Tag Archives: marketing

Coping with research data access and security challenges

Universities and colleges harbour a great deal of sensitive data which should be protected. But they are also encouraged to be open and make maximum use of the data they hold through personalisation and open access to research data. Here, UCISA’s Executive Director Peter Tinson looks at the issues for institutions in balancing the need to be open and yet secure.

 

 

 

BALANCING AGILITY, OPENNESS AND SECURITY

The challenges of providing effective services for the research community while supporting open access are many and varied. Researchers need access to both short-term storage and computational resources but the requirements of research funders are moving toward long-term preservation and archiving.
There is resistance to openness – researchers see the data as ‘theirs’ and there is a reluctance to place data in institutional repositories until all the research opportunities have been realised and the results published. Open access to research data requires that data to be tagged with appropriate metadata in order to be discoverable. However, few researchers possess the skills to tag their data and there are few incentives for them to do so.
The demand is for easy to access services provided free of charge at the point of use. While a number of institutions are starting to provide high volumes of storage for their researchers, there are few, if any, effective costing models for long-term storage and preservation. The absence of a cost-effective model provides the opportunity for a shared service; it is hoped that Jisc’s embryonic Research Data Shared Service will provide an effective solution for the sector.
Where there are no centrally provided services, or where researchers find those services too difficult or too costly to use, researchers sought alternative solutions. These included free or low-cost cloud services to store and share data, cloud services for computational resource, and the use of ‘personal’ devices such as removable hard disks or memory sticks. Information security rarely features in decisions to use easily accessible cloud services – this is due in part to the ease with which such services can be purchased but is also indicative of a lack of awareness amongst researchers. This challenge has now been recognised by many institutional IT services who are now providing supported access to cloud storage solutions and computation.
Data management is relatively immature within institutions. There is growing recognition that the data and information that an institution holds are assets and poor management of those assets represents an institutional risk. However, a one size fits all approach is not appropriate – information and data needs to be classified to determine the level of security that needs to be applied to it. The HESA Data Futures project, and HEDIIP before it ,has surfaced the lack of maturity in this area. Although there has been some improvement, we are still some way from data management being an established discipline.
Effective support of research and research data management requires a cross-institutional approach yet this is not readily understood by senior university management. This is all the more frustrating given that a briefing paper jointly produced by UCISA, SCONUL, RLUK, RUGIT, ARMA and Jisc highlighted the need for an institutional approach over three years ago.
A lack of understanding is sometimes reflected in diktats being issued and a resultant poor take up of services. Meeting the demands of both researchers and research funders requires resourcing, both in terms of staffing and services, and an understanding of how cloud services can be used effectively to meet the storage and computational demands securely. The planning process needs to be responsive to long-term trends but also to changes in policy, legislation and technological developments that may require quicker response.
The threat of cyber attack is a major concern; there is growing evidence that state-sponsored attacks primarily aimed at accessing research outputs and institutions’ intellectual property are on the rise. Yet the threat often comes from within as a result of a lack of awareness and poorly maintained systems within the institutional perimeter.
It is important that all staff in the institution realise and accept that information security is their responsibility. The institution’s management needs to recognise that information security is an institutional issue and requires a coordinated and risk-based approach. Where there are policies established to mandate information security awareness training for all staff, it may be necessary for senior institutional management to oversee the enforcement of that mandate, although such enforcement may be detrimental to building understanding and acceptance of individual responsibility.
In conclusion, managing the conundrum of being open in a secure environment requires effective governance, and a central coordinated approach that supports both research and information security. There is likely to be no one solution applicable to every research discipline but shared services such as Jisc’s RDSS should have a strong role to play.

Strategic questions to consider:

  • How mature is your institution’s information management capability? Does your institution have a business classification scheme? Are records management processes embedded in normal operations?

  • How influential is your internal audit function in determining or supporting information security policy and implementation?

  • What mechanisms do you have to learn from information security incidents, whether internal to your organisation or external?

  • Do you have an institutional approach to research data management?

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

The truth about data and analytics

The driver for many institutions’ use of analytics has been improving retention. The worried well, high achievers looking to improve, may also benefit from monitoring their own performance. But is that a lost opportunity? Can improvement be achieved across the board? UCISA Executive Director, Peter Tinson highlights a different approach.

