Consulting the schools and colleges
It’s almost a truism that pretty much any system, strategy or plan can be improved by considering multiple points of view. The more people who will use the system or be involved in the strategy, the more that wider consultation is likely to help.
So consulting widely is generally a good thing – but it can be hard to make happen. The people who we need to consult are already busy and may likely have other tasks which they consider more important. We may not even know who most needs to be consulted.
As I wrote last month, we’ve been developing a set of strategies for our core systems. One of the key steps in the process is to consult the computing officers in the academic schools and college. At first, we attempted this by presenting our work at the regular meetings of the college Computing Professionals’ Advisory Groups (CPAGs), but this had several drawbacks. For one thing, The CPAG meetings already had full agendas and we had a lot of material to present. For another, some people were only interested in certain strategies. And for third, some people attend all three college CPAG meetings, so got to hear everything three times.
So, taking a lead from one of the college heads of IT, we arranged a special joint meeting of all three CPAGs, along wih members of the EA advisory group, specifically to look at five of these technical strategies. Originally, we were going to book a meeting room, but when the pandemic took hold and we started working from home, we moved it online.
Arguably, being online worked even better. We advertised the schedule in advance, so people could attend only those topics they were interested in. We didn’t have to cram into a hot and uncomfortable meeting room. We took short breaks between each topic so that we weren’t just staring at a screen for hours. And we kept the presentations short so that there was plent y of time for discussion.
The result was some really excellent feedback, which will help to make these strategies address a wider range of needs. This, in turn, will make them more likely to succeed.