Skip to main content

Time out: co-mentoring

A year ago I completed a year-long course run by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.  This course brought together 18 IT and library managers from universities across the UK and Ireland, made us look at who we are, what we value and how we work, and then gave us lots of pointers for how to lead our teams and projects more effectively.

This week we all gathered for a reunion and for meetings of our "action learning sets".  These sets are groups who help each other with problems we encounter in our jobs.  Sometimes these are practical problems; sometimes they are about relationships with other people; sometimes we just ask the others to help us understand our own thoughts and feelings.

I'm blogging about this because everyone in my action learning set has found it hugely valuable to have someone we can talk to who will give us their honest response, in an atmosphere of trust.  The fact that we are all from different institutions mean that our reactions are not tinged by concerns about how we will interact outside the group.  This trust allows us to challenge each other as well as to provide mutual support: we don't get an easy ride from the other members.  Our meetings tend to be both intense and exhilirating.

I've found it very worthwhile to have someone I can talk to like this, outside of work and family.  Several other people have also told me that they have benefited from mentors of some form or another.  So if an opportunity arises for anyone reading this blog to get this sort of advice and feedback, I'd definitely recommend that you give it a go.


Popular posts from this blog

Presentation: Putting IT all together

This is a presentation I gave to an audience of University staff: 

In this seminar, I invite you to consider what the University’s online services would be like, if we worked together to design them from the perspective of the student or member of staff who will use them, instead of designing them around the organisational units that provide them. I’ll start with how the services might appear to that student or member of staff, then work back from there to show what this implies for how we work, how we manage our data, and how we integrate our IT systems. It might even lead to changes in our organisational structure.

Our online services make a vital and valued contribution to the work of our students and staff. I argue that with better integration, more consistent user interfaces, and shared data, this contribution could be significantly enhanced.

This practice is called “Enterprise Architecture”. I’ll describe how it consults multiple organisational units and defines a framework …

Service Excellence, Digital Transformation and Enterprise Architecture

Our University Secretary has sponsored a major review of the University’s administrative processes, coining the banner “Service Excellence”.  The aim is to look at the services we provide to staff and students with a fresh eye, making them more effective, more efficient, and focussed on the user rather than administrative convenience.

Our CIO is sponsoring a similar programme called “Digital Transformation”. This will replace old paper-based processes, starting with the question of what would processes look like if we designed them afresh for the modern connected world.  The aim is to make processes that are more focussed on the user and hence more effective and efficient.

Both of these ambitious programmes will need an effective enterprise architecture, if they are to succeed.  Digital Transformation is intrinsically about using opportunities provided by new technology to improve services and, as such, it requires effective technology services to make data available when needed, to pro…

Not so simple...

A common approach to explaining the benefits of Enterprise Architecture is to draw two diagrams: one that shows a complicated mess of interconnections, and one that shows a nicely layered set of blocks. Something like this one, which came from some consultants:

I've never felt entirely happy with this approach.  Yes, we do want to remove as much of the needless complexity and ad-hoc design that litters the existing architecture.  Yes, we do want to simplify the architecture and make it more consistent and intelligible.  But the simplicity of the block diagram shown here is unobtainable in the vast majority of real enterprises.  We have a mixture of in-house development and different third-party systems, some hosted in-house, some on cloud infrastructure and some accessed as software-as-a-service.  For all the talk of standards, vendors use different authentication systems, different integration systems, and different user interfaces.

So the simple block diagram is, basically, a l…