Tag Archives: Project

“We are really important to the future of education”

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

Last month, courtesy of being awarded a UCISA bursary, I travelled up to Manchester (the city of 100,000 students) for the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018. While it was my first ALTC, it was actually the 25th in the series and there was considerable reflection on changes to the learning technologist role and in learning technology itself.  In my posts about ALTC, I want to share some of the noticeable themes and my favourite moments.
The ALTC 2018 committee team launch the conference

I am woman

This year saw three inspiring women providing the ALTC plenaries, unfortunately, unusual enough an occurrence that it warrants comment. On day 1 Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, gave a sociological unpacking of educational technology and explored the idea that context matters and learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Tessie suggested that the time is right for us to deconstruct learning technology and consider how we want to put the pieces back together. Learning technologies have (in the US) emerged as administrative units but would they benefit from being a unique academic discipline? She shared the example of the born digital programmes she has led on where “edtech is not just a set of tools but a philosophy about how we think about things” – offering opportunities to the non-traditional student.
On day 2 Amber Thomas, Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick, gave a wonderful talk considering ‘Twenty years on the edge’. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.  Way too much good stuff to write about here but the main take away was a pat on the back for those of us working with learning technology in HE.
ALT’s 25 year anniversary playing card pack
Things aren’t easy – not only do we suffer from impostor syndrome when we do well but there is also a misapprehension that innovation is isolated to the commercial sector and that governments and agencies are blockers of change. Amber pointed out some of our collective work, from 3.5 million spent on MOOCs, to great collaborative projects and organisations including Ferl, Jisc and EU projects. However, change in universities requires patience and it is important that we listen to the mainstream, after all digital is really about people. We need to be ethical, respectful and useful, for we are “really important to the future of education”.
Dr Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of ALT, gave the last plenary of the conference ‘Beyond advocacy: Who shapes the future of Learning Technology?’. She brought together the conference themes, a good dose of ethics (“equality is everyone’s responsibility”) and empowerment pants.
Amber Thomas presents her twenty years on the edge
She considered the difficulties learning technologists face in being both advocate and critic in a “risky business” where things often go wrong. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing our failings. Maren concluded with a personal reflection that “EdTech is a field of practice, not a discipline”. You can read Maren’s recent post on the state of Education Technology in HE on WonkHE.

Beetastic Manchester
More to follow on the noticeable themes and favourite moments at ALTC.
This blog first appeared in the ‘Digital Transformation at RAU’ blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

UCISA bursary winner presents at Lean in Higher Education conference

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

The aim of my presentation, ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’ (2.56MB) at the Australasian Lean HE Conference was to show why Business Improvement teams need to change their model of working during organisational change to ensure that they continue to deliver good lean practice in a relevant way. The Business Improvement (BI) Team at the University of Aberdeen in its initial stages were involved in a significant number of initiatives across the organisation. However, as the university entered a period of restructuring, it experienced a change in people’s availability and motivation to be involved in non-strategic initiatives.

The presentation summarised how the BI team at University of Aberdeen has used Lean training to train and support project teams on strategic programmes as well as kick-start other business improvement initiatives. As part of the presentation, I highlighted case studies to show the journey from the training to the project development and implementation e.g. Student Recruitment and Admissions (SRAS) have undertaken reviews of their key processes and have made changes:

  • to enhance the enquirer/applicant experience
  • to achieve better integration with other sections in the university (reducing duplication etc.)
  • to consolidate IT systems when various systems were used previously, allowing for much better planning and reporting, amongst other benefits.

Delegates’ feedback was that they found the practical examples in the session helpful and came away with some useful ideas on how to train across their organisations, and how to make Lean stick.

A wide variety of interesting and useful speaker talks from the conference are available here.

I had a key set of conference objectives to meet in attending the conference, and came away with some key learning from the event. I will be blogging further about my intended next steps following what I learnt at the conference.

