Tag Archives: technological innovations

Thinking outside the box with CPD

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Following on from my earlier posts about convergence, creativity, customer focus, and empathy, this article looks at another of the themes which was prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018: Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
As the first month of the year draws to a close, with the threat of freezing temperatures and snow, many of us may find our resolve to stick to a new year programme of healthy eating, more exercise and quitting our vices of choice tested. The desire to curl up in front of the fire with a drink and some comfort food may well become harder to resist as temptation knocks on the snow-laden window.
But not all resolutions are about quitting bad habits. Many of us will have started the year with goals to learn a new skill, gain a new qualification or simply to learn something new and certainly many of the speakers at last year’s Business Analysis Conference 2018 appeared to advocate this as a personal goal.

CPD outside the box

Indeed much of the focus of Sir Clive Woodward’s inspiring keynote talk on the morning of Day 2 was on ‘relentless learning’; a lifelong practice of curiosity, seeking out new knowledge and dedicating time and energy to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). However, Sir Clive advocated thinking outside of the box with your learning as skills and knowledge which may initially seem irrelevant to your role, may give you unexpected benefits. I believe that this is particularly true today, with an unprecedented rate of technological change and new entrants to almost every industry seeking to disrupt the status quo, it is difficult to predict what skills any job role will require in the future.
Further to my earlier blog on convergence, I find it quite exciting that twelve years ago, the job roles of ‘Digital Marketing Manager’ or ‘Social Media Content Producer’ didn’t really exist. Where traditionally marketing and IT were somewhat separate entities, technological developments and the adoption of web technologies and digital marketing, have caused the two to converge. Many marketing roles require more technological knowledge and business-facing IT roles require more of an understanding of customer behaviour than perhaps ever before.
Sir Clive’s example of developing skills outside of your immediate field, was his experience of managing the England rugby team. When he took over management of the team, he bought a laptop for each team member and insisted that they learned how to use it; an unusual ask perhaps in an era where device ownership was significantly less pervasive than it is today. Facing scepticism from the team and critics alike, Woodward argued that ‘those that win at technology, tend to win’ and he was proved right.
In due course, a sophisticated sports monitoring software package arrived on the market, enabling video playback of a match, overlaid with data and analytics which could provide insight into player behaviour, strategy and tactics from both teams. With their new-found IT skills, the entire team were able to analyse, learn and understand their – and the opposing team’s – gameplay and input recommendations for improvements to tactics and strategy based upon this. Had the team constrained their skills development to the core skillset needed for playing rugby, it is likely that they would not have been able to embrace this technology, leverage its capabilities and collectively gain so much benefit and competitive advantage from its use.

Time and cost hacks for CPD

When it comes to finding ways to develop your skills, particularly when self-funding, it may seem that cost is prohibitive, but learning doesn’t need to be expensive. Platforms such as FutureLearn and the OU’s OpenLearn have a plethora of free, online courses at all levels, many of which are modules taken from current degree courses. There are also a number of free conferences and networking events for many industries and areas of interest. Jisc’s annual Digifest the Education sector is a personal favourite. Tools such as Eventbrite, Meetup or simply Google can all help you to find free events near you. Viewing videos on YouTube or TED can be another way of learning quickly and informally.
Time may be another factor that poses a barrier to CPD, but this is where digital technologies can really help. Many courses are now delivered digitally and can be consumed in bite-sized chunks at a time to suit you. This micro-learning is one of many trends towards digitisation and consumer-centred demand in learning technology and is brilliant for busy people to squeeze in some structured personal development throughout the course of the day. Do you find yourself scrolling endlessly through Facebook or LinkedIn? Why not switch one of those scrolling sessions to viewing a short training video? Better still if ‘spend less time on social media’ was one of your new year’s resolutions!
Learning doesn’t need to be structured either. The old adage ‘you learn something new every day’ is quite true, but often we don’t realise that we’re picking up new skills and learning new things. Putting aside a few minutes at the end of the day to consider what you’ve learnt and how you can apply it helps to identify these ‘on the job’ development opportunities. But what if you’re finding that you’re not learning anything new? Well, perhaps it’s time to start looking for new opportunities in or out of work to stretch, develop and grow yourself. Learning a new skill as a hobby can also open doors or show you new paths. You may enjoy your new sport, art or community hobby so much you may decide to make a career from it, or find a way to incorporate your new skillset learned from your hobby to enhance your job and career. For example, in my spare time, I perform as an actor in a theatre group. At work, I use the skills I’ve learned in my acting training when approaching public speaking or facilitating workshops. I also run training courses on this for my colleagues in order to share my somewhat unconventional skillset!
So to summarise, learning doesn’t necessarily need to be related to your day job. All new skills are valuable and as demonstrated by Sir Clive and the England rugby squad, you never know when you will use something that initially seems completely unrelated to your job. Take control of your own development by being mindful of opportunities when they present themselves to you and using digital platforms for free, quick micro learning that can fit into your life when and where it suits you.

