Tag Archives: leadership

International lessons in applying continuous improvement

Leah March
Process Improvement Facilitator
University of Sheffield



Lean HE 2018 Conference

I recently returned from the beautiful Tromsø where I attended the Lean HE 2018 Conference, thanks to being one of the very lucky beneficiaries of the UCISA bursary scheme. It was a brilliant week with many informative, interesting and applicable sessions.
The sessions included key notes from Niklas Modig, researcher, Center for Innovation and Operations Management, Stockholm School of Economics (author of ‘This is Lean’ about ‘How to generate change and engagement’) and Tove Dahl, Professor at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, on courage and the importance of inspiring and rewarding courage throughout change activities. The following sessions covered many topics including: incorporating visual management into everyday working, games to encourage idea generation, using institutional risk to drive change and inspiring Lean at the leadership level and within teams, to list but a few. Myself and Mark Boswell form Middlesex University will be drawing together a guide over the next couple of weeks with links and descriptions about the key tools shared, useful software used and signposting to details about next year’s conference.
There was lots of learning to take-away, particularly the similarities around the current
situation/climate/ issues many of the delegates institutions from across the world were facing. These related to difficulties finding operational staff the time to engage in change activities, uncertainty about what the future might hold in relation to funding, student numbers and student expectations and the high level of change occurring within their organisations. I found meeting delegates from other institutions and discussing how they are applying continuous improvement and overcoming obstacles in their institution a really valuable part of the conference.
Key learning points from the conference:
  • There is a huge support network within HE both UK based and across Europe, Australia and the Americas, reaching out to this network can provide you with great insights, reassurance and ideas about how to optimise your work.
  • Senior management support is crucial in driving continuous improvement within organisations and getting buy-in from senior leaders should be a key priority
  • We need to put customers at the heart of the changes and improvements we drive, on both an institutional and team level
  • Many organisations are embracing a multi-methodology approach (combining lean, service design, continuous improvement etc.) but all at maintain, at their heart, the importance of respect for people
  • It takes courage to drive and embrace change and this courage needs to be recognised and rewarded
  • As well as reaching out to colleagues within the sector we can also learn a lot by adopting open process innovation. Looking towards other industries for ideas and best practice.
  • Stories can be used as powerful tools to encourage analytical thinking in a ‘safe’ way.    
I would like to say a huge thank you to the Lean HE Europe committee and of course, to the team at The Arctic University of Norway for organising such a brilliant conference. Everyone I spoke to remarked on the wonderful and open atmosphere and interesting and engaging topics.
I would also like to say a huge thank you to the UCISA bursary scheme for enabling me to attend and learn so much and to the UCISA PCMG community for their support and interest.
Next steps, myself and Mark will share our summary guide to the conference and key tools shared, and Mark will be blogging about his conference experience and key take home points.

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

We are all human

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

Reflections on mental health from this summer’s conferences

Our users are humans, and so are we.

Inspired by some of the heartbreaking, challenging and thought-provoking stories I read on World Mental Health Day, here’s a breakdown of one of the themes that emerged from the conferences I attended this summer: UX Scotland, IWMW  and UX Week (the latter funded by a UCISA bursary).
These were my takeaways from the talks, case studies and throw-away lines that tugged at my heartstrings, and reminded me that before we can truly take care of our users, we need to take care of ourselves, and each other.

From Kevin Mears’ sketchnote for ‘10 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier (In My Career)’

Know yourself and own it

“Introverts are ace​”

