Tag Archives: Agile

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.

 

What kind of Business Analyst are you?

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day Two

The keynote speaker on day two of the Business Analysis Conference 2016 was Bjarte Bogsnes from Statoil  who gave an interesting talk titled Beyond budgeting – An Agile Management Model for the New Business and People Realities. The premise of his talk was how, if we remove the concept of budgets in the workplace and empower people with their own spending power, they would take greater ownership. Transparency was a key part of this process which encouraged people to make smarter spending decisions. While I found this an engaging talk and interesting idea I don’t feel many UK HE institutions are ready for this as yet.

Next up was Adrian Reed, President of the UK chapter of the International Instituteadrian-reed-_blog_1_image4 of Business Analysis  who gave a fun talk on what Business Analysts can learn from the world of magic. The talk even included a couple of successfully pulled off magic tricks from Adrian himself. Adrian questioned whether as Business Analysts we too often focus our efforts on reaching the end goal successfully and forget about the journey we take both ourselves and our stakeholders on to get there. He asked us to consider the whole performance and not just the “wow” of the trick at the end. If we involve our stakeholders in the journey every step of the way, then we will reach the end together, and even if the end isn’t quite as planned, the stakeholders will be comfortable with the process and come back to work with us time and time again. He reminded us of this by saying, “You can deliver the best system in the world but if you deliver it in a bad way then users will hate it forever.”

To iiba-bcs_blog_1_image5finish the morning off, I attended a talk from Allianz on the IT BA and Business BA.  The speakers discussed how, at Allianz, the IT and Business BAs successfully worked together to eliver solutions. During the lunch session Lucy Ireland from the British Computer Society and Stephen Ashworth from the IIBA gave a fireside chat on how the BCS and IIBA want to work together in the future. One of the main questions from the floor was how as Business Analysts we decide on which, out of the qualifications they both offer, we should do, and whether we see a time when they will bring the two together? The response was that they felt both offered and suited a different set of skills and experiences, that for the time being they would stay on separate paths, and that you, as a Business Analyst, would have to decide which route to take.

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Nigel Risner kicked off the afternoon session with a very lively presentation titled How to create massive impact and be an effective zookeeper.  Nigel’s presentation style was a cross between Michael McIntyre and Alan Sugar. It certainly revitalized the audience and woke us up for the last afternoon of the conference. Nigel gave two key pieces of advice:

1) If you are in the room be in the room. Give whoever you are speaking to your full attention as, for that moment in time, they are the most important person in your life.

2) You can spend all the time in the world analysing who you are and what type of person you are but in business it doesn’t really matter. What matters is walking into a room of stakeholders and quickly being able to recognise what type of person they are and how to communicate with them in a style that will suit them.

Nigel breaks people down into four categories;

  • The visionary, single-minded lion
  • The playful, extroverted monkey
  • The careful, analytical elephant
  • The caring, supportive dolphin

Next up was Ryan Folster from Britehouseryan-folster_blog_1_image7 who talked about being The indispensable BA This was another talk about how as Business Analysts we often reach for solutions without fully understanding the requirements, which just goes to show what an important topic it is for the community.

 

To finish off the conference I attended a talk by Simon Lynch from Aviva Health on Impact Mapping.  Simon’s talk was agile focused, explaining how before creating your epics and then breaking those down into stories, you should start with a session impact mapping. The impact maps should show why you want to do something, how it will impact a stakeholder and what you want to achieve. Simon explained that while this had taken them awhile to get the hang of, it has really helped them when creating the epics and user stories to consider all aspects of the impact.

And that was the end of my first ever IIBA Business Analysis conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of attending the conference from meeting other Business Analysts to hearing all the interesting and somewhat rather lively presentations. I can thoroughly recommend attending this conference to any fellow Business Analyst, and if you get the chance to apply for the UCISA Bursary, it is well worth the effort. I hope I will be able to attend in future years and may even pluck up the courage to speak and share a story of my own to a future audience.