 

 

STUDENT SUPPORT – THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL ANALYTICS

The recent report from UCISA and Sero HE, The truth about data and analytics notes that institutions’ primary aim of investing in learning analytics is to improve retention. Interventions triggered as a result of students failing to meet prescribed checkpoints lead to a discussion with the student as to the reasons for their lack of engagement and, generally, a subsequent improvement in student performance. But is an interventionist approach the only way? Are there ways to improve the performance of all students rather than focus on those at risk of failing?
Temple University in Philadelphia takes a different approach. Their Fly in 4 programme was devised to improve both retention and the number of students graduating in the minimum four years. The drive for the programme came from the top – Temple’s President wanted an initiative that focused on affordability as a result of on time graduation.
A cross-campus partnership was formed to deliver the initiative including staff from the student admissions, finance, student support, marketing and IT departments. The partnership first considered student behaviours and institutional barriers to progression and on time graduation. This review led to some process improvements and eradication of inconsistencies in the application of policies across the institution. With regard to student behaviour, it was recognised that it was relatively easy for students to drift; those who made a commitment to their studies were more likely to graduate on time.
The result was effectively a contract between the student and the institution. Each student makes a number of commitments to study and check in at key stages. This clearly places a high demand on advising staff and requires an investment in those resources to ensure that the programme is going to be effective. Advising staff were engaged in the programme at an early stage and throughout its development to shape messages and identify strategies to monitor checkpoints. On the other side of the contract, the institution commits to providing the necessary academic programmes and advice and support.
Fly in 4 has been a success with retention rates improving and numbers graduating in four years increasing. The initiative is not compulsory but over 90% of first year students signed up and are achieving demonstrably better results. It caters for all students and not just those at risk of failing or dropping out. The Fly in 4 agreement heightens student awareness of their responsibilities as well as identifying how the University will support them through the process.
Although data underpins the initiative, it is clear that student support is the key element in the programme. Without that support, the initiative would founder and the advising staff were engaged at all stages of the project to help drive success. Senior executive support led to a coordinated programme with the necessary resources for support.
The Truth about data and analytics report identified the need for senior leadership and recognised that the deployment of analytics required much more than deploying a technical solution. The Fly in 4 initiative shows how a data approach, underpinned by strong support, can deliver improvements across the piece.

Key take-outs:

  • Senior executive support is essential in developing data driven approaches to student performance

  • Data driven approaches need to be underpinned by quality support mechanisms

  • A ‘contract’ between the student and the institution improves student understanding of their responsibilities

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

Everyone has a voice

One of the key aims of UCISA’s strategic plan for the next five years is to provide members with more opportunities to express and share insights and views. UCISA’s blog pages are one such forum. Here UCISA Marketing Manager, Manjit Ghattaura offers an open invite for blog contributions along with a few tips on writing your posts.

 

THINKING OF WRITING A UCISA BLOG POST?

Want to know a secret….? You don’t have to be a word wizard to contribute a post to UCISA’s blog pages – just someone with a view or insight to share.
You may want to see if other members are experiencing the same issue. You may want to celebrate and share a success. You might simply want to get something off your chest.
Whatever your reason, by contributing a short post to UCISA’s blog pages you have the opportunity to share ideas with peers, spark new conversations and provide colleagues across the country with the kind of tips that make the working day that much easier.
We want to hear from you. We want you to have your say. So where to start?
We’ve just produced a helpful guide to writing a UCISA blog post that you can download here. As you see, it’s much more about overall format and feel than writing tips – and that’s because what really matters is being engaging, being informative and offering your unique personal perspective.
If you strike when the inspiration hits you, writing a post can be very easy. Next time something is on your mind, take a moment to make a note and let that idea leap onto the page.
To create your post, just take those notes and build on them. It shouldn’t take long. We recommend a post runs to a maximum of only 500 words. 
You could start with a story or a personal reflection. You might give your take on a thought-provoking question. A new statistic, survey or media comment might have set your thoughts running.
Whatever muse has spurred you into action, just take to the keyboard and send it through to me, Manjit Ghattaura at UCISA Marketing. We will consider each blog carefully and notify you if and when it is likely to be published.  Whatever your topic, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of other members who will really appreciate and value what you have to say.

 

Key take-outs:

  • Any member can put forward a post for consideration for publication

  • A new guide to writing blog posts for publication on UCISA’s website is now available here

  • Be informative, be engaging. Offer a personal perspective

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

The beast from the East

Lisa McDonald, User Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh and UCISA Support Services Group Committee Member, offers tips on service continuity and lessons learned after ‘Beast from The East’ snow caused widespread travel-to-work disruption.

