Category Archives: UCISA-PCMG

Ooh digital is a place on earth

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

Explaining user experience design with metaphors from construction

In November I shared some more UX Week takeaways in a talk at UCISA’s CISG-PCMG18 conference. It was UCISA’s bursary scheme that got me to San Francisco in the first place so it was great to meet the people behind it, along with 300 corporate information systems people and project/change management people from unis around the UK. Here’s the video of my 10min talk, and I’ve expanded on it a little in the write-up below.
My first recorded talk! Is this really my accent?

Inspiration

At UX Week I learned that designers love to do things in threes. By sheer coincidence, my talk was inspired by three things:
  1. The theme of CISG-PCMG18: Building Foundations for the Future
  2. My new favourite motto from UX Week: Build the Right Thing & Build the Thing Right
  3. The University of Glasgow’s ongoing campus development.
Maybe being surrounded by cranes, hoardings and the excitement of big building sites every day has made me hyper-aware of the metaphors from construction that show up again and again at UX and tech conferences: people talk about blueprints, foundations, scaffolds, platforms, information architecture​…
What if we fully commit to the analogy and think of our systems and services as literal places​? How might that help us design them in user-centred ways?​
At UX Week, three speakers went deep on this.

1. Digital as…public places

In his talk Living in Information (watch video)​, Jorge Arango looked at the broad, open digital systems intended for wide ranges of users — in HE that would include our Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), intranets and informational websites​ — and the places where people interact such as forums and chat services.
“These digital systems are more than products or tools…in many ways, they function like places: information environments that create contexts that change the way we think, act and interact…” — Jorge Arango
…so much so that we can directly apply architectural concepts.
Jorge originally trained as an architect then went into IT, and for many years was Director of the Information Architecture Institute​.
He highlighted three concepts:
  • Structure = design to support people’s existing mental models
    First we need to uncover and understand those mental models through exploratory research​ such as user interviews.
  • Systems = the key focus of design
    Architects don’t just design buildings for their own sake: they design whole environments for people to use. User journey mapping can help us recognise that our place forms part of the larger system of our University. This technique also shows us how the places we’re designing link with others in the local and wider information environment.
  • Sustainability = don’t pollute the information env​ironment
    We must consciously design content to avoid building in biases; avoid duplicating information​; and be careful not to damage useful concepts by using in inappropriate ways​.
Jorge’s example of the latter: “Breaking news” used to mean ‘Everyone needs to know this right now!!’ But now #Breaking is broken.
#Breaking is broken

2. Digital as…homes

Focussing in on the more personal places like homepages, dashboards and portals, visual designer Claudio Guglieri discussed HOME: Our everyday relationships with digital.
“For a vast group of people, home is no longer a physical space…many of us find comfort in digital environments.” — Claudio Guglieri
At the time, this quote immediately made me think of our youngest students, the so-called digital natives. For many, University is a massive life change, perhaps their first time away from home. You can imagine how the only bit of continuity they can rely on for comfort might be the familiar platforms they brought with them on their phones and laptops.
This idea applies much more widely too: our research for UofG UX showed that students and staff of all ages default to digital for connection and communication, entertainment, travel, shopping and to access support.
To this we’re adding a heap of new digital homes, so it’s important to consider how ours compare to the commercial places people go to for everything else. If they could choose, would they choose to use our system? But they can’t choose — we have a captive audience — so let’s put lots of care and respect into the homes we build for our students and colleagues, with the help of another set of three concepts:
  • Repetition = acknowledge that homes are for regular, repeated use
    Optimise for speed and don’t waste people’s time; kill pointless splash screens; automate out annoying repetition.
  • Evolution = minimise the impact of behavioural changes
    Claudio referenced a brilliant article by service designer Christina Wodtke: Users don’t hate change, they hate you. Change is inevitable but don’t just barge in and rearrange furniture: communicate carefully to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Ownership = reinforce people’s perception of control
    Localise, personalise and allow people to customise (but also set good defaults). And don’t get between intention and action: Claudio talked about poorly placed ads interrupting tasks but the same advice applies to comms: a message is only effective in the right context and when it offers value relevant to a person’s needs at time they see it.
To help defeat our assumptions and inform our decisions, the most helpful pointer is contextual inquiry: we must observe people’s actual behaviour in their digital homes.
We might think “Surely everyone knows how to find lecture slides in the VLE, it’s as easy as drinking a glass of water…” Claudio Guglieri won gif-of-the-week.