Listening to customer need

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day One

As a UCISA bursary winner for 2016 I attended the Business Analysis Conference 2016 hosted by IRM. The conference was attended by over three hundred and fifty Business Analysts from a diverse range of industries: there was a mixture of experienced Business Analysts and people fresh to the industry. As a Business Analyst with over ten years’ experience in the HE sector, I often get to meet colleagues from other institutions to share knowledge, different experiences and best practice. This conference, however, gave me a chance to meet analysts from outside my peer group. I really enjoyed hearing about the projects they were working on and what they consider to be their best practices, as well as the usual horror stories of being bought onto a project too late in the day and customers’ requirements changing part way through a project. The benefits from these opportunities to chat with other attendees between sessions are hard to quantify, but I personally find them one of these best parts of attending a conference.

The conference was opened by keynote speaker Gavin Esler.gavin-esler_blog_1_image1
Gavin is an award-winning broadcaster, author and journalist and gave an engaging speech about ‘trust’. Trust is something we give to people every day, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. We place trust in leaders who tell us what is in our best interests using facts and figures to back up their arguments. The question is why do we place our trust in some people and not in others? Why as Business Analysts should we expect our customers to trust us when presenting our results and analysis? As Gavin said, “If facts were king, then Spock would have been captain of the Enterprise.” How we deliver a message is just as important as the analysis and facts of our case. As great leaders have shown us we need to become storytellers when presenting our case to the business, so we connect with our audience and gain their trust.

Virgin Media presented the next session titled Share Knowledge, Perform Stronger, Better Together – Evolving a BA practice. They explained how they had developed their BA practice over the years and survived several organisational restructures and rebrands. They had developed a BA toolkit which included templates, tools and techniques that supported their delivery framework as well as also utilising the SFIA capability model for developing their team.

mohamed-bray_blog_1_image2Next up was Mohamed Bray from Saratoga Software who came all the way from South Africa. Mohamed’s talk was titled Think like an Analyst, Act like a Consultant.  Mohamed was an engaging speaker who told us a real life story of when he failed to think about the customer needs first; how he had assumed what they wanted and what he had learned from this experience. As Business Analysts we often fall into the trap of thinking of solutions before we really understand what the problem is and what the customers’ needs are. Often we jump to a technology that we think will solve a problem when technology should only ever be the enabler of a solution, and not the solution itself. If we fail to listen to our customers and truly understand their problem, we will fail to engage them in our solutions. By actively listening to their problem the customer will become the co-creator of the solution taking ownership of the change and become the catalyst driving it forward in the organisatkim-bray_blog_1_image3ion.

After a very tasty lunch, we were welcomed to the afternoon session by a keynote from Kim Bray from Nationwide. Kim took us through her thirty-year career as a Business Analyst. Kim explained how she may not have always held the job title of Business Analyst, but that did not stop her from undertaking business analysis activities for her organisation. Kim described herself as being ‘professionally nosey’ and at the start of her career her naturally inquisitive nature meant she was capturing information on issues and analysing the data before presenting solutions to her organisation without even knowing what a Business Analyst role was. However, one of the key messages Kim left me with was ‘You don’t get something if you don’t ask.’ How often in both our professional and personal lives do we not pluck up the courage to ask for something we want or need simply because we are scared of hearing the answer ‘No!’

The afternoon session was, for me, dominated by Agile.  I attended a talk from Ashley Watson of the NHS Blood Transplant service and Menaka Priya Shanmugavadivelu from Aviva. Ashley talked about UAT and Menaka talked about delivering Agile development when your customers, business, Business Analysts and developers are spread across the globe. Menaka stressed the importance of visiting your dispersed teams to get to know them and build relationships, finding common ground and continuing to build on the relationship after your return back to base.

