Virtual Event Recap: IT in Higher Education
In early October, Ivanti hosted its first ever virtual event: The IT Leadership Summit. There were a total of 30 presenters, including Forrester analysts, product marketing managers, director-level IT professionals, and executives.
Below is the video and transcript from the session IT in Higher Education, featuring:
- Ian Aitchison: Senior Director, Product Management, Ivanti
- Carla Thornley: Service Desk Manager, University of Oxford
- Steve Hoensch: Head of Frontline Services, University of Cambridge
- Sally Bogg: Head of End User Services, Leeds Beckett University
Ian Aitchison: Hi. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Welcome along to this next session in the IT Leadership Summit. This is the higher education IT panel debate. I'm joined for this panel discussion by three fascinating experts, leaders in IT in the higher education space. We can see their names listed on there. We'll do introductions actually as we go into the following slide. And we're gonna be spending the next 30 to 40 minutes talking our way through some of the big challenges and successes and understanding top tips on the future around, what our panel member see around IT in higher education.
So this should be fun, it should be interesting. I'll say again my thanks to Carla, Steve and Sally who've joined us today. Let's meet the panel. We thought the way we'd do this, little introduction from the four of us, so you know who you're listening to, and possible seeing on the recording, before we get into digging into a few particular topics and discussions.
So to get things started off, and panel members be prepared, I need something interesting about you as well as your name and what you do and what your organization does. So I'll give you an example, so my name's Ian Aitchison and I'm the lead on this panel debate, the coordinator. I'm the Senior Director of Product Management here at Ivanti. And when I'm not at work, I wrestle with my two children and small puppy and I like sailing boats and I play the ukulele very badly. So that's a little bit about me. First on the panel then is Sally. Could you give us a little intro, Sally?
Sally Bogg: So hello everyone, my name's Sally Bogg. I'm Head of End user Services at Leeds Beckett University where I have responsibility for the first and second-line support teams including the IT service desk. I also look after the IT training unit and have overall ownership of IT service management at Leeds Beckett University. I've worked in higher education IT for just over 12 years now in various IT service management roles, and my job at Leeds Beckett is really about developing high-quality, sector-leading support services and I'm really passionate about creating sort of highly respected and award winning teams. I really like to focus on the people element of leadership. I don't know if it's an unusual or interesting fact about me, but things I like doing in my spare time, I'm really passionate about supporting the advancement and empowerment of women, particularly women in technology. And I spend a lot of my free time going around and giving talks and presentations, setting up various networks and contributing to different women in technology initiatives. I am also a mom of three almost grown-up children, which gives me a lot more free time these days. So I think that's enough from me.
Ian Aitchison: That's excellent, thank you Sally. Great introduction. Thanks for making time to join us today. Sitting to your right, or to your left depending on where you're sitting, is Carla. Hello, Carla.
Carla Thornley: Hi there. So yeah, my name is Carla Thornley, I currently lead the service desk and Advanced Service Management teams here within IT services at the University of Oxford. I've only actually been working back in higher education for just under a year, well just over a year actually now. Before that I did spend quite a portion of my career with higher education, but I've also worked in the corporate sector in various roles. And I came from the SDI, so I was head of certification training at the SDI. So I did have the pleasure of experiencing the international element of service desk and how similar they are, actually, no matter where in the world they are and helping people especially in that role. So I'm excited to be here to see what we can do with what we've got, and make sure that these services here are actually world-class and sector-leading, just as they should be for an organization of this standing. Interesting things about me. Well it's a bit unusual maybe, I don't actually like chocolate, believe it or not. My mother remains unconvinced, at the age of 47 she still occasionally gives me, I don't know, just some cake or whatever and says, "I'm sure you'll like this one," but no, I really don't like chocolate. I don't have much spare time, I've got four children, although they are now much older, much like Sally, you do get a bit of extra time when they're older, but you don't stop worrying about them. And I've also got a horse, so yes, my free time, any minute that I can, I like to spend outside in our broad countryside.