3. Digital as…escape rooms

The third type of place comes from Laura E Hall’s talk Caring for Players in Real World Spaces and Beyond. Laura is a game designer, famous for her real-world escape rooms, where you get locked in with a group of pals and have to solve puzzles and decipher clues to escape before the time runs out.
“A good puzzle tells you how to solve it, inherent in its design.” — Laura E Hall
Our digital escape rooms include registration and enrolment, online coursework submission, expenses, uploading results — anything where our captive audience has to complete a complex task to a deadline…all of which adds up to STRESS!
Laura talked about cognitive overload and ‘deep focus’, where people can’t see the wood for the trees.
There’s a key difference though: Laura aims to design IN the right level of stress to make game challenging and fun, while we want to design the stress OUT. Fortunately there are 3 handy concepts we can apply:
  • Simplify the process
    This is where UX merges with service design. Does the process really need to be this complex? Can we remove or automate any steps?
  • Simplify the interaction
    Through careful content design, represent the process as simply as possible, providing exactly what people need to complete their task and nothing more. See gov.uk for 100s of excellent examples.
  • Make it intuitive
    It’s always a good idea to apply usability heuristics but in our digital escape rooms more so than ever. Consistency, validation and error prevention and recovery are essential, as is maintaining the match between our system and real world by using the same language our users use.
And of course multiple rounds of usability testing and tweaking are essential to help our students and staff escape with confidence.
Image from Room Escape Artist’s review of the Edison Escape Room in SF. Laura called it one of the best in the world so a group of us went on the free evening in UX Week: it was SPECTACULAR 😀

4?! Digital as…boundaries and junctions

Time to break the rule of threes — gasp! This one’s not even from UX Week.
At UX Scotland in June, Kevin Richardson — a UX consultant with a background in cognitive psychology — gave a fascinating workshop on UX and the Spaces in Between. He explained how UX design can make the most difference at points of interface, highlighting three areas of tension in the ‘interaction ecosystem’:
  • Where an application meets a business process, especially legacy processes. ‘But we’ve always done it this way’ is no excuse for a poor user experience.
  • Where a person has to pass information between two systems: for goodness sake automate it!
  • Where a system meets the real world: why do students have to queue up for a print-out, which they then scan and email to their bank or council?

And finally…

The last quote goes to Mike Monteiro, the cantankerous UX evangelist, who sadly I didn’t manage to meet in SF.
“They don’t let just anybody walk in off the street and design a building.” — Mike Monteiro, speaking on the Voice of Design podcast
The same is true in digital: people want their places designed by professionals.
Whether we think of ourselves as architects, home-builders, game designers, city planners or just the IT crowd, every decision we make — or choose not to make — has an impact on the university experience for our students and colleagues, whatever type of place we’re building.
This blog first appeared on the UofG UX blog.
A copy of Kat’s slides from CISG-PCMG18 is available here.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

PPM and the importance of trust

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

 

 

Gartner Program and Portfolio Summit 2017 – Guest Keynote

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This blog post refers to my personal views and the learning that I experienced from attending the Program and Portfolio Summit 2017.

Trusting the Ensemble by Charles Hazlewood, British conductor and music director

An emotional closing keynote was given by Charles Hazlewood. His message was one of ‘trust’ being the most valuable element in human relationship. He shared a film created in South Africa where he was the composer and music director. The clip was about people supporting each other through singing whilst living in fear during dictatorship.

The other message was around ‘Disability and Excellence’. In 2012, Charles formed the first British Para-orchestra, with musicians with disability to play at the Closing Ceremony of the London Paralympics. He shared a video of the group working together which was really touching and wonderful to see people with disabilities having an opportunity to perform and sing.

At the end, Charles cleverly led the audience and managed to get the whole room to sing in harmony. He finished the evening and the Keynote by saying ‘everyone can shine’.

Image by Axelle Vanquaille

I have blogged about specific sessions such as this one, but information on some of the other keynotes and events can be found here.

Reference:

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Trusting the Ensemble, Charles Hazlewood, British conductor and music director

Full details on the presentation contents or how to contact the analysts can be obtained from Gartner, Inc directly.

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme

 

PPM and innovation

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

 

 

Gartner Program and Portfolio Summit 2017 – Guest Keynote

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This blog post refers to my personal views and the learning that I experienced from attending the Program and Portfolio Summit 2017.

