I gave a talk on IT Services: Help Or Hindrance? at the UCISA Management Conference 2006 held in Blackpool on 8-10th March 2006. The UCISA Management Conference is aimed at senior managers in IT Service departments (and also attracts those involved in related support service departments, including the Library). I was very pleased to be asked to speak at such a high profile conference, which attracted over 300 participants. The conference was also highly successful; as Owen Stephens summarised in his Overdue Ideas blog:
How often do you leave a conference feeling inspired, and then end up getting dragged back into the daily grind?
I think that this year the UCISA conference has challenged me to make some changes. So – I want to go back and do at least one thing that has been mentioned during the last 3 days. It could be changing the way I engage with students, (Stephen Heppell), having an evening meal with my colleagues (Tim Smit), developing partnerships with the community (Michael Ahern and Craig Hickson), or by working with the students rather than against them (Brian Kelly), or something else that has been inspired by one of the speakers.
So – a challenge for me to go back and do something differently. And a challenge for all UCISA delegates (and others reading this) – change something about the way you work, or deliver a service. If you want, leave a comment to say what it is.
At the JISC Conference 2007 which I attended earlier this week I had the opportunity to talk with a number of the UCISA staff, and was able to obtain a summary of the feedback from last year’s UCISA conference. I was very pleased to discover that my talk received a rating of 3.2 for the content and 3.4 for the presentation (with a rating of 4 for excellent). The talk received the third highest rating (and I hope I’m note infringing anyone’s privacy by reporting that Tim Smit received the highest rating, scoring a perfect 4 for the average for his presentation on Creating Dreams).
It was particularly pleasing that my talk received such high ratings as, as indicated by the title of “IT Services: Help Or Hindrance?“, I was suggesting that the traditional approaches taken by IT Services to the provision and support of IT may no longer be applicable in a Web 2.0 environment. The feedback indicated that, rather than IT Service managers acting like turkeys voting for Christmas, they are, in fact, aware of the need to reinvent themselves. This realisation struck me after being invited to give a follow-up presentation to IT Service managers in universities in the East Midlands back in November. It struck me that that I didn’t really need to labour the point of the need for change; rather, the participants were rather more interested in how IT Services should go about implementing change.
I’m not the only person thinking along these lines. Yesterday Mark Sammons, a Senior Computing Officer at the University of Edinburgh (and contributor to this blog) published a posting on IT Services 2.0 on his blog. Mark predicted that “ In 5 years time, IT Services will be almost completely unrecognisable to how they are now.” Rather than feeling threatened by such changes, Mark is very optimistic about the future: “I see a great opportunity with this new world, this “IT Services 2.0”.
I’m pleased that Mark has coined the term “IT Services 2.0” to refer to a modernisation of IT Services to reflect the changing environment. And I heartily support his vision for change:
The real challenge therefore, will be for IT Services to adapt, to provide services to help end users collaborate or communicate and help each other, and to offer more value to the organisation. Of course, there will be casualties such as support staff who can’t learn to develop new services will be increasingly marginalised, will be increasingly redundant, but in many ways, it is exciting – the chance to move from an environment of being reactive to providing increasingly rich new services is much more interesting (to me, at least).
I’m pleased to find increasing evidence that IT Services are adapting rapidly to a Web 2.0 environment. But where does that leave the Library? The term “Library 2.0” has already been claimed to refer to use of Web 2.0 technologies within a library context, so we may have to coin the more clumsy phrase “Library Services 2.0” to describe the re-invention of the Library. But are Library Services 2.0 to be found or are they behind IT Services 2.0? Or, on the other hand, is this term redundant as the Library has always emphasised the importance of the user, and all that is need is minor refocussing?