Ian Aitchison: Excellent. Thank you, Carla. And that's a complete shocker, doesn't like chocolate. Wow.
Ian Aitchison: I suppose it's possible there is one out there, and we have one on our panel today, so that's fantastic. Very good, thanks for joining, Carla. And sitting to your left, or right, is Steve. Hello, Steve. Good morning.
Steve Hoensch: Hello. Hello everyone. So my name's Steve Hoensch, so I'm Head of Frontline Services at the University of Cambridge. So Head of Frontline Services is any service that hits the customer on an IT service. So it's basically the same as Sally, front, first and second-line support. So I manage a division of around 60 people, and from there we've even got things like the University has agreement, first, second-line support at the service desk, desktop support. And part of my job in my new role is to try and unify the IT department that has formed from two separate divisions that have merged together to form what we call the University Information Services. And that's the idea of delivering core IT out to the University so researchers can get on with the more exciting part of their day, and they don't have to worry about re-inventing the wheel every time. So things that I enjoy outside the work, I'm really passionate about snowboarding, it's something that I love to do and sort of get to travel the world a little bit, but since having a child, who's now four, that's sort of stopped a little bit and I'm looking forward to next year when he's old enough that I can actually take him skiing for the first time.
Ian Aitchison: Excellent. That's great. Thank you, Steve. And obviously the question we're all dying to know as well is do you like chocolate?
Steve Hoensch: Yes, yeah. I have no problem with chocolate, yeah.
Ian Aitchison: Good, good. Excellent. And we'll just check in, Sally, are you okay with chocolate?
Sally Bogg: Yeah. It's not my favorite, but I don't mind it.
Ian Aitchison: Good, okay. All right, well this discussion isn't actually talking about our favorite food products, much as I'd love to. But with all three of you, you're all doing, I'd say, a similar function managing the delivery of valuable IT service to a higher education customer/user departmental base. And Higher education is unique in many ways, it has some unique challenges around the expectations, around the culture, around the profile of those that you deliver IT service and support to. So I know we're gonna pull out some very interesting points around that as we work our way through. The way we thought we'd structure this is let's take one question at a time. And we'll start by asking you a little bit, I guess, around your journey so far, building and delivering the service structure and organization that you have done. I'm really interested in looking back, what you have found to be tough, what have you found to be a real challenge that maybe you have overcome, or maybe you're still wrestling with it? But what is something that you've found has been really something difficult to overcome? And we'll change the order as we go around, we'll check in with everybody as we go through this. So I'm gonna start actually this time around with Steve, who was the last to speak. Steve, could you, just kind of from your perspective looking back, what's been hard, what's been tough?
Steve Hoensch: So, like I said in the introduction, we formed this new department of two completely separate, different organizations with a completely separate culture, and that's been a real challenge to bring those two divisions together, and get them working together. The amount of technical depth that that created for the central IT department to deal with has been huge, and it's something that we're still dealing with at the moment. So the way we're getting around that is to empower people with bringing them together on new projects, and that means they're working together on something new. We're developing new services, for instance we're developing the next generation desktop, we're looking at new exciting ways of delivering that across the University. And because people are now working together, we're actually seeing a culture start to form and start to develop. So I'd say the biggest challenge for us has just been the merger.
It's the right way for the University to go, because we've had, if you take the University, there are 31 separate, unique colleges that work together, and there's got to be over another 200 departments. And all of those individuals may have had their own IT representative or their own computer officer working in there. You know, they should be developing their own service, and it adds a complexity and adds extra expense to the University. So the University's decision to create this new central IT department is the right way forward, but it's a big challenge for us to change the culture of the University and accept that there should be a central IT department delivering core IT is something we're working on in the moment. But when we get there, I think it will be a big improvement for students and staff and researchers working here and getting access to world-class leading services.
