Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Introducing the Alumni Volunteer Coordinator

As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, we have recruited a new Alumni Volunteer Coordinator, to take charge of volunteering initiatives developed through the JISC funded SAVE project in collaboration with the Development & Alumni, Careers and Recruitment & International offices based here at Glasgow.

I'm pleased to announce that our new Alumni Volunteer Coordinator is Sarah Armour.

Sarah is currently our Alumni Development Officer and has recently finished a secondment as Acting Alumni Manager. She has worked in the Development & Alumni Office for a number of years, playing a key role in engaging with our alumni. As Acting Alumni Manager, Sarah deputised for Emily Howie during her maternity leave as a member of our project team, so is very much up-to-date and involved with what we have been working on over the last year.

Sarah will start her new role full time in the next couple of months but is already contributing in a valuable way in taking forward our 'Ask Our Alumni' pilot, revisiting the work we have done over the last year and working alongside our Project Lead, Jane Weir, looking to implement our strategy over the next six months.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Latest news

We're pleased to announce that we have recruited to the Alumni Volunteer Coordinator post. This is a new post, funded by the University for the next two years, to take over leadership of the project and develop it further. This means for the first time since April, we will have two full time staff working on the project. Once the recommended candidate officially receives their contract, I'll update the blog with an introduction.

Additionally, the University has also committed to two years of funding for the role of the Database Officer (Alumni Programmes). The first year of funding was of course provided by JISC.

This undertaking by the University indicates their commitment to developing an alumni engagement programme to enhance the employability of our current students and to ensure that we are able to offer relevant and worthwhile engagement opportunities to our alumni. DAO, Careers and RIO will continue to work together as they have done during the course of the project and we hope that our move to College/School setup, will allow us to work closely with key staff to take forward our initiatives and help to develop theirs. The Alumni Relations team in the DAO is currently working on a series of Alumni Engagement strategies for the Colleges, with Alumni Volunteering taking a prominent role.

On Thursday of last week, the Project Team had their long awaited "Project Planning Meeting". This involved all members of the project team. The main aims of the meeting were to;
  • Identify any areas where additional clarification/development were needed
  • To sign off web content
  • Schedule work for each programme element for the next six months
The meeting proved very useful, highlighting areas where work could progress quite quickly (piloting eMentoring to students in the next two weeks) and areas where work is being deferred pending further engagement/development in other areas (face-to-face mentoring). Following the pilot scheme, we have agreed that we will be launching eMentoring to all Glasgow University students at the start of the next academic year. By this point, we will have evaluated, following a focus group with students and an alumni questionnaire, how our systems work, what tweaks (if any) need to be made and what potential resource we need to put in place to support the programme. I would hope that a blog post to discuss this further will be published either at the end of July or the start of August.

Finally, James and I are also very much looking forward to seeing our fellow Cluster group members and Critical Friend, Peter Kawalek on the 11/12th July for the final RM meeting in Manchester. We will be arriving the night before and attending the dinner.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Sustainability - (revisited) and how we are attempting to achieve it

Firstly, I should mention that I started this blog post a few months back but never published it. I think now is a good time to add to it and send it live. Anything that was previously written is in italics.

As the official end date of the project draws near, it's valuable to look back and reflect on what has been achieved, how priorities have changed, evaluate any difficulties that have arisen but probably most importantly, is to look back at our project statement/title, and see whether we have been successful (or not) in achieving it.

One of the challenges of this project is to ensure its sustainability but also to try and do that within the remit of using the CRM and web technologies that we already have available to us. One of the reasons why we chose to plan and implement our project this way is that we believed that we had the technical infrastructure already in place, to be able to offer what we were trying to achieve. Going out to external companies to build a bespoke system wasn't ever an option to us as we did not have the financial resources available to us. Additionally, one of the major drawbacks to finding a solution in this way, is that normally, if modifications need making, then there is a cost associated with it. Furthermore, we would need any externally designed package to 'talk' to our existing systems and that can always be problematic and again, require additional resource.

