Tag Archives: systems

Customer focus (and a little magic)

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

In September, I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
Following on from my earlier posts about convergence and creativity this blog briefly looks at another of the themes which was prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018.

Customer Focus

The importance of focusing on the customer journey and customer experience of a system and indeed the wider organisation was mentioned in almost every session at #BA2018 . For a while there has been a palpable shift towards genuinely building and designing systems by solving customer problems and meeting their needs. Andrej Gustin (CREA Plus) and Igor Smirnov (NETICA) opened their excellent half-day ‘Digital Customer Journeys’ workshop by stating that in 90% of cases a customer who has had a bad experience will not return, however a customer who has had a good experience has a good chance of becoming an advocate. As such it is imperative that we get those customer touchpoints – both system and people-based – right. As Clay Shirky discusses in his book Cognitive Surplus, in a world of social media and digital communities, customer advocacy is worth its weight in gold – prospective customers are significantly more likely to buy your product or service if someone in their network recommends it.
But for us Business Analysts, it’s not just about the end customer when it comes to considering customer focus. We have other customers, namely senior sponsors, the business, our stakeholders or perhaps a client. We need to be customer-focused in the ways we deal with these individuals and groups and we also need to think about their needs and expectations when developing our products – the deliverables – for them.
A number of speakers touched on the importance of avoiding ‘analysis for analysts’. Adrian Reed, in his highly entertaining ‘And Then the Magic Happens – What BAs Can Learn from the World of Magic’ session gave an excellent analogy drawing on the magician community. To be taken seriously by their peers in the field, a magician must use Bicycle-branded playing cards and Sharpie branded pens. However, the audience almost certainly doesn’t notice, or care, what brand of materials are used during the trick. What they care about is the experience of the trick itself and the outcome – ideally the trick working smoothly and a sense of awe, wonder and entertainment. Ironically, Bicycle-branded cards are slippery and not optimal for use in tricks and as such in seeking to impress other magicians, the magician is actually reducing the odds of meeting their customer – the audience’s – needs, as there is a risk he or she will slip and accidentally shower the audience in playing cards! Mapping this to the world of Business Analysis, it is important to remember why we are doing analysis and for whom. Nottingham Trent University’s Suzi Jobe advised delegates to accept that in many cases, business stakeholders are not interested in business analysis and our various tools and techniques – they just want to see the outcome and how it affects them. As such we may need to trade ‘perfect’ analysis models and techniques in favour of producing a deliverable that is of value and use to our end customer.
Finally, Reed advised BAs to be service-focused and to aim to make customers feel understood and cared for. Although the outcome and outputs of a project are important, the lasting memory will be of how the customer felt when dealing with you. As a magician once said, “It’s not just the effect, what they see, it’s also what they experience during the trick – and the way they feel when the trick is over.”

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, creativity and customer focus, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of convergence

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
The 2018 event marked the conference’s tenth year and having been a business analyst for approaching fifteen years now, this conference has been on my radar for some time. Over the years I have watched longingly as more senior colleagues, freelance peers and even co-workers nominated for ‘Business Analyst of the Year’, have departed for London for three days of sharing ideas, networking and learning and returned positively sparking with inspiration. This year, my turn came and I spent much of the week before preparing and planning, determined to gain the most I possibly could from this experience.
I returned, somewhat exhausted, but brimming with ideas, inspiration and a newfound pride in my profession. As a blogger, I also have inspiration for articles and blogs to keep me and my readers happy until Christmas! Over the space of the three days, I attended fifteen talks and workshops and left each one more enlightened that when I walked in, from gaining a new nugget of information, a shift in my attitude and approach towards the BA profession, to learning an entirely new technique.
More detail will follow over the coming weeks, but in this article I discuss the first of a number of key themes that seemed to permeate the conference: convergence.