Ian Aitchison: And it sounds a little bit like that culture is not just within the IT organization, but it's across the whole University, if you've got departments building their own IT:
Steve Hoensch: I'm sorry, yeah. If you take the university of Cambridge, I mean it's an 809-year-old institution.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah.
Steve Hoensch: And obviously there are things that have happened over the years, you know.
Ian Aitchison: Yes.
Steve Hoensch: It's a challenge, but everybody is starting to see it. We're seeing sort HE start to be more run as a business, and we're starting to see more corporate decisions be made, and I think that's starting to make people look and see what's happening out in the rest of the world and see what large organizations, like banks and other divisions, are doing of these sizes, that we should be copying. We're not re-inventing the wheel here, we're just using things that people have done in industry for many years, but the University seems to be a little bit far behind on those sort of adoptions. And the University just moves a lot slower than other organizations at the moment. But it is improving and it is the way forward.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, that's great. So it sounds like culture, University culture, higher education culture, is a big challenge for you. Let's find out at Leeds Beckett University what sort of challenges are being faced there. Sally, what have you been challenged with?
Sally Bogg: So looking at, so I joined the University and the department just after a merging of two departments in 2015, where media services and IT were brought together. So again, it was looking at cultural change. And we were trying to focus on becoming more service-focused, really, rather than technology and deliverers of technology, and that's been really difficult. Trying to get IT staff to focus on cultural change is really hard, they often just want to be very focused on the actual technology. And then our other one is around supporting and developing staff, really. Attracting and retaining high-quality IT staff in any sector's becoming really challenging, but it's particularly difficult for us in higher education, where maybe the wages are not as competitive as they could be. Now there are lots of other benefits of working at university, but they don't necessarily appeal to what your new graduates and your up-and-coming sort of people. And we also struggle to provide job opportunities and career development, in terms of progression, particularly for our service desk staff. Our university turnover, within IT, turnover is really low, and therefore there's limited progression routes for many of the staff that come in at entry-level. So what we're having to do is actually focus on providing career development opportunities and work on the premise that some of them, in fact most of them, will need to leave the organization in order to get career progression.
Also the lack of staff turnover, it does result in stagnation and resistance to change, and that can make implementing service management, and any cultural change program actually, really challenging. Trying to get people to focus on the adoption, the engagement rather than systems and tools is not easy with IT staff. But we are working really hard on that and I think I've got a couple of successes around that that I could maybe talk about a little bit later. But yeah, the two biggest ones are attracting and retaining high-quality staff, certainly on service desk and within first and second line, now we're looking for staff that have got fantastic business awareness, really good customer service and communication skills and technical ability. And actually those three things together are in high demand within the IT sector, and so actually recruiting and retaining those staff. And recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce as well is really difficult. Certainly within the HE sector in IT gender equality's a bit of an issue, but diversity in general as well.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah. So people is a big subject, all the way through your description there.
Sally Bogg: Absolutely.
Ian Aitchison: It's about the people...
Sally Bogg: I'm all about the people.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, getting them to focus on the right work, be service-focused rather than just excited by technology.
Sally Bogg: Yeah, that's been my mantra the past 18 months is the right people doing the right job at the right time, and that's not always as straight-forward as it sounds.
Ian Aitchison: No, no, absolutely. I mean ultimately the jobs we all do are about people, right? So success is encouraging people to work in the right way, as you described.
Sally Bogg: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: And that's an interesting point, in higher education particularly, about, I guess, you get people that may be with you for many, many, many years and you get other people who maybe won't stay with you for long because they can see a different sector that might reward them in different ways.
Sally Bogg: Yeah, definitely.
Ian Aitchison: And I guess there's been challenges there.
Sally Bogg: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, yeah, okay. Well that's great.
Sally Bogg: We did an Itil cast a few months ago, and we did a quick round the room, in terms of experience and it added up to well over 250 years.
Ian Aitchison: Wow.
Sally Bogg: Because we had sort of 20 years, 15 years, 12 years.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah.
