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Seminar Report

Seminar 2: Institutional Innovation and Change

The second Innovation Seminar feeding back the lessons learned from the Institutional Innovations Programmes was held on 3rd December. The seminar focussed on lessons from projects around institutional change, in particular design and development of processes to support the take-up of innovative technologies across institutions.

The seminar can be viewed in Elluminate at Institutional Change: practice, systems and process 3rd  December  
(http://elluminate.jisc-ssbr.net/play_recording.html?recordingId=1250872206854_1291375269759 )  and a copy of the presentation is available for download here http://ssbr1210.inin.jisc-ssbr.net/files/2010/12/Seminar2-Institutional-Change.pdf

Four Lessons

The seminar presented four key lessons around the implementation of emergent technologies, which were selected from a set of draft briefing information for senior managers that is available from http://ssbr1210.inin.jisc-ssbr.net/briefings-for-consultation/.

The first lesson is around the need for tools and methodologies to bring about institutional change. Most institutions are now effectively using and adopting established methodologies for systems review and design processes. There is no need to re-invent them.

The second lesson is on the complexity of institutions. : Institutional systems are large and complex, making whole-institutional analysis and design a difficult and costly task. Undertaking a focused review within an institutional review framework and set of policies provides a more manageable set of tasks.

The third lesson is on the need for a large project group to  support institutional wide change. Whole scale institutional change may require a large number of relevant people to be included in the systems review and design process from IT Managers and Estates to students and academic departments. The support of senior management is also essential but will not reduce the need to engage a large number of people and also support bottom-up development as well as top-down management.

The final lesson was on exploiting existing technical opportunities. Many successful institutional change projects around technology are a result of the doing the right thing at the right time. Such as identifying the emergence of a new technology within the student population, linking to an existing institutional policy to improve feedback, increase retention, improve systems efficiencies, etc.

Feedback and Comments

New Change Approaches

The feedback recognised that institutions are highly complex and the external environment (political, cultural and technical) is rapidly changing and also influences change for institutions.

 

The tools and methods used are dependent on the problem being solved, so an important lesson for institutional change is to understand the problem or issue that needs to be addressed. The need for a clear business case for the innovation/change is required. It was suggested that it was difficult to extract general lessons from different projects conducted in institutions of varying complexity and size.

Projects create potential for change beyond themselves even though project is bounded the activity can open up opportunities for change elsewhere from where they set out to make change. These opportunities for change may be useful or a distraction to the issue being addressed, i.e. it may be easier to follow the path of least resistance. Scope creep must be avoided within the project, but we need to recognise how the project and the wider environment are co-evolving over time.

Project Teams

Participants suggested that the size of the team really depended on what you were doing. It was agreed that stakeholders should be involved early in the process. Examples were included improving quality of student feedback enabled by roll-out of cameras and software requiring the support of IT services to get it going (i.e. exploit existing opportunities and use simple tools where possible).

Sustaining change using ‘networks of influence’ vs ‘hierarchical management’ are important aspects. The large project teams developed by some projects may be the result of having to create these networks of influence to achieve change. Institutions present themselves as hierarchies but are actually networks of influence. Change agents recognise and work with the networks of influence.

Engaging senior managers was seen as essential however getting buy-in when managers don’t have the relevant technical or enterprise architectures knowledge/experience can be difficult. It was suggested that this could be helped by doing a SWOT analysis and getting better training for PVCs.

Senior management (SM) support is crucial but this can change over time, they may not be engaged at start but can be engaged once the project has demonstrated (potential) benefits to the organisation or their interest may not be sustained if other institutional priorities emerge.

The skills of a project team may be more important than the size. Not everybody was in a position to be in change management, some team members might have been very focused on technological aspects but not in change management. It was suggested that there are two distinct types of innovation teams, those that work bottom up develop new innovative uses of technology and those responsible for the institutional wide implementation of a new technical system. It was agreed that too often the roll-out of new technologies fails to address the staff development issues.

Institutional Change Process

Some institutions are developing processes for moving innovation from a bottom up innovation into an institutional wide innovation for example institutional early warning process indicators with a strategy working group to decide on what to take forward. However this can lead to a problem of unexpected funding requirements to support and sustain the new technologies and their adoption. Hence someone needs to decide which innovations are adopted, which is back to what is the business case and issue that needs addressing.

The transition from innovation to sustainability was an important aim of the Institutional Innovation programme and there may be key lessons that have not emerged.

A flexible approach is a necessity, as open access and social networking technologies are enabling people to be independent of institutions with less central control as a result. Flexibility of systems design, with more open data and user owned applications was seen as a possible way forward for learning applications in particular. The concept of ‘IT support’ is dying, institutions need to be ‘enablers’ providing services users can utilise. Support will still be necessary management systems at present such as the finance system.

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