Thursday, 22 July 2010

User Support Conference

I've been at the UCISA User Support conference for the last couple of days. Yesterday I gave one of the plenary talks on Web 2.0 and mobile apps - how can we use them to help our users, and what support issues are there. I covered what Web2.0 is, why we should use it, how we can use it, and what some of the benefits are. Gave some examples of how I use it - blogging, twitter, uSpace, - and how some other senior managers and IT staff use it. Mobility and the wide range of mobile devices and the services we can offer took up the middle part of the talk and a brief case study of our implementation of CampusM, our mobile app. I finished with a look at the funding issues we're going to face, and how we're going to have to look at different service delivery models - self service, out sourcing, and cloud. Finally, my vision that we are no longer the gatekeepers of information or systems, but we will have to be more facilitators and educators. But, even in the face of what could be severe financial cuts, we must not forget to innovate - it will not be enough just to keep the lights on.

Later in the afternoon there was a debate - the two statements being argued were:

"Should we continue to do more of the same , but do more with less as the unit of resource decreases?"

Supported by Ajay Burlinham-Bohr from Anglia Ruskin University.


"Should we leave the bread and butter stuff to other and concentrate on developing more specialised, bespoke and higher quality services?"

Supported by Mike Roch from the University of Reading.

There was a lively debate, with both statements being ably argued. Mike starting by pointing out that we came into Universities to achieve excellence, not mediocrity, that we have the talent to do that but have to be selective how we deploy it. We should concentrate on what we're good at, and share things more. As a wonderful demonstration of spreading things too thinly he used the loo roll provided in the college, which was decidedly thin....

Ajay argued that we should face reality, and that IT in HE was a hobbyists paradise. commercial organisations wouldn't tolerate such technical diversity, and we should get our own houses in order before outsourcing our problems.

A lot of overlap between the two statements, and much tongue in cheek, but very entertaining, and a surprise win for Ajay who'd stated behind in the initial vote.

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