Enterprise systems and shadow systems: What can the miner’s canary tell us?

The following is the first cut at developing a submission for the 2007 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Seattle, Oct 23-36. The theme for the conference is “Information Futures: Aligning our Missions”.

Proposals are due February 6, 2007.

In this presentation I’d like to do something along the following lines

  • Enterprise systems – including ERP systems, CMSs etc – are an essential part of university operations.
  • The mismatch between these types of systems and universities (and many other types of organisations) means that there will always be shadow systems.
  • Most organisations and indeed much of the literature positions shadow systems as abberrations that must be killed. That they are problems for the organisation. Which in turn drives shadow systems further underground.
  • As we showed earlier organisations can actually learn lessons from shadow systems.
  • What lessons are shadow systems trying to tell us about “our information futures”?

I’d like to develop two main categories of lessons grouped around types of enterprise systems within universities

  1. ERPs
    I’d like to draw on the MyCQU/MyInfocom work to identify the lessons universities should be taking with respect to ERPs. Essentially and updated version of the previous work with additional insights.
  2. Course Management Systems
    The idea is that factors outlined in two previous posts (one and two) are starting to imply that many CMS features will no longer be provided by Universities but instead draw on free external services such as YouTube and Google Video. What I’ve called the web 2.0 course site idea. At CQU this change can be seen in the BAM project that has students using freely available external blog services (rather than a CQU provided blog) and CQU having systems that help integrate those services.
  3. Potentially wider.
    The web 2.0 course site idea is essentially drawing on software as a service ideas. This has potential application to many other services. For example, what implications does Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) have for services such as off site backups, personal backups, network shares?

I’d like to suggest that the lessons might include things like

  • Increasing use of software as a service
    There will have been IS research on this issue. We need to look at and learn from those issues.
  • Where “service” is not some tightly defined standard, but instead a lightweight standard like RSS
    A personal prejudice. I don’t think heavy weight web services are a good basis, perhaps better phrased as “the best basis”, for this sort of thing.
  • That universities will have to change from concentrating on implementation related issues (maintaining servers, lots of code development) to integration related issues (making sure all the services play nicely and providing integration with uni needs).

The Web 2.0 Course site trial

I’d like to further investigate this by developing some trial web 2.0 course sites.

A web 2.0 course site would consist of

  • A site on a CQU server that groups everything together
    A bit like this page. This site would serve to increase the compatibility of the new style with the old and encourage adoption. It may also serve as the interface to modify/change the course site used by staff. It’s the CQU wrapper around the other services.
  • Most of the content and services would be provided by external services.
  • There might also be an OPML file (or similar) that allows students/staff to access the information/services via a news reader. i.e. bypassing the course website entirely.

I would think the process for doing this might be something like

  • Take some existing course websites and figure out how the features used on those can be translated into web 2.0 course sites
  • Identify new features that might be included
  • Develop some prototypes that people can see and experiment with
  • Figure out the workload/resources required to implement these prototypes
  • Do some evaluations to figure out if this is a worthwhile thing to actually implement.

What needs to be done for the presentation

  • Identify which co-authors at CQU want to participate?
  • Select a topic area that fits
  • Write the proposal
  • Get the web 2.0 course site proposal off the ground

Proposal Content

Proposals must include

  • Abstract
    No more than 50 words. This is what appears on the conference website. Advice includes “Please be concise, accurate, and specific with your writing. Avoid flowery and overly descriptive prose. Use the abstract to state clearly what you will present during your session”. Examples of effective abstracts are available
  • Statement of the problem or issue
  • Description of activity, project or solution
  • Outcome/achievements
  • Importance or relevance to other institutions
  • Suggested Audience


This particular project is focused at the organisational/infrastructure around how universities implement elearning and related features. It has little or nothing to do with increasing the educational value of elearning.

At least not directly. I am hoping that one reason that this approach might be useful is that it could save CQU money in terms of licensing and other costs. Money that could be reinvested in ways that does directly aim to increase the educational value of how elearning is applied.

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