We recently commissioned a study on the The Management and Administrative Computing (MAC) Initiative in order to inform our Digital Futures activities, especially those, like From Prospect to Alumnus, in the area of Enterprise computing and corporate information management.
The MAC Report, by Tim Philips, former Director of IT at the University of Bristol, is now available, and it synthesises the lessons learnt from the MAC initiative and highlights the implications for current and future collaborative activities, including From Prospect to Alumnus.
The MAC initiative, started by the University Grants Committee in 1988, ran until 1995 and set out to promote the development of a new generation of corporate information systems for UK universities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a formal change programme, it was not generally regarded as a success, however as the Report makes clear, there are some benefits that emerged from it.
Phil Richards, Jisc’s Chief Innovation Officer, welcomed the Report: “As a neutral broker and service provider, committed to delivering shared services and digital solutions which benefit our customers and stakeholders, Jisc is keen to learn from past interventions such as the MAC initiative. There are also useful findings for other related initiatives like the Higher Education Data and Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP).
This Report concisely summarises some of the challenges and opportunities inherent in such endeavours. The landscape and technology may have moved on, but sustaining an ecosystem which harnesses the creative tension of ‘co-opetition’ to overcome barriers to sharing remains vital for any sector-wide innovation to succeed.”
Here a a few key points from the Report to give you a flavour:
• MAC suffered from inadequate governance structures, an insufficiently strong business case, lack of focus on business process change and strategic alignment, and inadequate programme and project management. Target business benefits were also not adequately identified.
• MAC was progressive in enabling more professional business systems management and collaboration between institutions. Some elements are still in use today.
• ‘MAC should have started from the customer requirements and worked towards the technology, not the other way round’ (quote from interviewee);
• ‘Establishment of families on the basis of technology preferences and the resulting large and diverse family groups made agreement of common business solutions problematic’. (ibid.)
• Common standards in such shared service initiatives are a key enabler;
• The role of Jisc in enabling effective collaboration for innovation in digital services in information management is self-evident.