Category Archives: UCISA-CISG

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.

Information management – AIIM’s state of the industry report

Sara Somerville

 

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

 

A Look Behind the Curtain: The State of the Industry – Bob Larrivee, AIIM’s Vice President, takes a look at the AIIM State of the Industry Report (in the U.S):

  • The main drivers to ECM are risk and compliance and costs and productivity
  • Dependencies – 47% of respondents said if they had an outage of their system for more than two hours it would cause severe disruption
  • Governance – 18% align IM/ECM system strategies with agreed Information Governance (IG) policies, 29% have no IG policies. Without governance you are just creating a digital dumpster!
  • Content creation mechanisms – 49% use a shared copy review but only 10% of organisations use concurrent editing; 78% are still circulating documents by email for review and approval
  • Email – 39% describe their email as chaotic; 16% keep everything; 17% have a dedicated archive with a defined retention and hold policy
  • Content deletion – 47% have an Information Governance policy, but 51% rely on manual deletion
  • Defensible content deletion – Half would struggle with cloud, social and file shares; 20% are following policy but are not auditing it
  • Business Processes – 46% have some paper-free processes (so 54% don’t); 30% are capturing content closer to the customer
  • Multi-channel inbound – 23% have elements of multi-channel integration, but only 5% with automated routing to multiple processes
  • Enterprise integration – 31% are integrated with content creation systems, but only 18% with multi-repository search
  • Content analytics – 15% using auto or assisted classification at creation/declaration
  • Cloud – 20% are live with cloud for all or some of their core content; 7% with selected users or content, or for collaboration and file-sharing.

Compliance in multiple repositories

Sara Somerville

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

 

Feedback on a content management session at the AIIM conference

Content Whack-a-Mole: Keeping Up Compliance across Multiple Repositoriespresentation by Michyle LaPedis and Jordan Jones from Cisco Systems

There are multiple tools popping up that enable users to create, share and manage documents, and these were challenging the traditional repository set-up such that users didn’t know what tools to use when. The team realised they needed an overarching strategy to address this issue.

One of the other problems Cisco had was around the search tools which were returning a lot of ROT (Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial data), and if the users couldn’t find what they needed then they tended to create the document again.

Content Management IT at Cisco focuses on an open architecture with open source and open standards. They have three major on premise systems and are currently implementing a project to migrate documents in to one system/repository as a focus for records management, and to enable the application of lifecycle management to that content. (Cisco also use box as their organisational cloud based document management and collaboration tool.)

Some of the steps the team took to improve the situation included:

  • Rationalising their on and off premise services and adding a compliance layer
  • Creating a content management program management office to ensure that proposals for any new IT tools came through this office for approval
  • They defined an ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) strategy for their documents and identified their repositories
  • Cloud offerings often mean less control and make it harder to manage and delete content, but the team created a dashboard for users to move documents from the cloud (or any other location) in to the repository they had created
  • They sent out monthly emails with information about what records need to be deleted and then reminder emails were sent every month after that to remind users to take action (if the users don’t take action after six months then the data is deleted).

Some of the issues they have encountered:

  • New platforms do mean new issues
  • Changing personnel means sometimes starting over – but hopefully there is some hand-over
  • There is a code of conduct which states that it is an employee’s responsibility to manage their information responsibly
  • They have started to phase out the network file shares by making them read-only and then they will start to move the documents over to the other approved repositories.

Key takeaways:

How do you win the game (Whack-a-Mole)?

  • Remember the game will never end
  • It’s important to have a strategy and for records and information professionals to work with IT to implement it
  • There is always going to be a new technology, so it’s important to get the process and the people part working together.

 

 

Document viewers

Sara Somerville

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

 

Discussions at the AIIM conference

Goodbye Applets, Hello HTML5 Document Viewing – roundtable with Jean Baptiste Ronfard from Snowbound Software

With Oracle announcing its plans to discontinue its Java browser plugin, the era of applets is coming to an end. Emerging in its place is a wave of web-based applications that offer improved security and reduced client support, including a solution that is a pure HTML5 document viewer. Most of the big vendors in this space are now promoting HTML5 viewers as a way to view documents over the web.