Sally Bogg: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: That's amazing, just three people in the room. No I'm kidding. No, that shows exactly the sort of thing special to the higher education space. Okay, thank you, Sally. That's great. So we had a bit of unification of culture, we had the challenge of getting the right people to do the right thing at the right time, Carla, what's been the big challenge in the University of Oxford?
Carla Thornley: Yeah, it's interesting listening to both Steve and Sally. So I think Oxford is a slightly different place, but certainly I do acknowledge what both are saying, and it is probably...we're a little bit further along the line, maybe. So yes, we had cultural issues, I think, when the team was formed, but that was well before my time. The thing that struck me when I joined was actually what Steve also faces, which is the complexity of service delivery that you're actually required to get your head around here at the University of Oxford. So similar to Cambridge, we've got a college system steeped in such fantastic history and experts in every field that you could ever wish to imagine. And all of that is a challenge for IT. It's a challenge to deliver what people want in the way that they want it, which is what the university very much does want us to do. And it's a challenge to understand what people are trying to achieve, and make sure that we are providing value. So I think the first thing, what struck me the most was just how very complex this place is, and how something that might seem quite straight-forward in a corporate environment is far from straight-forward here, just in terms of the number of people you need to involve, and the complexity of what you're trying to deliver.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, yeah. Complexity, I totally get that point. When you've got many people, many systems, many ways of working, I can see how that's really gonna be a challenge. And there's an interesting connection there, maybe, with as we reference people and focusing on doing the right things. If your teams are doing repetitive work that is going across multiple systems and technologies, working in, as I say, a very inefficient way, they're gonna become demotivated and they're frustrated in the work they do.
Carla Thornley: I think that's a fair point. I think at the moment that isn't the biggest issue that's challenging service first and second-line support. It is understanding what they need to know in order to provide good, high-quality support services.
Ian Aitchison: Okay.
Carla Thornley: So big challenges around knowledge while making sure that we have access to the right tools, persuading people to allow us to shift left, so that we can actually do more at the point of contact, and making good relationships with our customers. So that's really been my focus in the past year is empower your first and second-line support staff to actually just take ownership of things and see things through to completion, because ultimately they are the customer's voice.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, excellent. Okay, thank you. So merging and unifying, focusing on doing the right thing at the right time with the people and empowering and addressing complexity of knowledge needed to cover such a huge range of topics and subjects. That's a load of challenges. Great, thank you.
Carla Thornley: It is. And, I mean, just pretty much what Sally was saying. I mean, it certainly is a challenge to recruit here at the University. We are too near to London to actually be a particularly attractive place to work, other than the fact that we are the University of Oxford. So yeah, our talent pool is sometimes limited. But that said, we've had some great opportunities this year to actually allow our first-line staff to move on into more interesting roles in other teams. That will reap dividends later on, because they had been making good links for us, but they keep that service culture. And we've got a whole lot of new people who I'm very excited about who have got some real talent. So I'm looking forward to developing that talent and seeing where we go with it.
Ian Aitchison: Ah, now it sounds like you may be introducing one of the top tips that we might give to others on this call a little later, around how to energize and keep your staff focused. But that's two questions away, so let's hold that one back. But that's excellent. Okay, thank you. So challenges, we now understand it's challenging, right? I mean, there's no IT service management role that isn't challenging, but you've got some unique ones yourselves, both to your unique universities, but also to that sector generally. So I'd like to now turn that into the next question which is what have you been really successful at? What can you look back on and say, "I nailed it, I really made a big change here. We've done something great?" It may be connected to that challenge, it may be something else that you've introduced, initiated, made a big difference that you can point at and say, "That was a success." Let's change the order around a little bit. Let's start with Sally. Sally, could you give us some thoughts on what you would say have been some of the big successes you can see looking back?
