IT : Strategy, management and DIY in HE - a breakout group summary


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A report summarising two breakout sessions run at the Association of Heads of University Administration (AHUA) 2013 Autumn Conference in Nottingham, held during September 2013.

The breakout sessions were run by Stephen Butcher and Andy Powell of Eduserv and involved a total of around 35 senior managers at UK HE institutions. The intention was to investigate why HEIs tend to adopt a DIY approach to IT services.

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IT : Strategy, management and DIY in HE - a breakout group summary

  1. 1. IT : strategy, management and DIY in HE Breakout session report AHUA 2013 Autumn Conference Nottingham Stephen Butcher and Andy Powell Eduserv Image: Wojtek Gurak @ Flickr
  2. 2. Introduction • we ran 2 breakout sessions at the AHUA 2013 Autumn Conference in Nottingham • each session was entitled “IT : strategy, management and DIY in HE” • we set out to investigate why HEIs tend to adopt a DIY approach to IT services • there were 15-20 delegates (all senior management) in each session – split into 3 discussion groups
  3. 3. Groups were asked to discuss… • has your institution considered outsourcing aspects of your IT services? • pick one example where outsourcing was chosen and one where it was considered and rejected • what were the drivers that led to those decisions? how valid do you think those drivers were/are? • are there common characteristics of DIY vs. outsourced services?
  4. 4. Currently outsourced Note: intention was to pick examples, not to create a definitive list
  5. 5. Outsourcing considered but rejected Note: intention was to pick examples, not to create a definitive list
  6. 6. Avoidup-frontcapitalinvestment Lackofin-houseexpertise Flexiblecapacity Qualityofuserexperienceandfunctionality Speedofimplementation Studentattitudestochange Reliability Cost Risk In-houseprovisiontoomessytooutsource ViewthatinternalITcapabilityisa‘goodthing’ NicheHEapps(i.e.nooutsourcedoptions) Immaturityofavailableoffers Abilitytocustomisetheservice Pastbadexperiencesofoutsourcing(notIT) Concernaboutexploitationbysupplier Staffattitudestochange Branddifferentiation VATonoutsourcedservices Needforintegrationwithenterprisesystems Missioncriticality ITstrategy&cultureofcontrol Security Legal,compliance(e.g.FoIandDP) Confidentiality Reasons to outsource Interpreted variably Reasons to DIY Note: ordering applied by the authors based on group feedback
  7. 7. Remarks • it seems likely that the historic need to be at cutting edge of IT (to support the needs of academics) has led to an over-riding culture of DIY, particularly in older universities • attitudes to issues like cost, reliability and risk appear variable and partly dependent on perception of in-house capability – e.g. cost is likely to be an important factor in individual cases but impact depends on how internal costs are measured • VAT on outsourced services tends to push cost factor in favour of DIY – externally supplied services have got to be 20% cheaper (before VAT) compared to DIY, just to break even • only in ‘free’ cases (e.g. student email) does cost become a ‘no-brainer’
  8. 8. Remarks (cont.) • there was a perception that HE is somehow a ‘special case’ (compared with other sectors) but not clear if this is correct • in particular, ‘confidentiality’ and ‘mission criticality’ both given as reasons to DIY • however, in discussion it was noted that: a) other very sensitive sectors don’t see things that way b) most universities will have procedures and infrastructures that are less audited and accredited than those of third party suppliers • groups could usefully have spent more time discussing the relative importance of the issues raised, and whether they are perceived or real, but time did not allow for this
  9. 9. Useful resources • UCISA 2012 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK vey_2012_with%20Apps_final • Efficiency and effectiveness in higher education: A report by the Universities UK Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group encyinHigherEducation.aspx