Friday, 26 March 2010

Practice makes perfect

Both Sam and I have had two days in Birmingham this week as part of the FSD programme. These were very useful. The first day was focused on the work different projects are doing around Enterprise Architecture, and how it works best where the approach is used but the term isn’t! It was good to review where we where as a project not just in terms of Enable but also with the mini project around e-enabling our External Examiners processes. There was also a review on the last meeting and that we needed to be careful not to try and take too many big steps (Ross et al 2006) but rather move from silos, to standard tech, to optimised core and finally the Holy Grail – Business Modularity. By doing the baby steps we reduce the chance of failure. I got a few to do reminders out of the day – including read the book by Ross on “Enterprise Architecture as a Strategy” and reading the Cairo final report, along with trying to track down the governance documents provided by Liverpool John Moore. It is really good how the more advanced projects are helping those of us just finding our feet. It was also good to see how different institutions addressed creating models and that there was no single right answer for everyone. There was general agreement that EA should be used as a method for enabling change, part of a strategy to support projects, which links back to those times I have spoken about programme management (Managing change and innovation, More Snow time, Merry Christmas and many more!).

We got to see a demonstration of the application CETIS have been developing to support those interested in doing EA modelling, with the right tools, but without the scary BizzDesign software and their licensing! This looks like a great starting point and something I would be interested in as we don’t use a lot of the features of BizzDesign at the moment, although I can see how BizzDesign is useful as the model and we get more sophisticated in our needs.

The second day was more generalist in talking about shared services, supporting student services, and SOA. This is the harder day for me being less technical than I used to be but I find it really useful seeing what other institutions are trying and hearing about their experiences. We talked about how others could benefit from this expertise, it was clear that the group wanted somewhere “safe” to discuss issues and models.

The afternoon session started with an extremely useful Dragons Den where we had to sell our projects, this was the first time I had done it without support, and I think it went ok. It has certainly made me realise that I know more than I thought about EA and also helped me with the understanding of what we need to communicate to senior staff about our “mini” project. Hopefully this knowledge will stick with me as we move forward in the project.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Moving Forward

The team has had a busy week, we had the Enable SMWG meeting on Tuesday which is our first get together since the middle of last year, we also had some dissemination events to attend and a Document Management workshop. It was good to get everyone around the table again for the SMWG. We were able to give them a quick update on what we had been up to and how we have been using the Enterprise Programme Approach to support projects, including working closely with initiatives such as the Quality Review and the SURF Portfolio Review. We also gave each member a copy of all the issues that arose during the first interview phase, broken down by those already being addressed and those not being addressed. Those highlighted as not being addressed also had an “impact” column. The SMWG has been asked to look through this list and see whether they agree with the issues (or whether they are perceptions – as discussed in “Barriers to being flexible – Myth or Reality?”. We have also asked them to consider which issues they think should be the priority for the university.

One of the main streams of the Enable is to help support a change in how we do CDD. As part of this we do the programme approach mentioned above, but we also want something tangible. As part of this we have taken the work of the Quality Review and their recommendations and taken one aspect we could use within Enable, as an example of the benefits of using a holistic approach. We will be using the same modelling framework that we used to create the baseline report and intend to fully engaging all stakeholders involved. We are looking at a 6 month initiative to e-enable the External Examiner process within QIS and Faculties. This was deemed to be be a practical scope for the Enable project team to handle, and with the help of those within the Quality Review we will also be creating the “to be” model mentioned in previous posts. This was presented at the SMWG with the use of a PID (Project Initiation Document) which raised some questions that we needed to address:

  • What technology are we planning to use? this was raised as we need to review document management as part of this work, and we mentioned that an example would be SharePoint. This made the SMWG think we had already picked the technology. We haven’t and in fact we are part of a steering group that is looking at university wide requirements for document management. This group is designed to give the university a solution (or number of solutions) for document management within a short time frame.
  • Is this just a solution for solutions sake? No, this was a real problem highlighted by the Quality Review, it is a small scope project that will be able to prove proof of concept that can be moved to other areas of CDD once the “to be” model has been created, and the skills have been acquired to implement the solution.
  • Are we really planning to model both “as is “ and “to be” of the whole of CDD in 6 months? Yes and No, most of the “as is” model has been produced as part of the baseline report from last year, although some changes have taken place that need to go in, the “to be” model can not be created without the input of process owners, we will be modelling how they see the “to be” not creating it in isolation as we don’t own the processes. We can however use the “as is” model to help identify areas of improvement.

We have had the go ahead on the “project” however we are all meeting again in 6 weeks to discuss the proposals given by the Document Management Group as to what technologies need to be in place and what the cost implications would be and how they would be handled.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Learning to stretch – becoming flexible

This weeks interviews have been very useful in understanding how we need to learn to be flexible, where we need to bend to make CDD easier.

  • Communication – we need to be flexible on how we communicate both internally and externally. We can’t assume that because we know something everyone else knows it too. This has been raised a number of times this week as an issue, “information may already be out there but I don’t know where it is without help.” and “I try and get information but can sometimes feel like I know less now than I did before”. Examples include, knowing about our QIS website, knowing changes have been made to processes and supporting documents, knowing where documents are stored, knowing the right person to talk to and having the same language. All big things that need to be considered.


  • External delivery – we need to trust those in our organisation who are putting forward external staff to deliver content onsite either at partner colleges or employer sites. We need to be flexible with our assumptions about employer delivery of awards. By being flexible enough to move away from “standard delivery” we can ensure that we have the same standards applied across the board, if it is good for us it is good for them. We can give clear ownership of processes and decisions so that we can find out (and communicate) why things have happened and how we can change them.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Barriers to being flexible – Myth or Reality?

As we have spent time talking to different faculties and services it is interesting that we each have our own perceptions of reality. During a recent interview it was noted that as a university we did not encourage cross faculty working, that our processes were not flexible enough to share funding for example. This was then discussed in another interview where the person mentioned that the university did have processes that allowed for sharing funding. What is the reality? It appears to be both are, depending on your own experiences and point of view. As Mark Stiles says “often the perception shapes the reality”, can we turn this around?

One member of staff (lets call them A) was able to achieve the “miracle” of cross faculty funding by looking at things from a different angle, another (B) tried to get the same result using the traditional point of view and was unsuccessful. At the moment there is no way of telling B about this way of working, or thinking. As Enable moves forward we will be able to share the experiences and the processes from staff member A and give them to staff member B to help change their reality. This is a fairly simplistic view that breaks down as we get into perceptions on what is responsiveness. Depending on who we have spoken to some staff members believe that for an employer lead award a years turnaround from design to delivery is perfectly reasonable, other staff (and employers) however find this an extremely long time to wait to train staff. Staff often say that validation takes too long, but investigation has shown the processes are very responsive, it is the information that takes time, along with organising meetings with relevant staff and employers (where needed). There is a recognition that as a HE organisation we are often obsessed with having meetings when it would be possible to discuss things either via email or online tools such as GoogleDocs or OfficeLive. A lot of the problems around these perceptions are based on changing peoples behaviours, supporting them using new technologies and providing tools to help reduce the amount of input they need to do into forms required for the CDD process.  This is the next 6 months of Enable, as we put together a “to be” model of the university, and plan the stages around how we get there. Along with this we will be implementing some prototypes, focused on supporting our quality service with external examiners.