Tag Archives: project management

HE survey on business analysis and making the most of the UCISA bursary

Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

 

As business analysts, we are constantly learning how people perform their jobs roles. Gaining an understanding of how they capture, process and output information in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We capture this information so that we can identify areas of improvement. We also help to implement new ways of working, new software systems or processes that enable our organisations to achieve their strategic goals. As business analysts how often do we take a step back and analyse our own ways of working? Do we stop and benchmark ourselves against other Business Analysts working in the HE community or beyond in the corporate world?

In 2016 as part of my role on the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) committee, I carried out a survey to measure the maturity of the business analysis community within the higher education (HE) sector. This informed our understanding of where we were as a community in terms of maturity.

The survey which was sent out to all members of the PCMG mailing list received a 32% response rate, which falls well within the expected response rate for an email survey. The survey results showed that every responding institution was undertaking business analysis activities, with over 65% having a dedicated business analysis team. This clearly shows that there is a recognised need for business analysis activities in the sector. When we looked at the average size of the business analysis teams, we found that it came in at around five members of staff on average, which shows that it is still considered a relatively small area of operations for most organisations. The majority of business analysis teams had been in existence for less than ten years, however most institutions had been undertaking analysis activities prior to the formation of a dedicated business analysis team. The question that gave us a real insight into the maturity of the business analysis function, showed us that 70% of organisations still see the business analysis function as an IT related one. In a mature organisation, we would expect to see the business analysis function sitting with and supporting the senior management team of the organisation. One may argue that just because they are located in an IT function they still may be closely aligned to senior management.  However, evidence shows that most organisations still consider them to be an IT asset with half of business analysts in the sector only working on IT change projects.

Overall, the survey results show us that as a sector we have not matured enough to be in a position to assist in driving the business strategy. As a sector, we are still working mainly on IT driven change initiatives and are based within the ITS function. The majority of business analysts are not undertaking market and competitor analysis or getting involved in pre-project work, such as feasibility studies and business case development.

In 2011 and 2012, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) undertook a similar survey in the UK. The results showed that the average maturity levels for business analysis functions based in industry matched those found from our 2016 survey of HE institutions. However, as the IIBA survey was four years older than the HE one I carried out, we can hypothesise they have made some progress in maturing as a sector in those intervening years.

The question then arose, how do we as a community compare against business analysts working in the commercial sector?

I wanted to get an understanding of the tools and techniques they were using, to see if they were ahead of the game compared to the HE sector. Do they experience the same issues when undertaking their analysis, did they have the same frustrations as us and encounter the same blockers? What methods did they employ to attempt to overcome obstacles?

Through UCISA’s Groups and Communities of Practice, the HE community is offered an excellent platform to share knowledge, experience and good practice. To step outside this community and gain knowledge of the commercial field, the UCISA bursary scheme allows you the opportunity to attend conferences such as the IIBA conference. This gives you the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand from Business Analysts working outside of the HE sector.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the IIBA conference in London. I found the experience gave me an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge on the role of a business analyst working in the corporate world. Listening to presentations from speakers who came from a mix of corporate backgrounds on the topics that mattered to them, gave me an insight into the issues they faced, the tools they used and solutions that had worked for them.

The main recurring theme of the conference was not one of the newest tools, or methodologies but one of the age old issues that faces every business analyst, one of capturing the requirements effectively. I saw several speakers that presented this topic in unique ways and from different angles but the message boiled down to the same fact. As analysts when capturing requirements, we must listen to what our stakeholders really want and stop trying to solutionize and jump to conclusions without capturing the real facts.

The second topic that seemed to be prevalent at the conference was of course, Agile. I know from personal experience in the HE sector many of us are only just starting to dip our toe into the world of Agile project delivery. I found that while the corporate world had been using Agile for a number of years they were still struggling with the same basic issues of trying to fit Agile into organisational structures that were not designed to support this type of delivery. For example:

  • Off shore development teams supporting project managers and analysts working in the UK.
  • Trying to fit Agile delivery into project management structures where the supporting processes were originally developed to support waterfall delivery of projects.
  • Gaining real buy in from senior management to support Agile delivery and provide the Agile teams with someone from the business that would be not only a dedicated resource to the project, but one with the authority to make the business decisions required by the development teams.

Of course, the conference providers ensured there were lots of chances to network in between sessions and this gave me the perfect opportunity to chat one-to-one with other business analysts and delve a bit deeper into their experiences.

The key learning point for me from the whole experience is that there are very little differences between our worlds. Yes, our products or services may differ but the challenges we face as business analysts remain the same. We all struggle to get recognition for the importance of the analyst’s role, we are all bought in too late to projects to have a real impact on the outcome, and we are all given too little resource to undertake the analysis effectively. The funding from the UCISA bursary to attend the conference informed my knowledge of the business analysis sector outside of the HE environment. I believe this knowledge is invaluable to business analyst working in HE as it enables us to mature and grow beyond the confines of our own sector.

