UCISA Support Services Conference 2013 – Part 4

I’m off to another UCISA conference, which has forced me to face up to the fact that I still, to my shame, haven’t finished my notes on the UCISA Support Services Conference 2013. Please check out the Prologue and Parts 1, 2 and 3.

Time is an issue – along with my memory of the event, over half a year on – so I’ll try wrap things up by focussing on the bits I can remember, rather than offering you a second-by-second breakdown of the remaining afternoon, evening and morning…

The Forth Rail Bridge

The Forth Rail Bridge

Bridges featured heavily in Herriot Watt’s Mike Roch and Wendy Pirie walk through their experiences and some of the challenges they faced pulling together Library and IT to better support teaching and learning (slides) – recalling the tales of bridges from Liverpool earlier in the year.

That point is borne out by our experience at Surrey, where putting access to IT support in with the library has been a big hit.

While much of the detail was procedural (identify roles, bring together comms etc.) Some interesting tips were passed on, particularly about getting staff from different teams working together (facilitate – don’t force it – let them find their own “synergies”). One of the aims discussed was one close to my heart – pitching for a Customer Service Excellence Award.

Next up, Dan Batchelor, Wolverhampton’s (then) Student’s Union President talked about Integrating the student voice in the decision making process (slides) – not specifically about IT, although that was one strand to the story.

Dan’s tale was one of turning a failing Student’s Union and making it really work for the students by getting involved in the University’s running. The point was made that not only were students “experts on their own educational experience”, but that they were valuable partners to have along for the journey.


Poor Fussball table...

Poor Fussball table…

The one bit that sticks in my mind from the day was from Dan’s experience as a course rep, where he spotted a student missing from lectures and on investigating found that they had left having been told that they were failing – only for this to be revealed ultimately as an administrative error! Dan’s intervention saved a student from dropping out – a great result for the student, but also the University given completion rates are a KPI for most establishments. It demonstrated above everything else to me the value of student involvement.

Dan had started his talk with a tale of an old Fussball table – I was so desperate to know what happened to it, I made a point of asking in the Q&A afterwards. Alas. it wasn’t good news. Students can be saved, pub games on the other hand…

Unidesk caught quite a few people’s eye during the conference, as much for it’s bringing together of a tool, an HE support community and established processes as it did for it’s affordability. Alex Carter talked us through the fundamentals (slides) and while he didn’t offer much new process-wise (we all know our ITIL processes) it was interesting to see a service like this being adopted so enthusiastically as a shared service. That said, Alex’s presentation included one of the clearest definitions for Incident Management I’d seen in a long while:

A great Incident Management definition

A great Incident Management definition

There’s little point linking to Paul McGee’s slides on the UCISA site, as they don’t come close to doing his session justice, just check out his website instead. Peter Tinson also blogged shortly after on what he took from the session and how it fit with his own experience. No slide pack could ever accurately convey a presentation that had us all revealing who in the room were better lovers, or turning to strangers and saying “I love you, sugar babe” in (I think) Norwegian. It was a hoot.

To compliment Paul’s wisdom (and the unlikely notion that he found inspiration in Euston Station), the room of course had some wisdom of it’s own to share:

And then a bunch of us climbed Arthur’s Seat with the then unknown, but now infamous “Unemo”. Click through the image for a Storify adventure!

Unemo atop Arthur's Seat (click through for the climb on Storify)

Unemo atop Arthur’s Seat (click through for the climb on Storify)

Dinner was a laugh, although it was quite clear that I’d fallen in with a bad bunch.

And then suddenly, like the wine (which ran out quite early, leaving a thirsty compatriot from Sheffield and I scouring the tables) the day was over. For me at least – some younger, hardier souls apparently recreated the climb up Arthur’s Seat to watch the sunrise.

James Davies and James Tempest from the University of the Creative Arts drew the short straw and had the morning-after-the-night-before presentation slot…

James & James’s Presi doesn’t quite translate to PDF (slides), but was at least attractive enough to wake some of us up and theirs was an interesting journey moving towards more joined-up, effective IT support and the role that cultural changes and technology (in this case Bomgar of fantastic bright orange umbrella fame) can play in that.

The UCA / Bomgar Presi

The UCA / Bomgar Presi

The main event for many of us active on Twitter was seeing Leeds’ Sally Bogg and Edge Hill’s Jenny Jordan talking firstly about SDI certification and then Customer Service Excellence – in a session that delivered the most valuable take away idea for me. In both cases it was clear that as great as the outcomes were, with Edge Hill’s success and Leeds getting 2 stars (and with ambitions for improvement!), the journey was also incredibly valuable. Approaching that journey honestly with the aim of using it as a learning experience, not just a box-ticking exercise, was vital to make it worthwhile.

I loved Jenny’s use of book quotes as slide material and committed to steal the idea (I mean use myself, as an homage). From a general professional point of view that’s one of the things I really like about these events – communicating (not just through presentations, obviously) is a vital skill and one of those things we need to develop just as much (perhaps more, in many roles) than the technical skills we might otherwise be tempted to focus on.

Andrew Davis bought the formal conference programme to a close with an interesting talk on social media (slides), although it felt like we were the wrong audience to hear it. I have some fairly strong views on how we make use of social media from a support perspective that occasionally make me unpopular, but there are some folk I’d quite like to sit down with and make them watch the presentation from start to finish (probably twice). But one thing at a time…

Andrew delivered, for me, the quote of the whole conference and one of those things that applies everywhere in life:

Technology and the Social Organisation

Technology and the Social Organisation

Andrew also nailed it with this slide, pointing out (correctly, though it’s easy for IT folk to get caught up in it) that being a social organisation isn’t about the technology at all, really…

The morning and conference ended with a wrap up and recap of the big themes that came out of the Discussions with a Difference sessions from earlier (slides).Gamification and points around measuring customer satisfaction without overloading users with surveys were big topics, as was administrative rights (a personal bugbear at the moment).

There were two more bits of (important) business before we all went our separate ways.First up, Nemo!

Secondly and somewhat embarrassingly – having decided following the previous night’s excesses not to dress tidily, I was presented with an award for “Most Tweets”, or as I like to explain it “Most outstanding contribution to the conference through social media”…

I’ve spent a while trying to write up a summary of the event overall, but I’m finding I’m just repeating myself so please take a look at my first notes on the conference, written the same day when my memory was fresh!

So there we go, got there in the end. I still have fond memories of the conference and look forward to (hopefully) going along to Crewe this year. But first, there’s the small matter of UCISA14


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