 

EA and project portfolio management

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

My final technical session was from an enterprise architect and portfolio manager at Danfoss, a Danish engineering company. Although very focused on improving the bottom line and digital innovation for a manufacturing company, parts of this were very relevant. Before architecture and portfolio got together, projects were initiated and governed by individual business areas (faculties?) with no overall coherence. While they have now moved to a single portfolio model, they still allow business areas to think they have their own portfolio, even if they don’t really own it. They also spoke about technical IT people never wanting to engage with business staff, expecting business partners to act as the interface and go-between. This certainly sounds familiar at Christ Church. Their final insight for me was that although they had a big vision for how architecture and portfolio was going to come together, they cautioned against trying to explain this to business colleagues all at once. Eyes would simply glaze over, so they realised it was easier to explain the changes piece by piece.

The last session of the day was from Neil Mullarkey – formerly of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and now using the techniques of improvisation to teach businesses how to collaborate. He drew out a lot of parallels between agile development and improv, as well as getting us all to improvise a story with those sitting next to us. An excellent speaker, with some strong messages, who I would strongly suggest UCISA consider as a guest speaker at the annual conference.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

EA and bimodal IT

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

The next IRM EA conference I session went to was described as looking at the linkages between EA and portfolio management. However, little was said about the PMO, with the focus really being on setting up an EA function. One telling insight is that most EA tools are for enabling architects to talk to architects, not architects to talk to humans. The speaker’s company eventually settled on a tool with both PMO and architecture visualisation capability, which also links to technology life-cycle. This latter allows them to link projects to technology obsolescence. The speaker ended by commenting negatively on the Gartner model of bimodal IT. He felt that the faster mode does not understand BAU, while the slow side is seen as boring. This linked nicely to the next session.

This session was entitled “avoiding the bimodal disaster”, so we were in no doubt about the speaker’s viewpoint. He was president of a digital transformation consultancy, and strongly believed that the digital agenda is impossible in a bimodal organisation. In his view either the slow side will hold back the faster transformation efforts, or shadow IT will be created. There were some good aspects to this, such as not seeing EA as city planners, as planned cities are not agile. They may be efficient, but they are not able to cope with rapid change. However, throughout the talk I was left feeling that while there may be issues with Gartner’s bimodal model, there were at least as many issues with the “self-organised” approach advocated by the speaker. Perhaps it’s working in HE, but I was left thinking that there has got to be a compromise position somewhere. One observation I did agree with however, was the need to be ready for citizen IT: whether it be citizen integrator, developer or data analyst. We need to accept that in the future, these areas are no longer wholly owned by IT.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

Enterprise Architecture Trends and Strategies

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Allister Homes
Senior Systems Architect
University of Lincoln

Gartner EA Summit Day 2

I’ll take the same approach as the blog post for day 1, summarising the sessions I attended.

Top 10 strategic technology trends for 2015

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I thought this session brought together some of yesterday’s themes quite nicely – I’m not sure if that’s how it was intended or whether it was a coincidence (or even just my interpretation), but that’s how it came across to me.

First of all the presenter explained the traits that the Vanguard Enterprise Architect – Gartner’s term for the architect of tomorrow – will need to have:

  • Futurist, trend spotter
  • Business visionary
  • Technology analyst
  • Strategist (social connector)
  • Educator, communicator
  • Vendor watcher
  • Leader, collaborator
  • Evangelist, catalyst
  • Salesman

We were told that if you see trends in a spectrum, the enterprise architect should consider adopting trends, and how they can help the organisation, during their growth phase – after the emerging phase (when disruption is uncertain) and before they become mainstream (when the disruption is happening or has happened).

The top strategic trends Gartner identified as being of greatest important to EA over the coming years are:

  • Merging Real World and Virtual World
    • 1 – Computing everywhere (think mobile people instead of mobile devices)
    • 2 – Internet of Things
    • 3 – 3D printing
  • Intelligence everywhere
    • 4 – Advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics
    • 5 – Context-rich systems
    • 6 – Smart machines
  • New IT reality emerges
    • 7 – Cloud/client computing
    • 8 – Software-defined application and infrastructure
    • 9 – Web-scale IT (our IT world will look more like Google)
    • 10 – Risk-based security and self-protection