The most obvious way to make a system or programme sustainable, in terms of resource allocation, is to make it as automated as possible. Again, this poses a problem; can you have an automated system when you are trying to engage with alumni and students? This is an instance where service design techniques have assisted us.

By mapping each stage of, for example, the recruitment process for Alumni Profiles or recruiting an International Alumni Ambassador (IAA), we were quickly able to see that automation can assist us in certain areas by reducing the workload however, there would always be a need for human intervention or interaction.

Example 1: automated email template responses incorporating merge fields are perfectly adequate to thank profile providers but if certain information was not submitted, it would always need a project team member to follow that up with a personalised response.

Example 2: thanking a person registering interest in becoming an IAA by automated response satisfies our service standards, but doesn't legislate for enquiries by non-alums or those in geographical areas where alumni activity is minimal.

The 'customer' isn't really ever aware or actually very interested in the behind the scenes operation, provided the service that they are being offered works for them.

We're almost at a point where we can test this, particularly with our Alumni Profile resource. Alumni have been using the facility and in the coming weeks, a pilot group of students will be doing the same. Functionality of the form appears to be working well and feedback has been positive. As the form isn't integrated with Raiser's Edge, we have to extract the information out and then re-input it. It's not an ideal solution at present, but it works.

We're currently developing an alternative form in a test environment which we hope can provide greater integration with GU World and Raiser's Edge/NetCommunity. It's looking positive at the moment and will allow alumni to revisit the form, make amendments and hopefully provide greater flexibility for them. There is still a small drawback that extracting the information is, at best, fiddly, but if it makes their experience better, then we are happy to do the additional work. It could also help us in collating job, industry and profession information in a smarter manner.

Should we decide not to go ahead with the alternative, the pilot stage has indicated that we need to ask for additional information on the existing form relating to career information. Effectively, we're asking for two different types of information; job related and personal experiences. The most important of the two at present are the experiences of our alumni, but the career information drives the student search - we really need to have it, but we have been reluctant to ask for both at the same time in case it deters responses (alumni would have to go to two different areas to provide it). Should the form be developed in its current format or we go for the alternative, we will be able to harvest all the information that we need to make for a good customer experience (student and alumni), without the customer having to be inconvenienced by a lack of integration in the background.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Some photos - Service Design and other tools

Persona templates - courtesy of WeAreSnook

These are twelve of out persona templates, developed by James, Pete and Laura. We decided to defer utilising these until the 100% signed off alumni facing website has been agreed. The site is ready, sitting in the background, waiting to be launched, however as a project team, we have decided to review each service that we are offering and more than likely, stagger the 'launch' of each section. This will require a little tweaking on my part, which will be more of an edit, than a re-design.

Initial project planning exercise - plenty of post-it notes

Possibly not the greatest photograph in the world, but this represents 6 A3 sheets of work compiled by Pete and Laura at the project planning stage of our work. By this point, Laura has been researching examples of volunteering scheme across the country and presented these to the project team. We were now tasked with recommending which programme elements should be implemented. As a fairly ambitious programme, we quickly realised that we needed to see the 'bigger picture' but all together and this was the easiest way to do it.

Visual Understanding Maps (.vue). This was the first time that we'd used this software. Again, this, like the picture above, relates to initial project planning.

It's almost slightly embarrassing to look at how primitive and complicated this mind map is. As mentioned in the caption, this was the first time that we had used this software and it's a replication of the picture above. It's actually quite useful to look back and view this document to see how far we have come in streamlining what we offer, how we recruit and how we steward.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Some more Alumni Profile stats.

