Can We Create a 1st Class Blueprint for HE Partnerships?


ANS recognise many of the challenges and successes our HE customers tell us about aren’t always unique to any one institution. We recently hosted our Higher Education ‘Curry Club’ event as an opportunity to investigate how HE and their suppliers can work together to breed successful, long-term partnerships. Here’s an industry insight from Paul Davies, IT Director, University of Sussex.

“Higher Education is changing at a rapid pace, as is the landscape for those driving forward Higher Education and the technology it relies upon. This always-on education model puts increasing pressure on IT teams. Universities are more business-like than ever before and yet IT teams that are set up in a more traditional model often struggle to deliver what the business needs in the timescales demanded by users, resulting in poor perception and satisfaction ratings.

Partnering with suppliers and service organisations can help IT teams to implement solutions faster and more reliably whilst maintaining ownership and responsibility for organisational IT. Recently, I was invited to an event hosted by Cloud Service Provider ANS to discuss the following hot topics:

  • How can HE establishments collaborate to ensure that suppliers understand their needs?
  • How can we analyse best practice to understand where innovation lies?
  • How do we use this knowledge to provide the services required from our users

So where do we begin? Partners and organisations must work together to understand these key areas in order to create a blueprint for success: organisational culture, requirement, value proposition, areas for partnering and commercial proposition.

  • Organisational Culture

How can either organisation really embrace a technology and service partnership without understanding each other?  First and foremost there needs to be a conversation relating to requirements, key areas and delivery of services/ modes. In some cases, opposition from IT teams may be strong especially for those unfamiliar with partnering/responsibilities. It’s important to assess this first, to educate and build up confidence in these areas. Without understanding these intricacies of culture how can partnerships expect to succeed?

Key questions:

  • Is the IT department structured, and familiar around working with suppliers and partners?
  • Do IT teams understand how to manage suppliers and what’s expected of them?
  • What appetite does the IT team have to work with partners? Support is essential
  • Will the IT team accept what suppliers and partners deliver?
  • Type of requirement

What, from a university perspective, do you want the supplier to do? This needs to be clear and exacting. Perhaps you require a partner to take full responsibility over back up services; act as a consultant to guide the team or add set expertise/skills to drive innovation.

  • Value proposition

The value proposition falls into a couple of different categories and will be linked to your IT strategy: transactional, specialist skills, technical support, service enhancing- the list goes on.  The value of partners may lie in reinforcing innovation or justifying strategic direction. Value prop is based on understanding value versus cost. If IT intellectual property is your crown jewels, by all means keep it in-house however if there’s a task you want to standardise or repeat and it’s more cost effective to get someone else to do it – then do it. Look at what’s out there, what’s competitive and repeatable and go and buy the transactional stuff… the stuff that will drive efficiency! Your internal teams should be focused on the value enhancing activities, innovation and organisational success.

  • Areas for Partnering

IT teams need to consider areas for partnering whether it is strategy and architecture or design and development. Use partners to meet peaks/demands of your programme, sometimes you need particular skills for a project and the partnership isn’t long term and other times you need ongoing tech support and knowledge. You can buy those skills from a suitable partner and use them efficiently.

  • Commercial Proposition

Commercial proposition for me equals the what, where and how we are going to work the partnership. A partnership at the end of the day is a commercial arrangement.  HE IT teams need to enter into a partnership with a strong understand of what their CP is. Involve the commercial department – IT teams are not commercial experts…and consider how to create win-win arrangements that have service and value at the heart of any partnership.

In summary, partnerships require engagement and involvement from each side – if you and your partner understand your culture, you’ve won half the battle. Let’s use this opportunity to allow partners help us to deliver innovative, world-class IT.”