Reasons why the Java plugins are being phased out:

  • Security – not many people are using them so the bugs aren’t being identified as quickly and therefore plugins have been the main focus of attacks
  • Stability – they often crash
  • Flash – this has also been phased out
  • Browser plugins – in general these are seeing an end to their useful lives.

However there isn’t as much functionality available from an HTML5 viewer when editing documents using a browser, and they don’t work that well with PDFs – particularly when adding annotations. The group believed that you can’t take HTML5 viewing seriously until some of these issues with PDFs are resolved.

Key takeaway: Not all HTML5 viewers are created equal! There are some viewers that have a huge amount of features and manage a large range of file types; it all comes down to your requirements.

Ideas for innovation

Sara Somerville

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

Insights from the AIIM conference

No Worker Left Behind: The Secret to Successful Ground-up Digital Transformation roundtable chaired by Max Cantor from Nitro using the Catchbox to get the conversation going

CatchBox_Blog_5_Image_1

  • Transformation and innovation doesn’t have to be self-driving cars, it can be streamlining and automating processes, and eliminating paper from a process.
  • It is important to understand what the users on the ground are actually doing.
  • Start small. You don’t have to digitise the whole process, think of delivering the quick wins.
  • Think of the end objective and what you want to achieve, rather than digitising the whole process.
  • The University of Texas has a programme to identify what data is where, and once it is identified, to work out when you can delete it.
  • Tombstone awards – awarding this once you have abolished a redundant work flow!
  • Lean book – ‘Lean Essentials for School Leaders’ is good for running through the basics of applying lean methodologies.
  • Applying Lean principles – using the Five Whys to drill down into why certain steps in the process are happening.

Key takeaways:

  • Look for early wins
  • Find collaborators in the business
  • Stay Agile and Lean.

 

Solving for Innovationpresentation by Chris Walker

What are the organisational attributes and attitudes that are necessary for innovation to thrive?

  • A change can just be something small.
  • Enabling time and space.
  • Putting aside some time to create new things – ‘scratching an un-scratched itch’ – but it can’t be a one time thing.
  • Capturing ideas through a board and suggestion boxes, and it’s important to implement some of these things and let people know when you don’t do something.
  • Have an innovation day out in the business; ask “What would you suggest IT do instead that might stop the use of ‘shadow IT’ eg. Google/Dropbox?”
  • Have Google apps for education because they’re quicker.
  • IT has to become more of a service. IT has to provide the bowling lane rails so that the business can play within that space, but have some guidelines (perhaps around the tools). The role of IT should be more of a facilitator.
  • IT should be viewed as trusted advisor that you could go to, to ask questions of.
  • In one organisation, if research and development get stumped, they publish a ‘problem of the month’ that people in the business can reply to.

Key takeaways:

  • Innovation will not happen if you don’t have the right organisational culture
  • Look at things from an opportunistic point of view.

 

Information management

Sara Somerville

 

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

Notes from the AIIM conference

Information Management…The Technology Doesn’t Matter presentation by Russ Stalters

  • Limit your choices for document types and categories.
  • Policies (and best practices) should reinforce the information management practices and keep them short – one or two pages – and train people on the policy with annual refreshers.
  • Make sure each department helps to define their information management procedures; this helps with a sense of ownership.
  • Create an information governance council with members from senior management.
  • Business leaders need to own these decisions – have contacts in each business area who knows the data.
  • Establish quarterly business stakeholder briefings.
  • Use a consistent model for implementation in each area. Think about your lessons learned and refine as you go.
  • Highly recommend an information management operations team – create a team to manage the implementation – this could be a champions network who have been trained, and make sure they are recognised by their peers.
  • Make sure the data owners are assigned from the business.
  • Pay attention to the people side of change – use an established methodology e.g. ADKAR:

Awareness of the need for change

Desire to support the change

Knowledge of how to change

Ability to demonstrate new skills and behaviours

Re-enforcement to make the change stick

  • Try to make it fun and introduce games.
  • Use innovative communication tools e.g. information management coaster (they used a company called xplane – http://www.xplane.com/).

Key takeaway: It doesn’t matter which technology you pick – focus on the other elements that can guarantee your success.

 

Information Management is Hard – Guess What? Your Customers Don’t Care presentation by Ed McQuiston of OnBase (Hyland)

The consumerisation of IT, the Nexus of Forces, the SMAC stack (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud Services) – whatever you call it, the industry of information management is at a crossroads.

