Avoiding critical dependencies

Just catching up with some old JISC podcasts and came across an interesting interview with John Selby from HEFCE (podcast 68) which focused on the impact of JISC supported work. He highlighted the importance of embedding outputs not just institutionally but sector wide and discussed ways JISC might do this better. Certainly engaging senior management is an important factor and demonstrating benefit not just “good ideas” – as is developing links internationally to avoid a parochial perspective. All of these apply at project level as well as for JISC – we need to consider early on how our work might be adopted elsewhere and what our “sales pitch” might be – why would anyone else want to take up our ideas and solutions – what problem do they have that we are offering a solution to?

It is very easy to become caught up with the day to day activity of the project and imagine that we can leave all this until later – when we have results to share, evidence to provide. But I suspect that unless we have this broad perspective from the beginning we will inevitably be playing catch up later. What we do, the decisions we make on a day to day basis should have a view of the wider relevance to the sector as well as our institutional perspective. On another project we were yesterday considering the concept of “critical dependencies” in relation to sharing practice: what elements of what we do are critically dependent on our specific context and what is more widely relevant? We need to plan to avoid critical dependencies as far as we can if we want our work to have broad relevance and impact!