JISC Strategic ICT Toolkit field test

In this post I'll pick up on and amplify a few of the themes from the talk that Parmjit Dhugga and I did about the JISC Strategic ICT Toolkit at the recent JISC 2011 conference in Liverpool.  But first, a cheezy video that I made to introduce the toolkit... :-)

The Strategic ICT Toolkit is a new resource from JISC, developed by the University of Nottingham Graduate School in partnership with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. It follows on from a report by Duke and Jordan that identified significant variation on institutional approaches to IT strategy. Fundamentally the toolkit is an aide to reflective thinking about IT strategy, with a wealth of background material and case studies, and a self-analysis component that you can use to "rate your IT strategy".

Our slides from the JISC conference (in the embedded presentation below) should give you a flavour of what the toolkit is all about:

So, this is all very well, but what are we doing with the toolkit at Loughborough?
We're taking a look at our IT strategy and seeking feedback from key stakeholders on how well aligned it has been to the overall University strategy. Recent IT developments at Loughborough have been driven primarily by the business process owners - e.g. we have been working closely with the Research Office at Loughborough on the selection of a Research Publications Management System and the subsequent implementation of Symplectic Elements. Similarly, Marketing and Communications led on the project to select a Content Management System, and we have collaborated broadly and deeply on the subsequent work to implement Site Manager from Terminal Four. We are presently reviewing our IT strategy in the light of recent developments, both globally and parochially, and the results of applying the JISC Strategic ICT Toolkit methodology will be very helpful in this context.

An elephant in the room...

Loughborough University has an unparalleled reputation for sporting excellence and world class facilities.  This has led to both Team GB and the Japanese Olympic team being based at Loughborough for the 2012 Olympic Games. We are expecting that this will increase the University’s population by at least 1,500 people, with implications for the scheduling of examinations, graduation ceremonies and other University business.
In strategy terms we have been considering questions around identity management (will there be an "Olympics user database" that we can draw upon), Internet access, provision of information to visitors through smartphones (perhaps through a generic visitor framework that can be customized for particular events and audiences), cloud based printing, swipe card access control, and a host of other issues.

We are used to dealing with the ICT requirements of visitors to conferences and workshops, and have a well developed system for providing guest wireless Internet access. This is run as a partnership with Loughborough's events spin-off "imago", which operates Loughborough's conference venues. However, this system was not designed for such large numbers of users, and not for guests who will become part of the institution's resident population. We may be able to leverage existing facilities such as eduroam (the JANET Roaming Service) - as it happens, we operate eduroam for the UK education sector under contract to JANET(UK). We have also started to explore the issues around offering commercial wireless using the University's WLAN infrastructure.

Loughborough has also been working on a Leadership Foundation for Higher Education "Change Academy" project looking into efficiency and effectiveness improvements that might come from moving to more of a one-stop-shop approach to providing central support - particularly to students. Historically it has often been the case that Loughborough students have had to visit particular offices and departments for services that could potentially be delivered anywhere. An example of this is booking sports facilities - as part of the Change Academy project this service has been extended from sports facilities to the Students Union reception desk. Plans are also afoot to provide much improved online self-service facilities for students, signposted through our student portal (my.Lboro) and making extensive use of Shibboleth based Single Sign-On. These developments are nicely summarised in the Prezi presentation below:

For our "field test" project we are initially using the Strategic ICT Toolkit's Institutional Self-Analysis spreadsheet. This asks the respondent to consider a range of questions, and score their response according to the degree that they agree with the statement.

This exercise is repeated for each of several key categories of ICT strategy awareness, including questions on Shared Services, Governance, and Enterprise Architecture. The result is a "radar diagram" that summarises the institution's perceived strengths in each of these areas. Necessarily, each individual will have their own perceptions - what we are most interested in is where views are radically divergent, and areas where people generally feel we need to try harder.

Where are we now?

Blank spreadsheets have been distributed for Loughborough stakeholders to complete, and the first of these have started to be returned. From the initial results it is apparent that whilst we are strong in some areas, such as hosting ESISS (the first HEFCE pilot Shared Service), we have quite a bit of work to do in others - such as Enterprise Architecture. Already it is clear that a valuable additional tool would be a "meta"-spreadsheet which synthesizes the various responses and carries out some additional analysis. It will also be interesting to see whether perceptions vary along with the degree of engagement of the various stakeholders!

Martin Hamilton

Martin Hamilton works for Jisc in London as their resident Futurist.