What are your expectations from your healthcare provider? Do you expect to fill in multiple paper forms asking for the same information? What is your expectation of the service you would get from your insurance company?

The information you need to do the job is the same as it was ten years ago, but the information needs to be digital and it needs to be accessible and useable. However, there has been an information explosion (we are trying to manage these volumes of data in real time) and the users have different expectations around how they can work with that information.

In 2007 when the iPhone was introduced it completely shifted our expectations around how and where we want to consume content. The expectation of the millennials is to be able to access both structured and unstructured data instantly.

What does this mean?

  • You need to be Agile to get your products to the market place quickly.
  • The problem is that you have a vast amount of silos and a mixture of custom code and third party apps.
  • You need to think about capturing all the different types of content in one repository and make that content available on-line, off-line and mobile, with external partners if required – the consumer of the information isn’t just internal any more. However, your users don’t want to have to log in to a different system every time, they want to live in their line of business system.
  • You need to be able to have real time data exchange across systems – if someone has put the data into a repository it needs to be immediately available in other systems.
  • You need to start thinking about your repository as the middleware – an integration hub or information management platform – a platform is more than a brand (should be designed in a very different way from a data warehouse).

 

 

 

 

Putting a STAMP on your digital shadow

Sara Somerville

 

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

Day three of the AIIM conference

Erik Qualman delivered the keynote, Modern Leadership: The Five Habits to Success and Happiness, setting the scene by highlighting some new online services, and getting us thinking about what could be around the corner. He said we should accept that privacy is dead. You might think, “I’ll get off the grid,” but that’s the worst thing you can do – take control of your online presence instead. Your digital shadow is important, as that’s what people say about you. (A digital shadow is your digital footprint, or what you leave behind when you have interacted with the internet. This can be passively, where data is collected about you; or actively, where you share information about yourself by means of websites or social media.)

Digital_Shadows_Blog_4_Image_1

Some interesting facts and trends relevant to online data collection include:

  • The startling statistic, provided by Erik, that 25% of children in the US who haven’t been born yet already have a digital stamp/footprint
  • Mobile voting – it’s coming
  • edX, founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, is a MOOC provider that publishes teaching materials and high-quality courses online for free
  • Spritz is a tool that varies the speed of text so you can teach yourself to speed read; you can incorporate it in to your e-reader
  • Oculus opens up possible uses for virtual reality – you can already get a $20 version from Google
  • Clicks to Bricks This term refers to a company’s integration of both online (clicks) and offline (bricks) presence and understanding the connections between its online presence and its face-to-face relationship with its customers
  • Wearable technology e.g. Fitbit .

STAMP – Five key elements

STAMP_Blog_4_Image_3Digital leaders are made, not born. Erik encouraged us to incorporate or take away one thing from the following that we thought we could use in our day-to-day. Think about these five elements, or STAMP:

Simple – Simplification? It’s hard to do in the digital age. We try to multi-task but this makes us less efficient – when we do that our IQ drops by 15 points, or the equivalent of not sleeping for 36 hours! An amusing example of simplification is a viral video from the Dollar Shave Club. They have a simple idea that is very well executed.

True – It’s important to have a ‘not for now’ list; leaders know where they want to go. What do you want your digital stamp to look like – for yourself, and for your company?

Act – Action and attitude trump everything.

  • We get into throughput traps – have we actually produced anything? Focus on the output.
  • Type into your phone the two things you want to achieve during the day, and try to achieve them (often you don’t get them done as you start fire-fighting and focusing on the immediate).
  • Silicon Valley has worked out that it’s ok to fail, but fail fast, fail forward, fail better (this is a key element of the Agile methodology).
  • Coolest cooler, the second most successful Kickstarter project ever, failed the first time to raise enough money. However, the second time around, they launched in the summer instead of the winter, and raised enough to fund their project.
  • It’s about being flawsome! When you make a mistake, how are you going to be flawsome? How are you going to deal with it? That is what sets you apart.

Map – You don’t use an old map to get to new destinations – pioneers will get pushback.

