Good Things Happening at BCNET

I had the pleasure of attending and sponsoring the BCNET2014 conference in beautiful downtown Vancouver. BCNET is a not-for-profit, shared information technology (IT) services organization led by and for its members, British Columbia’s higher education and research institutions.

This was certainly not the first conference that I have attended but it was very unique. The normal conference fodder of vendor speakers selling their wares and theorist, who recently drank the best practice Kool Aid, spouting ideology from their pulpit – was replaced with practitioners in the higher education space speaking about how IT is making a difference for their organizations. Almost every presentation I attended talked about how IT is bringing value to Higher Ed. BCNET started off with the slogan “Building Value Through Collaboration”

Over 600 people came together to share what is working for them and what hasn’t worked so well. Lively discussion about how technology is impacting education both positively and negatively.

Key decision makers were present along with some great subject matter expertise - Not that these are mutually exclusive:)

I delivered a free Business Relationship Management pre-conference workshop and was also asked to help facilitate (along with the talented Sandeep Sidhu from Capilano University) a round table discussion related to IT Service Management. During the round table, senior representatives from Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Capilano University and even a representative from the University of Alberta shared the highs and lows of their ITSM journeys. Based on the questions from the audience and the number of nods and smiles I saw – I know a lot of value was delivered and many insights were taken away.

 

Normally I go to a conference and I see people presenting stuff that I have seen presented 15 years ago. (Hazard of my age). At BCNET, the presentations were all about how IT is helping to transform the business of Higher-Ed. People were sharing information unfettered by the restraints of competition, jealousy or envy. While most of the attendees were IT centric folk, the conference would have been of value to anyone interested in the future of technology enabled higher education. I was able to see several of the sessions presented and I tremendously enjoyed it.  I had a lively debate with several attendees over the impact the free university of nextgenu.org is going to have and in another session, I was reminded by Monty Python that not everyone is searching for the Holy Grail.

I enjoyed watching 2 IT Directors duke it out, debating whether Higher-Ed IT has customers or not. – “We are colleagues, they are not our customers”!. Asked my opinion, I said “The terminology used does not negate IT’s obligation to provide value to the business”

There was representation from some Higher Ed institutions outside of BC but the focus was Higher Education in British Columbia. Technology was used to make some of the conference tracks available to those unable to travel.

 

 

The conference committee at BCNET has an opportunity in front of them. Expanding their mandate to include Western Canada and possibly even North West in the US, the value of this annual conference will skyrocket. I look forward to future BCNET conferences. Thank you to all of your coordinators who put this great event on.

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E-Learning… Axelos has it right!.. Almost

On Nov 19, 2013 Axelos issued a press release outlining their  12 month strategy for the development of  PPM and ITIL®.  In that release they made the following statement:

“AXELOS research shows that standard e-learning is not sufficient to deliver good outcomes, so we will focus on experiential learning methods such as gaming and simulation.”

I know in the past I have been an visible opponent of e-learning in general as an approach to ITIL training. I still feel if you could look at “value” delivered in the industry by e-learning and measure it against the “value” delivered in the industry by instructor led training, e-learning would pale in comparison. However, I recognize that this does not do justice to the industry to generalize like this. That being said, I have 2 issues with AXELOS’ statement.

My first issue is that AXELOS decided to limit this statement to e-learning. I attest that “certification” is not sufficient to deliver good outcomes. Singling out e-learning as the problem that needs to be addressed was wrong. My second issue is that AXELOS does not make it clear what “good outcomes” are.

If the ultimate “good outcome” is improved Service Management capabilities within the organization, then certification means very little. It is at best a rudimentary  measurement of the progression through the knowledge spectrum. While knowledge is an essential requirement on our journey to improved capabilities, experience is the key ingredient. Experiential Learning will move people a little further along this path but nothing will replace experience.

Bottom line is that for organizations to achieve good outcomes, they need to commit to the pain needed to implement improvements. They need to recognize that culture will resist, organization structures will need to be changed, policies will need to be updated, tools will have to be modified, measurements will need to be put in place, management practices will need to be changed, and yes, people will need new knowledge.

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