PIPaL: JISC BCE at Loughborough

5. Recommendations

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Our stakeholders saw the introduction of an IT system in support of Relationship Management as a secondary activity, contingent on us developing a fuller understanding of our own processes. The consensus view at a recent stakeholder workshop was that we should begin by profiling the extent of our involvement with a small number of key partners, across the spectrum of organizations that the University is involved with.  There was a feeling that an overly mechanistic approach as exemplified by process mapping may fail to capture key requirements – in a sector which is characterized by flux and mutability.

There was clear consensus that a Relationship Management programme can only be successful given effective business processes, committed people and supporting technology.  The scale of the effort involved at an institution could vary drastically depending on the scope of the project – e.g. a system for use only by external facing units, versus a system or systems for cross-institutional use.  Some consideration should be given to institutions taking a dual-path approach, with separate (but integrated) Relationship Management systems targeting particular business areas.

Loughborough is not unique in having one-of-a-kind systems such as Web-PA and Co-Tutor, and indeed following a successful JISC project the Web-PA software is now open source and in widespread use in the Higher Education community.  Relationship Management may prove to be one of the areas where an organization can obtain a genuine advantage by developing something that reflects back those characteristics that make it unique.

The role of the Linked Data initiative in unlocking information and putting it to good use has set an excellent precedent.  Organizations should be considering how they may apply the Linked Data principles internally to create a low impact “University API” that permits the mashing up of key data to facilitate the generation of Key Performance Indicators, and visualizations of the sort shown in this report.  JISC should find ways to encourage this, and work to help the community to find a common vocabulary of identifiers.

The JISC Self-Analysis Framework makes the assumption that data is either held in departmental silos, or in a shared central institution database.  The RIBSYS service shows us that there is another model involving Shared Services that has its own complexities and considerations.

The Self-Analysis Framework overstates the elements of Relationship Management relating to “Customers” and generally uses business jargon perhaps a little too freely for an Academic audience.  This should be corrected in a future revision.  It would also be desirable for the Framework to consider the role of Government bodies in partnerships – the tacit assumption is that these take place primarily with students and businesses.

Written by Martin Hamilton

September 4, 2010 at 9:00 am

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