Nick Skelton, Mark Elley & Chris Mayo from IT Services attended the Future of Technology in Education event on 11th October. FOTE is a free one day conference in London organised by ULCC, University of London Computer Centre. FOTE brings together academics and IT staff to talk about IT in education, and the lineup of speakers this year was the best yet.
An element of the programme was an informal panel discussion on the subject of “how to successfully implement change”. The discussion was chaired by Yousuf Khan, Chief Information Officer for Hult International Business School. Yousuf put questions to a panel of a panel of CEOs and CIOs:
- Adrian Ellison, Director of IT, University West London
- Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Head of IT, University of York
- Richard Maccabee, Director ULCC
- Cathy Walsh, Principal and CEO of Barking & Dagenham College
Having chatted to the panelists informally over dinner the night before about their successes (and their failures!) Yousuf was well informed. Some of the panelists didn’t expect the info they’d already shared to be brought up in public on stage! So it was a frank and interesting discussion, not too cosy.
Adrian and Heidi had both led projects to introduce major changes to email in their universities – Adrian to Office 365, Heidi to Google. So I listened with great interest to compare their experiences with ours in moving to Google at Bristol.
Speaking with Chris and Mark after the event, I was pleasantly struck by how much the three of us thought we thought “we already know a lot of this stuff”. I have personally learnt a huge amount about change from the successful Google project at Bristol, and continue to draw lessons from it every week. But there’s a difference between knowing something and practising it, especially when we are all inevitably busy. So here are some of Adrian, Heidi, Richard and Cathy’s top lessons on change:
Engagement & communications is essential
Get engagement right across the board: from top to every user in the organisation. Communication is critical right the way through the change, not just at the start. Need to win the hearts & minds of the senior leadership of the institution
Engagement is critical. Where do things go wrong? Projects where you think you have the mandate to make a change, but when there are wobbles and things start to go wrong, you realise you haven’t done enough engagement up front. You need to go back and do it all again.
Everything must be easy to use
Everything we provide has to be easy. This should be the top point in the strategy. Think from the users point of view. We overestimate how interested people are in tech. People just want to do the job. They don’t particularly want to change the tools, don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the current ones. In the early days technology was too complicated for the average user, now it isn’t. Our thinking as IT departments hasn’t caught up.
Above all people want tools to be easy to use, and thats as true of academic researchers as anyone.
See from users point of view
The way IT see the world doesn’t necessarily match how our users see the world. The trick to success is that we need to see from their point of view.
Make sure what we offer solves the users problem. Don’t assume you know “here’s the solution, what’s the problem”. Don’t just listen to one group of stakeholders.
How to overcome resistance to change
People are resistant to change due to fear of the unknown, or complacency with how things are now, but they absolutely want to do a good job. To lead people in change you need some element of dissatisfaction with the current setup, a compelling vision of where we will get to, and an early success you can point at for reassurance.
Dissatisfaction with status quo + Vision for where to get to + Achievable first step = Overcoming the resistance to change.
Keep your head up high when things go wrong
Get the balance right in how you project yourself: be humble but be brave, be singleminded but flexible. Above all, don’t get into a bunker mentality when things start to go wrong. Keep your head up high. When there are wobbles go back and engage with people. Do everything you need to do in the good times, only more so.
You can watch recordings of this years FOTE event, including the panel discussion at Mediasite.