Track: Agile Business Impacts: Emerging Roles, Rules and Risks
PPM Innovation for Product Management by Michelle Duerst, Gartner

I saw Michelle as being very passionate about the help that the Gartner analysts offer. Her talk touched, in depth, on several interesting areas:

  • Product Portfolio Management
  • Project Portfolio Management
  • Digital Product Life-cycle Management.

I have learnt that Product Portfolio Management (PPM) is essential in the manufacturing sector. The PPM indicates where the growth is in the business, which in turn, provides the decision makers with data and information to set the portfolio priorities.  In manufacturing, the organisation has a lot to lose if the product fails, for example, ‘New customer cost’, ‘Consumer trust’, ‘Signed contracts’ and ‘Promotions and recall’.

The Project Portfolio Management is goal/scope and time driven with dedicated resources, the outcome of which supports a service or a product.

Michelle noted that ‘Product PM Builds Upon Project PM Foundation’1. My understanding is that the Project Portfolio Management is the basis of Product Portfolio Management, each with the same goals.  Michelle highlighted these goals as: ‘Objective’, ‘Focus’ and ‘Users’2.

In my opinion these goals have similar paradigms but hold different context and Michelle explained the differences. The Digital Product life-cycle management incorporates both areas, the Product and Project Portfolio Management and importantly provides the granular reporting and regulatory governance.

I will be blogging on specific Summit sessions such as this one, but information on some of the other keynotes and events can be found here.

References 1 and 2:

Duerst, M, (2017, p.23), Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: PPM Innovation for Product Management, Gartner, 12-13 June 2017

Full details on the presentation contents or how to contact the analysts can be obtained from Gartner, Inc directly.

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

PPM and bimodal business transformation

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

Gartner Program and Portfolio Summit 2017 – Workshop

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This blog post refers to my personal views and the learning that I experienced from attending the Program and Portfolio Summit 2017.

Track: The Changing Program & Portfolio Management Ecosystem: Building on Excellence
Bimodal Business Transformation: Connecting Agile to Lean Startup and Design Thinking by Bruce Robertson

I was looking forward to listening to the talk by Bruce, who kick-started the day by explaining the Bimodal practice:
‘Bimodal is the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work, one focused on predictability and the other on exploration.’1

In general, organisations are working on Agile and DevOps, however Bruce stated that this is not enough. The way forward is to have a new mind-set to incorporate design thinking and lean start-up by understanding people.

For design thinking, it is important to establish what the customer thinks and to enhance the customer journey. The practice of ethnography captures the customer view:

  • how the customer feels
  • how the customer thinks
  • what the customer does.

Establishing user experiences is a skill set. The process mapping helps the business to view what their employees experience and feel. Ideas and innovation are generated in this space.

Bruce explained the concept of integrating the design methods using Lean start-up to develop a minimum viable product by measuring, leaning and building. The build takes place in IT using the Agile method.

It was interesting to hear about the Bimodal Business Transformation and how this could be implemented.

I will be blogging on specific Summit sessions such as this one, but information on some of the other keynotes and events can be found here.

Reference 1:

Robertson, B (2017, p. 4), Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Bimodal Business Transformation: Connecting Agile to Lean Startup and Design Thinking, Gartner, 12-13 June 2017

Full details on the presentation contents or how to contact the analysts can be obtained from Gartner, Inc directly.

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

PPM, business operating systems and business strategy execution

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

Gartner Program and Portfolio Summit 2017 – Workshop

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This blog post refers to my personal views and the learning that I experienced from attending the Program and Portfolio Summit 2017.

Track: Transformation Gets Real: Executing Against Strategy
How Business Operating Systems Can Guide PPM Leaders to Manage Business Strategy Execution (Advanced) by Marc Kerremans

This session was targeted towards Business leaders and PMOs. Marc spoke of his practical experiences of working with business operating systems and building a strategy around them.   Interestingly, Marc delivered the presentation using a navigator as a concept and the audience were the stakeholders.

There were some key takeaway points around planning and execution and Marc talked about ‘Required Practice’1He also addressed three terms:

  • Term A. ‘Visibility’2 – my understanding is that this refers to what is going on in the organisation and that there is visibility of information and whether benefits are being realised around methodology.
  • Term B. ‘Accountability3 – my opinion is that the person who is responsible is getting the things done and is accountable for it.
  • Finally, Term C. ‘Adaptability’4 – my view of adaptability is that we need to understand what is happening around the organisation and then manage the work priorities accordingly.