Business outcome driven application strategy
The focus of this session was bimodal application strategies, particularly the use of mode 2. Most IT departments are generally seen as good at identifying savings and efficiencies that an organisation can make, but not necessarily as good at supporting new revenue opportunities and taking advantage of new opportunities. Organisations need to take advantage of business moments – that is, opportunities that arise suddenly and are transient – and if the IT department is not good at responding to those opportunities with the business then they will become marginalised and bypassed. We heard how business moments are human-centric, transient, ad-hoc and blur the physical and digital boundaries. The difficulty for enterprise architects is that it is hard to plan the target state for these business moments when we have no idea what the state will look like until the transient opportunity arises. Instead, we have to design the architecture to be able to respond to opportunities rapidly as they arise.

In bimodal IT, mode 1 is the more traditional way of doing things, is consistent, has steady governance controls and does things ‘the right way’; mode 2 on the other hand has no simple path, is flexible and adaptive. Mode 3 looks more chaotic but it doesn’t have to be. Mode 1 might use a waterfall methodology (but might use Agile) whereas mode 2 can only succeed with Agile methodologies.

It was suggested that when starting out with a bimodal approach, we should first pick a specific project or projects to experiment with. Use agile approaches, devops, create an innovation lab and use small vendors. Then, as competence with mode 2 and a more unstructured world grows, mode 2 can start to be applied in more situations. There are significant differences in characteristics between mode 1 and mode 2 approaches, including funding arrangements, which are less predictable but can be less risky with mode 2. In an Agile project it will be known much earlier whether a project is likely to fail than would be the case in a waterfall project (called failing fast), and much less of the budget would have been spent, meaning the financial risk can be lower. Organisations will probably always have some mode 1, but a bimodal approach will start to displace it to some extent.

This session was presented by the same person who presented Application Architecture for Digital Business yesterday, and the information about app and service style application architecture from that session was repeated in this one. It was suggested that the likes of Nginx and in-memory computing are used for scale and performance. There was also a comment that, for integration, don’t assume the ESB is centre of universe. It is still good for core systems, but gateways (e.g. with APIs) can be faster and easier for mode 2 applications.

Orchestrating Ideation: Creating Breakthrough Innovation Opportunities
The ‘nuts and bolts to drive innovation’ were presented in this session, which concentrated on thoughts for an innovation pipeline. Innovation in many large businesses used to be driven by a small group, perhaps a dedicated Research and Development team. Businesses need to, and are, changing this approach now, partly because it is increasingly possible for someone with a good idea to simply go out and build it with tools at their disposal (cloud-based services in the case of IT tools) without the involvement of specialist teams in the organisation and without any kind of governance or approval. The change of approach needs to move from the likes of R&D teams to the wisdom and diversity of the crowd, and from managing innovation to orchestrating, engaging and motivating the right set of people and guiding them through an innovation pipeline.

Gartner has come up with a way of categorising problems according to their nature and applying different methods to crowd-source solutions depending on that categorisation.

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Problems can be categorised as complicated (e.g. putting a man on the moon in 10 years), complex (e.g. climate change) or chaotic (e.g. traffic movement). For each categorisation there are different knowledge scopes, and also different approaches:

  • Analysis for complicated, breaking down the problem into smaller pieces
  • Synthesis for complex, aiming for the best outcome to a problem without a way of necessarily knowing if it is ‘solved’ (see yesterday’s blog post for a session that covered analysis vs synthesis)
  • Selection for chaotic, where the whole problem can’t necessarily be solved but solutions can be selected to solve incremental parts of it.

Stakeholders will also vary according to the problem type. This is all much easier to explain using a series of Gartner’s slides, but I don’t think I can reproduce that much copyright material without falling the wrong side of the rules.

When it comes to the type of crowd used to solve the different categories of problems, complicated problems are best solved with specialist teams, e.g. the DARPA robotics challenge; complex problems are solved best with community co-creation, starting with a goal rather than a problem and then selecting the best option, e.g. the way the city of Porto Alegre involves citizens in setting the use of the discretionary budget; and chaotic problems are best solved using the largest possible target audience and giving the community a broad space to get many different ideas rather than setting a specific goal, and then working through filters of selection, development and final launch, e.g. the Department of Work and Pensions’ staff ideas scheme.

