Category Archives: Communications Toolkit

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.