HOW OUR BCP BEAT THE BEAST FROM THE EAST

“We’ve all heard the terms Business Continuity and Service Continuity and you likely all have business continuity plans you hope you never to have to use,” writes Lisa McDonald, User Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh.
Recently, the University of Edinburgh IT Service Desk had to become far more familiar with their BCP plans than anyone would want to.
In late February and early March 2018, the central belt of Scotland was hit by what the media termed “The Beast from the East”. And a beast it was, causing widespread chaos which unfortunately included the complete closure of the University of Edinburgh for nearly three days — a nightmare scenario for any Service Desk manager.
But we got through those three days and managed to keep our IS Helpline Service running throughout — handling 352 calls and resolving all bar four second line calls. We did this while spread geographically over an area covering a 127km radius of Central Scotland.

Figure 1: User Support team home locations (Argyle House in red)

We were organised, made the most of the tools we had and showed amazing team spirit. We learned many lessons on the way and this post is a “Top Five Tips for Service Continuity”
  1. Preparation 
    Have a Working from Home policy for all users. Create an Adverse Weather register showing team ability to travel in adverse weather and their ability to work from home. Ensure your key services like VPN have capacity to cope with an increased load from off-campus connections
  2. Communication
    Ensure your users understand the level of service to expect during this period. Set communication times in the day so staff and users know when to expect updates. Communicate with other first and second line teams so that you’re all aware of the level of underpinning support available.Your team might have tasks they need to see to at home during a weather emergency (playing in the snow doesn’t count!). They might face connection issues or find it hard to keep focus in a home environment. Make sure you continue to communicate to the team on a regular basis but don’t be tempted to micromanage.
  3. Tools
    Use Skype to hold meetings. Use chat tools to keep everyone focussed as a team while they’re geographically spread. Group chat is also a great morale booster ­– my team co-wrote a Helpline theme tune: “The Helpline Blues (I’ve got snow in my shoes)”. If you have out-of-hours cover from a 3rd party, ensure you use it as much as possible.
  4. Time Management
    You may not need as many staff on duty as usual. Review and revise your rotas so the team know when you expect them to be handling support calls. Have other tasks for them to do such as updating documentation, reviewing your website or completing their personal development paperwork.
  5. Review
    Ensure you review the event afterwards and discuss successes and learning points — not just within your own team but across the wider university or college.
No Business Continuity will ever be perfect, but with a good team and some organisation you can turn a Snowpocalypse into a Winter Wonderland!

Pictured: Lisa working from home during the ‘snowpocalypse’

Key take-outs:

  • Be prepared – Have policies guiding your users on working from home and ensure you do regular checks on your team’s ability to travel or work from home in adverse weather

  • Set expectations – Use automatic replies or standard solutions to explain to your users that service quality and speed will differ from normal running. Distance learners may not be impacted by the weather

  • Use the tools available to you – Cloud services, VPN, Chat tools and Remote Assistance tools

  • Communicate – make sure you clearly communicate at all stages of the event

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

Marketing and the digital generation – Part three of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is creating ever-greater collaboration between education’s marketing and digital technology services teams.

In the final blog in a trio of posts UCISA Executive member Paul Butler, Director of Information & Library Services at the University of Greenwich, predicts the next big game changers and expands on some of the insight on partnership offered in a related post by Greenwich University’s Chief Marketing Officer Iain Morrison.

THE RACE TO PERSONALISED DIGITAL ENVIRONMENTS HOTS UP

 