Half way through opening IWMW with her talk ‘10 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier (In My Career)’, blew me away. Her voice cracking, she confessed to just how difficult and uncomfortable it was for her to stand up in front of us and talk. But here she was doing it anyway, and she’d done it hundreds of times before.
Her experiences were so much like mine it was uncanny: she’d faced crippling social anxiety, low self-esteem and depression; she was convinced there was something fundamentally wrong with her, and embarrassed by that, so the whole thing became self-perpetuating. She’d rarely dare speak up in meetings, so how did she transform herself into an articulate public speaker, and become Head of Digital then Head of Marketing?
The answer: someone believed in her enough to send her on a leadership course, where she learned from a speaker she respected and admired that he also struggled with nerves every time: turns out his distinctive relaxed-but-confident pose was actually his way of dealing with the discomfort and getting through his talks.
Alison took this revelation as evidence that, while it wouldn’t get easier, she too could find ways to put herself across clearly and inspire an audience. That self-belief led her to success.
I took three lessons from this:
  1. Believe in your introverted colleagues: shy-and-quiet doesn’t mean nothing-to-say.
  2. There’s value in being able to recognise yourself in others you admire and are inspired by, so look for it and be open to it.
  3. There’s value in openness: share your struggles and you will inspire others.
“For those of you that are introverts, I’ll not see you in the bar later!”

“Humans are cursed with human brains”

When stress overloads the human brain, it can become “deeply focussed, to the point of distraction” and reverts to pattern-seeking behaviour, as Laura E. Hall  explained in her UX Week talk on ‘Caring for Players in Real World Spaces and Beyond’ (which I briefly covered).
As designers, if we observe our users enough we can predict their stressors and mitigate them. And if we listen to them enough we can come to understand their behaviour and design for it.
It’s the same in self-care, with mindfulness — thinking about our thinking — as the key. Whether we’re intro-, extra- or ambiverts, and whether or not we’re also affected by poor mental health, the more we develop our self-awareness, and the more objectively we review and reflect on our actions, their causes and their outcomes, the less our brains can hijack us.

The problem of perfectionism

“It’s good to have ideals, but don’t be an idealist”

This was no. 4 in Alison Kerwin’s ‘10 Things’. Working in digital, we have access to an enormous amount of user data that isn’t available in other areas. Understanding this data helps us identify problems and what we might do to fix them but it’s just as important to understand the politics of our organisations and the interweaving priorities of our stakeholders.
For our sanity’s sake, we have to accept that we can’t fix everything. Instead we must be pragmatic and learn when to push and when to let things go.

“You will make mistakes”

And that’s fine, as Andrew Millar made clear in his IWMW talk ‘Stress…and what to do when everything starts falling apart. He pointed out that, whether the drive to achieve perfection is internally generated or the result of external pressure, the very concept of perfection is an illusion anyway.
Book-ending his moving personal story of learning to cope with a panic disorder, Andrew called for a culture change. There’s a lot we can do for ourselves, and for each other as teammates and managers, but employers must also take active steps to tackle work-related stress and its underlying causes.

One of many zingers from Steve Jobs’ 1997 WWDC talk

Beating imposter syndrome

Award-winning Hollywood Production Designer Hannah Beachler gave the opening keynote at UX Week. Hannah was headhunted by director Ryan Coogler to bring to life the Afro-futuristic nation of Wakanda for Marvel’s Black Panther. The $200 million movie was of course wildly successful, not least because of the entire civilisation she built, that persists in imagination beyond the edge of the screen.
How could someone who moves in those kinds of circles, and whose work is sought after and celebrated by so many people possibly doubt herself? But she did, and she talked inspiringly about faking it ’til she made it.
Meanwhile, another great point from Andrew Millar’s IWMW talk on stress highlighted the importance of both getting and giving an outside perspective: so that’s another vote for keeping yourself open to favourable comparison with your heroes, and for sharing your truth.

Possibly my favourite slide of the summer, from Andrew Millar’s talk on stress.
As for me, I’ve previously written about my in-the-moment tactics for beating imposter syndrome. I’m less affected by that now but still an introvert so, while keeping an eye on my energy levels and letting myself flop when necessary, I actively look for ways to trick myself into socialising.
For example at UX Week, where delegates get a notebook with a blank cover and there are prizes for the best designs, I decided to crowd-source mine by asking at least 20 random people to draw me a dog 🐕 It was a great conversation starter and I ended up with 27 dogs, a load more friends and contacts, and a runner’s-up prize — woot!
If you please, draw me a dog!