I will be blogging on specific Summit sessions such as this one, but information on some of the other keynotes and events can be found here.

Full details on the presentation contents or how to contact the analysts can be obtained from Gartner, Inc directly.

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

References 1, 2, 3, 4:

Kerremans, M, (2017, p. 7), Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: How Business Operating Systems can Guide PPM Leaders to Manage Business Strategy Execution (Advanced), Gartner, 12-13 June 2017

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Lean in Higher Education conference – key learning

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

In November, I was able to attend the Australasian Lean HE Conference, courtesy of a UCISA bursary. I had a range of key objectives for attending the conference, one of which involved networking with practitioners from across the globe. The 150 delegates at the conference came from across Australia, Asia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.

My key learning points from attending the conference were:

I will be blogging further about the event including what my key next steps will be, and further information on my presentation on ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’.

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

PPM as change agents

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

 

Gartner Program and Portfolio Summit 2017 – Guest Keynote

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This blog post refers to my personal views and the learning that I experienced from attending the Program and Portfolio Summit 2017.

I will be blogging on specific Summit sessions such as this one, but information on some of the other keynotes and events can be found here.

How PPM professionals need to embrace the digital

I really liked Jonathan MacDonald’s vibrant entrance on stage. Founder of the Thought Expansion Network, he delivered his talk with immense energy and the music captured the audience’s attention and thoughts immediately. He was able to relay that PPM professionals need to embrace the digital changes and how we think and react will determine our future. He stated that ‘Success is response dependent, not size dependent’ ¹

Jonathan provided examples of wireless in households, message apps and the e-commerce sales making huge shifts in growth, changing how we do business. We must all accept the changes as change agents, otherwise we will fail.

Jonathan worked on an analogy of a big oil tanker and a speed boat both needing to be fuelled, navigated and translated. In my opinion, we need to take responsibility and manage the relationships involving how senior stakeholders handle certainty versus uncertainty. The term ‘fuelled’ was used in the analogy. I think that regardless of the size of the business, they still need to continue to exist and be ‘navigated’, that is providing leadership and direction to the workforce whilst taking risks.  Finally, the term ‘translated’ was used, and in my view, this could be ways of communication so that the ‘oil tanker or boat’ does not crash or stray.  Typically, in business the same would be keeping the stakeholders informed and providing them with choices.

Jonathan is an extremely effective speaker who ended his talk with a statement about ‘Risk Of Inaction’ ².

In my view, this had two meanings: a) we must do something as not doing anything is no longer an option and b) the initial caps of each word forms ROI which means, Return On Investment, therefore activity in business is important for gain profits.

Full details on the presentation contents or how to contact the analysts can be obtained from Gartner, Inc directly.

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

References 1 and 2

Macdonald, J, (2017), Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Innovation – How PPM Professional Need to Embrace the Digital, 12-13 June 2017, pp. 3 & 23

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

PPM in the digital age at Gartner’s Program and Portfolio Management Summit


Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

 

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017 – Setting the scene

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This blog post refers to my personal views and the learning that I experienced from attending the Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017. The conference was titled ‘Driving Innovation at the Speed of Business’ and the agenda primarily focused on ‘Results-driven [Project Portfolio Management] PPM: Leading Change and Delivering Value in the Digital Age’. The attendees were from all business sectors both nationally and globally. I was surprised by the scale and the 106 sessions that were offered. These were based around four theme tracks: ‘Transformation Gets Real’, ‘Agile Business Impacts’, ‘The Changing Program & Portfolio Management Ecosystem’ and ‘Empowering People’, together with vendor run or assisted sessions. Throughout the event, I shared information with the community on #GartnerPPM, @UCISA, @bruneluni, @HinaTaank  and @UCISA_PCMG

I am grateful to Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA) having successfully won and was awarded a bursary through their bursary scheme to attend the event. I am also grateful to Brunel University London and the Information Services for allowing me the time to attend the conference.

I had always wanted to attend a Gartner event as it is one of the world’s leading research and advisory companies. The event allowed me to learn about the trends around the Program Portfolio Management (PPM) space, together with lots of tips and actions on how I can make a difference in my job.  I am therefore grateful to Gartner for organising this event for like-minded people to learn and network.

