3.2 Institution B - Operational Maturity

Institution Profile

Institution B is a specialised, research intensive UK University in which teaching and research are integrated and undertaken in an environment and culture of applied innovation. The University aims to be the first choice for students and clients worldwide in teaching and research in selected areas of engineering, applied science and management. It is positioned between traditional universities and business and industry to provide postgraduates with further professional development and graduate awards.

It has a collective vision and strategic direction resulting from its devolved and empowering organisational style. The Council has responsibility for the strategic direction of the institution, approval of major developments and the receipt of regular reports from executive officers on the day to day operations of the University. A senior management team, representing senior management across the university, and including the Director of ICT develop and approve strategic plans.

The Role of ICT

ICT services are provided by the centralised IT department which consists of three designated areas, infrastructure (network and servers), the service team (service desk, repair, training), and applications (support for IS, HR, research information services).

The Director of IT heads the central IT services department and has responsibility for the formulation and implementation of ICT strategy. A Chief Information Officer (CIO) role does not exist.

Strategy Formulation & Implementation Process

The ICT strategy is also formulated and approved by the senior management team, which includes the Director of IT. The IT staff and senior management from the schools and service departments are consulted, often within senior management meetings.

By embedding the ICT strategy within the institutional strategy formulation and approval process the university is seeking strategic alignment. The plans are formulated for a three year period although it is recognised that the changing nature of the current higher education and institutional climate does not support long-term planning.

The IT department draw up annual operational plans which in turn are approved by the senior management team.

Maturity, Strengths and Constraints

There has been much effort and achievement in centralising ICT services so that, 'we can optimise the use of our resources and help to create more coherent strategy across the university.' Some devolved ICT is still in use and is excluded from the centralised ICT strategy.

In examining the alignment of strategy there appears to be potential for clearer institutional strategic objectives to facilitate ICT strategy formulation. The clarity within the institutional strategy was seen to impact on the detail and alignment of the operational plans as well as IT's ability to provide horizon scanning and the identification of relevant new technologies.

The importance of communications and buy-in from the senior management team was identified as essential in following through with successful implementations. More communications with stakeholders has been sought to improve implementations and operational performance.

Institution B can be seen to have achieved an operational level of maturity in its formulation and delivery of strategic ICT.

Developing maturity

The key areas the institution has identified to enable greater maturity include:

  • Improving the awareness and potential role of ICT in strategy formation at executive and senior management levels
  • Possible use of an ICT strategy committee which consists of more ICT professionals or managers with extensive ICT expertise
  • Application of clear KPIs to measure success/failure of ICT projects
  • Improving the strategic plan and review timescales