A “mobile first” approach is about framing the University’s approach. It is not about stopping everything done now and attempting to deliver everything on a mobile platform. It means just as the approach used to be to collect information in a book from which learners extracted information and manipulated it to suit their purpose, including digitising it for use via other means, the process should be reversed.
The first consideration should be how can this knowledge or information be displayed and accessed effectively on any mobile platform? Once this question has been answered effectively thought can be directed into how it is transferred effectively to a static digital platform (e.g. desktop or wall mounted screen) and finally in hard copy (e.g. books and posters).
Such a shift in approach will only be achieved with a significant investment (of time, effort, and resource) and a commitment to embed this mind set in the University’s culture. This approach is equally relevant to students, academics, and professional services staff: a mobile first vision will change the look and feel of the University and its ways of working.
In many organisations there is increasing differentiation between digital capacity (software) and information technology (hardware) delivery. The focus has shifted from hardware (including wiring) to applications and the smart integration of data to provide an engaging customer experience – the aim is to surprise and delight users with new features and connections. This shift in emphasis has seen many organisations out-source or commoditise the delivery of hardware (including WiFi provision) and concentrate in-house on understanding the customer and designing the interface and data connections required to deliver an excellent user experience and to create differentiation (the University’s brand).
The University has moved in this direction as evidenced by the decision to outsource Student Accommodation WiFi and adopt a cloud-first strategy for services, which has removed the need for large-scale investment in development, infrastructure, and support teams. This saving has enabled an increased focus on delivering a better customer experience. It must continue to move in this direction.
The focus cannot be exclusively on development and the introduction of new capabilities. The introduction of new and exciting applications will not remove the customer’s high expectation for uninterrupted high-capacity service. This requires the constant internal monitoring of live services delivering business-critical activities, such as the network and storage, and the ability to fix problems very quickly.
Other universities have imported the Military’s Situation Centre (SITCEN), Operations Bridge, and Operations Officer approach to provide a constant view of system performance and the means to commit the right people to rectify problems rapidly. ICT have implemented monitoring tools across its infrastructure and have used this concept to increasing effect. The SaaS model for key critical business solutions with associated service levels minimises the risk of downtime. Furthermore, the utilisation of cloud technology with all suppliers allows services to be rapidly returned to normal when an event occurs.
The approach to procuring, configuring, and maintaining standard ICT equipment (e.g. laptops and mobile phones) has also changed. Rather than receiving vanilla copies of equipment, it is configured, primed for use, maintained, and replaced by the supplier on an agreed schedule. This approach reduces time to effectiveness, maintains equipment capability, improves consistency of experience, ensures efficiency through volume, removes friction and delay, and allows technical personnel to be reassigned to more critical customer facing roles.