People – We thrive on people. Social media isn’t about technology, it’s about relationships and people. Pushback_Blog_4_Image_5

  • Try to spend five minutes getting interested in someone on social media, rather than trying to get them interested in you.
  • Post it forward e.g. list three people whom you admire and mention it; endorse people for skills on LinkedIn.
  • Network before you need your network e.g. don’t connect with someone on LinkedIn and then send them a message the next day asking them about a job opportunity.
  • Make sure you work on-line and off-line. Modern leaders do this – mix your virtual with your face-to-face – the tools should work for you, not the other way around.
  • Two things drive a great organisation – great people on the team and word of mouth.

Key takeaways:

  • The tools should work for you, not the other way around.
  • Produce a great digital STAMP – what will your grandchildren see? Will they see that you pursued your dream, or settled for something in between?

 

The future of work

Sara Somerville

 

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

 

Day two of the AIIM Conference

In The Future of Work Jacob Morgan talked about why the future of work is about the employee experience.

In his presentation he cited the Future of Work community, a group of CEOs who collaborate to share their experiences of building a workforce for the future.

Jacob argued that experience starts with an event, which gives an experience, producing a feeling and leaving a memory. If we have a bad experience, that’s what we remember. How did it make us feel? Let’s think about what that is like in the workplace.

Work used to be all about utility, and processes were designed to be done by robots and software. Now the technology has finally caught up, and we are replacing the robots, not the other way around.

In the last 150 years we have built our workplaces based on the notion that work is drudgery, and we are just a cog in a wheel.

Cogs_Blog_3_Image_1

Jacob reminded us that we now have different ways of earning money such as Uber, Airbnb, and Etsy, so we don’t always need to go to a traditional workplace. Therefore, we need to create a different work environment, and think about the experience.

Why bother? Organisations that are rated as great places to work are consistently out-performing other organisations.

There are five trends shaping the future of work:

  • New behaviours, including social tools – we are much more comfortable leading a more public life. How can we bring these behaviours in to the workplace? We live in 2016, but we work in 1975!
  • Technologies – wearable devices, collaborative technologies
  • The Millenial workforce – there are new attitudes, expectations, and ways of working but this doesn’t mean the forward-thinking employee has to be young; they can be any age
  • Mobility – work anytime, anywhere, and on any device
  • Globalisation – no boundaries.

5_Trends_Blog_3_Image_2

Employee Experience

Jacob considered that there are three key parts to our experience as employees:

  • Physical environment – Is it a creative space? Does the space energise the employees? Is it dark and uncared for? Are your organisation’s values reflected in your environment?
  • Cultural environment – How does it feel? Is it impacted by organisational structure? Do employees feel a sense of purpose? Worth? Are they treated fairly?
  • Technological environment – This comprises devices, applications, software, user experience and design. If your organisation doesn’t give you the tools you need to do your job, this causes a bad experience. Is your technology consumer grade or enterprise standard? Is it available to everybody? Is it focused on employee needs or business requirements? We need to understand how people actually work, rather than ticking off a checklist of features.

Great examples of forward-thinking office spaces are Airbnb, Cisco, and Whirlpool (who use Google products to manage their enterprise data, as this is what the employees use outside the workplace).

Organisations need to provide a great employee experience to attract and retain talented and innovative employees.

There has to be a balance between employee freedom and organisational control, and you can create that via transparency.

Key takeaway: A lot of workplaces have been based on factory environments, but you need to think of your organisation as a kind of laboratory.

Digital transformation in action

Sara Somerville

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

 

AIIMing to get the best out of an amazing opportunity

As an information professional working in an IT department and providing document management solutions and services across the university, I have always found AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) the best professional fit for my mix of skills. The one-day AIIM UK roadshow) (held in London every year) always proves illuminating. It offers a great selection of practical case studies and keynotes, alongside an exhibition comprising a wide range of enterprise content and document management technology vendors. Finding out about UCISA’s bursary scheme last year opened up the amazing possibility of being funded to attend the much bigger AIIM International conference held over three days in the US.  I was absolutely delighted when I heard that my application was successful!

This year the AIIM conference is being held in New Orleans from 26-28 April, with the added bonus of being sandwiched in between the two weekends of the Jazz festival. The title of this year’s conference is ‘Digital Transformation in Action,’ and the themes centre around automating business processes, protecting and securing information with governance, and gaining insight to better engage customers and employees. As with the UK event, there is a good mix of keynotes, panel Q&As, round table discussions, and real-life case studies, alongside the exhibition by technology vendors.

