Tag Archives: technology

Time for IT at the top table

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Key take-outs for CIOs:

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

Setting the scene for reflections on DigPedLab Vancouver 2017

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Background

A bit about me….

I’m Beccy Dresden, a Senior TEL Designer (TEL = technology enhanced learning) at The Open University, where I’ve worked for nearly 18 years. I joined the OU from a professional publishing background, and have supported the development of modules on subjects as diverse as law, languages, social work, and English grammar.

My department – the TEL Design team – works in partnership with academic experts, Learning and Teaching Innovation portfolio colleagues, and students and tutors, to design, produce, support and evaluate OU modules. The team’s work draws on and contributes to the learning, teaching and innovation evidence base of the University, and embodies emerging technologies and research to reinforce the OU’s position as the UK leader in supported online and distance learning. The modules we produce are now digital by default, but we are keen to ensure that the online experience we offer our students is driven by pedagogy, not technology. Within the TEL Design team, my particular areas of interest and scholarship are:

  • the use of social media in HE (both in terms of student-facing content, and as a tool/platform in the continuing professional development (CPD) of academic and professional support staff), and
  • developing digital capabilities (again, in terms of both students and staff at the OU).

Those areas of interest are what led me – via Twitter, Martin Weller, and Lawrie Phipps, among others – to discover Hybrid Pedagogy and their Digital Pedagogy Lab Institutes, or DigPedLab for short.

About DigPedLab Institutes

Ever since I applied for the UCISA bursary back in April, I’ve struggled to explain clearly and concisely to people quite what a DigPedLab Institute is – even those working in the ed tech sector have given me slightly puzzled looks – and each institute is slightly different, so it’s not even a single thing. To focus on the one I attended, in the organisers’ words:

DPL Vancouver is a three-day institute that explores the role and application of digital technology in teaching. Three tracks offer intensive peer-driven learning with and discussion of open education, new media, and critical digital pedagogy.

Participants choose between one of three tracks and work collaboratively in small workshop-style classes. Each track is open to all backgrounds and skill levels. Each day of the institute begins with discussion that will play into the day’s work. A continental breakfast will be provided before sessions begin mid-morning, followed by lunch. Afternoons will be split into multiple sessions and will include keynote presentations, workshops, and other activities. Each day will end before dinner. The learning community we create together will be welcoming to a wide range of skill levels and interests.”

The tracks on offer in Vancouver were:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose Digital Literacies led by Bonnie Stewart.  This track was described as:

“focused on the development of participatory, networked literacies that enable collaboration, contribution, and critical sense-making within information abundance. It fosters a critical orientation toward tools, portfolios, and digital presence within networks. Participants will discuss and experiment with various technological tools from the chalkboard to moveable chairs, computers, mobile devices, social media platforms, and learning management systems. Individual sessions and workshops will focus on teaching philosophies, discernment practices for using digital tools in courses, emergent learning, digital composition, and discussions of the impact of the digital on traditional and critical pedagogies.”

Apart from wanting to be taught by Bonnie, whom I have long admired for her clear-sighted and thoughtful-yet-practical approach to complex digital pedagogy issues, I thought that learning about new critical perspectives for evaluating digital tools and approaches would be invaluable for me and my department.

My further blogs are really just an overview of an intense, inspiring, and challenging weekend that – nearly five months later – is still affecting how I approach my work and my social (media) interactions every day.

Technology Enhanced Active Learning and Active Learning Spaces

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University

EDUCAUSE 2017

At the recent EDUCASE 2017 conference, which I was able to join courtesy of a UCISA bursary, I was able to attend a session on Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs), named by EDUCAUSE as the top strategic technology of 2017 due to the popularity and innovation of ALCs. Active learning classrooms (ALCs) are designed to create affordances that support active learning pedagogies (which research has demonstrated are better when compared with more passive types of learning).

Presented by D. Christopher Brooks and Malcolm Brown (from EDUCAUSE), Melody Buckner  (University of Arizona), Adam Finkelstein (McGill University) and Sehoya Cotner (University of Minnesota), the session explored the research around ALCs as well as looking at the teaching practices that work best in them. There were examples from research, at the University of Minnesota, where the traditional teaching (large lectures) was compared with smaller ALC style teaching. This showed that students in traditional classrooms achieved as expected, however ALC students outperformed against their expected grades. One message that came out of the session was that potential of ALCs can only be realised if you have good teaching. Changing the space may mean that the instructor doesn’t know how to teach in the new space (teachers may try and use the traditional lecture style in the new spaces so, for example, students would have their back to lecturers) and active learning gains are achieved by academics teaching to fit the learning space.

