicate really useful. For example, we now have a board up in IT so everyone walking by can see the kind of positive feedback we’ve been getting.
And among the interesting examples of communication on the Toolkit website is Leeds Beckett University’s ‘12 Days of IT Security’ Twitter campaign to increase student awareness of online safety in the digital world. For me, it really stands out as a novel way of communicating that both addresses the needs of students provides information in a way that they, as a digital generation, find natural.

Key take-outs:

    • UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit is available at www.ucisa.ac.uk/ITComms.

    • The Toolkit was produced by UCISA members for UCISA members. The dip-in-and-out microsite includes practical advice and examples on how to better communicate as an IT function as well as a range of ready-made templates that can be downloaded.

    • Communication channels and tools are constantly evolving.  Producing the Toolkit online, rather than as a printed booklet, means the content can continue to evolve, stay up to date and be added to.

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s Executive Director Peter Tinson execsec@ucisa.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.