Coming Soon…

We’re nearly at the end of my series of ‘Top Takeaways from the Business Analysis Conference 2018’, so thank you to everyone who has been following these blogs and commenting. For the final instalment on the theme of ‘Catastrophising’, I will be trying something a little different and not only creating my first vlog, but doing so from Death Valley in California and Red Rock Canyon in Nevada! Watch this space and all will become clear!
This blog first appeared on Rachel’s Linkedin blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Reflecting on change in IT

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Team Manager
Loughborough University

Educause 2018 – Day Three

Day Three of Educause, I say “day”, it’s more of a half day, and the numbers are rather thinning out after yesterday. With exhibitors packing up and going home (or taking half day trips to the mountains in the case of those I had dinner with last night) we are down to the hard core of attendees. We’re still talking a couple of thousand people, but the 8am (a lie-in!) session on change management was sparsely attended compared to the standing room only at some of the other sessions in the last few days.
Change management is an ever important topic, and it’s a process that is evolving and maturing at many UK universities. If it is introduced in a way that appears too heavy-handed to your IT specialists, you risk disengaging them, so it is something that needs to have a nuanced approach, with changes around certain times of year subject to more scrutiny, and a lot of team/service manager discretion built in to the process for more regular/routine changes. A robust and engaged change management board is important, and if they are not paying enough attention to changes then this kind of negates their usefulness. It’s a process that needs to be designed with the input of many stakeholders in IT, not just those at senior management level. There was plenty of lively debate during this session.
The next session was on the topic of “onboarding”, or in plain English, “what happens when someone joins your organisation/department/team”. This is something that I’ve been interested in for a while. Thinking back to my own experience way back in 1996 (yes, I’ve been with the same organisation for over 22 years, in different roles), I think it’s fair to say that this is one process that hasn’t really moved with the times. This was an interesting session from Dartmouth College. That’s in Hanover, New Hampshire, as opposed to the one that I’ve been to, the town on the western bank of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon.
Dartmouth have some famous alumni, with perhaps the most notable being Nelson Rockefeller (Gerald Ford’s vice president). The journey that they take their new staff on is quite an interesting one, and certainly seems to be an enriching experience for new employees. How much of it might translate to a smaller country and institution is something to reflect upon, but there was plenty of food for thought. I’ll come back to food in a moment.
After a break to grab a final coffee, we find ourselves back in the Bellco Theatre, and the wings are not as full as on the first morning.

(click on image to enlarge)
We are here for Alexis Ohanian, aka Mr Serena Williams, aka the co-founder of Reddit. His presentation was entitled “Make Something People Love” and was a very interesting delve into the olden days of the modern web (some of us are old enough to remember the 1990s web), featuring lots of early screenshots of popular sites and social media platforms. Do you remember the first days of Twttr (when it had no vowels)?
Alexis had a lot to say on this, and lots of insight. Nowadays we can go out to lunch, take a photo of our smashed avocado on rye presented on a slate, and then share that using an app with a beautifully designed user experience.
When we get back to lunch, we then have to interact with an ugly HR or finance system which seems to have had no thought given to the user experience. Why is it that Instagram is a more pleasurable experience than Oracle E-Business Suite Financials?
A genuinely engaging keynote, so much to think about. Maybe over lunch which can then be shared on social media? Not today I’m afraid, as this was the close of the conference. No lunch today, so several thousand delegates streamed out of the Bellco Theatre, and in to the surrounding streets to find something to eat, whilst digesting the conference proceedings. I’ll digest them and produce a brief summary tomorrow.
This first appeared on the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group blog.
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.