Applying a startup mindset to internal IT projects

A few weeks back I wrote a post about the kick off of a Digital Workplace project, encompassing synchronous collaboration (such as live chat), asynchronous collaboration (document sharing/collaboration) and project planning/management. I wrote about two strategies that jumped to mind – using a Solution Selling approach to drive adoption (noting that the tools we’re looking at are already freely available, if not readily used), and to ‘dogfood’ the tools within the governance group before expanding out to ‘real’ customers.

Today I want to add a third strategy – applying a startup mindset and principles to what is an internal IT project.

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The power of the uncomfortable keynote

I was privileged in the last 48 hours to attend two of the best keynote presentations, actually no, the two best keynote presentations I’ve seen in my twenty years of attending education-related conferences. Three things made them stand out for me:

  1. Diversity: Neither of them looked like me, sounded like me, or had grown up in a world that I have any meaningful knowledge of;
  2. Quality: Both were inspirational in their contributions to society, and spoke from the heart with passion, expertise, wisdom and eloquence; and
  3. Dissonance: Both made me feel, at times, quite uncomfortable within myself as I listened to their stories.

I want to touch on all three of these, but devote more focus to the third.

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Learning from agribusiness and the value of looking outwards

In my three years working at Flinders and the seven years before that doing consulting work across a whole bunch of other unis, it has struck me that the Higher Ed sector isn’t always brilliant at ‘looking outwards’. I’ve been guilty of it myself on many occasions – in the face of a problem, the first point of call is often to reach out to my counterparts in other Unis and ask how they’ve tackled a similar situation.

Not that this is all bad, in fact it makes perfect sense in a lot of cases to avoid reinventing the wheel. Where it falls down is the potential for having the same sets of eyes with the same knowledge and experience finding the same solution for a similar problem, leading to ‘institutional isomorphism’, i.e. every organisation ending up looking the same in how they operate (Simon Marginson talks about this at a more organisational level in some of his papers like this one, but it applies just as well on a smaller scale I think).

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The IT project governance group – kickstarting Agile behaviour change in a Digital Workplace project

I scared an Agile coach this week.

I’ve recently taken on a project role as Product Owner for an IT project we’re calling the Digital Workplace project, which aims to more effectively leverage several collaboration technologies (such as live chat, document sharing/collaboration and project planning/management) across the professional services teams at the University. Although I’ve called it an IT project, there’s really very little new technology in it, and it should really be called a behaviour change project underpinned by accelerated technology adoption – or something. In fact, all three likely tech tools involved are already available to all staff, it’s just that very few people actually use them.

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Farewelling my smartwatch – a tale of data value

I stopped wearing my smartwatch this week.

Or, to be more accurate, I stopped wearing the latest smartwatch that I have been wearing. I started off with a Fitbit Charge HR (arguably not a smartwatch, I’ll give you that) until that fell to pieces, then moved on to a Sony Smartwatch 3, and then had a brief dalliance with a borrowed Ticwatch S. They now all sit abandoned while I toy with the idea of putting them on eBay, taking them to bits or strapping them to the dog while I’m at work to see just how active he isn’t during the day (greyhounds are good like that).

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