“We have a really good working relationship with marketing at Greenwich. We share, we trust and we work alongside each other from the top down,” says Paul.
“Web teams traditionally sit in marketing and there’s often a kind of a grey area in who owns the visual identity, the brand, the words. At Greenwich, the line in the sand is well-understood. The website and web team are part of both IT and marketing, which is unusual. Though the web team, Information & Library Services are the custodians, across the piste, of the platform, the brand and the visual identity. The content and its management, while policed by the central web team, is devolved and distributed into the faculties.”
“It took quite some time to achieve but there is now no mud-slinging about content or its quality. Everyone is essentially comfortable with what we have because everyone is pushing it in the same direction.”
“From a marketing perspective, there are three or four big areas of change in how we use digital communications and the technology we employ compared to even five years ago. It all starts with the student life-cycle journey and the decision to apply and come here.”
“These days it is like a sports car race between leading marques — we are ahead of some universities in some elements but we know others will catch up quickly.
“Yes, we provide printed prospectuses and technology has enabled us to provide contextualised print. But the reality is that online technology has made researching universities through the printed page an irrelevant past-time.
“Instead, we’re using data to understand where our students come to us and using analytics and business intelligence to concentrate our student recruitment resources around a prioritised and ordered schools and location list.”
“In terms of the website, analytics have enabled us to present and re-order content based on explicit knowledge of how our students and the applicant demographic are consuming information — they are butterfly-like and want it fairly thin and fairly high level.”
“While the call to action techniques we use might be cruder than Amazon in technical terms, we are using analytics to inform how we pull people in and contextualise information in ways meaningful to prospective students.  Five years ago, the job of doing this simply didn’t exist. Now it’s part of my head digital manager’s role. This goes back to why there’s an effective relationship between marketing and IT. It’s not just between directors, it spans the teams across every level.”
“Again, the job of search optimisation didn’t exist two years ago, let alone five. Being visible is vital because marketing starts, and sometimes finishes, in that twinkling moment of the prospective student’s first Google search.”
“Visibility across social media is also hugely important and while our social media team is not within IT, we obviously support them because they are using platform’s we’ve provided and everything we do is tracked, assessed and measured. We’ve seen phenomenal growth in the amount of online chat with our recruitment team — particularly during clearing. While phone calls have decreased, we’ve gone from one person manning the chat system to 10.”
“One of the most important things in this space is customer relationship management (CRM) and we now have a full end-to-end system from first enquiry to registration — and with automated campaign management workflows.
“For the future, I think information from our web interaction tracking activity could be used to inform, on the fly, how and what information is presented to provide a highly personalised user experience based on matching small pieces of provided information to past profiles that then opitimise interaction to get to a particular goal.
“That’s something, at a student recruitment level, I think we’re on the cusp of being able to do and we may even be experimenting with it at Greenwich next year.
“Something else that could also be here in five years’ or so time is the concept of truly personalised learning. We’re nowhere near it yet but if a lot of learning involves digital systems, digital content, online lectures and journals and the like then student learning styles can be tracked and analysed. Certain traits may indicate a particular kind of learner and you can then optimise their journey through their learning experience.
“I think some interesting examples of this are not that far off.  The necessary big data analytics are certainly getting there — although I’ve yet to see the data science tools that will allow the kind of interpretation you need. It will also take some time for data to go through a number of cycles to identify the patterns of success needed for personalisation.”

Key take-outs:

  • Use analytics and business intelligence to focus communication and resources

  • Consider how CRM can support effective processes end-to-end

  • Digital technology can support a personalised user experience

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

The UCISA UK HE Capability Model

A UCISA-backed project to unravel the DNA of UK university business capabilities has mapped out a ground-breaking model that promises to revolutionise HE business planning and resource investment.

For the first time, UK HEIs can now predict how pulling on one lever in the organisation will affect all other components across the entire business architecture, as Ian Anderson, head of the UCISA’s Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice, explains:

 

SOURCE CODE FOR AN EASIER LIFE IN A WORLD OF HE CHANGE

 

