What’s the best way to overhaul your computer systems? That was the question posed at the latest meeting of the LeanHEHub in Nottingham University. Mick Gash, the Lean Programme Manager introduced the group to the work being undertaken by ‘Project Transform’, Nottingham’s major initiative “to deliver joined up support systems and processes throughout the student lifecycle, across the whole University.” Key to the project is the understanding that the transformation is “far more than merely an IT system implementation. It is about delivering a solution that the people in the University value and feel ownership for, ensuring that the most efficient processes are implemented, supported by the right technology solution.” Nottingham summarise this as ‘People, Process, Technology’.
This approach fits well with what we, currently on a much smaller scale, are trying to achieve with the Process Improvement Unit. From our early days we have tried to ensure that in our projects, we think about people first, process second and technology last. Why is this so important? Because it is people who are served by processes, people who operate processes and people who are frustrated by processes. Without understanding the problems that people face it’s impossible to design better processes. Once a better process is designed, one that fits the needs of ‘customers’ (however defined) and one that operates without waste, batching and holdups, then technology can be used to provide further improvements. Doing technology first will only produce a process that does the wrong thing faster.We’re really encouraged by the tight integration between ‘lean’ methods and systems procurement and development that Nottingham are pioneering, and hope that we can achieve similar synergies here at Sheffield with our own student systems review.