Convergence

Many years ago I completed a lengthy application process for an industrial placement with a global corporation and on my application form I ticked ‘marketing’ and ‘IT’ as my two business areas of interest. In the interview stage, I was quizzed for some time on what the recruiters perceived as a most unusual juxtaposition; how could a person wanting to work in the technical discipline of IT also harbour an interest in the creative field of marketing?
Marketing has been a career-long interest for me. I chose to pursue a career in IT, but have often tended towards marketing in my personal development, attending the occasional CIM training session, self-studying related online courses and eventually undertaking a Masters which comprised at least 50% marketing modules. But why, if I had chosen a career in IT? Well, firstly because I find marketing theory and customer behaviour fascinating and secondly, perhaps because I approached IT from the field of web design and running my own business in the early 00s, I’ve always mentally linked marketing with IT.
Unfortunately, my industrial placement hirer’s attitude was not in isolation. Throughout my career, many potential employers have been perplexed and in some cases even turned off by my multi-disciplinary set of interests. Given this, it was a great reassurance to find that a significant proportion of the discussion, theory and techniques at Business Analysis Europe had roots in or strong connections to marketing.
Technological innovations and developments have disrupted almost every industry. The pervasive use of digital devices and social platforms by the majority of the populace, certainly in the Western world, has led to digital becoming a primary channel for many companies to engage with their customer base; pushing communications to them, engaging them in two-way conversations, facilitating digital communities of like-minded customers and of course ecommerce.
These digital marketing systems and platforms require IT professionals, just as with any other system and as with any other project, business analysts need to understand marketing theory and strategy if they are to design, build and successfully implement systems to support organisations’ marketing strategy.

I draw on marketing as it is an area of personal interest and because it was indeed a key area of focus at the conference, but the same applies for all areas of business; sales, operations, asset management, HR and certainly customer service and PR, as previously explored in my earlier blog article ‘Blurred Lines’.  As Mark Smalley (@MarkSmalley) stated in his The Digital BA session: “In the digital enterprise, business and IT are converging and we <as Business Analysts> need to consider the consequences of this”.

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Creativity
  • Customer focus
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
This blog originally appeared at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-rachel-drinkwater/.

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

The professional advantages of a UCISA bursary

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

SITS, June 2018

The bursary I received from UCISA to attend the Service Desk and IT Support show (SITS18) has been a brilliant experience! Providing me with great insight into other IT support services colleagues outside of my own institution from both the UK and worldwide. In addition, it has shown me what changes and improvements companies can provide through their services to our sector.

New developments

We have in fact recently taken on board one of the services that was at SITS18 as we have been going through a new tool transition from LANDesk to Ivanti. For my own personal adjustment to the change, and that of my colleagues, a lot has been learned from feedback from SITS and from analysing what was presented at this event. Insights into how other institutes have customised their tool/workspace, which I learnt about at SITS, have been useful to know about. This information can help shape our new tool, which is being customised to our needs.

Sharing with colleagues

As soon as I returned to the office, I discussed many elements of my findings with colleagues, which was great and I believe insightful to them. As well as talking about lectures and people that I came across during the event, I also talked about the companies I saw too, and the research I carried out at SITS, and the information that they had provided me with. In addition to this, we are actually putting a couple of these systems in place which we are testing to see if they are suitable for our institute. From the knowledge I provided to colleagues, it has given a great insight to those who may be using the systems in the future.
Due to this bursary having an application process from individuals in institutes across the country and the announcement being made on the UCISA website, many people were aware of the scheme and that I had successfully been awarded a bursary. People such as my colleagues would ask me about it and the event, which was an interesting way to stimulate new conversions with others.

Organisational benefits

I had a few interactions with companies that have got in touch with our institute before and had some nice discussions about practices. I took note of what they were also saying about comparing benefits to the methods mentioned. This was great! From one another we both received updates and further awareness of each other, which may aid us both in the future. It was a good way to make the companies who provide assistance and solutions, aware of needs and ideas that they could implement in their company/products.

Blogging with confidence

The blogs I wrote have been a great way to share my findings with anyone who wishes to seek insight into this event. The event provides great knowledge from providers, lectures giving assistance with institutional development, which I discussed in my blogs, and of course, I also mention information on visiting a conference/event from the perspective of an employee in the IT sector and how to make the most of it. In my case, I also gained more additional content by attending the InfoSec event, next door to SITS. The blog is great form of communication – basically an article that those who do not know me personally can still gain from by reading my findings at their convenience.

