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Transformations UCLan - Business Upgrade

Project Name: Business Upgrade

Lead Institution: University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)

Project Lead: Lucy Nelson


See the full Transformations programme playlist

 

Business Upgrade: Implementing the recommendations from the SICT Toolkit field test (Nov 11 - March 2012): to implement EA to help establish formalised processes for the governance and management of ICT change initiatives/projects that will ensure:

 

  • LIS is service not system focused
  • the decision making process and the governance of ICT is managed centrally at a strategic level (not within LIS)
  • decisions are publicised
  • the project management approach is refined to ensure smoother transition of transfer responsibility and ownership of ICT projects to the eventual service owners by engaging them more comprehensively in the project from the outset

 

Once the new approach is in place, UCLan have implemented change projects during 2013 following the new approach developed (e.g. review of the process for allocating mobile devices). 

 

Background

 

JISC had been facilitating the JISC Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Group (EAPG) following a series of projects trailing the use of Enterprise Architecture (EA) in Higher Education (HE).  Due to the membership of the EAPG – now the Strategic Information Practitioners Group (SIPG), of a UCLan project manager and the field test of the Strategic ICT Toolkit, (SICTT), the University were keen to explore how this approach could improve their maturity with regards to the Toolkit and ensure the university was in a position to be as effective, flexible and efficient in the delivery of its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) provision to meet future demands of the sector. This project was submitted to the JISC Transformations funding call.

 

In 2011, UCLan reviewed the strategic alignment of its institutional strategies to enable it to achieve the Medium Term Strategy.  This included a new process whereby strategies were reviewed collectively to ensure alignment and  published in a single strategic document. In addition, UCLan  undertook a field test of the SICTT  to assess the current level of ICT maturity.  The results were not as expected and UCLan achieved a lower maturity score than anticipated.  The results as well as the discussions that occurred during the completion of the toolkit were reviewed and issues were identified, including the lack of transparency in UCLan’s strategic approach to ICT and decision making processes around the projects chosen for delivery.  Although a lot of good practice was identified, UCLan were also able to develop a series of recommendations to improve the university’s ICT maturity.  This project sought to review and implement the recommendations and identify a project to test the new structure, governance, etc developed.

 

The recommendations included:

    

  • The introduction of the Enterprise Architecture (EA) approach championed by JISC, refined to suit UCLan – this will require staff development to up skill staff.
  • A review of the ICT governance structure, including reporting, decision making process, transparency of decisions, communication and the development of information and ICT principles.
  • A review of the communication strategy for strategic ICT, governance, sharing decisions and plans as well as individual projects.   

 

The university is undergoing radical change and all staff recognise that the university, in particular the ICT services have to be agile, efficient and effective to enable UCLan to succeed in the new age of Higher Education.  The consequences of UCLan not achieving this are the University could suffer and ultimately for staff - jobs could be at risk.  To increase confidence and buy in to ICT at UCLan, we needed to establish a formalised process to ensure that: LIS is service not system focused, that the decision making process and the governance of ICT was managed centrally at a strategic level (not within LIS), decisions were publicised and decision makers held accountable, there is increased confidence in ICT at UCLan and LIS is able to set an example to the rest of the university as to how UCLan needs to adapt. It will also refine its project management approach to ensure smoother transition of  transfer responsibility and ownership of ICT projects to the eventual service owners by engaging them more comprehensively in the project from the outset.

 

Once the new approach is in place, UCLan will identify a high level business process to review or a project to implement following the new approach developed.   It is likely that this could be a review of the process for allocating mobile devices.

 

The SICTT will be used to guide the development of the new approach and to review the impact on maturity once the new system is in place. The project will also look to use current EA resources to up skill staff including joining the SIPG and the development opportunities provided from JISC and the group. Archi will be used to develop “as is” and “to be” models of business processes.

