Hi. My name’s Ross Tarbard and I’m Senior Internal Communications Officer at the University of Leicester. I’m here to talk to you about our Digital Campus.
Our strategy talks about our challenge to ‘put digital at the heart of everything we do’.
Easy right? *raised eyebrow*
As a University we rely on plenty of traditional paper-based processes, a range of different systems, many of which don’t talk to each other, and no clear and logical way to pull it all together.
The silo problem that many businesses face is magnified in a University, with independent academic departments who can be resistant to what they see as any imposition from ‘the centre’. So to move from this to a single digital ecosystem that enables any-time, any-where working is going to be a challenge.
And we are working with a website that is huge, unwieldy and badly organised. When we surveyed staff about it, we received this feedback.
I’m sure that these sentiments won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s looked at a project like this, but it’s important we understood the issues before providing a solution.
We never said we didn’t relish a challenge at Leicester
After all, who’d have thought that we’d find this bloke underneath a city centre park park? The odds were astronomical.
I suppose they were only slightly shorter than…
CLICK – LEICESTER CITY
well, these guys winning the winning the Premier League.
If we can make this new digital approach work, the impact will be huge. Clearer processes, improved systems, more productivity, more time freed for teaching and learning, less red tape, better collaboration and above all, an improvement to the experience of both students and staff.
As a University and a modern business we want to take the example of that Leicester City team and lead from the front of the pack, not wait for someone else to show the way.
Internal Communications are only one arm of this, there are multiple teams working on a huge number of fantastic projects.
Again, this is all aimed at improving the staff and student experience but we need it to hang together, to make sense to people.
Our solution So how do we do this? Well, one solution (and it’s not the only one) is by creating an intranet which provides a front door to this ‘Digital Campus’.
We’re getting to the business end of a long programme of work to digitally enable the work of the University and provide staff and students with something that really works for them.
And in doing so replacing an old, badly organised and confusing website plus the huge range of processes and systems, with CLICK a personalised and interactive intranet.
We’ve already launched our first iteration, and this is it. To get technical, we’re using Sharepoint and the Office 365 suite to allow staff to access all the information they need in one homepage. We had help in the design of the site from Redweb, who are also working on our external website. A quick overview of their emails, agenda and tasks through outlook is surfaced on there, a new structure has gone through user testing via Treejack, and we’re showing their OneDrive files and Yammer feed.
We’re also preparing for the future. We’re going to be introducing Power BI for our business intelligence reporting, we’re in the middle of a pilot of Office365 Teams and Groups which are due to launch any time now. We decided to use modern page layouts on Sharepoint, which had only been released by Microsoft a month before our internal team started to develop them... Again, a challenge but we needed to future proof this.
The partnership with our IT services department was and is key. I first worked with them to introduce Yammer in January 2016 and we have worked together from the early days of the new project, taking an agile approach to shape the Intranet, while working in tandem with a large external web improvement project. I also sit on the group which is delivering the digital strategy at the University so have a voice in the key decisions that are made in our digital capability and spend nearly as much time in the IT building as my own now!
None of this is without its challenges The silo mentality is ingrained in the University and we need to continually chip away at it We need to do this against a backdrop of constant change with major projects at all levels making people weary and wary of new initiatives.
How do we do this? We practice what we preach, wherever possible we and our sponsors use the Office 365 tools to demonstrate their benefits We need to increase digital capabilities. Our staff range from 80 year old Emeritus Professors, to experts in maths and informatics who build their own networks and computers to cleaners who don’t really have email access We learn as we go, we’re all new to this, and where people can help us, we’ll gladly bring them aboard We use an iterative approach so that we can roll out small improvements rather than blinding with science We have a framework for upskilling, which uses what we’re calling our digital ‘fellows’, mentors and innovators. They will be out there, bringing people on board, and being our champions
So when will we see success from this? Ask me in two years!
We’re approaching the full launch of this intranet, including the migration of thousands of pages of internally facing content, but looking at the planning, the consultation, the early sharing, the improvements and taking people’s opinions on board we are in a much better position that we would have been if we’d have launched this cold.
How far have we come? Well, we’ve already successfully introduced Yammer to staff at the Uni, we’ve created a mobile app for our students to access key information and systems, we now have automated swipe-card registers in all our lecture theatres, we’ve put lecture capture technology in all our teaching rooms and seen hundreds of thousands of views of the material via our Blackboard digital learning environment, which has just undergone a makeover and improvements so the appetite for digital change is clearly there.
I really believe we’re well on the way to delivering a digital campus for the many, not just the enthusiastic few. As a certain political party leader might say.
Anything we’d have done differently There are a hundred lessons to be learnt. Who would have known that the maths department would stage a revolt when we switched them to Office 365 Mail. They were absolutely wedded to their use of Thunderbird Mail, and not knowing that, we broke that connection for them, so a lot of careful work was needed to bring them back on side, and to ensure that their data was safe and secure. And that’s where our key word for the whole project comes in.
If, like me, you’re a keen gamer, you’ll recognise the Fallout agility perk. And that’s what we’re trying to be.
We’re taking the Agile project management approach to our development of these digital tools so that we can change tack if we need to.
We want people on board for this, if we’re going to succeed is realising a digital campus and if we want them to join us, we need to continue to do the first thing I ever learnt in internal communications.
Use our ears.
Listen… Understand... Reflect…
And make changes based on our own knowledge of what works, but most importantly, the feedback from those people who will be living and working in our Digital Campus.
Realising a digital campus - Ross Tarbard
Realising a Digital Campus
Senior Internal Communications Officer
University of Leicester
“Putting digital at the
heart of everything we
“A single digital