Thursday, 20 January 2011

What does an MIL student look like?

We have been getting enquiries for the Master of Information Leadership and the Computer Weekly scholarship. This blogpost is an attempt to articulate what I see an MIL student looks like in more concrete terms. If this works I'd like to put something more 'official' on the Centre for Information Leadership website, where the entrance requirements are stated thus:

"You will normally be the possession of at least an upper second UK honours degree or equivalent. In addition you will have at least three years in an experienced business-facing information role (equivalent to SFIA 5/CITP), e.g. senior information manager, senior IT consultant.

If your first language is not English, you will be expected to present IELTS 7.0 or equivalent."

It is of course made more difficult by the 'title inflation' that is common in the IT industry. It is quite possible to be an 'IT manager' that does not manage any people and a small budget (e.g. in an SME). We are looking for people in an IT role with experience of line management and significant budgets (or the equivalent in consultancy and freelance roles). You can break this down in terms of hierarchy as follows:
  1. IT Directors/CIOs/CTOs (SFIA 7/FBCS) that wish to develop their skills and/or move to a board level role (or in consultant terms, senior partners).
  2. Their direct reports (SFIA 6) that could include enterprise architects, programme managers, heads of IT services, etc. (and equivalent interims and experienced senior consultants).
  3. Also in larger organisations (e.g. banks, supermarket chains, major consultancies) talented professionals at the level below (usually SFIA 5-6/CITP), say project managers, service managers, senior consultants.
    Our intake would not look out of place on a high-quality executive MBA programme, albeit very IT focused; from that they would likely be in their 30's with some more experienced professionals adding additional gravitas to the cohort.

    Though we make use of the SFIA framework when we look at applications to the MIL, it can be somewhat abstract and I think something more concrete would be useful. So here are some (made up) example profiles of the kinds of students that would be suited to the Master of Information Leadership.
    • Peter is an interim CIO with over 20 years experience in IT management working in a number of private and public sector organisations. Apart from a desire to develop his effectiveness further, he wishes to access the intellectual underpinnings of his role and be more active in the debates around his role, in a focused manner that an MBA would not. (SFIA 7)
    • Jane is an enterprise architect for a FMCG company, reporting directly into the UK CIO and is looking to progress to an information leadership position herself. Originally a physicist she has worked in systems analysis and technology advisory role in the 12 years prior to her current position. As the company requires her to meet with managers across the UK, the weekend delivery in London is convenient. (SFIA 6)
    • Sanjeev works in the UK as a key account manager for one of the large outsourcing firms. Educated at IIT he has spent the last 10 years rising via roles in service delivery and project management to be the direct interface with CIOs and IT directors in the retail sector. He wishes to move to a information leadership role himself and sees the MIL as helping gain the skills and networks to support this; the networking naturally being a benefit in his current role. (SFIA 5-6)
    • Jeroen is an independent IT consultant based in Belgium of 15 years experience with an impressive client list. He operates mostly in the Benelux region and occasionally in the UK. The London location makes the MIL convenient for him and allows him to network and tap into the latest thinking and ideas in the information leadership space and access the academic evidence base. (SFIA 6)
    • Mawusi is a VP IT Services of a financial services firm in the City looking after a large team and budget, but with heavy operational responsibilities; having worked up the ranks from a junior operations role 20 years ago. Though she has a reputation for operational excellence she wishes to move into a more strategic position and is attracted to the MIL's focus on the information leadership role and its balance of academic and professional development. (SFIA 6)
    • Eleanor is a first-time CTO for a charity based in Cambridgeshire. Previously she had 10 years experience in a major IT consultancy firm. She is looking for a course that is focused on the disciplines that underpin her new role to help her be more effective, and looks forward to sharing experiences with her peers in other sectors; the specialised nature of the MIL allowing this in a way a general management masters would not. (SFIA 7).
    • Sarah studied classics and entered the Civil Service fast stream as a generalist manager where she has acted over the last 8 years in a series of demanding management roles and is seen as a rising star. Four years ago she was transferred to the CIO's office of a government department reporting directly on information compliance and governance and has gained MBCS CITP status. The MIL interests her as it is an opportunity to gain the operational disciplines needed to progress onto the IT leadership team of the department. (strong SFIA 5)
    • Jack is a CISO for an insurance firm in Edinburgh. Originally graduating with a computer science degree he started in specialist security technology roles but 12 years later his role has become strongly business focused. The MIL offers Jack an opportunity to broaden his role in the company's IT leadership and the option to move out of security. The weekend delivery appeals to Jack as he can easily commute to London for the 10 weekends a year needed. (SFIA 6)
    • Mohson is a FBCS and IT Director of 8 years standing for a high-value manufacturing firm in the midlands that reports to the CFO. He sees IT as increasingly important to the business, but is having some difficulty in persuading the board. Mohson sees the MIL as an opportunity to get the broader background to transition IT leadership to the board and get exposure to the intellectual arguments needed to make the case for IT as a business enabler. (SFIA 7)
    • Steven is the Deputy Director of Information at a large legal practice in Manchester. His team's responsibilities extends to legal library resources, information compliance/strategy and IT based information resources with a £2m per year budget. Steven originally studied history and then library science and is a Chartered member of CILIP.  He sees the MIL as not only a route to advance his career but to engage with the wider cross-disciplinary intellectual issues the underpin the role of information in both organisations and wider society. (SFIA 6)
    • Jasmine is an experienced project and programme manager and MBCS CITP. After graduating with a degree in information systems 12 years ago she since has gained a reputation of turning around failing projects at a number of organisations. Three years ago she went freelance. The MIL interests Jasmine as she wishes to move progress her career to the next level and the weekend delivery allows her to do this and maintain her ability to get work. (SFIA 6)
    • Andrew is a programme manager for an expanding creative firm in Shoreditch. He entered the industry 11 years ago as a web programmer and quickly moved into team leader then project management positions across the digital creative sector in London. He is interested in the MIL given the centrality of information and innovation to the creative industries and would like to progress to a CTO position in the next generation of technological start-ups. (SFIA 6)
    • Jessica is a senior information manager in the NHS. After graduate positions for a few years as a health librarian she moved to more information systems oriented positions. In the last 8 years she has been instrumental in a number of significant health information projects. She sees the MIL as a way of entering the charities sector as an information leader (SFIA 5-6).
    Please note that the above profiles are fictitious and any resemblance to actual MIL students past, present or future is entirely coincidental.