Sally Bogg: Yeah, I think we've got a few things I can talk about. But what I really try to do in my role is focus on people and getting the most out of our valuable staff resource. So a great service needs great people, and to be able to do that you've got to empower them, you've got to support them, and you've got to make them feel valued. And that's what we've tried really hard to do. We've also really been focusing on developing our IT service management capabilities and kind of using that to move us from a technology, deliverer of technology to a deliverer of service, and then this has also started to pay off. It's been quite long and quite slow, but in May this year, we implemented Advanced Service Manager. And we took quite a bit of time doing that, because we really wanted to focus on the adoption and engagement to make sure the new tool became fully embedded. I'm very aware that quite often in our sector, people just go buy and buy a new shiny ITSM tool and get six months down the line, they're really frustrated that it hasn't had the impact. And actually it's because it won't, it's just a tool. You've got to really focus on the process and the cultural aspect, and that's what we've really done. We've sort of change champions within the departments help with that adoption and engagement, and that really paid off. It meant the new system and the new processes were really well received, and it meant that during the whole implementation go live period we didn't actually have any detrimental impacts on our customers, no dropping service levels, and we actually have, within a couple of weeks, people saying it was making a difference and it was benefiting them. So I think that was quite, to have that within two or three weeks of getting the new tool in felt like a significant achievement to me.
And then the other thing we've been doing is, as part of our focus on service delivery, was re-inventing and re-investing in the service desk. When I arrived in 2015, it was a new service that had just been put together, and there was a perception in the University that the service desk offering was quite poor, and it had been because it had be really underfunded and under-resourced. So we've really focused on that kind of first-level excellent customer service and service desk. We've used a service desk certification frame-work as our program for that CSI, and it's kind of hot-off-the-press following a lot of hard work and a very intensive audit process. We're delighted that last week, we were provisionally awarded our two star, so it's not official yet, but I'm really proud of the team and the effort they've put into turning the service around, it's not insignificant, the kind of impact that that's had. And we're already getting that positive feedback, and praise and recognition from our customers. And that service is now becoming kind of a trusted partner, it's the service that people want to use, that they want to go to. And that feels like a massive, massive hurdle because changing perception is really difficult. And I'm really delighted that that's what we've been able to achieve.
Ian Aitchison: That's great. Well, congratulations on achieving that certification.
Sally Bogg: Thank you.
Ian Aitchison: That's fabulous. I know there's a lot of hard work involved in that, it's not an insignificant exercise. So that is a great success. You also referenced there, of course, using technology to improve the level of service and the advantages of investing time and thought and effort into using tools in a way that really pays off. So that's great. Good stuff. Well, well done, Sally.
Sally Bogg: Thank you.
Ian Aitchison: I know Carla, with your background in the SDI, of course Carla you'd be familiar with the whole service desk certification side of things.
Carla Thornley: Yes.
Ian Aitchison: What would you look back at?
Carla Thornley: I wasn't Sally's auditor, so just to be very clear…
Sally Bogg: She has been my auditor.
Carla Thornley: I did train your auditor, that is true to say.
Sally Bogg: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: Okay, so Carla, what's been some big successes in University of Oxford?
Carla Thornley: Well, I think in the last year, again similar to Sally, you're always, with service technology, your people are always your key asset, and I'm proud of what we've done to empower the team and make them feel good about the job they do. So that's an ongoing challenge in any organization, to actually just take the people that are closest to the customers and make them realize how important they are. So giving them voices is very important to me, and I think we've started down that journey. And allowing them to make connections, real personal connections, with our customers. So the value of that can't be underestimated I don't think, those conversations that they have are gold to an IT department, because they are really at the front end of knowing why people use technology, what they are using it for and what their challenges are. So I'm proud that we've started down that journey. And using metrics, I think. Using our data in a little bit of a better way. So I don't think we've really focused too much on using data to inform your strategic vision. And I think we absolutely must know how to do that. We've got rich sources of data in IT, we collect an awful lot, but what we don't do is analyze it and make sure that we're actually delivering things in a sensible way, necessarily, all the time.
