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Communicating within the institution

If you have examples of how your department communicates with the rest of the institution that you are willing to share, please get in touch.

“Each department at York has Department Computing Officer (DCO), and each month we have a forum over lunchtime, with catering provided. We have an update from each section of IT and everyone has opportunity to ask questions. Recently we asked for feedback on the range of standard laptops then presented the results back. We then came up with a plan to revise the models and will get the DCOs involved in testing these.”

Sarah Peace | Head of Desktop and Printing Services, IT Services, University of York

"You said, we did…" Top

Promoting improvements that have been made by the IT department based on customer feedback using a “You said, we did…” campaign is a great way of engaging with customers and letting them know that you listen and act upon feedback whenever possible.

Ways of promoting service improvements that have been made based on feedback can include:

  • updating a dedicated webpage on your IT website;
  • poster campaigns;
  • display boards, and;
  • inclusion in monthly IT updates.

“You said, we did…” campaigns are also an excellent way of demonstrating to the business the value that you provide and that you are engaging with customers on a regular basis.

(Content adapted from the UCISA UK Higher Education Service Desk Toolkit (Section 8, Customer engagement)

‘You said, we did’ examples:

www.lancaster.ac.uk/iss/news/2017/making-it-better/
https://it.leeds.ac.uk/info/218/it_help_desk/706/you_said_we_did

Internal comms – communicating within the IT department Top

Effective internal communications are essential not only for creating a good working atmosphere but to foster a unified view of the department’s priorities. This is particularly important where there are distributed campuses and partnerships with other institutions.

Creating a team perspective of “One IT” is preferable to multiple teams moving in different directions.

A collaborative supportive team culture can be hard to achieve, but can be supported by a mixture of formal and informal communications within the department.

“We have several strands of communication in the IT Service Division. Internally within the department we use Yammer, emails, monthly newsletter, staff meetings and manager briefings. Communication to users varies in relation to the project but for BAU activity we have our status page, various bulletins (both IT and University-wide) and email. We also produce a monthly scorecard of activity covering staff sickness, budget management, information security and service desk tickets, major incidents and service uptime. We also monitor progress on risk management.”

James Brimble | Head of Governance, IT Services, University of Bristol

Formal communications Top

The Toolkit project team shared the following examples from their institutions:

  • using a departmental calendar so that everyone knows what’s coming up;
  • having personal calendars visible by default so that you can see what your colleagues are working on;
  • using open and transparent team meeting structures, and minuting those meetings;
  • having ALL staff meetings, and where whole department meetings are convened, recording them so that they can be shared. Consider splitting the meetings to allow shifts are covered.
  • applying transparent governance (so, for example, the IT senior management team meeting minutes are available on an all staff wiki page).
  • circulating a staff newsletter within the department with a roundup of project updates, staff news and a message from the IT Director.

“The Computing Services Department holds monthly management meetings, but they were previously every two weeks. However, the alternate two weekly slot is now used to do project updates, service updates, roadmap vision sharing etc. by the members of the Computing Services Management Forum (CSMF). The CSMF is managed in a SharePoint environment, which allows for governance of reporting, attendees and actions, whilst making the whole process transparent to all departmental staff.

Items are categorised and if you have nothing to report, you can tag that too. If anyone wishes to discuss an item, they tick the box associated with the report. This is an effective use of time, as we don’t have to read through every report in the meeting before we get to those that people want to discuss. The Director’s PA runs this system and uses it to minute the meeting and should an action be assigned to a report, then we can see and follow up on it. This is again open to the whole department.

The categories used include: recruitment updates, projects, feedback to celebrate, praise and highlight constructive criticisms, service issues (used to describe end-user-focused service improvements or problems) and suppliers. There is one category missing from this list and we intend to do this at some point, which is ‘budgets’ to allow sharing of Departmental financial status. Reports are due five working days before the actual event and attendance is from the department Directorate and all senior managers.

The use of categorisation allows for reporting on attendance, and actions, and allows for transparent actions management. I personally find this system very useful, it allows for transparent communications in the department and we, as a senior team, get a great overview of the department.”

Gordon Roberts | Assistant Director for IT, University of Bath

Informal communications Top

“We’ve been using group chat within IT Services for a number of years and now we couldn’t live without it. We have IT staff based across a number of buildings and Slack makes communication between those team quick and effective. We have rooms based on physical teams, particular projects or incidents. Slack works particularly well in case of major incidents as staff from around the University can access the “IT emergency comms” room and see that there is a live incident and that we’re working on it. This means staff don’t need to call the service desk and they can see real time updates of an incident.

On a day to day basis we have staff around campus fixing issues and who may need support. They can ask a question in a Slack room and get an instance response from a range of IT staff leading to quicker resolution times and collaboration between teams that are not physically based together. We also love that you can respond to messages with emojis making communication friendly and fun!”

Sarah Peace | Head of Desktop and Printing Services, IT Services, University of York

Many universities and colleges use group chat to communicate informally.

Informal social events are good way for colleagues to get to know each other, which in turn helps improve working relationships. Competitions and quizzes can be a fun way to get people talking to each other. Raising awareness of a cause, charity work and fundraising are also a great way to get colleagues working together on a common cause.
https://twitter.com/ITServicesUoL/

And it will come as no surprise to see that food is a very significant motivator for IT staff, from “Cake Tuesdays”, to “Bring a Dish Wednesdays” to a newer Scandinavian import, “Fika Fridays”!