The UK HE Capability Model is about mapping what a university, or other HE provider, is at its core. A business capability defines “what” a business does and differs from “how” things are done, where, or by whom. Business capabilities are the core of the any enterprise architecture.
When it comes to planning change, if you know all the contributing factors and all the variables to take into consideration in terms of the impacts on the rest of the organisation, then you can better judge and plan where to invest time, money and resource.
I work at Coventry University which is a big £300 (+) million business. Like many other large organisations, it’s not always easy to ensure one end of the businesses always know what’s going on from the other.
Take a simple example. If you want to run a part-time course in the evening, the course content isn’t the only thing to consider. Do you know if the car park is open in the evening? Is catering available? There is seldom one place you can go and find out and one place to let everyone else know what you are planning.
The UK HE Capability Model sets out to allow HEI’s to be more ‘situationally aware’; to allow better assessments of threats and opportunities and plan in a much more consistent manner. Through the model, Senior Managers and planners have a mapping architecture that allows HEIs to plan holistically across the entire business.
For example, if you wanted to break into the American market, what are all the processes and all the data sets that you already have that you should take account of? And how might they need to change? The Capability Model provides you with a baseline to access all the things that you need to consider going forward.
And just one of the many things we discovered in putting the model together, is that while we may all work in the same location, we all come at problems from a different perspective. And we don’t all speak the same language!
For instance, the model has a box for ‘domestic student recruitment’. Something every HEI does. We had to define and map this capability and that led to one university partner asking the simple question: “Who owns the messaging?” The recruitment office said, “Well, we own it.” But a college off-shoot said, “No, we own it.” And the Faculty said, “Actually, we think we own it.”
We had all these people thinking they owned recruitment, a number of systems running it and god knows how many spreadsheets in the background. Mapping and modelling the capability made them realise they were not doing it in a joined-up way.
We also uncovered the language problem. Some people would refer to student invoicing, some to academic fees management and others to student billing. Through the UCISA model, we have created a common language for use not only between the business and IT, but across the organisation.
The aim of the UK HE Capability Model has been to create a generic UK HE model that is very much in line with the UCISA ethos of collaboration and sharing the benefits with the sector.
One or two universities have had a go in the past for their own organisations and models exist for the sector in Australia, New Zealand and Holland – but we wanted to create something specific to the UK sector and to take our model further. Including, for example, commercial activity as a value stream alongside teaching and research and so reflecting the kind of work done at many Universities in areas such as ‘Technology Parks’ etc.
We’ve put in the time, defining something like 230 capabilities and grouping them logically, so you can take our model and put in your data and your information. You may wish have to tailor it to your individual circumstances (that’s fine it’s a generic model) but the bulk of the work has already been done – saving you time and making planning that much easier.
UCISA’s UK HE Capability Model is thus essentially a check list across five core groupings to confirm you have all your building blocks in place before you take anything forward. It ensures that you’ve taken account of all the ripples your plan may cause and that you know exactly what opportunities, impacts and improvements it will create – not only in the area you are working on but right across the rest of the university.
The essence of the model is the repository system. It tells you exactly where to collate and store information and data sets associated with a particular capability. It shows you the links to other capabilities so you can quickly assess the potential impact on them when planning and all the factors you should take into consideration.
That is the sort of work that a business analyst would spend many hours trying to identify. But having that repository of information about how the ecosystem of the organisation is put together, allows you to adapt and change the environment you’re operating in that much quicker.
The starting point is something we’ve called POLDAT. For each capability, ask yourself what are the Processes that support it? What is the Organisation and the people that support it? Where are they Located? Then what is the Data? What is the Application? And finally, what is the Technology?
If you start defining and collating that, you will find you can start to plan much more holistically
HESA contributed because they were doing some work around HESA data sets and felt the model matched what they were trying to do. If you have a capability around, say, enrolment management, then you will identify the dataset that sits there and the processes that create and manage that data and the governance that sits around it. When you look at the UCISA Capability Model you can see there are definitely links.
It’s a stretch —but in future you may be able to benchmark your performance on one capability against other universities using such data.
I see enterprise architecture as the glue that links what we do as individual UCISA members back to the core business and mission of our universities and colleges. If we’re changing a technology or promoting a technology, the model can help us understand which capabilities or groups of capabilities are affected and how that benefits the organisation overall.
I see it helping to move us away from the old-fashioned view of IT as something that works in a tins and wires sort of environment to being absolutely a part of changing the way the business operates. It is very much about being a trusted partner in that process.
And looking to the future in a fast-changing world, the Capability Model is also durable. If you go back 30 years, people paid fees to their university and we had a capability in student fee management. The difference is that people paid by cheque whereas now they pay online.
Thirty years on, the capability is still the same. Once you’ve tailored the model to your institution, you’ll probably be able to say, even in 30 years’ time, that even if the attributes and component parts may be different, we still do most of these things.

Key take-outs:

  • UCISA’s UK HE Capability Model is freely available to all UCISA member institutions

  • The Model enables you to plan holistically across the entire organisation

  • The Model saves planning time, improves decision-making and encourages common
    terminology across the organisation

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

 

Marketing and the digital generation – Part two of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is generating even greater collaboration between university and college marketing and IT teams.

In the second of our series of three blogs on the topic, Iain G. Morrison, Chief Marketing Officer at the University of Greenwich, offers his views on a productive approach to partnership while UCISA Executive Committee member Paul Butler adds insight on how to achieve the best possible partnership.

 

PUTTING THE HUMAN DIMENSION INTO THE MARKETING TECHNOLOGY EQUATION

 