Goals of the Active Learning Initiative

The third day of the EDUCAUSE conference, had a  further technology session presented by Virginia Lacefield, Enterprise Architect at University of Kentucky, looking at ‘Evaluating the Impact of Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms on Students and Instructors: Lessons from our First Full Year’.

Between 2014 and 2016, the University of Kentucky had opened 17 new Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) spaces at the university and carried out an evaluation of the impact of these on teaching, student learning outcomes and retention. The data collected consisted of surveys from both students and instructors as well as classroom observations and course grades. The classroom observations (adapted from the University of Minnesota developed instrument) were timed observations where every five minutes they marked down what the students and instructor were doing.

The observations showed a great deal of variation between classes. The findings of the staff survey showed that 18% of staff did not plan to use active learning strategies and 29% of staff planned not to use the TEAL equipment. 126 of the courses taught in TEAL had enough data points for comparison, 35 of these courses had significant grade differences for all students (29 had a positive difference favouring the TEAL sections, six had a positive difference favouring the non-TEAL sections). When they looked at retention, they found that there was significant correlation between number of TEAL courses taken and second year retention. As a result they are increasing the support for staff to help support the use of TEAL, such as technology/pedagogy open houses, scheduled one-on-one support appointments, giving advance notice of classroom assignment and communicating about available support resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other highlights of the EDUCAUSE conference included:

 

 

 

Learning, networking and discussing

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University 

EUNIS 2017 overall reflections

I feel highly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend EUNIS17 through the success of my bursary application to UCISA and will be forever grateful for this opportunity. The conference has been a great place to not only learn new technologies and techniques that can be implemented to benefit our home institutions, but also a fantastic opportunity to network with a broad range of IT professionals working in higher education throughout Europe. I have personally found it very interesting to share stories of our own successes and challenges which encourage further discussion amongst peers from their own perspective. It has been comforting to see that a range of challenges are shared by many of us and also to see where we at Leeds Beckett University are working at the forefront in HE. Everyone that I met through attendance at the keynotes and parallel sessions as well as the social opportunities, were fantastically welcoming and open to honest discussion around their own institution’s IT implementations. It has proven to be eye opening and given me plenty of food for thought to bring back and discuss further within my own institution.

It was my first time visiting Munster and my experience in Germany has been entirely positive. Munster is a very beautiful city with plenty of interesting historical architecture. However, my first impression which struck me on my first night of arrival was that is seem to be a bit of a ghost town. Having arrived after 10 pm and walked from the train station to my hotel there was next to nobody around, which is very different in my experiences elsewhere. Thankfully the next morning demonstrated the natural hustle and bustle of busy city life. The main difference I witnessed immediately from my experiences back home was simply the thousands of cyclists buzzing around the streets at some speed, it felt like being in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

The conference felt well organised and the flow from session to session worked very well. It was clear that plenty of planning had been conducted to ensure that we delegates got the best experience from the three days (four for some who attended the pre-conference sessions). Reviewing it from my professional perspective, there were no obvious technical issues experienced throughout the sessions I attended and any minor glitches were proactively picked up by the local support team, which I thought was impressive. Overall, it has been a very enjoyable conference experience and one that I would highly recommend to others in the future. Given that next year’s conference is due to take place in Paris, I would imagine that there may be more UK representation in the delegation as I was the only one (at least that I encountered) representing a UK university. This primarily had a number of benefits however, with a range of questions from European peer institutions directed towards me, and equally allowed me a cross-European perspective on topics of interest.

All relevant information relating to EUNIS 17 can be found on the official site here.

… and a book of all EUNIS 2017 proceedings including all papers can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/

 

Bitcoin: trust and technology


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University 

EUNIS 2017

The final keynote session of the EUNIS 2017 conference from Nikolas Guggenberger, RWTÜV Foundation Assistant Professor of IT Law at University of Münster School of Law, took on an interesting look at ‘Trust by technology from a legal perspective’ in the form of a deeper investigation into public Blockchain, the technology behind crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin. Very early in the presentation, Nikolas had us asking ourselves “what causes us to trust something or someone?” which seemed quite an intriguing question as it isn’t one that I had particularly spent time thinking about before. My initial thought was simply that it is something I personally build through experience but is that really an option in the anonymous world of virtual currencies?