 

This project  complemented the other UCLan bids as it  developed a new approach to ICT to ensure that projects involving ICT were strategically aligned, adhere to the principles this project created, were business led and ensured that projects and business processes were effective, efficient and fitted within the bigger picture of the organisation.

 

Aims and objectives

 

The aims and objectives of this project were to introduce EA to UCLan through a review of the recommendations of the SICTT and additional learning as a result in engagement in JISC EA activities.

 

The objectives were to:

 

  • Model the current business process for the governance and management of projects involving ICT and their strategic alignment.
  • Review the recommendations of the SICTT field test and establish what should be introduced at UCLan.
  • Model the new business process for the governance, management and strategic alignment of projects involving ICT.
  • Taking an EA approach, review the requirements for the new model and establish the ICT requirements to facilitate the process.
  • Trial the new process on a project involving ICT.
  • Review the experience and impact of the new approach.
  • Develop a case study as required by JISC.

 

Context

 

Recent changes in the HE sector have left universities in an unstable, ever changing environment, where it is not easy to predict the impact of changes both in the short and long term.  Since becoming a University, UCLan has continued to develop and grow its reputation in both academic provision and research, strategically driven through the Medium Term Strategy (MTS) and, as result, the university is in a strong position. UCLan recognises that it would be beneficial to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation to not only manage costs, but reduce staff workload and improve student experience.

 

Like many institutions, UCLan uses the ICT infrastructure to facilitate the majority of business processes and as the requirements to digitise more processes as well as share data and information increases, so does the demand on these systems. In response to the changing fees, UCLan has introduced the UCLan Advantage, which aims to provide students with a superlative student experience.  Again, many elements of the Advantage require an ICT solution.  There is a potential risk that the development of these systems and processes, as separate projects, could have a negative impact on each other if they do not align and integrate effectively.  In addition, there is a tendency for the focus of projects with significant ICT elements, to become focused on the system rather than the business process and subsequently be perceived as IT led.  UCLan has been exploring Enterprise Architecture, and are eager to explore if the approach would be beneficial for UCLan.   UCLan has a structure in place through the Information Strategy Panel (ISP), who monitor the delivery of the Information Strategy and the budget to enable this, that would lend itself to an EA approach.

 

The business case

 

It is anticipated that the HE sector will be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future.  It is essential that universities are able to be flexible to respond quickly to changes.  Being in a state of constant change can be unsettling for staff and the pressure of doing more with less on top of large scale change can result in “change fatigue”.  Staff engagement and buy-in is essential for universities to develop and implement new initiatives quickly and effectively.  UCLan is undertaking several significant change projects in response to the changing HE sector.  In order to be successful and have the desired effect of increasing student satisfaction , The University is  reducing costs by streamlining processes to ensure the operation is effective and efficient.  It is essential that a holistic approach is taken to the management and implementation of these initiatives to ensure they are aligned and integrated.  Many cross institutional initiatives have significant ICT elements and can be perceived as the introduction of a new ICT system rather than the improvement of a business process.  As a result the “business” often perceives these projects as something that is done to them rather than the business need leading the change.  EA is an approach that has the potential to address these issues and this project will explore the feasibility of introducing EA to UCLan and refining the approach to suit UCLan’s needs.  

 

Key drivers

 

The key drivers of this project are:

 

  • To ensure the outputs of strategic projects, with significant ICT, meet the business need
  • To align strategic projects and their outputs to achieve effective and efficient processes
  • To increase confidence within the business in projects that have significant ICT elements
  • Reviewing and implementing the recommendations from the Strategic ICT Toolkit where relevant. 

 

JISC resources/technology used

 

The resources initially identified included the Strategic ICT ToolkitArchi and the JISC EA resources.  In addition, JISC Change Management Resources including the Change Management infoKit have also been explored.

All of these resources have proved to be useful and have had a direct influence on the development of the new process and approached this project has delivered.