In summary

  • Know yourself and own it
  • Accept that perfection doesn’t exist
  • Share and share and keep sharing
  • We are all human.
This blog post first appeared on the UofG UX blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Don’t be afraid to ask – implementing a Learning Management System





Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Mike Thomas Floejborg from the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) ran an interesting Parallel Session on Day Two of the EUNIS conference, ‘Leadership and Management – Don’t be Afraid to Ask: Implementing “New Absalon”’. The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is the oldest university in Denmark and has four primary campuses in the capital city. The university has around 40,000 students and around 10,000 staff and is divided into six faculties. In 2014, UCPH committed to a project to replace their existing Learning Management System (LMS) named Absalon, running on ItsLearning with a new system running on Canvas LMS, to retain the name “Absalon” (a reference to a former Danish Archbishop).  They went into the project with a commitment to organise it with three key elements in mind: involvement, dialogue, and transparency.

It was clarified that this was an ambitious project with a tight time schedule:

  • December 2014 – Decision made to procure and implement new LMS
  • June 2015 – Project initiated
  • May 2016 – Go live (Autumn courses)
  • Jan 2017 – Expiration of contract with current supplier (ItsLearning).

Mike continued to reinforce the fact that the stakeholders’ engagement was integral to the success of the project:

  • Organisation provided inputs for the system requirements.
  • Expert group organised, prioritised and qualified the inputs.
  • Teachers, students and members of the expert group tested the systems and chose a winner.
  • The project (including chairman of the steering committee) visited the local management of all six faculties.
    • The faculty reps were worried if the project was realistic.
    • This tour helped produce a supportive and calm stakeholder community.

The benefits of such an engaging approach were clearly evident. There was significant goodwill from management, teachers and students to the delivery of the project and subsequent use. All project participants were dedicated to the end goal. The faculties took responsibility for the local implementation of “New Absalon” and the consistent transparency and engagement are believed to have increased the recorded user satisfaction.

A link to Mike’s “Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: Implementing “New Absalon” paper can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

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

Perpetual Honeymoon: How to build the (almost) perfect business collaboration

Tim Banks
Faculty IT Manager
University of Leeds

I have just attended a really interesting session delivered by Bill Hogue, Director of IT (CIO) at South Carolina University. He started by telling us that in 2014, he received a phone call from the Vice Chancellor (President) of the University with news of a new initiative, partnering with IBM for delivery of some of the core University IT services. His exact words were “It’s a great opportunity and I know you’ll be excited by it”

Bill has been seeking new model for IT delivery at University of South Carolina since 2004 and was convinced that the future of IT was going to be about partnerships, not least because the world of IT was changing so fast and the staff and students at the University now had access to world-class IT services at commodity items in their everyday lives. On January 1st 2015, the University of South Carolina entered into a 10-year partnership valued at an estimated $100m dollars. The actual contract value is less than this figure, but Bill is sure that more opportunities to work with IBM will present themselves over the contract period. He summarised the whole 15 month contract negotiation period and the first 10 months of the partnership into two basic principles:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Know your collaborator

He also sounded a note of caution which was an idea commonly attributed to Peter Drucker, namely “Culture eats strategic planning for lunch”. In other words, no matter how much strategic planning you do, if you don’t have a grip on your organisational culture and haven’t prepared your organisation for change, then your strategy will fail.



Bill then went on to list five assumptions about IT in Higher Education, as follows:

1: ‘Keeping the lights on’ is necessary but not sufficient on its own to deliver world class IT service. The important thing is how we serve the University and how we serve the Faculties. He told of the Director of Facilities at a University where he had previously worked who had a sign on the back of his door which he saw every time he left his office which read: “What have you done for the students today?” We should always remember why do we do what we do at the University.

2: Most of us are not receiving A+ grades from the staff and students at our institutions for our delivery of production services. It might be OK, but we are not doing a terrific job.

3: Our grades will get worse unless we do something different. Our expectations in IT are driven by consumer IT services; the challenge is only going to get harder. Currently there are 13 billion devices on the internet and this number is growing daily.

4: Running world class IT services is not a core competency of the University. The focus is teaching, learning, research and partnerships and we tend to be just ‘OK’ at delivering IT.