Early career benefits

Overall, I am very thankful that my bursary application was accepted giving me a chance to attend this conference as it has not only provided some great insight for others in this sector and my colleagues, but it has also greatly benefited me personally and my early career start in IT. Hopefully, this has opened more doors for my future as the insight provided by the event has also given me more knowledge for my role and enhanced my understanding of the sector from both sides; front facing and behind the scenes.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

UCISA bursary – one of the most rewarding experiences of my career

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

AETM Conference 2017 and university visits, Melbourne, Australia

Attending the Audiovisual and Education Technology Management Conference (AETM) in Australia, made possible by a bursary from UCISA, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career to date.

Learning from peers

USICSA’s bursary scheme has supported the development of my career by giving me exposure to a conference where the other delegates have management responsibilities for audio visual technologies and the development of AV in teaching and learning spaces. This was a great opportunity to meet and network with AV teams from across Australia and with AETM members attending the conference from New Zealand.
The support from UCISA also gave me the opportunity to see how AV and IT technology is being converged to make effective and efficient use of technology in education outside of the UK.
During the trip and since my return I have shared my university visits and AETM conference experience via social media (Facebook and Twitter), the UCISA blog , via photos, 360º VR photos and interviews with members of the AV teams at each of the universities I visited. This information has been shared with others within higher and further education, including the UCISA community – for example, I am in touch with another bursary winner interested in AV developments, Ed Stout – as well as members of AETM in Australia. My UCISA blog posts have been shared via internal communications at the University of Greenwich. I have also shared the information about the social media pages I have been blogging to with my team and the first and second line teams at the university.

Insight into implementation of AV

The first week’s visits to five universities gave me an insight into how AV is implemented in Australia. The universities I visited were: Deakin University, Monash University, RMIT, Swinburne University and the University of Melbourne.
The differences in AV implementation ranged from which manufacturers had been used (some of which was due to geographical location and distribution), through to the remote equipment monitoring systems and the development of AV systems (in some cases, using universities’ own IT/AV teams and converging their skill sets). It was also interesting to see the mix of support models in use, with AV supported by internal teams in some institutions and by external companies in others.

AV projects

The AETM conference gave me yet more exposure to AV projects that have been undertaken and how they are managed in universities across Australia and New Zealand, as well as presentations from AV manufacturers. The conference also included presentations and tours around the teaching and learning spaces of the host university, the University of the Sunshine Coast, to show case their AV installations. This included a tour of the CAVE2TM, which provides a near-seamless 320-degree, immersive and panoramic 3D virtual environment, USC Nursing, Paramedic, House Simulation clinics and Law Moot court.

IP solutions

Of particular interest from a personal development point of view was that IP (internet protocol) based solutions are either being trialled or have been established at all the universities that I visited: IP solutions for wireless BYOD, audio over IP via AES67 for lecture capture, AV over IP to replace tradition HDBaseT and assistive hearing technologies over Wi-Fi. They seemed to be ahead of UK institutes, however I have seen this to be more and more the case in the UK from visits to other institutes and round table events, where AV over IP has been discussed as well as the development of AV IP technologies showcased at Integrated Systems Europe show (ISE).

Next steps

With this in mind, I am hoping to improve my knowledge of network infrastructures to help think about AV projects from both an AV and IT/IP point of view. The bursary has given me the opportunity to see how the AV world is moving further into the IT world and has influenced my decision to investigate the possibility of applying for a place on a Master’s Degree course in Computer Systems and Network Engineering.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Interview: How Deakin University is working towards an excellent user experience

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

AETM Conference 2017 and university visits, Melbourne, Australia

Ben Sleeman was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner
As part of my series of interviews with Jeremy West, Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution Team at Deakin University, we discussed the support structures and teams in place at the university in terms of AV support. In this interview, Jeremy outlines the teams involved in the running of the AV systems, how problem resolution is managed, and how the different teams are working together to lead to an excellent user experience.

