The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has a unique structure. Unlike most universities in the UK, it is composed of thirteen partners – a range of colleges and research institutions spread not only in terms of their geography, but also size, course offering and research focus.
There were a range of tools and systems available across the partnership for communication and collaboration, but there was a level of inconsistency in how they were used by different institutions. Curio was engaged by UHI to scope out the key requirements for a new intranet to improve the level and quality of communication across the multiple partner institutions, with a view to building a community of shared working practice.
We carried out a range of stakeholder engagement activities, including workshops, depth interviews and a survey, to better understand how systems were used across the partnership, what level of collaboration already occurred (and where there was desire for more), current pain points with existing systems and desirable functionality for an intranet. The depth interviews were also an opportunity to understand the different brands in existence within the partnership. Whilst UHI exists as one entity, there are stark differences in the identities of individual institutions and the messages they need to communicate, from colleges focused on teaching higher and further education courses, to research institutions with limited focus on student recruitment.
The engagement activities showed that a centralised intranet meant a number of things to different people across the partnership, and it was expected to serve a range of purposes. These included fostering a shared identity, enabling the communication of individual institutional identities, a document repository and a staff directory. At the same time, the survey and interviews highlighted that collaboration occurred across institutions and between different job roles based not only on the technology available, but also staff knowledge and technical skills to be able to use it effectively.
We ultimately recommended that the University already had all the technology it needed, but what was required was a series of measures to ensure it was used effectively. These recommendations articulated a programme of work to build the right resource, culture, governance, content management and skills to support the development of a shared culture and shared ways of working. This programme of work, currently under development, will benefit not just a partnership-wide intranet, but lay the foundation for a shared culture to facilitate consistent and effective adoption of new technology across the University.
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