Skip to main content

Aleks Krotoski, Cory Doctorow, Tim O'Shea and more: IT Futures on Disruption

I'm beginning to wind down for the xmas break - just the Student Systems Board tomorrow, a meeting of the Applications Architecture Governance Group, a review of the first phase of development for the new university web site, then a xmas curry with the web site team on Friday, and that will be me off for a couple of weeks.  But before I finish, I want to record some thoughts about our IT Futures conference for 2013, which was held last week.

We started planning this in January, when we were thinking about ideas for a theme and potential speakers.  I had the idea of inviting a science-fiction writer to give an outsider's view of what higher education might look like in the future.  This was tossed around a bit and Jen Ross suggested Cory Doctorow.  Meanwhile, the theme of "disruption" rose to the surface.  We put the two together and a potential agenda began to take shape.

The next step was to add a less technical and more people-oriented take on "disruption".  For this, the name of Aleks Krotoski was suggested.  So we contacted both Cory and Aleks and were very pleased when they both agreed to speak.  The Principal, Tim O'Shea, also agreed to give his views of the challenges facing the University.  We had a programme.

And on the day it went very well.  Aleks actually gave her talk by pre-recorded video and then joined a response / Q&A session via Skype, with Chris Speed engaging Aleks in a discussion about some of the key points; this format worked rather well given the theme of the day.  Cory also strayed from traditional academic style, sitting on a table and talking with no need for slides.  Our other presenters were more traditional (not being media stars) but made good points.

The only thing that went less well than planned was the audio for the concluding panel.   I had suggested that we structure this like a radio chat show rather than a traditional academic panel, to make it more engaging.  In terms of content, it worked - the discussion was rather interesting - but unfortunately the audio wasn't up to handling that number of microphones in close proximity and there was rather a lot of interference so that people at the back of the hall couldn't hear the conversation properly.

Overall though it was a very good day and I'm glad to have been a small part of it.  I really had little to do with the actual organisation of the event.  I'm not being modest - I simply didn't have enough time to devote to this on top of the day job, however much I would have liked to do so.  So my thanks to the rest of the team for turning all our ideas into reality.

Comments

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…