5: Most of us are in the early stages of transformation programs that promises to be disruptive. The IBM Institute for Business Value said in a recent report: “Demands on and in University IT Services continue to rise […] Both academic and industry leaders believe the current HE system is broken. We need a more practical and applied curriculum to exploit disruptive technologies and develop more partnerships.”

The Deal

Seventy three positions were transitioned from the University being the employer to IBM (without the individuals changing location / office etc.) Bill spoke about the need to handle this process very carefully and to ensure that all the University senior managers, including HR are on board with the process. The contract is mainly centred on delivery of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, as this is where it was felt that IBM could deliver the best value.

A brand new Centre for Applied Analytics and Innovation is being built. This will house IBM experts in this field alongside University researchers. There were many similarities with the recently launched Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) http://www.lida.leeds.ac.uk  at my own University of Leeds.

There are also plans to launch several apprenticeships with both staff and students working closely with IBM to develop new skills at the leading (or possibly bleeding) edge of IT development. A key factor in the partnership is the University’s access to IBM’s Watson technology, which IBM describe as ‘Cognitive Computing Systems that understand natural language’. http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/

One of Watson’s main benefits is undertaking large scale real-time data analytics to identify ways to improve operational efficiency in finance, purchasing, facilities management etc. If the University of South Carolina is able to save just 1% on its annual $1.5bn budget, then that is a lot of money that can be reinvested in core business. This also opens up new areas of research opportunity for both staff and students to work with the Watson technology.

Bill then went on to expand on his two core principles, as follows:

Know yourself

  • Why are we doing this?
  • We can’t assume that we have a unified agendas. He could think of at least a dozen potentially competing agenda for wanting to develop a partnership such as the one with IBM that include:

o    Economic development
o    The Leader’s Legacy
o    Getting free stuff from the partner
o    Wanting to improve services
o    The need to save money
o    Minimising or spreading risk associated with IT delivery

  • IT will continue to develop over time
  • It takes a firm commitment from the senior management at the University

o   Partnerships such as this can and most probably will be very disruptive
o   Needs total support from senior leadership team (Finance, HR, Student Education, VC, ProVCs etc.)

  • You need a comms strategy to manage the message that stakeholders are receiving
  • You need to be understanding towards affected employees. You can’t turn you back on staff who have worked at the University for many years and think of them as ‘IBM’s problem’

Things that can go wrong

  • Deals don’t always work out – you need an exit strategy
  • You need to get good at negotiating terms with the private sector with people who do this all day long for IBM
  • You need to recruit new ‘talent’ including people who love to read contracts
  • You are dealing with an organisation that is in this to make a profit and they will do this at your expense if they can get away with it.
  • That’s not a bad thing so long as you manage to negotiate fair terms and the University gets what it wants out of the deal too
  • There will always be ‘cave people’ who are always against everything. Be prepared for scrutiny and criticism.
  • Be prepared for inconvenient truths. You may find some things out about your organisation, staff and even yourself when your partner takes a long hard look at your with their world-class perspective. You may find out that some of your operations are not as world-class as you would like to believe.
  • Some of your customers will resist the new business model

o    Your customer base has to change as well. That can be a hard sell
o    They may not be interested in engaging in new processes “The old ones were just fine thank-you very much.”

  • The timing of introducing a change like this will never be right. You have to accept that it will be inconvenient and disruptive.
  • You must remember to have some fun, be creative and sustain a spirit of adventure.

o    Remember to keep talking about the 10-year strategy, not the 10 day problems.

Know your collaborator

  • They are not a 501C3 (US speak for non-profit organisation)
  • Understand their culture. The University is not going to go corporate and your partner is not going to become an academic institution. You must find your common ground.
  • Your collaborator will bring their very best people “the A-team” to the negotiating table. You have to be aware that the actual delivery may be by the B-team or the C-team. IBM has 435,000 employees worldwide. Not all of them are in the A-team. Make sure you retain the right quality of delivery once the contract has been signed.
  • Who are the champions? What are their strategies? You must understand their agenda.
  • Be prepared to receive help from a lot of different sources (not all of which will be helpful).
  • You need to be prepared to stay the course.

