Case Study: How HP Helped Nottingham Trent University Transform IT Operations and Management
Case Study: How HP Helped Nottingham Trent UniversityTransform IT Operations and ManagementSponsored podcast discussion on how one of the UKs largest universities gained control ofproject management with a Transformation Experience Workshop.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: HPDana Gardner: Hi. This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BrieﬁngsDirect. Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how Nottingham Trent University has sought and gained strategic operational efﬁciency and improved IT management. In this case study discussion, we’ll hear how a combination of professional services and portfolio management technologies allowed this 25,000-student university, one of the UK’s largest, to improve end-user satisfaction whilefreeing up IT resources to pursue additional innovation.To understand how, were joined by Ian Grifﬁths, Director of Strategic Partnerships atNottingham Trent University. Welcome to the show, Ian.Ian Grifﬁths: Thank you. Glad to be here.Gardner: We’re also here with Michael Garrett, Vice President of Professional Services for HPEMEA. Welcome to the show, Michael. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BrieﬁngsDirectpodcasts.]Michael Garrett: Thank you Dana.Gardner: Now, Ian, the ﬁrst question goes to you. When you began to think about improvinghow you did IT there, in your mind what was the one glaring thing that needed to be changed?Grifﬁths: We were very, very good at moving forward and doing lots and lots of things, butdelivering products at the end of that period was more difﬁcult. We seemed to be running aroundin circles and didn’t quite meet customers’ expectations. So, we were doing a lot, working reallyhard, but not really delivering the last mile.Gardner: When you started to peel away the layers and tried to ﬁgure out why that was the case,what did you discover and why did something like a professional services involvement become apriority for you?
Grifﬁths: We found that our processes were not really deﬁned well enough. We really weren’tgetting sign-off from the business, and the expectations were never really met. So it was clearthat we were not doing something well, and we didn’t quite know what that was. And our teamswithin the department weren’t gelling that well together either.Gardner: So perhaps having some outside additional authority experience brought to the tableseemed to work for you?Earlier attemptGrifﬁths: Yes. That worked really well. We had had another attempt about 18 months before and had some consultants in, but it didn’t really gel. We were aware that we had a partnership with HP, and HP Professional Services seemed a sensible way to go. But we were still doubtful as a management team within the IS Department whether it was really going to work. And we are very pleased with the outcome. Gardner: Let’s learn about Nottingham Trent University, one of the largest. You’re in Nottinghamshire and you have 25,000 students. Tell us a bit more.Grifﬁths: We’ve been a higher education establishment for about 160 years. We’re one of thebiggest providers of sandwich education, which means that students have two years at theuniversity, a year in industry, and then a year at the university.Were seen as a popular university that has good reputation for placing students at the end of theircourses, and we got top of The Green Agenda twice in the last three years within the U.K. Wevegot about 150 people working in the IS Department on three campuses and nine academicschools.Gardner: Tell us about your responsibilities. What is it that you’re involved with in terms ofhelping these 150 people do their jobs better?Grifﬁths: I have responsibility for the strategic partnership we have with companies and withﬁrms. I have responsibility for the regional network within the East Midlands of the U.K., whichis connecting all the universities in that region and all the further education colleges. And I alsomanage relationships with key suppliers, such as HP.Gardner: Let’s go to Michael Garrett. Michael. It sounds as if Ian has had a relationship withHP, but looked for something bigger, and they were even doubtful that you could help them atﬁrst.Garrett: It’s often imagined that these organizations look to pure play consulting organizationsfor that advisory activity. In Nottingham Trent’s situation they were willing to listen to a differenttype of vendor or organization in that space as to what they could offer in their approach. What’sdifferent for HP Professional Services is that it forms part of HP’s Software organization. Our