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

Lean in Higher Education conference – key learning

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

In November, I was able to attend the Australasian Lean HE Conference, courtesy of a UCISA bursary. I had a range of key objectives for attending the conference, one of which involved networking with practitioners from across the globe. The 150 delegates at the conference came from across Australia, Asia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.

My key learning points from attending the conference were:

I will be blogging further about the event including what my key next steps will be, and further information on my presentation on ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’.

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

Conference objectives for a Lean international event

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

As a result of a successful UCISA bursary application, I was able to attend the Australasian Lean HE Conference in 2017. I also presented at the event on ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’.

My conference objectives were to:

  • Network with practitioners from across the globe who have developed Lean initiatives
  • Share knowledge and form collaborative partnerships
  • Find out how universities and colleges are engaging employees and achieving measureable and cultural changes
  • Understand how Lean has been implemented, what buy in, senior leadership and support was required for implementation, and what lessons were learned
  • Understand how to measure, demonstrate, and report benefits following implementation of new process improvements, to ensure continuous improvement
  • Learn how Lean is used by industry and how these practices can be adapted to HE
  • Engage in interactive workshops, panels and sessions to find answers to questions and challenges.

150 delegates attended the event from Australia, Asia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.  Some of the keynote speakers with inspirational messages at the event were:

I will be blogging further about the event including areas of key learning, key next steps, and further information on my presentation on ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’.

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

PPM in the digital age at Gartner’s Program and Portfolio Management Summit


Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

 

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017 – Setting the scene

Hina Taank was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This blog post refers to my personal views and the learning that I experienced from attending the Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017. The conference was titled ‘Driving Innovation at the Speed of Business’ and the agenda primarily focused on ‘Results-driven [Project Portfolio Management] PPM: Leading Change and Delivering Value in the Digital Age’. The attendees were from all business sectors both nationally and globally. I was surprised by the scale and the 106 sessions that were offered. These were based around four theme tracks: ‘Transformation Gets Real’, ‘Agile Business Impacts’, ‘The Changing Program & Portfolio Management Ecosystem’ and ‘Empowering People’, together with vendor run or assisted sessions. Throughout the event, I shared information with the community on #GartnerPPM, @UCISA, @bruneluni, @HinaTaank  and @UCISA_PCMG

I am grateful to Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA) having successfully won and was awarded a bursary through their bursary scheme to attend the event. I am also grateful to Brunel University London and the Information Services for allowing me the time to attend the conference.

I had always wanted to attend a Gartner event as it is one of the world’s leading research and advisory companies. The event allowed me to learn about the trends around the Program Portfolio Management (PPM) space, together with lots of tips and actions on how I can make a difference in my job.  I am therefore grateful to Gartner for organising this event for like-minded people to learn and network.

 

 

 

 

 

I will be blogging on specific sessions, but some of the useful events outside the keynotes and workshops were as follows:

Orientation session for first-time attendees: how to get the most out of your conference attendance

Andrea White started the event for first timers to a Gartner event and briefed the group on how to make the most of the two days. Help was available via a helpdesk, appointments could be made to meet Gartner Analysts and the most useful was the Gartner Events Navigator. The Navigator app was widely used as it provided real-time information on all the sessions, (even those cancelled or replaced), session attendees, speakers and exhibitors. It also provided an area with personal agenda, notes and highlighted the exclusive sessions primarily for C-suit attendees.

Networking lunch

Over lunch, I really enjoyed networking with people with similar issues and problems, nationally and globally. It almost felt like a speed meeting.

Evening networking reception hosted by the showcase suppliers

The evening reception was hosted by the showcase suppliers and they did a grand job by providing a variety of food and drinks. I was treated to some lovely vegetarian food by one of the vendors. Importantly, it allowed me to further network and speak with the showcase suppliers and the attendees at the event. The key exhibitors were CA technologies, Changepoint, Clarizen, Microsoft and Planview.