Other areas I discussed with Jeremy in separate interviews included:
I will be blogging further about my conversations with Jeremy on other AV developments at Deakin.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.
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

Benefits of a steep learning curve by a UCISA bursary winner

Sara Henderson
Graduate Intern (Student Champion)
Student Systems Project (Corporate Information and Computer Services)
University of Sheffield

 

 

Sara Henderson was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Being awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the UCISA Support Services Group (SSG) 2017 conference was a highlight of my working year. Although SSG was not my initial choice, I felt privileged to be accommodated by the scheme nonetheless. Below is an account of how my attendance has positively shaped my professional development, institution and how this interacts with the wider HE IT sector.

For context, I am no longer working at Student Lifecycle Project at the University of Sheffield (formerly Student Systems Project), but the experience of UCISA-SSG has still had a lasting effect on my experience of the sector, as I will detail in the following paragraphs.

Professional development

Many aspects of the conference were a steep learning curve. Although I had attended conferences before, these were alongside my peers as an undergraduate, whereas UCISA-SSG17 allowed me to network with established and influential people in the sector. In some ways this was challenging – introducing myself and my involvement in the Project made me feel slightly vulnerable, but everyone I spoke to was interested and encouraging in equal measure.

Most notably, I was asked to speak on the Panel session – the headline event of the conference. Members of the panel were James Smith, Director of IT Services, Birkbeck, University of London; Adam Kearns, Students’ Union Postgraduate Office, University of Bath; Sebastian Barnes, IT Support Specialist, Leeds Beckett University, and myself. Although I was taken aback by the offer, I’m glad it was given relatively last minute, as it didn’t leave much time for the nerves to kick in. I had given presentations and spoken on a panel and in front of moderately-sized groups of people before, but never on this scale. I was accompanied by confident and competent speakers who luckily had most of the spotlight, and despite the topic areas being somewhat unfamiliar I was still able to draw on my experience as a student and university staff member. I was extremely proud of myself for accepting such a daunting but exciting opportunity, and grateful to UCISA for the experience.

Institutional benefit

Unfortunately, I was unable to present my experience of UCISA to student representatives at the University of Sheffield as I had hoped to, because the recruitment of said students was delayed for the duration of my contract on the Project. The time-scales and priorities of such a major business change project are extremely variable, so this is to be somewhat expected. However, I did share my experience with colleagues, conversationally rather than formally, and believe my attendance at the conference had a genuine impact on Student Lifecycle Project.

Firstly, I’m reminded of the ‘Adding Value with Values’ talk given by Alistair Reid-Pearson, IT Manager at the University of Huddersfield. I was heavily involved in the communication and marketing of the Project to stakeholders, and contributed to the development of our ‘Vision’, including our core values and principles. We acknowledged the importance of gaining buy-in from our team by inviting everyone to participate in the process of developing this piece.

Secondly, the electric discussion by Paul Boag, ‎User Experience Strategic Designer, Boagworks about User Experience How to start a user experience revolution’ carried through all the work I’ve done since hearing it. Being heavily involved in the prospective student enquiry management element of the project, I helped design enquiry categories in the new system, and formulate FAQs for student support and guidance. From content to layout, I began every consideration from the user’s perspective, as championed by Paul.

Lastly, Francesca Spencer’sTechnophobe Testing – an experience of providing a service to those who fear, dislike or avoid technology’ put accessibility at the forefront of my mind when supporting the development of software and services. I made it my priority to advocate for the needs of all staff and students, be it ‘technophobes’, disabled or differently-abled people, by urging their inclusion in the room.

Wider sector

It was a pleasure to contribute my dissemination to UCISA’s website (Part 1: Fresh meat and learning about user involvement and Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing) ), and I hope this was well-received. I connected on LinkedIn with some of the people I met at the conference, which has since provided plenty of reading material and food for thought, and allows me to learn from the hard-work and perseverance of others in the sector.