Nikolas gave a number of us less educated on the workings of public Blockchain, an insight into what it is and how it functions. Blockchain is a distributed, decentralised database, which particularly came into the public domain since the origin of the most successful crypto-currency, Bitcoin. It uses maths, cryptography and a network of distributed users (PCs) to ensure the authenticity of a transaction that can be verified by the whole community. The members of the community that verify this authenticity can take a small transaction fee for playing their part in the process (this is known as mining).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The huge potential of a public Blockchain is yet to be fully unlocked but the principle in use removes the need to trust third parties such as banks during transactions and instead relies on the trust of the Blockchain itself. The scope of trust by Blockchain was illustrated by Nikolas in the diagram below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikolas offered us a very interesting insight into the potential of Blockchain and some of the legal considerations from his professional view point. It became evidently clear that there is a huge scope for benefits to be realised beyond that currently using Blockchain and that these could become a standard in our future. I found it a highly interesting keynote and one to investigate further in the coming weeks and months.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

 

New ideas and innovative concepts

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University
 

EUNIS 2017 Day 3 Reflections

Day 3 was a shorter day at EUNIS17 with an early afternoon closing to allow for everyone to travel home.  In contrast to the previous two days, it started with a number of optional parallel sessions to choose from in place of early morning keynotes. This morning I chose to mix-and-match with parallel sessions, starting off in a session on the “New Ideas & Innovative Concepts” track and following on to 2 sessions on “Learning, Teaching & Student Experience”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mikko Mäkelä and his colleagues at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland are required like many of us to have to optimise their estate and within that their technology offerings. This was discussed in Mikko’s session ‘New Ideas & Innovative Concepts: Laptop Lending, with Zero Effort?

Additionally, the BYOD world in which we are now living is having an effect on our students’ expectations and the way in which they learn both on and off campus. Mikko identified that this change in technology provision should not simply be driven by the IT department but also by the changes in teaching styles within the business. It was highlighted that a key factor in deciding what we need to provide is to better understand how our students are currently working and indeed how they would like to learn and work in the future.

By comparison to some other universities having presented at EUNIS17, Metropolia University is a relatively modestly sized university with just over 16,000 students and around 1,000 staff.  They identified that the classroom PCs were not utilised enough and that they may be in the wrong locations. Additionally, they were commonly not available at peak times between 10:00 and 14:00. It was therefore decided that a new approach had to be adopted to enable increased flexibility whilst offering a service that was of high-quality, available where and when required, and inclusive of all appropriate software. Metropolia investigated a variety of the lending options that were on the market including those from Posti, Redbox, D-Tech International and Ergotron. Following this, a number of their students undertook projects to design and develop a suitable laptop loans offering and created a new solution they named “LaptopLender”. Their resultant theses can be found link below: (please note they are in Finnish)

Theses 1

Theses 2

A link to Mikko’s presentation slides can be found: Eunis2017: Laptop lending, with zero-effort?

A link to Mikko’s “Laptop lending, with zero-effort?” paper can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

 

 

AETM Conference 2017, Melbourne, Australia


 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

This November I will be attending the Audiovisual and Education Technology Management (AETM) Conference held at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, along with visits to five universities in Melbourne as part of the UCISA bursary award scheme.

Details of the AETM Conference can be found here.

Universities I will be visiting are:

I will be making blog posts here on the UCISA blog and on a number of social media sites throughout my trip and I hope to produce some interesting vlogs during my time in Australia. The links for the various social media sites can be found below.

Social media site addresses:

Facebook

Twitter

LinkedIn.