Closing remarks

A really good and informative wrap round summary of the two days was provided by Donna Fitzgerald. She mentioned all the key messages that were addressed at the conference.  The artwork during many sessions by Axelle Vanquaille was absolutely fabulous, as she visually captured what the speakers relayed, for example, in the keynote ‘Trusting the Ensemble’ by the British conductor and music director, Charles Hazelwood. (This will be covered further in a future blog).

 

 

 

 

 

(Image by Axelle Vanquaille)

My two days sailed by. The Gartner team did an excellent job in the planning and running of this event, allowing all attendees to take away some action points.  Gartner provided a ‘save the date for 2018’  for the next event which I have added to my diary.   A truly valuable and thought-provoking event and one that I would not like to miss in the future.

Full details on presentation contents or how to contact the analysts can be obtained from Gartner, Inc directly.

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

References:

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Orientation Session for First-Time Attendees: How to Get the Most Out of Your Conference Attendance, Andrea White, Gartner, 12 – 13 June 2017

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Closing Remarks, Donna Fitzgerald, 12-13 June 2017

Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: Trusting the Ensemble, Charles Hazelwood, British conductor and music director

 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.

Adopting a New Style of Project Management and Initiation

Graham Francis
Director of Continuous Improvement
Havering Sixth Form College

A Continuous Improvement Approach

Introduction

If you search for “Why do projects fail?” you will find all sorts of reasons for their demise but running throughout the results is a ‘lack of communication’, a ‘lack of detailed planning’ and ‘scope creep’.  Each of these has the ability to bring any project to the point of failure in a very short space of time.  To combat this Havering Sixth Form College (HSFC) has altered its project management process in an effort to prevent this.

Like many establishments, HSFC had experienced projects which failed to achieve the intended result due to poor preparation and implementation.  Projects would be poorly defined with no one person really understanding what the final outcome of the project was (due to a lack of communication) to be.

Projects would often drift aimlessly due to a lack of planning or continue beyond their anticipated completion date due to poor management (and a lack of detailed planning).  Even worse the requirements of the project would often be changed without any due process (resulting in project creep).  In order to combat this, the College has developed a methodology with clearly defined steps, prescribed documentation and a series of systematic reviews to ensure that each project is managed with the aim of being completed on time, on budget and is as required.

Plan-Do-Check-Act

To support this process the College introduced the role of Director of Continuous Improvement and adapted an approach to Continuous Improvement based on the ‘Deming Cycle’.  Deming describes the cycle as an iterative process consisting of four-parts Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA).  This process has been used to support ‘Total Quality Management’ and has been used with great success within the production process of Toyota.

Early efforts to embrace these principles often appeared quite primitive.  In order to visualise the progress of each projects, a ‘Kanban’ board approach was adopted.  Initially, this contained four columns Waiting, Definition, Production and Evaluation.  Which loosely mapped to the four stages of the Deming Cycle.  With the exception of Waiting, each section was further subdivided into three further columns, To Do, In Progress and Done.  Sticky Notes were used to monitor projects but these would often get knocked off or dry out and fall off and had to be repositioned when this occurred.

 

 

 

 

 

This early image of the ‘board’ shows a number of projects at the ‘Waiting’ stage.  At this stage the project is nothing more than an idea such as Increase Storage Infrastructure capacity or Asset Management.  During this stage, an initial exploration of the idea is explored to ascertain if it is viable and what budget the project might require.  To support this process, budget remains unallocated from a central ‘pot’ until the project has passed the next stage of Definition.

In the next blog, we will explore what takes place during the Definition stage and what documentation has been developed to support this.

A presentation on this subject, originally presented at the UCISA London Group meeting in September 2017, can be found here 

The UCISA London group provides a forum for London institutions to meet, to identify and share best practice and to identify opportunities for collaboration and potential shared services.

UCISA and the London Metropolitan Network are working in partnership to create a UCISA London regional group which will take up and extend LMN’s London-based activities, including local opportunities for training, professional development and peer exchange and advice on strategies for the best use of scarce resources – including new or existing shared services – in order to provide exemplary IT services for staff and students.

EA and project portfolio management

ian-ellery-head-small

 

Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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!