 

Everything starts with a Project Initiation Document…!

Graham Francis
Director of Continuous Improvement
Havering Sixth Form College

In the first part of this blog , we looked at the reasons why projects fail and the process that we have adopted to try and ensure that this did not happen with our own projects at Havering Sixth Form College. In this blog, we will look at the process that we go through to get a project from an idea to being agreed and adopted by the College Executive.

Often projects will start with a senior member of college management identifying a need such as “we must have a better Asset Management system” or “wouldn’t it be great if we could see our data visually”. Just how these projects would come to fruition was not really considered. In the past, these projects (if adopted) would remain with the originator and would often result in a project, which ultimately exceeded all forms of whatever controls may have been thought to have been put in place in terms of time, cost, resources and staffing, or any possible combination thereof.

In an effort to end this, we have adopted an approach that specifies that no project can proceed before it had been thoroughly researched and a Project Initiation Document had been produced (well that was the theory!).

But what is a Project Initiation Document (or PID for short)? Wikipedia describes its purpose is to capture and record basic information needed to correctly define and plan the project and that it provides “a reference point throughout the project for both the customer and the Project team”. But what does a PID look like? Well, if I’m honest I had no idea and attempts to create one proved frustrating so after much searching of the Internet, which housed many examples, none really suitable to a college environment, I discovered Susanne Madsen’s website and adopted the Blank PID 2016 that she had developed, customising it as necessary.

This document consisted of a number of sections:
• Executive Summary (at the beginning but completed last)
• Project Definition
• Business Case
• Project Planning
• Risks and Issues (an invaluable tool to assist in developing this is the 130 Project Risks (List) created by Anna Mar)
• Project Organisation and Communication
• Project Controls
• Project Acceptance Sign-Off.

By completing each of these sections (in detail), a tightly prescribed understanding of each project is developed. An example of a PID for a recent website redevelopment project that we have undertaken can be found here Website PID.

Whilst considering the purpose of the PID, it was at this point that we started to think quite radically about why previous projects had failed and how we could avoid this in the future. As part of the development of the PID itself, it is necessary to define who the Executive Sponsor is and who is going to manage the project team. This caused us to consider two further questions: ‘How could we get effective Senior Management (Executive) buy-in into the project?’ and ‘How could we ensure that the project meets the needs of the (internal) customer?’.

One requirement of any project managed in this way is to nominate an Executive Sponsor and an Internal Project Team Leader. This again gave us an opportunity for some radical thinking:

• What if (with their agreement) the member of Executive in whose area of responsibility the project would have the most impact, became the Executive Sponsor?
• What if (again with their agreement) we were to make the member of staff who would ultimately be most affected by the changes that the project was envisaged to have, became the Project Team Leader?

We adopted this approach considering that it would ensure Senior Management buy-in whilst also reducing any impact that change would have as the Project Team leader was fully involved with the project itself.

During the process of developing the PID, it is reviewed by a small team of reviewers to ensure clarity and completeness. Once this group have agreed that the PID is complete, then it is passed to the Executive Sponsor for confirmation and signature. Until such time as it is agreed by the executive Sponsor, no work on the project itself is undertaken.

With the PID formally agreed then it is used as the basis for the Terms of Reference (TOR). The TOR for the Website Redevelopment project can be found here Website TOR . This document acts as a synopsis of the project requirements themselves and is given to prospective suppliers along with the Invitation To Tender/Quotation (ITT/ITQ), an example of which is located ITQ Website. The Terms of Reference is written in such a way that it can be used as a basis for evaluating the project when it has been completed/reached its completion date.

In the next blog, I will focus on monitoring the live project and the evaluation process undertaken when it has been completed.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask – Implementing a Learning Management System


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

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/

 

 

Project and Change Management Group – an introduction.

In advance of our joint conference with our sister group CISG https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/cisg/Events/2017/cisg17.
I thought I’d spare a few moments to introduce you to the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg

PCMG is formed of skilled and experienced Project and Change Management professionals working together to develop and promote best practice in all aspects of project and change management in higher and further education. We have a strong sector focus which is informed and maintained by our member’s presence at the heart of project and change management activities in institutions of all sizes across the UK and beyond. We are supported by and fully integrated within the UCISA community. Our aim is to support better management and execution of projects and change initiatives so that greater benefits are realised by our member institutions across the HE and FE sectors.