It was a fascinating account of a very ambitious project. I couldn’t help but think that we need to increasingly take a lead from organisations such as the University of South Carolina. There are of course challenges, technical, human and cultural but we shouldn’t let these alone prevent us from taking brave decisions to do the right thing for the future of IT in our institutions of learning and research.

The Aurora Programme – a Director’s view

In the second of our posts on the Aurora programme Kathy McCabe, University Librarian and Director of Information Services at the University of Stirling, talks about her involvement in the Programme and the benefits of having your staff participate.

As a member of the founding team back in 2013, I didn’t need much persuasion to get on board with Aurora, the LFHE programme designed to enable a wide range of women in academic and professional roles to think of themselves as future leaders. The evidence was all around – women make up 50% of the workplace; the proportion of female students (55%) and graduates (59%) in the EU exceeds that of male students but only 20% of professors and 14% at head of institution level in the UK in 2010/11 (18% in the EU). The latest figures from the 2015 Women in IT Scorecard research, published last week by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and the Tech Partnership, show that just one in ten IT Directors are women. The Scorecard also reveals that only 17% of the 1.18m IT specialists working in the UK in 2014 are women.

There are no specific figures available for IT staff in HE in the UK – but I’d hazard a guess it is even less favourable than the statistics above. As I peruse UCISA’s membership directory, the list is overwhelmingly male at director and deputy level. Are we content with this? Is it sustainable? Where are the role models for our female staff and for our female students – how can they envisage themselves in an IT role if they can’t see a successful future for themselves?

Now, as a director, I have had the opportunity to encourage women in IT at Stirling to participate in Aurora and the benefits are multiple. I see skilled and confident women emerging, stepping up and contributing even more to the organisation, often bringing a fresh approach to problems. I see the results of the mentoring process which provides a platform for the participant to reflect on their style and their progress and often benefits the mentor as much as the mentee by providing a view of the organisation from a fresh perspective. I see positive outcomes from the opportunity to network both within and outside the institution and the raised profile of (and respect for) the IT function as a result of this networking. I see women go on to promoted positions which have eluded them for some time. A past “Auroran” commented recently that “being nominated and supported to attend the Aurora programme made me realise that I am valued and that the University has confidence in me.”

BUT – the number of IT participants in Aurora remains low. This surprises me as the programme represents excellent value for money and is flexible and accessible. It is much more than attendance at a number of delivery days, albeit these days are core to the programme – it is the whole package of learning, skills development, reflection, mentoring, networking, stepping up and, in my experience, the positive outcomes have manifested pretty quickly.

If any IT director would like to know more about this, then please feel free to get in touch.

Kathy McCabe
University Librarian and Director of Information Services
University of Stirling

T: (01786) 467203
E: kathy.mccabe@stir.ac.uk

The Aurora Programme – a participant’s experience

The Aurora programme is a leadership skills development programme run by the Leadership Foundation aimed at women working in higher education. Their aim is to get women thinking about what skills are required to take on leadership roles way before they are in a position to do so and subsequently identify the skills and behaviours they will need in order to progress their careers. However, so far the Programme has had a low participation rate from women working in IT departments. In the first of two posts on the Programme, Eileen MacDonald, Head of Business Systems at the University of Stirling, describes her experience of participating in the Aurora Programme.

This initiative was launched in 2013 and I was very keen to secure a place on it. From 1999 until 2013 I had worked at the University of Stirling as a Programmer/Analyst and then as a Senior Programmer/Support Coordinator. I applied for and was successful in being appointed as Deputy Head of Business Systems in 2013 initially for a 3 month secondment. This coincided with starting on the Aurora programme and although I knew it would be tough scheduling time to devote to a personal development programme I felt it would be worth it.

The Aurora programme asks participants to actively take part in 5 training days which are spaced over one year. There is also an element of self-learning through recommended reading material and video clips. All participants are allocated a mentor as part of the programme and encouraged to meet with them frequently throughout the course. This aspect of Aurora was invaluable. The mentor relationship gave me the opportunity to talk through aspects of my job that I found difficult. It gave me the space to analyse and to talk through strategies that could be used in future situations.