 

Next generation Digital Learning Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive Officer of IMS Global Learning Consortium, came across from the USA to talk us through his thoughts on the future of Digital Learning Architecture in Higher Education at EUNIS 2017. He very quickly put strong emphasis on the importance of a digital transformation strategy within HE institutions and outlined that IT should be an enabler to teaching and learning innovation. Dr. Abel’s presentation had so much content, in truth it was difficult to keep up. He gave us an overview of the tools and technology in place within the HE market for teaching and learning as outlined in the photo below: (apologies for poor image quality)


 

 

 

 

 

 

An outdated architecture for learning had different systems uniquely silo-ed with little to no interoperability:


 

 

 

 

 

 

What if now it was quicker and easier to make systems work in harmony, to benefit the connected learner? Well, Dr. Abel, in collaboration with Malcolm Brown (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) and Jack Suess (University of Maryland), had previously written a paper in 2013 analysing “A New Architecture for Learning” which highlights the need for an IT department to be agile, flexible and allow for personalisation when integrating new innovative learning technologies. Seamless interoperability between both current and future developed systems is the key to success; not simply an over-reliance on a current Learning Management System (LMS), but an ecosystem developed beyond it. Dr Abel referenced a very useful paper produced by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative in 2015 entitled “The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” which is worth your time to read and is available here

Dr. Abel then took the opportunity to take us on a high-speed tour of the benefits and impact of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), which include:

  • Reduced integration time and cost by a factor of 100-1000x
  • Ubiquitous across 70+ learning platforms
  • Hundreds of certified LTI apps of varying types
  • Foundation of interoperable edtech ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMS Global have publicly released Caliper, a learning analytics interoperability framework that enables the collection, storage and transportation of data about learning. The Caliper framework removes the limitations of a single LMS system and opens up a broad range of benefits to be realised through the integration and interoperability of multiple systems. It is worth noting that it is being taken seriously by many HE institutions and partners, so is not one to simply toss aside without further investigation.

Seven things you should know about Caliper

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

Part 1: Fresh meat and learning about user involvement

 

 

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

 

 

UCISA SSG17: Reflections from a bursary scheme winner

I should start by introducing myself.  I’m Sara and I work as Student Engagement Officer on a major business change project at the University of Sheffield.  I began in January on the University’s Graduate Internship Scheme, before being extended in my role.  A colleague encouraged me to apply to UCISA’s bursary scheme as a junior member of staff, so that I did.

I am interested in technology but motivated by people, so SSG17 presented the perfect opportunity to learn from others in the sector and gain a wider perspective on the work I’m doing.  Now that’s out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.  I present to you my diary (of sorts) from the conference, showcasing some of my thoughts and favourite moments.

Day 1

11:30am

Fuelled by coffee and adrenaline, I find myself in the conference exhibition space, perusing the exhibition but avoiding eye contact.  I glance around the room to see pockets of conversation forming; for some this is an opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, whereas the rest of us are fresh meat.

13:10pm

Neil Morris from the University of Leeds captures the delegates’ imagination with his presentation ‘Reimagining Traditional Higher Education in the Digital Age’ , focused on how to embed technology-enhanced learning in partnership with students.  “We don’t involve students in projects, we don’t seek their feedback in ways they are interested in giving it, or make use of their intelligence and creativity”.

Neil’s talk affirms why I wanted to come to this conference, challenging the status so often assigned to students – as being passive receivers of knowledge and services, rather than intelligent consumers.  We ought to be involving students in project work, fundamentally and authentically.

15:50pm

Room 101 proves a fantastic way to end the first day, with an all-female panel and some very funny moments.  Did someone say Apple Genius Bar?

11:20am

The day kicks off to an unnerving start when I find out that the panel I am shortly appearing on is one of the most popular sessions of the conference.  To find out more about my experience, head over to my second post – ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’.

12:20pm

Now for perhaps my favourite talk of the conference: ‘Technophobe Testing’ by Francesca Spencer (Leeds Beckett University).  The basic premise is that in IT of all places, we ought to be involving technophobes, because they can actually be a help rather than a hindrance to our work.  Francesca had the brainwave of recruiting some self-confessed technophobes, and observing their use of AV equipment in a judgement-free zone to determine how to make it more user-friendly.  We need to embed our users in the process of implementing technology (before it’s too late).

Day 3

9:00am

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to climb down from my pedestal during breakfast, on what is affectionately known as “fuzzy Friday”. Unlike some of the conference-goers making a beeline for a fry-up, I opted to for a sensible night in after a case of conference-fatigue…

12:30pm

Paul Boag closes SSG17 by informing us ‘How to Create a User Experience Revolution’ .  His insistence that “if you don’t speak to your users once every six weeks, you don’t get to be a stakeholder in a project” certainly rung true, and he comfortably drew together some key themes from the conference, about collaborative working, establishing shared values and cultural change.