consulting capability is very focused on IT transformation, operations, organizations, andapplications.But it’s about bringing that into real practical use quickly with the support of technology. Thatsthe real differentiator we wanted to bring to customers like Nottingham Trent, and hopefullythat’s true with what weve seen in the practical implementation and the work weve done withthem.Gardner: Ian, tell me a bit about the journey. How has this worked out for you? When youbegan to try to determine what was wrong and what you needed to do, how did that unfold? Itsounds as if you had a forest, but the trees somehow weren’t working in a capacity that allowedyou to achieve your requirements.Initial workshopsGrifﬁths: Thats correct. We had some initial workshops where all the senior management teamof the IS Department worked with HP and looked at what we wanted to achieve and looked atwhat the journey might look like to get there. I have to congratulate HP. They were able to getthat team to gel together within IS in a way that we hadn’t before.We spent a lot of time working together and working through the structure, the plan of thedepartment, and what we called the tube map of the department. Everything, in a sense, wasallowed. HP was very good at giving us a straw man to look at. In other words, giving thoseexamples of what other companies have done, but forcing us to discuss them in detail and changethem into what was right for Nottingham Trent.They weren’t trying to sell the straw man, but were using the straw man as an example to moveus forward, and it worked extremely well. Although there were some heated discussions amongstIS staff, HP was very good at facilitating those discussions.Gardner: Typically we hear about the need to address people, process, and technology, when itcomes to these sorts of projects. But it also sounds as if you needed to have a high level ofcustomization, that it needed to be recognized that you are your own organization with your ownvariables, and that a cookie-cutter approach or a too general or methodological approachwouldn’t really be right.Grifﬁths: Thats correct. We had to go back to the rest of the department to try not to forcesomething new on people that, as far as they could see, had no relevance to the situations theywere in. We had to ﬁnd a way as well of getting the business to buy into our new methodology,getting the business to feel some ownership, and getting the business to make some decisionsduring the planning of projects and the ending of projects.Gardner: Michael Garrett, the need to customize, is that something that you valued? Do youthink that this is an example of an area where HP is differentiated?
Garrett: It’s that level of being able to bring the input, the straw man, and then guideorganizations around that model. To customize from scratch takes a great deal of time and cantake too much energy and cost. What we’re trying to do is bring our method and models at thestart point and then work in a very collaborative, but directed, way to get clients to a point,although, a conﬁgured approach rather than a completely dispersed approach.Therefore, we get to things more quickly, but absolutely meet the requirement of the individualorganization. We’ve got to appreciate they are different across different industries and differentareas, and strong cultural alignment is critically important. We certainly saw that in this program.Grifﬁths: The important thing again was that we were producing our outline, and that outlineallowed us to go away and do a lot more detail later. In other words, we got the big pictureagreed upon and then all the details were passed back to teams within the department to build updetails in the areas where they had real knowledge of what happened.Gardner: It also seems important, when you’re going about such a large scale activity, to be ableto measure along the way how things are going and perhaps offer feedback. Incentives werenecessary or even helped a few more heated discussions, as you said, but you can’t measurewhere you’re going if you don’t know where you are.Was there a point at some time, where you needed to get a state, an understanding of where andwhat’s going on in order to know how to measure, and what did you to do to get that?Deﬁne projectsGrifﬁths: An important step early on in this was beginning to deﬁne how many projects wewere running as a department and to categorize work into projects that were developmental andprojects that were more of the business-as-usual type.We found in the end that we had over 100 projects running simultaneously. Some of thoseprojects had been running for more than a year, some had no real deﬁned endpoint, and thecustomer requirements weren’t documented in a thorough way.It’s important to measure how many projects you’ve actually got, and actually have a start dateand a planned ﬁnish date for them. One thing we learned was that 100 was too many for us torun, and we were able to cut down by ﬁnishing some off, to less than 50 that we have now.Gardner: So by rationalizing this, getting some visibility, exercising triage and prioritization,youve been able to cut your active projects in half. Is that correct?Grifﬁths: Thats correct.Gardner: And what has that done now? What are some of the metrics of success by getting moreof a handle over your portfolio and managing it?