  • 35% of those who have submitted an Alumni Profile have agreed to become eMentors.
  • 65% of respondents are male.
  • 35% of respondents are female.
  • The average age of our respondents is 39.4 years of age.
  • The youngest respondent is 23 years of age.
  • The eldest respondent is 78 years of age.
  •  Of the respondents;
    • 31.58% come from the 20-29 age bracket
    • 26.32% come from the 30-39 age bracket
    • 26.33% come from the 40-49 age bracket
    • 7.89% come from the 50-59 age bracket
    • 2.63% come from the 60-69 age bracket
    • 5.26% come from the 70-79 age bracket
  • 65% of respondents are based in the UK
  • 35% of respondents are based overseas (mostly Asia)
Recruitment work is still ongoing!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Stats - Alumni Profiles

Just a quick update...

We're in the process of recruiting alumni to submit an Alumni Profile and also to become eMentors.

We sent out 254 email invitations to UK alumni with 23 completed responses. Of the 23, 13 have agreed to become eMentors (56%). Whilst a response rate of 9% (for completed responses) may seem low, considering that of the 254 emails sent out, only 131 were opened (51%). Therefore of the opened invitations, our response rate increases to 18%.

We know it's quite easy to manipulate stats in our favour or to put a positive spin on things, but these response rates aren't too bad considering we are just recruiting for a pilot scheme and that this is the first time any of our alumni will have heard about what we are trying to achieve at Glasgow. It's particularly pleasing to see that the eMentoring aspect of the programme is proving popular.

What we have learnt just in the week since we have started recruitment is that it does take a lot of resource to administer the editing and recording of the profiles. Additionally, the profile form and our CRM are not integrated, so we're moving quite a lot of information around. Finally, the responses will no doubt trigger debate on the questions that we are asking, the responses that we are getting and how they are received by the students. For example, we can see that after the pilot, there may be a need to actually ask respondents to input their profession/sector/industry rather than ask them to log into our alumni portal to do so. This is one of the down-sides to not having integrated systems. Alternatively, it could push us to investigate further the capabilities of Raiser's Edge/BBNC once we upgrade our systems (now pushed back until June/July at the earliest.)

We also recruited overseas based alumni following on from our events in SE Asia. We don't anticipate that these alumni will be utilised as much as our UK based during the pilot phase, but will return with similar stats and blog about them in the future.

[EDIT] - We have 37 active profiles overall!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Partnerships with multinational employers - risk and changing expectations

Looking back through our JISC application, we were asked to identify potential areas of risk and to rate the;
  • probability of it occurring
  • the severity of it
  • any actions to prevent or manage that risk
One area that we did not highlight as a risk was partnerships with external stakeholders (although we did cover relationships when discussing 'Engagement with the Community').

It was our plan to pilot and then formally launch a mentoring scheme for our students in collaboration with a multinational employer, with premises in Glasgow and a large set of Glasgow alumni employed by them. Key staff in our Careers service had been building a relationship for some time with key staff within the employer, with a view to piloting the scheme with them and it was anticipated that we would commence the pilot scheme in January 2012.

What we failed to anticipate was a change in key staff (in the employer) and a shift in their priorities.

What I should make clear is that we do retain the support of the employer in the long term in achieving our goals. We are currently working together discussing some networking events with the view to collaborating with another company to push forward with a formal mentoring service, via employers. It is anticipated that by working together in this fashion, that we can satisfy the requirements of all stakeholders involved in the process. Whilst the delay was not anticipated, our customers (students) will benefit more in the long term as we will be able to offer at least one additional careers/networking event. Additionally, it looks increasingly likely that there will be a benefit to a wider range of students by incorporating another external partner into the mentoring pilot. Whilst our original plans might be delayed, we are thankful that it is providing other opportunities. Furthermore, it has also helped us in being able to shift focus and prioritise other areas that we can offer our students and alumni.

We, as a project group, have learnt that it can be difficult to align our priorities with that of a company that may be looking for a 'business return' or have to make a business case to form a partnership. This is a risk that we could have identified at the start of the programme.

One of the key benefits of receiving JISC funding is that they are as much interested in the lessons learnt as the measurable deliverables and achievements. What we are learning as we go along will be shared across the sector, for the benefit of the sector and that can only be a positive outcome.