Additionally Aurora has helped me build my confidence and ability to contribute at a higher level, and to deal with staff matters and conflicts. I recognised quite early on that there is not always a right answer or way of doing things – you have to develop and trust your judgement.

When I joined the Aurora programme I was surprised at how few IT professionals were taking part in it. Perhaps it is because IT is a very results driven environment where technical expertise and knowledge is what we are judged on by others as well as by ourselves. However the skills required to move through the levels in an IT business environment are no different from the skills you need in other professional areas. Working in IT you can spend a significant amount of time devising strategies for change whether this is in persuading others to adopt a new technology, use a new system, follow a new procedure etc. – implementing any of these changes requires leadership skills, understanding the organisation you work in, building networks and so on.

This Aurora programme covered many of these areas and participating in it gave me the opportunity to step back and reflect on what my approach, and that of those around me had been up until that point.

An aspect of Aurora that cannot be underestimated is the opportunity to network internally and externally, and the benefits that this brings. This experience opened my eyes to a whole new user base and in gaining a wider understanding of the business that I was part of.

Over the two years I have taken on significantly different roles to the ones I held previously. Aurora has helped me identify the skills I needed to carry out these roles and has helped prepare me to move towards fulfilling my career ambitions. In fact in August 2015 I was appointed as the Head of Business Systems at the University of Stirling.

What I learned and relationships I developed as an Aurora participant continue to contribute to my personal growth and understanding of the HE business and the people who operate within it.

Eileen MacDonald
Head of Business Systems
University of Stirling

Review of the Future Leaders Programme

The Future Leaders Programme (FLP) run by the Leadership Foundation on behalf of UCISA and SCONUL has a proven track record; service directors have reported that the skills delegates acquire have allowed them to better contribute and nearly 60% of those delegates have gone on to secure promotion. However, the Steering Group for the Programme recognised that, ten years since the Programme’s inception, the higher education landscape has changed significantly and so instigated a review of the Programme.

The review recognised the pressures on both delegates’ time and departmental budgets but also that the current programme included many elements that were highly valued by delegates and their institutions. A revised programme would therefore need to strike a balance between a shortening the programme and reducing the cost with maintaining the quality that has earned Future Leaders the reputation it has today. The Steering Board also recognised that there is much more interaction between the professional service departments and that it might be an appropriate time to open the Programme out to cover all service departments within our institutions. Future Leaders has already expanded its coverage, now drawing delegates from Student Services departments in addition to attracting delegates from Libraries, IT and e-learning departments. The feedback from delegates from FLP cohorts and from those attending the feeder programme Leading Across Professional Boundaries has been that the opportunity to learn with colleagues from other service departments is immensely valuable. Discussions with other professional associations have identified that there is an appetite for a programme that supports the development of service staff through the interaction with colleagues from other professional specialisms.

An initial programme outline, informed by the review and market research conducted by the Leadership Foundation, was presented last week to a steering group that comprised representatives from nine professional associations. Representatives from all past cohorts from Programme took part in the market research along with representatives from institutions which have never participated in FLP. We are grateful for their help in shaping the new programme. The revised programme meets all the aims of the review. The outline was well received and is expected to form the basis for a successor to the Future Leaders Programme, with the first instance of the new programme running from March 2016. There are a few details that need confirming but the intention is that the new programme will open for bookings in November. Before then, a decision has to be made on what to call the new programme – finding something that is succinct but still identifies the target audience may prove a significant challenge! However, the programme name aside, it is encouraging that the Leadership Foundation has been able to structure a new programme that builds on the strength of Future Leaders and has a sustainable future.

Peter Tinson
Executive Director

What are the keys to consistently successful project delivery for your institution?

The Gartner PPM and IT Governance Summit was held this week in London http://www.gartner.com/technology/summits/emea/program-management/ 

Within hours of the event starting tweets were emerging with the latest research and models for project success. For example the Gartner model for the successful Enterprise Project Management Organisation – also at http://www.flickr.com/photos/27772229@N07/8725958414/in/photostream

Gartner Enterprise Project Management Organisation

As ever Gartner provide useful and thought provoking input. But how would these ideas work in your institution?