So from a service desk perspective, I keep telling me staff that everything they do is recorded and very visible, and it's a mark of quality that they do everything right the first time, and they do make every effort to make sure that the quality of that incident management process is good from the very first connection with a customer. And now we're started to look at, you know, the big thing here is predictable service delivery, and matching our resource to what we know is going to happen. So we're gonna make use of our Advanced Service Management data to do that, and start to shift things left, as I mentioned before. So I'm proud that we've started down that journey. The bigger one I think is our support channels. So much like most organizations, the primary communication channels that people seem to love dearly and which we can't pry it out of their dying hands, is email. From the service desk perspective that is a real killer, because it's the slowest communication channel that you can think of.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah.
Carla Thornley: So I've been making every effort to focus people's attention not away from email, but to make sure that if it's something is urgent, you contact us by phone or by some other mechanism, hopefully chat one day too. And then actually that is the quickest and most pleasurable experience from a customer's perspective and gets the best service. So we have focused most of our attention on delivering fantastic telephone service. Our abandon rate has gone down from 40% in a very stark month last year, right down to less than 5%. And that's with a backdrop of where we've actually seen over 44% increase in the number of telephone calls to our service desk. So the team is very much now focused on being responsive and actually jumping on things quickly to make the connection with people, but then also to look at the efficiency of what we're doing. So I'm proud of that, and I'm proud of the team because they're working in a different way, and they're working very hard. The other thing we've done is integrate in our support solution into our service manager, Advanced Service Manager, which has been fantastic, and I think we will reap the dividends of that for quite some time in terms of providing remote support at people's desktop without actually physically being there. So I'm glad we've got that one over with as well. So it's a good position for us to be in.
Ian Aitchison: Well, that's great.
Carla Thornley: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, that's really good. It's interesting you started with personal connections, you came back to the importance of that and the difficulty I think everybody faces with email as a support channel. It's needed and in many cases it's impossible to turn it off, but it's one of the most inefficient ways of providing support. And an interesting point you made around metrics. And let me ask you a questions here. When you're guiding your teams on the value of personal connection and spending time with real people and understanding that connection, if you put metrics in that are very volume-based, that can sometimes build barriers. Have you found that to being a challenge, managing performance metrics that are data-driven versus the softer side of personal connections?
Carla Thornley: I think it is, yeah, definitely challenging. So in our previous roles it's been quite obvious that people either do one thing or the other, so some people focus very much on customer experience and the softer side. So if somebody has a fantastic experience and it takes two years, then fair enough. And other organizations are very much volumetric, volume-driven, so it is about introducing metrics about how long a call should take, or what the abandon rate is, and it's very kind of dry, numerical-based statistics which don't actually just engage with people. So I think we've tried hard here to find ways to make the numbers mean something. So, for example, when we're very, very busy, so one key metric is how long things are taking to be picked up by a person? So we automate our email coming in and obviously then it sits there until somebody does something with it. So I think that key metric of how old is the oldest thing that we need to next do? That's real to people, people understand that. But you're right, I think you've got to make every effort to make the numbers not just numbers when it comes to actually empowering people and motivating them, because it can be very off-putting to just have a number attached to you as a person.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, and you know we could talk for hours about that whole topic of what are the right things to measure to drive the right behavior, but we don't have time to do that, frustratingly. Let's find out from Steve his view of great successes in University of Cambridge. What do you say, Steve?
Steve Hoensch: Yeah, so I'd just say that, hearing what Beckett and Oxford are going through, it sounds exactly the same as what's happening in Cambridge. You know, there's so many similarities between the two that we've just heard. One of the great successes that we've started to invest in is automation. So allowing the customer to self-serve. So that's saving us a huge amounts of time, the number of tickets hitting the actual service desk. Changing requests into, sorry, incidents into service requests means that people can self-service, they can get access to the services quicker, and they don't even have to speak to an analyst for the simple tasks that are just repeatable over and over again. And that's something where we're really investing in now. And by doing that that takes away the pressure off the service desk so that they can concentrate on better training, more time to spend with the more complicated issues, and things like user creation or simple things with email along... I need to add myself to a distribution list, or something that can be done really quickly, the user can self-service. And because of the time we're getting back on that, we're now training staff. They're all, have just completed their foundation courses and we're looking at how we can invest in people in the future and get new people in.
