Sunday 12 July 2015

ucisa SS15 conference - day 1 #ussc15

The first day of the ucisa SS15 conference at the Oxford Belfrey started with a welcome by 
John Cartwright, ucisa Executive Chair.  He welcomed everyone to the conference and encouraged delegates to participate and make the most of the networking opportunities. To 'pinch with pride' - share ideas and take them to implement in your own institution and service.  He talked about how, as we all know, change is a constant including organisational change with departments and services converging and de-converging, having to do more with less.  
New ideas created at the conference will lead to new ways of working - an opportunity to combine thought power.

Sally Bogg, Chair of the conference then gave an introduction and welcome to the conference the theme of which is change. 

The first presentation of the day was by John Fijalkowski from Manchester College entitled 'From superhero to mild mannered process engineer'. 
He explained that most IT superheroes start out wanting to change the world but changing processes is the way to success. There is no easy stairway to process maturity heaven.  You need to be an explorer and have expertise and experience and execution. 
Achieving process maturity is like moving from the Wild West to a High Performance Team and you will find different tribes along the way. Y
ou need to define the process, use metrics, have good KPIs and aim for continual improvement.  Embrace change as a daily event so therefore use an adaptable model optimising in high performance.

One person’s ad hoc superhero is another person’s chaotic cowboy - this is a useful analogy and a thought to hang on to as I think it is often the case that staff use the superhero idea to justify doing what they want, not what they should.  You should start the quality process to optimisation. Learn from mistakes and this involves being tactful and managing staff. There are different sorts of mistakes some honest, some deliberate and because of this there is a need for quality assurance - to check up.
How do you mature a process? Use 5S
Sort it out - when in doubt, red tag
Straighten - a place for everything, everything in its place
Shine - clean, inspect
Standardise - rules, compliance
Sustain - daily check - habitualise people 
If there's a gain, take it.  Take 1% from everything you do. Each gain may seem trivial but the cumulative value great.  Think of KPIs as a form of GPS - you use a KPI to meet a target.
Performance Management. Quality Improvement Plan.  Quality Control.

It was an interesting and appealing approach and involves being rigorous about improving processes.  It definitely made me think about the work that I need to do and that I should have confidence to aim for a structured and detailed process of improvement.  

The next presentation was a business showcase - Andrew Dixon from the University of Bristol, talking about TOPdesk.
Web forms are an ideal way of asking the right questions.  Use dedicated web forms for routine requests.

The next presentation was by Dave Churchley from Newcastle University.
'Real ITSM in the real world'
What has he learnt?
Adapt - understand the environment, work with the culture - make sure you know what's important to your institution - get allies - communicate.
Improve - get started, then improve - got to be pragmatic (not just idealistic) to get things done
Focus on areas you can identify that need improving
Don't forget the people - influence behavioural change - set a good example - explain what you're doing. 
Service Management - it's a never ending journey - break it into chunks so more manageable

The last presentation of the day was 'Vorsprung durch Technik' by Heidi Fraser-Krauss and Thomas Krauss about IT support and services for researchers.  It was an entertaining and informative role play with a moral about the differences between what academics want and what IT support can provide.  The IT service drivers are service reliability, customer service, student expectations whereas researchers / academics like to think - need to have a passion - and have to bring in funding and produce papers.  Academics don't get rewarded for compliance!  They want the network to be available all the time, they want to manage their own people in their dept to fix things - want to knock on door of an office and talk to someone.
So the advice from Heidi on how to deal with researchers:
Apologise, know your numbers, work with academics, manage expectations.  Understand what they want - one size doesn't fit all.  Take on responsibility for other professional services if appropriate. Recognise that some areas are not IT responsibility e.g. where to record research data - it's not a technology problem, it's a policy problem. Academics don't get rewarded for compliance therefore they don't see the need to do so.  They are used to being critical so will criticise something when it is not working.

It was a useful insight into looking at central IT support form a different angle - we know it would be better managed centrally but it is unlikely that we will be able to persuade academics of this so we have to offer and manage support in a useful and acceptable way.  

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