Grifﬁths: Probably the biggest one is that projects are getting completed and the project didn’tbecome the be all and end all and continue running forever. We were actually deliveringsomething that the customer was expecting. And the customer, the student or the staffdepartment, had a glow that they have had something delivered to them.Gardner: And what have been some of the educational beneﬁts at a larger perspective beyondthe strict technology beneﬁts? Has this improved in any way in which you can measure yoursuccess and your basic mission in life of educating students?Grifﬁths: The student satisfaction with IS has gone up over the last two to three years. Theyrevery happy with our technology and technology moving forward. But again, we found thatpeople were happier with the delivery of an item, rather than as IS was before, striving fortechnical perfection.Gardner: So you were really understanding your requirements and what was necessary to getthese goals.Grifﬁths: If I have to give advice to other people, it is about the 80/20 rule that 80 percent canbe delivered in 20 percent of the time. Most people are happier with something delivered thatmatches the expectations, but perhaps not all the bells and whistles, and then move onto the nextproject.Gardner: A lot of times in organizations, the budgets are not growing rapidly and nowadaysthats clearly the case. I imagine you had to be thinking about cost consciousness and energyconservation. Is that true that you’ve been able to keep your cost level, but increase satisfactionand allocate your IT resources more efﬁciently?Aiming at 50/50Grifﬁths: Yeah, it’s correct. Before, we’ve had the ﬁgures of, again, 80 percent being used inthe areas of business-as-usual and only 20 percent in project and development work. We quicklymoved to a 70/30 split and our target is to move towards 50 percent. Were not quite there yet,but we’re a lot more like 60 percent business as usual, 40 percent new development work.Gardner: So all things being equal, youve been able to take your operating, maintenance-levelbudgeting, reduce the percentage there and put it more into innovation, creating moreproductivity, and developing therefore even higher satisfaction. It sounds like a virtuous cycle ofadoption.Grifﬁths: It’s a virtuous cycle and the other thing that is gained from that is appreciationamongst other departments within the university and with senior management with what IS wasdelivering, and getting them to prioritize what we did.There was a problem, if we look back two or three years. IS very much decided what thepriorities were. Now, the business is deciding and even deciding in the case that a project that
was a favorite of a senior member of staff, he or she may decide that it no longer is a top priority,compared with other projects that needed to be delivered.Gardner: Is there something about the products themselves, the portfolio managementapproach, that now allows the business side of the organization, the leadership in this case, tohave more visibility or input? How were you able to get it?Grifﬁths: More visibility and more input. The example we always give is of a jam jar. You cankeep putting rocks into a jam jar, but in the end, it becomes full. Unless you allow something tocome out of that, nothing happens. So you’ve got to be able to allow things to ﬁnish and give yousome capacity.The other thing that I talked about was looking at the business beneﬁts of everything we weredoing and deciding the nice-to-haves probably werent going to get prioritized at this stage.Gardner: You mentioned earlier the tube map. Has that also provided visibility across the IT andleadership or organizational divide, or is this something you’re strictly using within the IS or ITorganization?Grifﬁths: Were using it outside the department to make people realize that we are working to anoperational framework. As such, we have them stuck up round the department. And in the roomswhere we have project meetings, they exist as well. As to vocabulary, we have senior staff usingthe phrase "the gate," where approval has to be given. The business has to be involved in theapproval and deciding what priorities it has at that stage.Gardner: Michael Garrett, the way that Ian is describing this, being able to double theirinnovation budget, cut their project numbers in half, get buy-in from leadership, a sense ofcooperation across the organizational boundaries, is this typical? How would you describe this interms of the industry at large?Typical situationGarrett: Its a typical situation that we see in a lot of organizations, even in very mature, evenglobal and enterprise organizations that struggle with these challenges of organizationalalignment and processes to support that. Project selection identiﬁcation and transitioning tosurvey is the common problem we see.With Nottingham Trent, we regulated it very quickly through that organizational design, theninto the process to support that, and then working out what are the catalog and services that theyoffer. How do we then build that into projects and programs and then manage that into servicetransition?Its very common. We see it in a lot of places. More mature organizations believe they do thisvery effectively. Nottingham Trent acknowledged that they needed help. It probably put them