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

PPM, business operating systems and business strategy execution

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

Gartner Program and Portfolio Summit 2017 – Workshop

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 Summit 2017.

Track: Transformation Gets Real: Executing Against Strategy
How Business Operating Systems Can Guide PPM Leaders to Manage Business Strategy Execution (Advanced) by Marc Kerremans

This session was targeted towards Business leaders and PMOs. Marc spoke of his practical experiences of working with business operating systems and building a strategy around them.   Interestingly, Marc delivered the presentation using a navigator as a concept and the audience were the stakeholders.

There were some key takeaway points around planning and execution and Marc talked about ‘Required Practice’1He also addressed three terms:

  • Term A. ‘Visibility’2 – my understanding is that this refers to what is going on in the organisation and that there is visibility of information and whether benefits are being realised around methodology.
  • Term B. ‘Accountability3 – my opinion is that the person who is responsible is getting the things done and is accountable for it.
  • Finally, Term C. ‘Adaptability’4 – my view of adaptability is that we need to understand what is happening around the organisation and then manage the work priorities accordingly.

I will be blogging on specific Summit sessions such as this one, but information on some of the other keynotes and events can be found here.

Full details on the 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 1, 2, 3, 4:

Kerremans, M, (2017, p. 7), Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit 2017, Presentation: How Business Operating Systems can Guide PPM Leaders to Manage Business Strategy Execution (Advanced), Gartner, 12-13 June 2017

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

Benefits of receiving a UCISA bursary

Giuseppe Sollazzo

 

 

 

Giuseppe Sollazzo
Senior Systems Analyst
St George’s, University of London

 

 

 

 

Last October I was lucky enough to be selected for a UCISA bursary to attend O’Reilly Velocity in Amsterdam. Velocity is one of the most important conferences for performances in IT Systems, which is my area of work at St George’s, University of London: I lead a team of systems analysts who take care of the ongoing maintenance and development of our infrastructure. I had wanted to attend the conference for quite a while, but was always prevented from doing so by the hefty funding required, something that my institution could not readily justify.

The format of Velocity is particularly well suited to a mixture of blue-sky thinking, practical learning, networking with other professionals. Each day ran from 8:30 till 18:30. Following this schedule for three days was intense, but extremely rewarding in terms of learning.

I have written blogs for UCISA day by day throughout the conference. You can read about the specific sessions I followed on each day at the following links: day one, day two and day three. In summary, I learned about a mixture of practical techniques and heard about experiences in a variety of sectors.

As I wrote in my first blog post ahead of the conference, a focus on performance and optimisation is important for academic IT services, and specifically for my institution: with our 300 servers and 30,000 accounts to take care of, this is not just an important consideration, but our major worry on a daily basis. Access to funding is becoming increasingly competitive, as is student and researcher recruitment; it is becoming our primary goal to provide systems that are effective, secure, scalable, fast, and at the same time manageable by constrained staff numbers.

I was interested in three types of sessions:

  • practical tutorials about established techniques and tools
  • storytelling from people who have applied techniques to certain specific situations
  • sessions about new learning about new systems, to see where the industry is heading to.

Velocity has been great to help me crystallise my strategy on how to make St George’s systems evolve. In the past four months, this has translated into taking action on a number of aspects of our infrastructure. The most important are the following:

  • leading the team to build upon our logging systems, in order to extract metrics and improve the ability to respond to incidents
  • increasing our dependability on our ticketing system, by measuring response times and starting a project to make the ongoing monitoring of this part of our weekly service reviews
  • launching an investigation into researchers’ needs in terms of data storage and high performance computing; this has so far resulted in an experimental HPC cluster, which we are testing in collaboration with genomics and statistical researchers who are interested in massively parallel computations where performances are vital to the timeliness of research results for publishing.

I’m very grateful to UCISA for the opportunity it has given me. The knowledge and experience I’ve gathered at Velocity have been invaluable not just for starting new projects and reviewing our current service offer, but most importantly in beginning to understand what our strategy to maintain performances should be to still be able, in five to ten years’ time, to provide excellent industry-standard services to our community.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.