So there we have it – my experience in a nutshell.  Thank you to UCISA for having me, and if you want to hear more from me, head over to my second post ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’, or follow me on LinkedIn:

(Presentations and video streaming available at the conference website)

Post-conference reflections from a bursary award winner

Allister-Homes-Profile-pic---small

 

 

Allister Homes
Senior Systems Architect
University of Lincoln

Gartner EA Summit – a week on

It’s been a week since I got back from the Gartner EA Summit in London, so I thought I would provide some reflections on the event. These are purely my opinions, and other people may well have a different take. If you’d like to see more of the detail of the event, have a look at my previous two posts (day 1 and day 2).

I think the focus was on larger organisations, and there was often an unvoiced assumption that there were significant numbers of architects and developers within the organisation (compared with what a typical university would have). It wasn’t unusual for suggestions to be made along the lines of ‘when you get back, why not assemble a small team of 5 people to go and investigate X, Y and Z’; having the capacity to do that sort of thing at short-notice sounds like quite a luxury.

Like many large conferences the non-keynote sessions were categorised into tracks, and at this summit they were A: Delivering Business Outcomes, B: Leveraging and Leading Practices in EA and C: Architecting the Digital Business. Rather than stick to a particular track I moved between them, going to the sessions that sounded most relevant to my work, organisation and sector. Sessions that were in the same stream contained common threads, as you would expect, and – in a couple of cases – some repetition.

I think directly applying what I learnt to day-to-day EA in HE will be more challenging than I initially thought it would be. This is because many of the sessions I attended were future-based (what changes to consider in the coming years) and either very strategic or focussed on large-scale IT development approaches (such as changing paradigms to one of micro-services and web-scale IT). It’s not an event that I would suggest attending every year, but would perhaps provide a useful background of EA direction every two or three years.

Being candid, the networking was not as useful as I had hoped. Conversations seemed to be mostly between people who already knew each other, which of course is only natural for any of us. I tried starting conversations with a number of attendees during breaks, but found that although everyone would give succinct answers to opening questions along the lines of where they were from, what they thought of the previous session, and so on, I couldn’t get a conversation going. I thought perhaps it was just me for a while, but then noticed the same thing happening to other people making such attempts too (which was something of a relief!).

As I mentioned, I selected the sessions that sounded most relevant rather than what sounded most intriguing or interesting from a personal rather than professional point of view – e.g. I went to ‘Business-Outcome-Driven Application Strategy’ rather than ‘Smart Machine Disruptions Will Dominate This Decade’, which ran at the same time. In hindsight the more extravagant sounding sessions may have contained relevant information too and perhaps provided some alternative ways of thinking about things.

The above may sound a little negative but that’s not my intention. It was an interesting and useful conference to attend, and I’m just trying to provide an honest and balanced opinion. I think the main topics and take-away points, based on the sessions I attended, in no particular order, were:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) will become more important and will need more consideration, including by considering Things in the business domain, not just information systems or infrastructure domains. Also, computing everywhere is becoming the norm, but try to think people first rather than mobile devices.
  • Organisations need to operate in the digital world and interact digitally. Expect significant changes over the next 5-10 years, not just small increments – things you cannot yet imagine.
  • Large-scale application architecture is shifting towards an app and service approach, and a more extreme approach to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). For new-style web-scale IT (but not enterprise scale core systems so far) there is a shift away from large systems and databases, including moving away from 3NF.
  • Software defined applications and infrastructure should be expected for networks, security, and other core elements to replace less flexible and less responsive infrastructure.
  • Business architecture is a critical element of EA (but we all know this already, don’t we?)
  • Attention needs to be paid to enabling technology to respond to business moments. It is often impossible to predict these business moments, so the approach must be to architect for agility instead.
  • Use the wisdom of the crowd: consider taking advantage of opportunities to crowd source solutions to problems, whether in the business or information systems domains.
  • Make good use of models, roadmaps, stories and personas to engage people, explore with them and explain to them. Use the right tools and techniques for the people in question.
  • Cloud offerings are becoming more complex, so architects need to understand what vendors are really offering, not just the fog and hype. Reasons for moving to cloud are not just cost (and in fact there is often no cost saving) – instead the drivers tend to be technology agility, business agility, offloading responsibilities, and advantages of security and scale. Most organisations are likely to use a hybrid of cloud services.

 

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