“You’ll very often hear people working in marketing, and even in other roles in HE, talking about digital first or mobile first. Whatever the fashionable term of the day — it’s human first,” says Iain G. Morrison. “However brands evolve and change, I think that unless you put human needs first you risk failure.”
“In my view, brands that succeed have a single uniting factor in common and that is an absolutely relentless focus on their respective customers and prospects. If you have that relentless focus, then everything else naturally comes second — whether that is digital, mobile or other priorities to improve the customer experience.”
“For me, it’s people first always. I think particularly in the space of student recruitment which is a life choice for students and young people. It can be daunting. It can be exciting. You can run through a whole gamut of emotions whatever age you are when coming, or thinking about coming, to university.”
“That’s why meeting emotional needs as well as helping toward a future career is so important.”
“While it happens in many other industries, I think close collaboration in terms of marketing and IT in this sector is key. There should be an aligned business strategy that looks at where the business is and where it needs to get to. Marketing, IT, and other stakeholders then work together to review, plan and deliver that through a shared roadmap. “
Paul Butler, Greenwich’s Director of Information & Library Services and a UCISA Executive Committee member, agrees: “I think it’s important to make sure that your entire organisational model for professional services is pitched at the right level.
I meet with our marketing director regularly and we share and have trust – having that ability to have those day-to-day safe, trust-based conversations outside the formality of committees but within the same reporting structure, makes for a healthy and productive relationship. It’s the same healthy rapport from top to bottom within all levels of marketing and IT services,” says Paul.
Iain continues the theme: “It often works best when project teams are created, as we are doing here at the University of Greenwich. Workstreams are identified within the overarching business strategy; and collaborative multipurpose teams are then formed. One I’m leading at the moment brings together various elements of marketing with our IT team so we can move our website on significantly.
“Likewise, we’re not working in silos but as a single team when it comes to other aspects of our digital transformation. Helping drive projects forward successfully comes from working together.
“One of the common themes that runs through a successful collaboration of this kind is communication. In the early days, teams probably need to over-communicate because marketing and IT still tend to speak slightly different languages.
“If you over-communicate, collaborate and work together from the perspective of the user with a relentless focus on improving the customer experience, I don’t think you can go far wrong.”
“However, IT has started to move away from the traditional gamekeeper role around infrastructure and protection. They are moving much more into the delivery of the customer experience and facilitating growth. So, now it’s about communicating to ensure we’re all on the same page and all understand what’s coming next.
“Personally, I’m making an effort to actually learn more about IT’s barriers and challenges. If you can understand where someone is coming from and fully understand their perspective, it makes for better collaboration.”

Key take-outs:

  • Whatever platform you are using, focus first on the customer needs of students in a human way

  • Consider how organisational structures can foster a positive and co-operative culture

  • Learn to talk the same language or over-communicate until you are on the same page

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

Marketing and the digital generation – Part one of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is generating even greater collaboration between university and college marketing and IT teams.

In the first of a series of three blog posts focusing on the benefits of partnership, UCISA Executive member Adrian Ellison, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Information Officer at the University of West London, outlines some of the trends and future opportunities along with insights from UWL Marketing colleague Susan Vittery.

 

DIGITAL NEEDS TO WORK FROM THE STUDENT PERSPECTIVE

“IT at UWL has always had a strong, close-knit relationship with marketing,” says Adrian. “In fact, we’re almost co-located as there is only a glass partition between the two teams.”
“In terms of both student recruitment and the support for the overall student experience, I think it’s imperative that marketing is engaged with technology development projects such as CRM and our student record system, right from the outset.
“When it comes to student recruitment, there is a genuine market out there and it is a buyers’ market. It is real competition — which is why clever intelligent marketing is so important.
“Students are definitely shopping around. They are looking for quick, compelling information. We recently invested in a whole raft of course-based videos because students don’t want to read the equivalent of a prospectus each time. Real engaging content, delivered by course tutors and students already on the course, has had a huge impact. This includes an 11% increase in page views of our clearing and home page once they were mobile-optimised. Marketing and IT are currently co-leading a project to continue the latest phase of developing our website.
“For me, the key is getting students involved. If you are building a website to recruit 18-24 year-olds you want to make sure you’ve got that age group offering input. We have students in our working groups to help us refine things, not only in terms of design and functionality but also in terms of the tone of content and how it is framed.”
“You have to move with the times. Technology is pervasive now, it’s the basis of how everything works and we are talking to young people that don’t know another way of doing things. Digital content needs to be integrated, easy-to-use, mobile and written from the student perspective. We’re trying to embed that into everything we do.
“One big influence, both in recruitment and supporting the student experience, is in use of data and analytics. Universities have amassed lots of data about students but we’re never really used it properly. We were more concerned with complying with HESA statutory reports than we were in looking at the value of that data to us. Now it is about joining these systems up and harnessing the power of this huge amount of data and seeing where we can put some machine intelligence behind it.
“For example, we have an online chat system supporting the student recruitment process on our website. There is no reason why 90% of questions can’t be answered by a robot with only the more complex needing to go to a person. There would be a better experience for applicants as they could get more questions answered more effectively and 24/7.
“More importantly, we could use big data and machine learning to learn more about our students to then help us deliver better support going forward. A learning analytics system has been in place at UWL for over a year now and is really beginning to show that we’re having an impact — it’s looking at our attainment data, attendance, looking at our VLE data and then harnessing it to be able to start predicting things about potential student outcomes. That means we can start making interventions much, much earlier.
“Digital content needs to be integrated, easy-to-use, mobile and written from the student perspective. We’re trying to embed that into everything we do.”
Susan Vittery, Head of Digital and Web at UWL, finds close proximity and cross-departmental working vital: “What marketing brings to the table is an understanding of our users and what will engage them while IT has the expertise in establishing infrastructures and systems that are sustainable. As marketing becomes more and more based around technology and digital, we are working together on projects more, regardless of line management structures.
“However, having moved from times when we had little technology to a time when we have a lot, I think the challenge is not so much about the platform as getting the content right and understanding the audiences. Whether you’re doing that in print or via webinars or social media, the key is speaking in the right way and making sure you are engaging with issues the audience is interested in.
“I also think you shouldn’t try to be everything to everybody. There are so many platforms now and that’s something that’s both a challenge and an opportunity for all education institutions. Spreading yourself across all of them might be less effective than making informed choices about where your user groups are looking and where you can best engage with them.”