 

 

 

 

 

I will be blogging on specific sessions, but some of the useful events outside the keynotes and workshops were as follows:

Orientation session for first-time attendees: how to get the most out of your conference attendance

Andrea White started the event for first timers to a Gartner event and briefed the group on how to make the most of the two days. Help was available via a helpdesk, appointments could be made to meet Gartner Analysts and the most useful was the Gartner Events Navigator. The Navigator app was widely used as it provided real-time information on all the sessions, (even those cancelled or replaced), session attendees, speakers and exhibitors. It also provided an area with personal agenda, notes and highlighted the exclusive sessions primarily for C-suit attendees.

Networking lunch

Over lunch, I really enjoyed networking with people with similar issues and problems, nationally and globally. It almost felt like a speed meeting.

Evening networking reception hosted by the showcase suppliers

The evening reception was hosted by the showcase suppliers and they did a grand job by providing a variety of food and drinks. I was treated to some lovely vegetarian food by one of the vendors. Importantly, it allowed me to further network and speak with the showcase suppliers and the attendees at the event. The key exhibitors were CA technologies, Changepoint, Clarizen, Microsoft and Planview.

Closing remarks

A really good and informative wrap round summary of the two days was provided by Donna Fitzgerald. She mentioned all the key messages that were addressed at the conference.  The artwork during many sessions by Axelle Vanquaille was absolutely fabulous, as she visually captured what the speakers relayed, for example, in the keynote ‘Trusting the Ensemble’ by the British conductor and music director, Charles Hazelwood. (This will be covered further in a future blog).

 

 

 

 

 

(Image by Axelle Vanquaille)

My two days sailed by. The Gartner team did an excellent job in the planning and running of this event, allowing all attendees to take away some action points.  Gartner provided a ‘save the date for 2018’  for the next event which I have added to my diary.   A truly valuable and thought-provoking event and one that I would not like to miss in the future.

Full details on presentation contents or how to contact the analysts can be obtained from Gartner, Inc directly.

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

References:

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Orientation Session for First-Time Attendees: How to Get the Most Out of Your Conference Attendance, Andrea White, Gartner, 12 – 13 June 2017

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Closing Remarks, Donna Fitzgerald, 12-13 June 2017

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Trusting the Ensemble, Charles Hazelwood, British conductor and music director

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

Tips from a 2017 bursary winner on applying for the UCISA bursary scheme

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

Member of the PCMG

 

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

I was funded to attend the Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit in London in June this year.

Here are some tips to help you with the UCISA bursary application process, should you wish to apply for future schemes. Information about the 2017 scheme is available here.  You can discover more about previous award schemes on the UCISA website and from the bursary thread on the UCISA blog.

The 2018 scheme will be launched at the beginning of the year.

Pre-application:

  1. Bear in mind the closing date of the scheme and the date that the UCISA bursary judging panel will meet. This allows time for you to discuss the event with your institution, to get sign off from your manager, for judging to take place and for the UCISA team to process the application.
  2. Ensure that all the details are fully completed on the UCISA bursary application form, including all the estimated hotel costs and the travel expenses.
  3. Ensure that you talk to your departmental administrators or finance office so that they can make payments for your trip according to the funding conditions UCISA set. In short you make arrangements as you would any other travel for your university, including being reimbursed directly by your institution. Then, separately, and once you have begun to share experiences of attending the conference, your university invoices UCISA.

On selection:

  1. Organise yourself as to which session/talks you want to attend. Importantly, have a back-up plan in case your chosen session(s) does not run or if it has changed. Time spent preparing will be very valuable, as it will allow you to focus on the sessions.
  2. Have your gadgets and chargers all sorted to allow you to communicate on the social media.
  3. Liaise with colleagues and any other communities of practice you belong to about the event and ask if they have any sessions they are particularly interested in you attending. Think about how you will feed back what you have learnt to colleagues either at the time or after the event.

At the event:

  1. Try and attend as many sessions (including different ones) as possible
  2. Take your card/contact details to share with attendees
  3. Importantly – have fun and enjoy the event!

To follow Hina visit LinkedIn or Twitter @HinaTaank.

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

HE survey on business analysis and making the most of the UCISA bursary

Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

 

As business analysts, we are constantly learning how people perform their jobs roles. Gaining an understanding of how they capture, process and output information in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We capture this information so that we can identify areas of improvement. We also help to implement new ways of working, new software systems or processes that enable our organisations to achieve their strategic goals. As business analysts how often do we take a step back and analyse our own ways of working? Do we stop and benchmark ourselves against other Business Analysts working in the HE community or beyond in the corporate world?