All of this needs to be done by putting rules and recognition/reward around a process. Participants are motivated from having autonomy (being part of the change), mastery (developing skills) and purpose (having meaningful contribution). A pipeline provides creative constraints to encourage creativity, because if there are no boundaries or guidance at all it is harder to think of something to be creative with, and organisations should put in place a way of managing innovation portfolios to make the best of crowd sourced ideas.

Digital Business Architecture Fuels Digital Business
At the very beginning of this session, it was emphasised that if you are not doing business architecture you are not doing EA – you’re doing EITA (Enterprise IT Architecture) instead. It was also emphasised that business architects must be part of the EA team, and even if there are reasons why the reporting lines for personnel are different it is still important for business architects to sit with and work with the rest of the EA team in a virtual team. Gartner estimates that by 2017 60% of Global 1000 organisations will execute at least one revolutionary and unimaginable business transformation effort, and if business architects are not an intrinsic part of the EA team then the rest of the architecture will not be able to respond properly to these transformations.

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My interpretation of this session was that much of it was about what should already be taking place in the business domain of EA, with elements of how to take it a little further. One interesting point is that organisations, people and things (think Internet of Things) will all be equal peers when it comes to digital business designs in future. I thought other aspects, such as how business architects should work on business strategy and goals, fill the gap between strategy and execution, and so on, were what has been suggested for a long time. Business moments were talked about again (see earlier in the day) and likened to lightning strikes of opportunity. The suggestion was made that to gain an advantage and be able to respond more quickly than competitors, business modelling should not stop at the boundary of the organisation; instead, also model the business domain of partners, competitors and customers.

Finally, the presenter urged IT and EA departments NOT to think of, or refer to, the rest of the organisation as customers, because doing so makes IT and EA subservient to the rest of the organisation. IT is intrinsic to most modern organisations and crucial to their futures, and department staff should be thought of as peers.

Three Roadmaps to Guide and Drive Change in Your Organisation
As the title suggests, this session was about roadmaps. The first point was that not every roadmap suits every stakeholder – it’s no good giving a tube map to someone getting the bus. In some cases a particular roadmap might only be relevant to a few technical staff, and there is nothing wrong with that because those people need that roadmap, but it would be a mistake to give the same one to board members. The definition of a roadmap provided by the presenter is that it is graphical, illustrates milestones and deliverables, and shows transition from current to future over specified time. Time is the primary dimension, but additional influencing factors may be shown, and the level of abstraction must be appropriate to the audience and purpose. That leads to the first piece of critical information when creating a roadmap – who and what is it for? By understanding that, an appropriate roadmap can be developed that is fit for the people and for the purpose for which it is being created.

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At this point similar emphasis to that of the previous session was made about the importance of not thinking of the IT department as separate to the rest of the organisation. You wouldn’t typically talk of the finance department and its relationship to the business, for example, so don’t do it with the IT department.

It was also suggested that staff from within the organisation are sought out for how they can help with roadmaps – many organisations have a marketing department with staff who spend much of their time making things look as appealing as possible, so ask if they can help do the same with your roadmaps for example.

A topology of roadmaps was presented covering quadrants of operational planning, operational execution, strategic planning and strategic execution. Roadmaps tend to fit towards the strategic rather than tactical axis, but lifecycle roadmaps cover some of each because they cover the full life cycle of a capability or system over time. Evolution roadmaps show a specific target state and what components are introduced or removed to support the required business outcomes. An enterprise roadmap shows current and planned strategic change at a contextual level, again including the time dimension. It tracks high level business outcomes linked to KPIs, and indicates change across the whole enterprise rather than just one programme or area of it.

Preparing for the first Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) Event

PCMG has officially been a UCISA group since 2014. We are holding our first event on 10 June 2015 “Project and change management – why bother?” http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg/events/2015/pcmg.aspx? We are keen that our first formal event should reflect the full range of both the group’s scope and the committee’s expertise.