Key take-outs:

  • Involve students in outreach content and platform discussions.

  • Consider how data can be used proactively to improve the student experience.

  • Make informed choices and limit platform use to what works for your target audiences.

  • Use the power of data and machine learning to improve the support offered to students and ultimately their outcomes

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

ITSM Tools

Sally Bogg, winner of Business Role Model of the Year in the 2018 Women in IT Awards, offers her insights on breaking the cycle of ITSM tool frustration. Head of end-user services at Leeds Beckett University, Sally is Chair of the  UCISA’s Support Services Group and holds the award for Inspirational Leader 2017 from the IT Service & Support Awards.

 

ITSM TOOLS, IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU!

It’s not me – it’s you? From conversations with other UCISA members and colleagues across the HE and FE education sectors, there seems to be a great deal of dissatisfaction with our IT Service Management tools.
Is that just because ITSM tools tend to be pricey so our expectations of what they will deliver are sky high? Or is it that we’re simply failing to fully leverage the significant investment we make in them?
My take is that they are often purchased as an unrealistic silver bullet and seen as a catch-all solution for implementing ITIL-related processes and creating a service culture.
The problem as I see it is that a tool is still just a tool. It can’t change embedded behaviours or culture and it can’t fix broken support processes.
And because of that, we often get stuck in a non-productive cycle. We buy a new tool, go through the pain of implementation and then walk away with very little investment in development.
A year or two down the line, we’re frustrated and disappointed that it has failed to meet our needs. What does it seem we typically do? We start thinking about buying a new one.
Some organisations have got dedicated development resource for their ITSM tool. But many don’t. Is it any wonder that they are not meeting our requirements and delivering return on investment?
It seems time for a new approach. Time to get the most from the ITSM products we’re using by working more closely with vendors and suppliers. Most ITSM tools have very similar functionality so my advice is to find a vendor that you want to work with — someone you can build and develop a long-term strategic partnership with.
Start by spending lots of time mapping the processes and understanding where the tool can be best used and, if possible, where activities and tasks can be automated, for example password resets.
I know starting with the processes rather than the product isn’t very IT. But while we may want to get our hands on the system as soon as we can, I think first deciding how, where and why we can maximise its use is a prerequisite for ending the cycle of ITSM fatigue.
For example, trying to retrofit and tack on reporting after implementation can be a costly, time-consuming mistake that may require a complete redesign — easily avoided if you think about what reports you want early on in your process-mapping.
And remember that success usually is about people, not things. Spending time and investing in training will result in the tool being used cohesively and consistently.
Finally, look ahead and keep that forward momentum. Implementing a continual service improvement roadmap for your ITSM tool means development activities can be recorded, developed, prioritised and implemented.

Key take-outs:

  • Develop a strategic relationship with your ITSM tool supplier

  • Start by considering processes, not products

  • Look ahead. Invest time into a continual service improvement roadmap for your ITSM tool

 

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 marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

Time for IT at the top table

The exponential rise of technology-driven change means digital strategies are no longer merely support acts to primary university and college strategic plans. Here, UCISA Chair David Telford argues that, with digital transformation key to the future student experience and learning journey, it’s time for CIOs and Vice Chancellors to push digital strategies into pole position in business planning:

 