 

Approach

 

The project embraced a service design approach to develop an understanding of the current attitudes and processes around management of strategic ICT.  Three groups were interviewed; members of the Information Strategy Panel, Senior Managers – Deans / Directors of Schools and Services and Associate Heads and Project Managers / members of Project Deliver Group.  The project team held a series of workshops with attendees drawn from the above groups and reviewed the results of the Strategic ICT Toolkit.  The discussions from the workshops were documented and shared with the project board to allow them to establish a true understanding of the feelings, assumptions and understanding of strategic ICT around UCLan.  While this document was very frank and useful to highlight concerns held, it did only share opinions.  The next stage was to review the concerns and consider the learning developed through the EA engagement to make a series of recommendations.

 

Outcomes

 

It was very interesting that those who were directly involved in the management and delivery of Strategic ICT felt the results of the strategic ICT toolkit were incorrect and those who were not felt the results were correct.  As to be expected, the project identified that while the perspectives of the those directly involved in IT and those who were not appeared to be different, they had the same aspirations, to improve the student experience and service delivery through effective and efficient business processes.   The project team felt that the conclusions made following the initial field test still were valid – that UCLan had many of the characteristics of a high level strategic ICT maturity and the outcome was a result of lack of awareness and misunderstanding of the questions.  However, from the workshops, it was clear that while UCLan had the characteristic of strategic ICT maturity, they were not fully utilised and there were issues with communication and change management as well as alignment, ownership and responsibility of projects to ensure they were business led.

 

It was identified that there was a lack of awareness of the process through which the Information Strategy Panel (ISP) portfolio was developed, in particular, the roles of the Information Strategy Panel (ISP) and the ISP review group.   While the business could submit requests for projects, the ISP portfolio also featured projects that have been instigated by senior strategic leaders.  It was noted that it was the ISP Review Group who determined the ISP portfolio. However, many held the perception that the Director of Learning and Information Services (LIS) (a member of both ISP and the ISP review group) made the decisions as to which projects were undertaken. This is likely to be due to;

 

  • their membership of both ISP groups
  • the perception that the process to get a project agreed was to talk to the Director of LIS
  • project managers for strategic ICT initiatives being housed within LIS
  • LIS project managers leading the engagement with the business
  • LIS project managers being responsible for developing the business case, and establishing the scope
  • Projects that come from Directorate do not go through the bidding process

 

As a result, the projects become perceived as LIS projects which are being “done to the business” and, because of the significant ICT element, the focus of the project becomes on the system being implemented, rather than the business process.  Due to the high volume of project requests and the extent of the infrastructure to be managed and maintained, resources are stretched and as a result, projects have tight timescales to try to free resources to meet future demands.  Therefore projects are focused on the particular business process and often there is not time to review the impact of other aspects of the business.  While individuals in LIS have a good reputation, the overall reputation of the service is impacted by the challenges of delivering the projects.  However, it was clear that all parties involved in the business analysis exercise for this project wanted to achieve the same results.  They all wanted business led initiatives that provided excellent services to the students, while enabling the management and operation of the university to be facilitated by effective and efficient business processes that made the best use of staff time.

 

A number of recommendations were developed and these have been agreed by the project board and are being operationalised, once this is undertaken they will be presented to ISP.  These recommendations included process and requirements that had to be met by projects under the ISP portfolio.  These processes and requirements were supported by the development of templates to evidence they had been met.

 

Achievements

 

When the project started, there was some resistance to change.  Previous frustrations with the challenges to deliver projects had led to some of the approaches used such as reliance on the project managers and the attitude of just getting the job done.  However, following the initial workshops which identified a number of concerns and misunderstanding with the current processes, there was evidence that this resistance to change was dissolving. During this time, the university had recently undertaken some large cross institutional projects, which although they had been delivered, had faced a significant number of challenges and provoked discussion and frustration across the university.  Those with responsibility for strategic ICT recognised the opportunity to make some changes.  The first step was to revise the process for submitting bids to ISP.  While there was a process in place, the understanding of this had dissolved.  The process was launched with a clear requirement that all requests for projects needed to be made through the bidding process and the process by which the portfolio would be developed was published.  All Deans and Directors of service received communication about the process as well as clear communication about what may occur should any change triggers occur i.e. urgent work that arose during the portfolio cycle.