So some of the challenges Sally was saying earlier about recruitment, we've now started to invest in getting younger people into the organization and giving apprenticeship schemes. That's because we've got the same challenges with Amazon. We've got Microsoft, we've got, even Apple have just set up in Cambridge, and we've got large pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca. So they pay a lot more, so us being able to invest in our staff, train them up, and if it's something they want to do and change jobs in the future, that's good for us as well because we can bring in new, fresh ideas into the organization. So it's working well for us.
Ian Aitchison: Oh, that's great. And again, that comes back to that point of you need fresh ideas coming in, you need fresh energy, as well as working with those that you have, to inspire them and insure that they're getting rewarded in the work they do.
Steve Hoensch: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: I'm glad you mentioned automation there, Steve. I think that's...Obviously I speak as a software vendor, but in all our conversations with our customers in all verticals, people are increasingly seeing that automation is the key to freeing people up from drudgery and letting them focus on the quality stuff. So it's good to hear that one being reflected back also in this space. Great. Okay, so looking at time, we're getting a little tight on time, so let's jump quickly into the next one. Obviously lots of viewers and listeners attending this, thank you for coming along, I hope it's great. What tips would you give them? Imagine they were stepping into your role in a leadership IT position in higher education. What tips would you give them, maybe most important three things, or one thing more than anything else, or be really clever, do this? Let's start with Carla this time around. Some top tips, Carla?
Carla Thornley: Top tips for somebody coming into a role like this one?
Ian Aitchison: Yes.
Carla Thornley: Yeah, I would say find out who does what. That's a really obvious thing, isn't it? But certainly this department is vast, and there are pockets of IT that do such special things. It takes a while to do that, so don't assume that things work in the way that you may have found out in another organization. In my experience, every IT department in the world, in every organization, is slightly different. It has a different nuance, it has a different culture, I guess. People do different things, basically. So make sure that you know who's doing what so that you can, not reinvent the wheel. So there's probably an awful lot of stuff going on that you weren't probably aware of, make sure that you make an effort to find out where the responsibilities lie and where people's pinch points are so that you can actually tap into that and provide good value. And find out about your people. So as I've said before, I'm really excited about the talent within my team. I started here by looking at people's job descriptions and what people were actually doing and tried to match that to what the customers needed, what we needed to deliver. And I think that was the right place to start. So I started with my analysts and rewrote their job descriptions and made sure that that was embedded fully. And then we looked at the seniors and we changed the focus of their roles so that they're much more about empowering and helping out their analyst colleagues. So really just make sure that you know what the challenges of the organization are, and make sure that the people understand what they're there to deliver. So that would be my top tip. Don't be afraid to revisit...
Carla Thornley: ...especially in higher education, because we've got somebody who's been sat there for 20 years, the chances are they will have pockets of knowledge that no one else is aware of, and they've been doing so for quite some time, just because it needed to be done. And if you don't known what that is, and you haven't managed to eke it out of someone, then you can find that you've got some single points of failure and more. And also it creates a more even playing field so that everybody knows what they're there to do and what the priorities for the team are.
Ian Aitchison: That's great. So take time to understand the people, understand the talent that they've got and the expertise that they've got and make sure that they're in the right place, doing something rewarding and beneficial for them.
Carla Thornley: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: Excellent, that's a really strong, good message. Thank you, Carla, great advice. Let's ask Steve, what tips would you give?
