Our recent work on student records has prompted reflections on the nature of change management.
Some issues demand technological solutions:
- Systems can be designed to combat the problem of paper files being generated in up to 8 different departments for a single student
- Users do not have to print born-digital records for the paper file once they have the capability to attach electronic documents to computerised student or staff records
- Technical processes can be devised to overcome challenges integrating our student data with third party systems (Student Finance England, Transport for London, Higher Education Funding Council England)
Other issues require cultural change:
- Might it be feasible for awards committee members to view exam results on tablets in meetings, to save printing them all to paper?
- Is it reasonable to expect committee members to print documents sent to them electronically?
- Would tutors ever want to mark online?
Sometimes users devise a local solution to a local problem. Occasionally this even gets adopted and implemented more widely – the extent to which this is possible depends on several factors:
- Is it scalable?
- What compromises are required?
- Can the prototype processes be refined?
- Is the proposed change desirable?
- Is the data comparable
- Is it auditable?
Some local innovations are adopted centrally – bottom up – and others are devised at a higher level centrally and “imposed” locally – top down – what are the relative merits of each approach? Local pilots usefully reveal teething problems on a small scale, and allow experimentation so issues can be fixed at an early stage in the process. But if technological fixes are done at a macro level, detached from the bigger picture, how do they fit into the overall roadmap? It is crucial to identify dependencies at an early stage so to link local innovation to the corporate, strategic overview.
We need to understand which processes can be computerised and which cannot. It is not possible to automate everything, nor is it desirable – there are many variables, and some processes involve subjective judgement and/or discretionary decision-making. There is no benefit to computerising some processes. Process mapping is crucial, to avoid pointlessly systemising poor practice.
We know we cannot continue to provide a Records Management service for paper AND hybrid records indefinitely. They are too hard to manage: some records only exist on computerised systems; some are printed for paper files; some paper files contain documents that do not exist on our systems, making them incomplete records; and we are missing digital information held outside our systems.
What is involved in moving from hybrid to digital systems? And how will we know when we’ve got there?