This got me thinking about keys for project success in our business. Have they been lost behind the metaphorical sofa of academic culture or are there some common ideas we can share?

At the University of Edinburgh we’ve been running our project management organisation for more than 10 years. Over those years not everything has worked but hopefully we’ve learned from our successes (and our failures) and matured a little bit along the way. Here are some of the key things we’ve learned on the journey:

Start small you won’t be able to do crack everything at once – we started with project initiation and definition – prior to that we only really had this (and even then in a very basic way) for our larger projects

Develop a common framework for your projects and project teams – we started with a very basic projects intranet available only to IT staff – and not project stakeholders! It was a start however and allowed us to develop processes for change and issue management, risk, project reporting etc. Today we have a projects web site which is the “gold copy” for all our project information at: https://www.projects.ed.ac.uk/

Measure project costs – both estimates and actuals for all your projects – we developed a project estimation process and introduced time recording for our IT staff very early on. This was challenging culturally but its hard now to imagine delivering projects without the management capabilities and information that this provides.

Don’t neglect your partner relationships – sadly I suspect that we did this. Our initial certainty about the correctness of the approach perhaps made us forget that projects are a people business and relationships matter. Better to avoid this trap than have to recover later.

Tackle project governance – trust goes a long way toward achieving good governance so an ongoing investment in partner relationships will pay off many times over. Ensure that:

  • project sponsors understand their responsibilities and are empowered to discharge these
  • projects teams are supported to deliver – use your more experienced staff in a quality assurance role as senior suppliers
  • you have representative and empowered project boards that meet regularly for all your major projects. An effective project board is a key part of the team and should have have an “access all areas” pass to project information
  • you remember the real end users i.e. the students and staff who will use the deliverables 
  • small projects are not neglected – develop basic quality assurance processes for all projects

Be resilient, remember why we are here, stick at it and enjoy the ride – As President harry S. Truman once said “it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”

Now your secrets may well be different so if you’d like to join the conversation please come along to the Project and Change Management Group at http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg.aspx

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Leading the governing body

The need for effective governance for ICT within our institutions has long been recognised. This extends beyond the senior management executive as decisions on spend and projects affecting the IT department are sometimes made at the Board level. However, not all governors will have expertise of ICT and the role that ICT plays in delivering institutional business. ICT is no exception; it is clearly unrealistic to expect members of the governing body to be expert in every aspect of an institution’s business.

This is something that has been recognised by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and they have sought to address this by producing the Getting to grips range of guides for governors. Each volume in the series deals with a specific aspect of business such as Academic Standards and Quality, Research and Knowledge Transfer, Finance and Human Resource Management. The guides look to provide core information on the specified topic and include a number of dilemmas typical of the issues that might be raised during board meetings.

Given that IT now underpins the strategies and operations of all universities, it is essential that governors understand the contribution ICT can make to their institution. As Steve Williams, Director of Information Systems and Services and Newcastle University noted

For members of governing bodies, familiarity with the use of technology is increasingly important. In the same way as governors both challenge and support on financial matters, or major building projects, the challenge and support needs to be applied to IT. Designing the IT into the operations of the university is essential.

UCISA and the Leadership Foundation have collaborated on the tenth volume in the series – Getting to grips with Information and Communications Technology. The guide, which has recently been published by the Leadership Foundation, contains chapters on the role ICT plays in teaching and learning, research and administration, the strategic role of the governing body with regard to ICT, compliance and legislation, and costs and value for money. The guide will be published on the Leadership Foundation website in due course but in the meantime, complimentary copies have been sent to the lead representatives of each full UCISA member institution.

The guide illustrates some of the work UCISA carries out on behalf of our members and we hope that the latest edition to the Getting to grips series will become as valued as its sibling volumes. Getting to grips with ICT contains contributions from a number of individuals within the UCISA membership, namely Adrian Ellison (University of West London), Jim Nottingham (Regents University), Luke Taylor (University of Bristol), Sue White (University of Huddersfield) and Steve Williams (Newcastle University), plus Anna Mathews and Peter Tinson from the UCISA office.