Like many other institutions, my university is addressing issues around information governance and management at an enterprise level, including the retention and deletion of data across business systems. With the provision of a wide range of on- and off-site services, and the increase in the use of personal mobile devices, the current challenge for the university is ensuring its data is stored in the right way while remaining accessible over the longer term.  I’m hoping the conference will provide some new and interesting insights into tackling these issues, and give me additional skills and knowledge to enhance my current involvement in improvement projects regarding corporate business process.

In particular I’m looking forward to hearing the keynotes from Erik Qualman  (author of ‘What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube’) and the futurist Jacob Morgan (author of ‘The Future of Work’). Erik is a social media expert who believes that privacy is dead, and who provides new rules for building our digital reputations, while Jacob works with the world’s most forward-thinking companies to explore how the workplace is changing and how it might look in the future.

From the sessions, I’m hoping to get answers about the consumerization of IT from Goodbye Applets, Hello HTML5 Document Viewing and Information Management is Hard. Guess What? Your Customers Don’t Care.  And I hope to hear about agile approaches to keeping up with the fast pace of change in technology from How Do You Disrupt a Disrupter?

Even before leaving the UK I have already learned from the conference agenda what the ‘SMAC stack’ is (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud Services), so I can’t wait to dive further in.

I will be tweeting from the conference (you can follow me @InfoSherlockUK for updates), and please do tweet me questions to ask on your behalf. I will also be posting on the UCISA blog.

Shaping the information landscape

One of UCISA’s roles is to ensure that suppliers to our sector are kept abreast of developments that may impact the software and services they deliver. The aim is to alert suppliers of potential changes in legislation or other statutory requirements so that they can effectively plan future developments. A recent example of this activity was the briefing day that UCISA and HEDIIP arranged at the end of January to bring suppliers of student records systems up to date with the work being carried out under the HEDIIP programme.

The meeting heard updates on four of the HEDIIP projects: data capability; the new subject coding system, the Unique Learner Number and the new Information Landscape. In addition we heard from HESA about the CACHED project. The aim of the HEDIIP programme is to redesign the information landscape to enhance the arrangements for the collection, sharing and dissemination of data and information about the HE system. Each of these projects will contribute to that overall goal – I won’t go into detail on these here but if you are interested in learning more, each is outlined on the HEDIIP website.

There were a number of common themes that emerged from the day. The first was the adoption of standards. One of the challenges the sector faces currently is that the same term can mean different things to different organisations (the term course being a prime example) so standard data definitions are essential to a common understanding and data sharing. This has been a particular problem with the JACS subject coding scheme where changes and growth in JACS’ range of functions mean it is no longer consistently applied.

The second theme was managing cultural change both within higher education institutions and a number of the organisations requesting data from the sector. In some institutions, many processes are geared around producing the HESA return and the need to get it “right”. The focus on a single return suggests that these institutions may be unaware of the volume of demands made on their data and the amount of resource across the institution spent in ensuring the various returns made are correct. It is highly unlikely that there will be one version of the truth in these institutions – indeed it was noted that one institution had over 200 separate collections of student records. It goes without saying that the data management in such institutions is poor – it will take a significant change to move away from data being an input to deliver a return to a point where it is seen as an institutional asset.

Finally, the biggest challenge is governance. At an institutional level, mature data management will only be achieved with effective information governance being driven from the top table. Getting the value of data understood at senior management level is key to improving the data and information management within an institution. There are wider governance issues that the HEDIIP programme will need to address. Moving to a set of standard data definitions is one challenge – ensuring that the governance mechanisms are in place to ensure that the standards remain consistently applied and understood is a league apart. Similarly with the new subject coding scheme, establishing a governance model that is supported by an appropriate selection of stakeholders, with sufficient authority and resources to manage its evolution will be critical to the success of the new scheme.

The feedback from those suppliers present was positive. They could recognise the efficiencies in moving to a model where, for the most part, data is submitted to a single point at various points in the year and drawn down from a single repository. The HEDIIP programme is only part of achieving this goal – the institutions need to improve their data management and change their processes, those requesting data may also have to change their processes and suppliers will need to amend their systems to implement new standards and enable data to be extracted at key points in the academic year or cycle. It will be a long journey but one that offers much reward.