In 2016 as part of my role on the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) committee, I carried out a survey to measure the maturity of the business analysis community within the higher education (HE) sector. This informed our understanding of where we were as a community in terms of maturity.

The survey which was sent out to all members of the PCMG mailing list received a 32% response rate, which falls well within the expected response rate for an email survey. The survey results showed that every responding institution was undertaking business analysis activities, with over 65% having a dedicated business analysis team. This clearly shows that there is a recognised need for business analysis activities in the sector. When we looked at the average size of the business analysis teams, we found that it came in at around five members of staff on average, which shows that it is still considered a relatively small area of operations for most organisations. The majority of business analysis teams had been in existence for less than ten years, however most institutions had been undertaking analysis activities prior to the formation of a dedicated business analysis team. The question that gave us a real insight into the maturity of the business analysis function, showed us that 70% of organisations still see the business analysis function as an IT related one. In a mature organisation, we would expect to see the business analysis function sitting with and supporting the senior management team of the organisation. One may argue that just because they are located in an IT function they still may be closely aligned to senior management.  However, evidence shows that most organisations still consider them to be an IT asset with half of business analysts in the sector only working on IT change projects.

Overall, the survey results show us that as a sector we have not matured enough to be in a position to assist in driving the business strategy. As a sector, we are still working mainly on IT driven change initiatives and are based within the ITS function. The majority of business analysts are not undertaking market and competitor analysis or getting involved in pre-project work, such as feasibility studies and business case development.

In 2011 and 2012, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) undertook a similar survey in the UK. The results showed that the average maturity levels for business analysis functions based in industry matched those found from our 2016 survey of HE institutions. However, as the IIBA survey was four years older than the HE one I carried out, we can hypothesise they have made some progress in maturing as a sector in those intervening years.

The question then arose, how do we as a community compare against business analysts working in the commercial sector?

I wanted to get an understanding of the tools and techniques they were using, to see if they were ahead of the game compared to the HE sector. Do they experience the same issues when undertaking their analysis, did they have the same frustrations as us and encounter the same blockers? What methods did they employ to attempt to overcome obstacles?

Through UCISA’s Groups and Communities of Practice, the HE community is offered an excellent platform to share knowledge, experience and good practice. To step outside this community and gain knowledge of the commercial field, the UCISA bursary scheme allows you the opportunity to attend conferences such as the IIBA conference. This gives you the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand from Business Analysts working outside of the HE sector.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the IIBA conference in London. I found the experience gave me an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge on the role of a business analyst working in the corporate world. Listening to presentations from speakers who came from a mix of corporate backgrounds on the topics that mattered to them, gave me an insight into the issues they faced, the tools they used and solutions that had worked for them.

The main recurring theme of the conference was not one of the newest tools, or methodologies but one of the age old issues that faces every business analyst, one of capturing the requirements effectively. I saw several speakers that presented this topic in unique ways and from different angles but the message boiled down to the same fact. As analysts when capturing requirements, we must listen to what our stakeholders really want and stop trying to solutionize and jump to conclusions without capturing the real facts.

The second topic that seemed to be prevalent at the conference was of course, Agile. I know from personal experience in the HE sector many of us are only just starting to dip our toe into the world of Agile project delivery. I found that while the corporate world had been using Agile for a number of years they were still struggling with the same basic issues of trying to fit Agile into organisational structures that were not designed to support this type of delivery. For example:

  • Off shore development teams supporting project managers and analysts working in the UK.
  • Trying to fit Agile delivery into project management structures where the supporting processes were originally developed to support waterfall delivery of projects.
  • Gaining real buy in from senior management to support Agile delivery and provide the Agile teams with someone from the business that would be not only a dedicated resource to the project, but one with the authority to make the business decisions required by the development teams.

Of course, the conference providers ensured there were lots of chances to network in between sessions and this gave me the perfect opportunity to chat one-to-one with other business analysts and delve a bit deeper into their experiences.

The key learning point for me from the whole experience is that there are very little differences between our worlds. Yes, our products or services may differ but the challenges we face as business analysts remain the same. We all struggle to get recognition for the importance of the analyst’s role, we are all bought in too late to projects to have a real impact on the outcome, and we are all given too little resource to undertake the analysis effectively. The funding from the UCISA bursary to attend the conference informed my knowledge of the business analysis sector outside of the HE environment. I believe this knowledge is invaluable to business analyst working in HE as it enables us to mature and grow beyond the confines of our own sector.

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