The University of Salford has recently redefined its strategy in its quest to enhance its local and international student appeal and overall standing in the Higher Education space. This has addressed the desire to improve teaching standards, raise the relevance of the University’s research activities and build closer links with industry and the community at large.
Waterstons were asked to help the University align its Digital and IT resources to the adopted strategy in order to accelerate progress towards a new future.
The key pillars of the University’s future strategy are as follows:-
- Industrial Collaboration
- Education and the Student Experience
- Growth and Diversification
- Research and Enterprise
- Adopting an international perspective
The strategy seeks to exploit the concept of the “Industrial Collaboration Zone”, teaching and research which are firmly grounded in the real world through appropriate partnerships with businesses across the UK. The University has already very successfully developed an ICZ in the form of Salford’s Media City in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation. They wish to extend this idea to cover several other sectors.
This project focused on the creation of a digital enterprise architectural model designed to underpin and enable the new corporate strategy and further the ICZ concept.
Waterstons approached the alignment exercise in a systematic way, involving academic, administrative and IT staff throughout the exercise. Several techniques were used to manage the IT alignment process and develop an enterprise architectural model appropriate to a new future. These included the development of a comprehensive Kaplan and Norton Strategy Map and Balanced Score Card. The Strategy Map is an excellent business tool which Waterstons have enhanced to include the identification of the IT systems that can help underpin the achievement of the required strategic outcomes. This culminated in the creation of an enterprise architecture scheme that defined the digital systems that would take Salford into the future.
Key academic and administrative members were consulted to establish what they felt were the most important initiatives to help the University achieve its strategic goals. The following key requirements were identified:-
- A flexible approach to teaching which would facilitate trying new and progressive teaching processes and pedagogy as ongoing improvements in the student experience are pursued
- Students should be able to track and manage their work and academic progress on-line as well recovering and replaying captured lectures, checking timetables and so forth
- Effective communication between staff and students and with members of the industrial collaboration zones must be both straightforward and routine. Open communications will help students relate to colleagues, staff, tutors, researchers and to work collaboratively on innovation and set projects
- Academic staff must be able to see, at a glance and in a timely manner, student statistics including predictive analytics which will warn of student behaviours that suggest the possibility of drop outs or academic failure
- The student journey starts with recruitment and admissions. Technology should make this process easy including the fresher’s experience – a single student record is created at this point which should endure through every stage of their education through to alumnus
- Integrated systems will give students the ability to track their own academic progress via a dedicated portal through which they can also access the VLE, timetables, syllabus details and other systems that are important to them
- The university can include survey data collection to test the students’ experience as they progress through their course
Following completion of the Strategy Map the required digital systems were incorporated into an enterprise architecture plan as presented below.
Having defined the required digital architecture a project plan of implementation was prepared embodying key priorities, dependencies, milestones and approximate phased costs.
Implications for the IT Services Team
To deliver the strategy the IT Services team must work as a service to the university community with the aim of creating innovative digital solutions to academic and student led problems
- IT must be academic, researcher and student focused; this means a customer centred service culture
- There must be continuous effort to progress through the ITIL maturity journey to a position where the service is seen as a true partner that adds value for the enterprise
- The service should have two primary teams:
– A team dedicated to ensuring the hardware and network infrastructure is resilient, secure and has low TCO
– A further team committed to providing the stakeholders with the software systems they need to help them meet the university’s strategic objectives
The following key themes were identified during the strategy map and enterprise architecture exercise. These have been summarized under the following headings defined by the university as key priorities.
Connected: providing a universal and robust system of communication and collaboration across the whole university including all sites, departments, partners and students.
Engaging: Making the key digital systems accessible to all using all types of personal/mobile digital device both on and off site.
Coherent: Progressive integration of all key student systems focussed around a single key student record facilitating close monitoring of performance parameters and provision of student support services.
Creative: Providing access to software systems that are flexible and can support innovation and change as teaching and research staff strive for continuous improvement.
Enabling: an IT Service that is customer focussed and dedicated to producing the continually evolving facilities that academics and researchers need to fulfil the universities strategic aims.
It was of critical importance that our approach focused on ensuring the IT strategy aligns with the priorities of the University.Steve Williams Strategic Lead: Education