Wednesday, 7 July 2010

10 things to tell the Executive Board

Yesterday I had a chance to talk to our University Executive Board. Always a pleasure, but doesn't happen often enough in my opinion - there are so many things to cover that I have to miss so much out or rush through things. I decided to concentrate on 10 things - 5 challenges I'm facing as an IT Director (and if I'm facing them, then so are they as as IT underpins everything the University does), 3 challenges the University is facing and how IT can help, and 2 questions I needed their help on.

The 5 challenges we're facing as a department are:

Funding (obviously!) - but not just internally. Vince Cable's letter to VCs telling them that they should consider cutting IT projects to save money hardly helps our cause does it? But, as I pointed out yesterday, IT projects in HE don't have the same reputation for overruning and going over-budget as those in the rest of the public sector. And anyway, we shouldn't be talking about IT projects, but business projects. IT is part of the business, not something separate.

Mobility - covered in previous blog posts

Consumerisation of IT, which leads to

Increasing customer expectations. At a time when our funding is being reduced, our services are more in demand than ever. And not just more in demand, people have higher expectations of good user interfaces, 24/7 support etc.

Data - storage, management, access to etc.

The three University wide challenges which I picked out to talk about were:

Reducing our carbon footprint
Doing things differently
Reducing complexity

Lots of cover in all of those, and I particularly emphasised different models of service delivery including out-sourcing, and simplifying our business processes. Both will have big impacts on the University. Designing to one good business process and reducing some departmental autonomy in the way things are carried out may not be popular, but I cannot see how diversity in basic processes can be justified in the current economic climate.

And finally - what did I want their help on? Well, the first was perhaps rather cheeky. How do we as an IT department know we're being successful? Particularly to them as an Executive Board when it sometimes seems as if we're judged on how quickly we can fix their phones or PCs?
Secondly - back to the Stop, Start, Continue debate we've been having. What can they do without so that we can stop doing it, what aren't we doing that we should start, and what should we continue doing that we're doing well?

I look forward to the answers.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that you say you get to talk to your Executive Board - I assume then that you're not on it. A large, Russell Group University, dependent on IT for most of its functions, yet the CIO isn't on the board? We're lucky that in my institution they're more enlightened but I suspect we're in the minority.

Andrew Russell said...

What I don't get is why CiCS isn't on UEB yet HR is (queue for Life of Brian parody "apart from ... what have HR ever done for us?"). Beginning as 19th century paternalism, HR has somehow transformed itself into a core function that has won a seat at the top table.

Information technology (IT) isn't so old but is ubiquitous, its presence felt throughout the organisation, a function without which most University business activities would not be possible.

So what tricks can HR teach us about influence?