To prepare for the event, the first thing we had to do was to identify our speakers. We were delighted that Gerry Pennell (University of Manchester) agreed to open the event and we were able to secure Prof. Zoe Radnor from Loughborough University as final speaker of the day. We are also looking forward to hearing from Ruth Murray Webster and Adrian Reed.

Once we’d identified speakers, we focused on potential workshops. We had a very long list of ideas and could have filled the slots three times over. We hope that you will agree that the workshops offer something for everybody interested in this field. At the main UCISA conference in March, there was a great deal of interest in Agile Project Management so we’ve decided to add a workshop on this area: if you would be interested in co-presenting at this workshop, we’d love to hear from you.

Planning for this event has been a real eye-opener about the extent of the professional and helpful support from UCISA. It’s great for us committee members to have the glamour and pleasure arranging the programme: but it is important to acknowledge the invaluable support that UCISA offers to its groups.

We are hoping for a good turn out at the event, please do get in contact if you would like any further information about the event. The content should offer a challenging, informative and enjoyable day for anyone who is interested in project and change management in higher education.

Agile at the IPMA conference

Simon Hogg
IT Portfolio Manager
OBIS (Oxford Brookes Information Solutions), Oxford Brookes University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

Another packed schedule of talks and sessions – again a difficult choice and there’s not much information to help you choose, so a bit of a lottery (although all talks are grouped into streams, which is good). I have tried to pick and choose rather than concentrate on a stream, but at the same time, try and get the best value.

Agile

My first session today was about Agile and how it can and does deliver success. What I didn’t know was the speaker was a co-author of the Agile manifesto. Quite a few questions were around the type of projects it can be used on and the scale. His response was that it can be applied to any project even bringing new things to market such as margarine. As for the scale, he didn’t seem to think this was a problem at all. The room seemed to be split 50:50 on those who know Agile and those who don’t, so his answers did raise a few eyebrows amongst the perhaps sceptical 50% of the room.

The next session was a practical Agile session. The speaker gave a very quick overview of Agile. We were split into small teams and given the brief of producing a children’s book in 45 minutes. We were given guidance and the 45 minutes was in fact a week compressed, so we had 5 minute sprints and 1 minute scrums. My Agile knowledge is limited, but I have a grasp of the basic concepts. However, my other team members didn’t have any idea about Agile other than the brief overview. I also think nationalities played a part, as one person more or less refused to participate. So we did this and yes, we did produce a crude book; we had access to some paper and felt-tip pens. It did illustrate the point that you can get complete strangers to collaborate. I think for Agile to work, you need 100% commitment  from everyone on the project, along with 100% understanding of what Agile is and how it does work in practice. For some people, the communication and interaction would be a challenge.

My next two sessions were in the communications theme. The first was a bit of a shameless plug for “my new book, which is available at the conference”. I can only say that I picked up a few useful tips: pause in communication, make sure your communication is truly understood and have a repertoire of communication skills. None of these were really explained but we were told that we could read about it in her new book.

The next session was about humour and its effect on people in the workplace. A very good presentation with lots of humour of course. Lots of images, lots of suggestions and university based research to show how humour does actually improve the workplace. Not a sales pitch at all, even though they were a consultancy firm.

A brief conclusion

It’s been very tiring, mentally and physically. Three days of talking about and listening to the many aspects of project management and its associated threads.  I only wish I could have attended more talks than I have, but as the programme had no duplicate sessions, I couldn’t.  The venue was excellent as was the organisation of the conference, which you would probably expect given the nature of it. Out of all the talks I’ve been to, the one on humour, coupled with the opening keynote address about luck, could be the most valuable. This is not what I expected at all, given the programme. However, that doesn’t mean everything else was not of use, it has all been useful as  the standard has generally been very high.

Would I attend again and would I recommend it? Yes on both counts, but with the knowledge that it is demanding.

Simon Hogg