 

The university recognised that changes needed to be made to the governance and approach to projects. Iinformed by the work of the business upgrade project, a new approach to projects would be developed, placing a lot more ownership and responsibility on senior strategic leaders and the business. 

 

This centred around the introduction of a gating process for ISP projects and the introduction of business, ICT and data principles.  The project team engaged with the development of the new gating process, and embedded recommendations developed in the process.  The requirements of each stage or gate had to be met before a project could progress to the next stage.  The Business upgrade project influenced the development of the gating process and saw the development of;

 

  • the project board and project team charters, which clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of each group and what was expected of them during the projects
  • the Change Management, Communication, Benefits Realisation and Stakeholder analysis templates
  • roles and responsibilities documentation
  • reviewed responsibilities of ISP including sign off on projects progression through the gates and reviewing benefits realisation and lessons learned post implementation

 

The issue with communication was identified as one of the most significant issues impeding the successful delivery of projects, without good change management and communication, staff can be unaware of a projects intended benefits and misconceptions about projects can form.  The Change Management, Communication, Benefits Realisation and Stakeholder analysis template was developed to support project managers through;

 

  • identifying the initial intended benefits of a project
  • considering who the stakeholders were and when they would require information
  • benefits mapping – not just the high level strategic benefits but also the operational benefits

     

Finally, all this information is converted into a communication and change management plan. It is not the intention that the project manager completes this template in isolation, but instead engages stakeholders in its development.  There is a lot of evidence of the influence of the Jisc EA activity and the Jisc InfoNet Change Management workshop in this template.

A significant achievement of the project has been the project board’s support of the introduction of principles.  One of the challenges projects faced was often the resistance from areas of the business to engage in projects or business processes.  As many processes are now being facilitated by technology, a lack of engagement from some areas of the business had a significant effect on the success of the process. 

Benefits.

 

While the deliverables of this project are in the early stages of being operationalised, many of the recommendations of the project were implemented during the Jisc funded Course Data project at UCLan and the engagement of the stakeholders to undertake benefits mapping, identification of the ownership and responsibility of the deliverables has proved to be very successful.  

 

While the benefits are yet to be realised, they are expected to be an increased satisfaction with strategic ICT projects due to greater awareness and engagement from the business from initiation.  There will also be greater awareness of the process through which the strategic ICT portfolio is developed and the governance structure in place.  This will clarify that strategy and senior strategic leaders are responsible for the portfolio, not LIS.

 

Ownership and responsibility is considered as part of the project board charter. This outlines the roles and responsibilities of the project board, as well as the individual members. Project board members must sign up to this charter at the start of the project so they are fully aware of their role on the board and the activities they are expected to undertake. This is now part of the gating process projects are required to meet. There is an anticipated future challenge in ensuring that those who take on roles within the projects have a clear understanding of their representation of others i.e. a Dean who is involved will not only be considering the requirements of their School but all Schools in the university. Scoping and alignment with other projects and initiatives is now a requirement of the gating process. The challenge will be to determine what action to take if an issue is identified - will the project be postponed until the issues is addressed? Will the scope of the project be expanded to include addressing this issue or will a parallel project be established?

 

A new template has been introduced which guides, initial benefits mapping, initial stakeholder analysis, detailed benefits mapping and change management planning to produce a communications and change management plan. The completion of this template is designed to be undertaken by working with stakeholders. It will take additional time, however the activity of working with the stakeholders and the implementation of the communication and change management plans should result in more successful projects.