The best ways of keeping in contact with the group includes attendance at events, joining one (or more) of our webinars, signing up to our mailing list (UCISA-PCMG@jiscmail.ac.uk) and follow us on twitter @UCISA-PCMG

There are currently 14 people on the PCMG committee and we cover a range of change management and project management roles in our institutions. I took on the role of chair in April 2017. The chair’s remit covers:
• Run activities associated with the group, supported by the Group Vice Chair and Group Secretary and UCISA Office.
• Run activities in agreement with the UCISA Executive and with support from UCISA Office.
• Contribute to general replies, requests passed on from UCISA Executive.
• Chairing Group meetings, including setting agenda and working with host institution to ensure all arrangements are in place to support the agenda.
• Attend the UCISA Executive meetings, including writing a short report of Group activities for each meeting.
• Write annual report of Group activities for AGM in March.
• Write annual business plan for following year Group activities.

Sally Jorjani from Edinburgh Napier University is co-Vice Chair with a remit to:
• Lead on the CISG-PCMG conference.
• Deputise in absence of Chair.
• Support chair in consideration of new members following a call for membership.
Sarah Cockrill from Coventry University is also co-Vice Chair, her remit is to:
• Lead on webinars and community engagement activity.
• Deputise in absence of chair.
• Support chair in consideration of new members following a call for membership.

We are ably supported by Lynne Hewings (Cranfield University) who is secretary and Simon Hogg (Oxford Brookes University) who is comms officer.

As well as the formal roles the other ten member really help to make the magic happen they lead on creating links with other networks e.g JISC, APM, take the lead on producing publications, toolkits and case studies.

Over the next twelve months we plan to work more closely with the other UCISA groups on events, webinars and publications. We are also piloting a mentoring, coaching and work shadowing offering between HEIs.

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.

What kind of Business Analyst are you?

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

Day Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nigel breaks people down into four categories;

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

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

 

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

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

Listening to customer need

sarah-cockrill_head_jpg

 

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

Day One

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Network for Change and Continuous Innovation Conference

rachel_m

 

Rachel McAssey
Head of Process Improvement
The University of Sheffield
(Joint Vice-Chair Project and Change Management Group)

 

 

 

 

Day 3

 

The final day of the conference and it has not been a disappointment

First session of the day was “Using Balanced Scorecards, Lean and Liberating Structures to Accelerate Strategic Planning and Implementation” with Ruth Johnson, Associate Vice-President, and Jeff Fillmore, Senior Organizational Analyst both from University of Washington

This was a very motivational. For more information about liberating structures as a change approach go to the website. Liberating Structures in combination with lean processes have helped the University of Washington to actively engage staff with understanding and implementing the strategic plan. It was a very important methodology for helping the institution change and innovate. I think we all came away wanting to liberate some structures!

Next, a really informative session from three people from Institutions in California “Taking the Mystery out of Managing Change”. They had received change management training from ©Prosci and I was very grateful that they provided us with lots of tools to take away. In my opinion the most useful visual tool was one for measuring strength of sponsor, project management and change management in a project – so that the project team can agree what mitigations need to be taken. Very simple yet incredibly effective and useful. Among the many takeaways also included a really useful checklist tool for project sponsors – I’ll be amending this and use it with my project sponsors.

The final keynote address was wonderful. Allison Vaillancort, Vice President, Human Resources and Institutional Effectiveness, University of Arizona gave a visually pleasing presentation. She challenged the group to look beyond incremental change to respond to the changes in HE, and identify where and when a rebellion would be helpful. Her slides gave us a how to guide about how to ensure that bold change can be actively delivered within our institutions. I tweeted a copy of one of the slides about change sabotage and lots of followers on twitter recognised the behaviours.

The final session of the conference “Leading from Inside the Whirlwind: Creating the New Vision for Public Ed” University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
This was a really interesting case study of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire who along with the rest of the institutions in the state received a multi-million dollar budget drop. It followed the change steps the institution took from the moment the news broke in January 2015 to current period. The staff had chosen to thrive rather than just survive, it was a fascinating case study about the opportunity change can bring (most dramatically the decision to undertake 8 change projects simultaneously) and how a difficult situation can lead to beneficial improvements for an institution (markedly better student retention and increased enrolments)

It was a wonderful opportunity to attend the NCCI conference. I met so many interesting people and had some very insightful conversation about managing change projects in higher education. My heartfelt thanks to UCISA and my own institution for allowing me to have this opportunity. I’ve got so many ideas for things I can try now that I’m back in the UK.

Looking to the future: sustainable IT and HE web presence

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Simon Geller
Senior Project Manager
University of Sheffield
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day Two at Educause

I started the day at 8am – the Yanks get up early! – with a session on Google Apps. Sheffield was an early adopter of Google so I had an in on this but the session got a bit bogged down in questions about account creation and deletion rather than the potential for collaboration.

