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UCISA’s CIS conference in St Andrews

November 10, 2011

Formal – what we learnt…
One of the highlights of the event was the official launch of a strategy planning tool from JISC InfoNet. The “strategy infokit” helps institutions articulate their vision and considering the characteristics of a good mission statement and gives advice on the effective use of key performance indicators.  

Steve Bailey of JISC InfoNet told the conference, “Our resource is designed to guide you through the development of your strategic activity. The one thing that we would like people to take away is the need to stop and question how they currently conduct strategic activity within their institution.”

He added: “While members of the senior management team are an obvious and important audience for this resource, those responsible for strategic operations within faculties, departments and teams will welcome the practical, hands-on approach taken in the guide and the “pick and mix” style of tools and techniques. The intention is not that people will use all of the suggestions, but that they may find some of them of use within their particular university or college”.

To access the infokit visit:

Peter Tinson, UCISA Executive Secretary commented “In the current economic climate, business improvements and alternative ways of working were both high on the conference agenda. In particular, Derek Watson, the Quaestor and Factor of the University of St Andrews challenged delegates to play their part in helping their institutions through the recession, suggesting reviewing services to identify what could be done differently or even not done at all”.  

Presentations from the University of Exeter and Derek Watson’s own institution highlighted projects which delivered efficiencies whilst Kings College had adopted an alternative approach, moving many aspects of their services to external suppliers. Delegates were also given a briefing on technology trends from Mark Raskino of Gartner, who noted that the hype around Green IT was reaching its peak. UCISA will look to work closely with our Estates counterparts to ensure that sustainable computing continues to deliver benefits to the sector.

Informal – what we found out…
As is so often the case it is the behind-the-scenes, unofficial proceedings of a conference that provides the most food for thought.  Firstly, keynote presentations were supplemented by smaller, informal Birds of a Feather sessions. I attended sessions on data management and the continuing impact of Web 2.0 on universities; both provided plenty of material for future UCISA work programmes.  

Secondly, the “amplified conference” is an emerging trend and it is perhaps not surprising that an event for IT staff was well blogged and Tweeted.  This meant that debate could be widened to absent colleagues and that discussions could continue beyond an initial presentation.  See:

 Lastly, in the presentations from universities, IT staff gave accounts of implementations alongside experts from the commercial suppliers they had worked with.  The candid nature of these sessions has proved to be very popular at UCISA events, and will be a feature of the next major UCISA conference (Harrogate, March, full details available at

A version of this posting appeared in the January 2010 edition of University Business magazine.

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