Here’s a bold statement. Digital strategy is not just about the numbers or how much it costs to run your IT. Unless and until your university fully gets to grips with technology’s contribution to the student experience and the learner journey, both will be severely impaired.
IT is now fundamental to the student experience and learning. Technology use is about far more than IT-driven processes and an aid to organisational efficiency and effectiveness. It’s integral to the whole student lifecycle.
Today, the knowledge of how best to leverage technologies to enhance teaching and the academic and research agendas is not coming from the academics, it’s coming from the IT department. In integrating our academic agenda at my own institution, we’re spending more and more time in the classroom and supporting students, even early in their studies and as postgrads, in leveraging technology to access information and research materials.
The digital literacy and digital skills gap in universities that’s growing year-on-year is well documented – but this is not knocking the lecturers. Things are moving so quickly that the skills of academics are just not keeping pace. Like many other sectors, we are in transition. Digitisation is growing and technology brings change. It is disruptive to past ways of working. Taking best advantage requires not only skills but a cultural shift to a change-ready and agile mindset.
So what’s the future of your university? How can a digital strategy ensure that value is best provided to students, lecturers and researchers?
There are a few lessons from the wider world. In less than a decade, Netflix has transformed from a DVD sales and rental business, to media streaming and latterly film and television production and online distribution. They have successfully leveraged advances in technology and been shrewd in understanding changing customer expectations and unmet needs.
How does this link to our university communities and their expectations? Well it’s clear that they live in a connected Netflix world. Our smartphone students inhabit multiple online communities and communicate via Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They collaborate and share instantly and naturally. Established systems like email and intranets are clunky in comparison. Our business systems often lack the immediacy of app-based solutions and the ability to collaborate on joint decision making or visualising the data.
And what about staff? A recent Facebook-sponsored Deloitte survey of business managers showed only 14 per cent of those responding were fully satisfied with their organisation’s ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with 65 per cent citing digital technologies as the way forward. Would the statistics for higher education alone really be that much different? Certainly, both TEF and the NSS highlight the need for IT to be actively involved in the staff and student experience at all levels.
Working in a multi-campus university, one of the issues I’ve faced is that we’ve yet to get our communities fully joined up. We don’t have a fully-fledged research community and we also don’t have a strong sense of community around the subject areas we are known for. Going forward, it is technology that is going to make the difference in these areas. But even in this, we have to collaborate. This is not a nut IT can crack alone.
Trying to predict the future is a fool’s errand – but we can prepare for it and an effective digital strategy that looks beyond the three or five-year horizon of a typical university business strategy is crucial. While it’s important to bring on the skills of individual academics, we also need to promote recognition of the fact that IT is now very much a part of learning delivery systems. Pedagogy is no longer the sole domain of the lecturer.
The future is very much about collaborative delivery alongside other institutional agencies. Depending how you are structured, that can be as much with library colleagues and learning technologists as with academics and students. For all of us, it’s about thinking across multiple disciplines and multiple service boundaries. It’s about getting out of our comfort zones and addressing questions of collaboration and service delivery that engenders skills development and makes a tangible contribution to the digital learner journey.
The role and dimension for IT in student success is huge and this is a theme that I know some fellow UCISA members have already included in TEF submissions using evidence of digital literacy and engagement with IT systems to show how they have contributed to improved learning outcomes. This is digital strategy linked to powerful strategic programmes with real teeth.
My digital strategy for my own university runs to 2025, five years beyond the university’s current strategy, because the question I asked myself was not only how we could support what’s happening now but how can we inform the next planning cycle and be prepared to meet the challenge of change – both in the sector and the marketplace. It’s about raising the flag now and saying IT will have to be a key strategic theme in all future university strategies.
It’s a new role – and one all of us in IT leadership roles should take on with relish. It’s never been more important for universities to support their IT people, recognise their strategic importance and focus on the contribution of IT to the learner journey.
Taking best advantage of disruptive technology is an issue that goes beyond UCISA’s membership and is on the table for many people. But we’re here to play our part. UCISA’s own Strategic Plan provides for much greater engagement with IT staff at all levels in future. Student success is a business we are all in now and whether you work in IT or not, we’re here to signpost you not only to resources and best practice but a network of contacts that have been there, done that.

Key take-outs for CIOs:

• When crafting your institution’s digital strategy, consider the impact of digital in the broadest sense. An effective IT strategy should fully embrace its effective contribution to student success and student outcome

• Think beyond the current university business plan horizon. What trends and scenarios can new and emerging use of technology capitalise on in support of the student lifecycle

• Integrate the digital strategy with the institutional strategy – not least in the value added to the student journey and later student entry and contribution to the workplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Telford
UCISA Executive Chair and Director of Information Services 
Edinburgh Napier University

UCISA welcomes blog contributions from members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective on a current topic of interest, please contact the website team via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.