Sustainable IT
Then I moved on to a discussion session about sustainable IT. This doesn’t get talked about so much these days – I think one of the reasons for this is that the movement into cloud services means that institutions aren’t quite so conscious of their energy footprint. Also, IT shouldn’t beat itself up too much about how green it is – we enable so much green activity in other areas, from maps and journey planners on smartphones that make people feel more comfortable about walking and using public transport rather than driving, pool bike schemes that you register for online, to smart energy management systems and systems that make industrial processes much more efficient. The future is Green IT that you don’t even notice.

A presentation from the University of Edinburgh on helping non-project managers to deliver success
In the afternoon, I thought I’d better support our Edinburgh colleagues and went to their presentation  on how they provide support for non-vocational project managers. Although the AV wasn’t being helpful the level of resource they had brought to the issue was impressive.

Then I continued on my quest to discover where the web would take us in the next 10 years. The key message from What Will Your .Edu Site Look Like in 10 Years?  is that your web presence will be going out and looking for your customers rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Later I found myself in a compliance session I hadn’t really intended to go, but thought I’d take risk and stick with it. The message I took away from that is that there are two types of institutions – those that have been hacked, and those that had been hacked and don’t know about it. Scary!

The final session I attended that day was a trend analysis run by journalists from the Chronicle of Higher Education , and the takeaway from that was that we used to talk about the for-profit sector, now, in the US at least, the whole area is for-profit. Plus two questions to ask suppliers: “What research is (that assertion) based on? and “What’s the upgrade cycle?” – cutting edge tech doesn’t stay there for long.

 

Project management tools and project management offices

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Michelle Griffiths
ITS Project Manager
IT Services
University of Oxford
Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

This Educause session presented by Randall Alberts, Assistant Director, Ringling College of Art and Design, was led as a discussion session, which was started off by all attendees logging onto a direct poll website and answering questions about their organization and what topics they would like to discuss during this morning’s session.

Randall told the group about the committee that he chaired, the Educause Project Management Constituent Group (PMCG) . The group brings together like minded people who have the same interests and areas of focus, sometimes referred to as “birds of a feather”. You can post questions to the group and get answers from your peers. This seems a very similar setup to the UCISA Project and Change Management Group. He also went onto say that they have monthly call-ins with guest presenters on various topics. The website contains past archive information so that you can tune in and watch past presenters.

The direct poll stated that the top topic that the group wanted to cover was project management tools.

Project management tools
Randall suggested that you must first start with pen and paper to define your user processes before you touch on tools. He stated that at his institution they use spreadsheets and share point. Each of their projects will have a share point site that they use as a document repository and to host project plans and schedule information.

The discussion was then opened up to the floor, and the following points were made:

  • Different departments tend to use different tools; it is difficult to get an institutional strategy rolled out so that they could all use common tools. People don’t tend to use the tool if it’s not in their culture.
  • Dynamics and Trello seem to be a commonly used combination of tool sets, along with Microsoft Project online and Office 365.
  • The culture of the Project Management is very important, along with resource allocation tools, which would prove to be very useful.
  • Plan view is another tool that was mentioned (resource & portfolio management tool, capacity planning, scorecards and dashboards)
  • Google Gantt was also mentioned.
  • If you want to roll out a project management office (PMO), you need full support from the CIO.
  • Timesheets are submitted on-line.
  • Service Now  was also mentioned, but with a caveat to say that there are better tools out there, such as Team Dynamix.
  • Tools are not just tools.

What defines a project?
Randall asked: “What defines a project?” The answer from the floor was that whatever is on the CIO goals list will be run. This is defined by a set of categories, which form the basis for project prioritisation. The group discussed categories of projects and what defines a small, medium and large/strategic project. A substantial project was seen as being more than 80 hours and consisting of cross-departmental working.  Returning to theme of what defines a project, Randall suggested that it could be defined as a “Temporary or new endeavour to deliver a service”.

Project management offices
The topic of discussion moved onto project management offices (PMOs), which resulted in the following points:

  • It is important to get buy in from the top when establishing and funding a PMO, difficult to justify the cost of setting it up and on-going.
  • Some institutions don’t call it a PMO as it is seen as a fashionable buzz word
  • Vendors can charge up to $175 per hour for a contract project manager who that essentially manages your internal project management. If the vendor thinks it’s important, then so should we!
  • Academic affairs don’t trust IT Services to manage their projects for them!
  • A lot of the time, IT Services is expected to fund business systems projects. Randall Alberts gave an example of one department that he loaned a server to, which they wanted to keep and use to host a critical worldwide deployed web site.
  • Project managers need to get involved on day one to gather requirements and start off on the right track.