Steve Hoensch: So I would say, so I've worked for the University of Cambridge for the last 17 years, and I've seen a lot of change happen. What I would say is we get a lot of corporate people start within higher education and they don't understand the culture, but they also don't understand the maturity of the department. So we see a lot of people coming in here, sort of high demands to make changes, they expect those changes to happen instantly. But the University doesn't work in that way. So coming across with ideas to improve performance or add a new tool in, but they have to understand that the higher education, we've got a lot of talented and clever people within the organization, and you've got to understand their needs and bring them along for the journey as well. An example of that was implementing the new ITMS tool that we have. It was a decision to implement that tool without bringing people along for the journey and that causes some problems because people didn't understand Itil at the time. They didn't understand the difference between and incident and a request. So what I would say is make sure that when you're going to adopt something within higher education that you've brought everyone along for the journey. If it is Itil, you need to train them all, at least get them to foundations, and then they'll understand and they'll get on board with that decision and that direction, and then you'll have much more success trying to deliver something.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, that's great. That makes sense, Steve. Yeah. So culture, recognize there is potentially a unique approach as you work in higher education. And again, the same message, work with the people, right?
Steve Hoensch: Yeah.
Ian Aitchison: Work with the people that do the work, that it is so important that they understand why and what and they're involved in the how.
Steve Hoensch: Yes.
Ian Aitchison: So a very strong message there, excellent. Thank you, Steve. And finally on this one, let's turn to Sally and see what Sally's top tips are.
Sally Bogg: I strive to be quite people-focused, but I think in terms of the role of a leader in IT, I think my biggest learning point was about authenticity and being real. So I came into IT in the minority as a woman in IT; and spent a lot of time thinking I needed to be just like everybody else that was around me, but quite frankly there's enough men in suits in IT, and I've actually learned to be my authentic real self. And that's where my leadership and my management comes from, and I've found that a really eye-opening, positive experience. But it was quite slow to the pasture with that one. And then really it is focusing on the people, you know? IT service management, frontline support, it really needs that magical mix of technical understanding, business and market awareness, and communication and customer service skills. And actually if we want to attract more diversity in tech, certainly within the HE sector we need a different approach to recruitment. We need to be thinking about how we can actually provide exciting opportunities for talented people rather than just recruiting against a very standard sort of job description. I think if you look at the higher education sector and our user base, it's probably one of the most diverse sectors to work in. Most universities have a fantastic international community, and we are delivering services to people of all background, ethnicities, ages, and actually IT needs to reflect that. We need to focus on diversity and having a more diverse workforce. That's just gonna increase creativity and innovation, encourage personal growth, and enable us to actually develop the talent, too, and I think that's really important. It just gets overlooked, that focus on people, which is a shame. So that would be my thing is in terms of leadership, be your authentic self and always put people first.
Ian Aitchison: Yeah, great. Thank you, Sally. And again, kind of reinforcing, again, that point about people, but also bringing the leadership, personal style, authenticity. I love that phrase you use, "...exciting opportunities for talented people." And that's similar to a phrase you used earlier about "the right people doing the right job and at the right time." I think bringing those together is a message I've certainly got as we've gone through this session. Technology's important, technology saves time and does things quicker, but the people are far and away just as much in higher education as anywhere else, maybe even more in higher education, the people are so important and giving people fulfilling roles and exciting careers and getting to try new things and get rewarded in what they do is an essential part, I guess, in building an inspired team that delivers service. That's awesome. You know what? We have loads more questions and we don't have any more time, unfortunately. So we'll skip the other ones. That was really interesting. Thank you. I hope that those listening to this got some good value, I think that it's really interesting the commonality and some of the differences. I wish we had more time to dig into more of these topics, actually. So that was great fun. I'll say thank you very much to our panel. Thank you to Steve Hoensch. Thank you, Steve.
Steve Hoensch: Cheers.
Ian Aitchison: Thank you to Sally Bogg. Thank you, Sally.
Sally Bogg: No problem, thank you.
Ian Aitchison: And than you very much to Carla Thornley. Thank you, Carla.
Carla Thornley: Thank you.
Ian Aitchison: Okay, thanks for listening, everybody. Thanks for attending.