ahead of a lot of other organizations, especially in university space, which is a fast moving sectorin UK, to be able to do something that many other large organizations just cant do.Gardner: And clearly, the need to understand the software, the technology, the culture, really isa comprehensive holistic activity. Hitting one or two of those alone wont do it.Garrett: Its important that its continuous. If you build the right organizational relationship andengagement model, you take the workshop approach that we have up front and take yourorganization through that, right through to something tangible that’s delivering the real outcomein the business that’s very visible and usable. I think that’s very different than having differentorganizations do different types of consulting.There aren’t many organizations that have that breadth and scope of capability to take someonefrom conceptual situation right through to practical implementation of technology to support thatproblem, and that’s where we like working with organizations like Nottingham Trent, that’s agreat model.Gardner: And Ian, is this something now that you’re building on? You mentioned that virtuouseffect, the adoption effect. Are you able now to move towards working at service-level-agreement (SLA) levels or with key performance metrics and indicators. Is there a broadening ofhow you’re rationalizing and even professionalizing how you go about these processes?Grifﬁths: Thats correct. We produced a lot of what we call Level 3 processes from this and welooked at what our customers felt. We found that we’re having regular discussions about how wecan tweak the diagrams and the systems that we’ve got in place. We see it very much as a livedocument, a live methodology and we’re looking at ways we can improve as time goes on.Gardner: In wrapping up, I was hoping, Ian, that you might be able to share some 20/20hindsight. If you were to offer some advice to an organization that was beginning to move moretowards a comprehensive portfolio management, project management approach, looking at thismore holistically and from the process level, what might you offer them in terms of lessonslearned?Grifﬁths: Its important that you have all your senior staff together designing the system fromthe start. We found that if people miss the early workshop, we tended to go back around the loopagain. So I would say get your staff together and devote enough energy to it.Feeling ownershipBut don’t go into all the detail. Leave your staff on the ground, who’ve got more knowledge ofthe details inner workings of some elements of it, to do some work so they feel some ownership.And very quickly get an appreciation with your senior staff within your organization, not withinIS, but from outside the IS department, of what youre doing and what youre trying to achieve.
But in the end, you need a few quick wins. In other words, if you can get a couple of projectsworking through the scheme quickly, people begin to think its going to work.Gardner: Theyll see the success and theyll double down on that. Michael Garrett, weve comeback to this workshop concept several times in discussion, I think that its called theTransformation Experience Workshop. Why is that so powerful? Why does that seem to reallywork in terms of coalescing and getting these larger projects underway?Garrett: Its something weve used for a few years now, something we developed in-house andwe see as a really effective mechanism. It starts off in a fairly classic way of where are we, thecurrent state, looking at future state, and workshop of the organization through that. But its donein a very live, interactive way.So its not a classic style workshop. We walk people around the room. We take them on ajourney, and we bring them together through that process. As Ian said, if you didn’t attend theearly workshop process, then you struggle sometimes to buy into it. It takes more time, and weend up reiterating things later on. The Transformation Experience Workshop is a way of bringingpeople together and bringing them around their own problems in a very active physical way.We can do it in a small period of time, but usually people dedicate a day or so to that process.What they get out of it is that they bring themselves together around the challenges, theproblems, and as Ian said, the quick wins, the things we can then go and address quickly. So ithas a very different feel and a very different outcome than a classic workshop approach thatmany consulting ﬁrms have.Gardner: Very good. Im afraid we have to leave it there. You’ve been listening to a sponsoredpodcast discussion on how Nottingham Trent University has sought and gained strategicoperational efﬁciency and improved their information technology management. Id like to thankour guests. Weve been joined by Ian Grifﬁths, Director of Strategic Partnerships at NottinghamTrent. Thanks so much, Ian.Grifﬁths: Thanks very much, and its a delight to pass on our experiences to others.Gardner: And weve also been hearing from Michael Garrett, Vice President of ProfessionalServices for HP EMEA. Thank you so much, Michael.Garrett: Thank you and thank you, Ian, for the great partnership and work.Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks again forlistening and come back next time.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: HPSponsored podcast discussion on how on the UKs largest universities gained control overproject management with a transformation workshop. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC,2005-2012. All rights reserved.
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