 

Drawbacks

 

The challenge will be to ensure buy in to this process across the institution.  This will require resources from across the University for Projects, resources which are already stretched.  However, there is a recognition that often current projects end up placing significant demands on resources and it is anticipated that this approach will make better use of those resources.  There will be additional work for project managers in the completion of the documents and undertaking the communication and change management plans.  This is expected to be beneficial in the long run.

 

Key lessons

 

The initial approach of the project was to champion Enterprise Architecture, however, with the sheer volume of change and lack of context at UCLan, there was resistance to bringing in a new approach. By working with stakeholders, identifying issues and concerns and developing a series of recommendations, which as a collective amounted to an Enterprise Architecture approach, the project was able to introduce the benefits of an EA approach, while mapping it to current practices and processes – improving them where required. The initial document  captured the discussions of the stakeholder groups and received some criticism as it presented opinions rather than triangulated fact, however, it proved to be a useful document as it presented the perspectives and understandings of senior staff across the business and highlighted where work needed to be done.

 

Initially the project expected that the activity to review the processes related to strategic ICT, make recommendations and implement the changes fairly quickly but, as highlighted in the issues identified in the project, the project required a lot of work around change management and engagement from senior managers.  In addition, it was important to align with other work such as the development of the new gating process.  As a result, the project took longer to develop the recommendations and solutions but overall has developed a single aligned approach to the governance and delivery of strategic ICT.

 

Looking ahead

 

While the operationalization of the recommendations is being undertaken, the key phase will be to ensure strategic buy in.  The project board have requested that the recommendations are presented to ISP and implemented.  As ISP are a strategic group, they are the key stakeholders to ensure the recommendations are embedded in practice.  It will be essential that not only ISP buy into the new approach, but also the LIS Section Heads who are responsible for the project managers and the project managers themselves who must raise issues and concerns with projects not meeting the gating requirements through the appropriate channels.  At this stage the project has received active engagement from project managers and the LIS section heads. 

 

Sustainability.

 

As previously discussed, the outputs of the project are being operationalized and will be presented to the Chair of ISP for approval via chairs action.  It will be important that the actions required from ISP are added to the ISP agenda and project progress is reported and action taken where issues are identified. The challenge will be ensuring that when issues are identified action is taken and the project is not allowed to progress.  It is recommended that a senior strategic leader is identified to take overall responsibility for ensuring that projects adhere to the new approach.  It is suggested that this role be either undertaken by the Chief Operating Officer or the Chair of ISP.  In addition, to ensure sustainability it will be important to secure buy in to the new approach across the university and the project would benefit from implementing its own recommendations by using the communication, stakeholder analysis and change management template to develop a communication and change management strategy to introduce the new approach to senior managers across the university. 

 

Glossary

 

EA Enterprise Architecture

HE Higher Education 

ISP Information Strategy Panel : A panel of senior managers and strategic leaders including Deans of Schools, Directors of and Associate Directors of Service, which is chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) and are responsible for monitoring the delivery of the Information Strategy and the ISP portfolio. ISP meet on a quarterly basis

  • Information Strategy Panel Portfolio (ISP Portfolio): The strategic ICT initiatives to be undertaken during the portfolio cycle.  These include new initiatives as well as the maintenance, management and upgrade of the ICT infrastructure and the systems and services it facilitates.  
  • Information Strategy Review Group (ISP Review Group): The ISP Review Group consists of three senior strategic leaders and was formed to enable UCLan to respond more effectively to changes and issues, as well as making decisions relating to on the ISP portfolio during the cycle as ISP did not meet frequently enough to enable swift response to change.  The Chair of ISP leads the ISP review group. In addition the ISP Review Group considers the requests for projects and recommends the structure of the ISP portfolio to ISP.

EAPG (JISC) Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Group - now the Strategic Information Practitioners Group (SIPG),

SICTT Strategic ICT Toolkit  

UCLan University of Central Lancashire