    Of course, anyone is unsure or wishes to talk to me or David about whether the MIL is suitable for them - the invitation to discuss is here.

    Tuesday, 18 January 2011

    The Master of Information Leadership's (not so) Secret Weapon...

    The Master of Information Leadership differs from conventional MBAs (in the absence of anything better the main default option for aspiring information leaders) in a number of ways, apart from the focus of the course - that's a given.

    The first is that we take a coaching approach to student support. At the professional level the MIL is pitched we are beyond the transmission of knowledge and concepts. There a few right answers at this level and instead judgment and the ability to critically evaluate the evidence base is needed (there's a reason for the board-level salaries!). So we aim to develop the academic skills that underpin this to a high level.

    So between the weekends David Chan and I are available to support the students either remotely or sometimes face-to-face. As the MIL scales up in number, we'll be adding to this core team. I act as the academic coach, David as the professional coach. This is one of the aspects of the MIL that the students have found most beneficial to their learning.

    This leads us onto the MIL's secret weapon: David Chan. I've been working with David for almost two years to set up the centre and the MIL - it's been a blast.

    David was one of the UK's first board-level information leaders with expertise spanning the BBC, Provident, Razorfish to name a few. His professional expertise feeds into the course design throughout. David adds his experience to the lectures and syndicate tasks, either by a well-placed anecdote, a reference to relevant theory, or in the 'CIO Coda' where David brings all the activities of a weekend together and reflects with the students on how the issues raised over the weekend relate to the challenges that information leaders face.

    If you can find a quality executive masters in any way relevant to CIOs that has an experienced information leader sitting in on the lectures on contributing to the discussions - we'd like to know! Ditto if you can find an MBA where a CEO/CFO sits in all the lectures...

    Finally, students also get the mobile number of the course and centre directors - not something you usually get on an MBA! This is consistent with the MIL's philosophy of being a high-contact offering for a select intake of talented self-directed senior IT professionals, rather than being a high-volume commodity.

    Thursday, 13 January 2011

    Master of Information Leadership: Computer Weekly Step-Up Scholarship

    Do you know (or are you) a talented IT consultant, information manager,  ITSM practitioner, enterprise architect, project/programme manager or an information professional in a business facing role that could be an information leader of tomorrow? Well here's your chance!

    It's been a busy week! We have launched a scholarship for the April 2011 intake for the Master of Information Leadership in partnership with Computer Weekly. One talented professional can secure themselves a free place on the course, worth £30,000.

    David Chan and I have enjoyed working with Computer Weekly over the last year in promoting the role of the information leader, particularly in regard to the CW500 club and so we're delighted to be working with them on the Step-Up scholarship.

    The opening article from Computer Weekly can be found here.

    The press release from City University London is here.

    Details of the scholarship can be found here (or you could click the big banner ad on the top of this blog...:-).

    I'll be continuing my blogging on the MIL weekends thus far. I hope this will be useful to anyone interested in joining us on the MIL.

    For now, feel free to pass the word onto any talented professionals you know. Thank you!

    Thursday, 6 January 2011

    MIL: The Information Leader in Organisations and the Opening Talk (Sat 2 October 2010)

    The MIL is designed to allow modules to be delivered in any order. However since we are starting with a first cohort we commenced with The Information Leader in Organisations (ILO). This is one of two modules below consider the role of the information leader in context, both with organisations and in wider society.

    The aim of this module is to examine the role of the information leader past present and future and to provide a conceptual framework to understand how the role of the leader has evolved. We look at the CIO and their role and how the information function works in organizations in both strategic and operational terms. As the MIL is thematic, this means at supporting issues such a financial accounting, boards, as well as look at the CIO’s team and talent management (more on that in later postings).

    As I was staying with the inducted MIL students I met them for breakfast and then we arrived at the Cass Business School building together and got coffee...:-)

    The MIL weekend starts with a course director's session that sets the scene for the weekend. It is also where the syndicate group task is handed out and any logistics/announcements happen. I won't go into detail about what I said but suffice it to say it involved a Dirty Harry clip and the fact that in the early 20th century 'information officer' meant propagandist!

    The opening talk was somewhat of a surprise. I wanted the students to appreciate one important fact: there is now right to the CIO/information leader role and if information leaders don't deliver value to their organisations then their role will become redundant. Needless to say I feel the role has an important future in society, but it is one we need to earn.

    Therefore we were glad to host Jem Eskenasi, CIO of Groupama. Jem has written on whether the CIO will become an endangered species. This talk looked at the changes going on in the industry, the commoditisation of technology, and drew on the work of Nick Carr and others. I think the students were surprised at the choice of first speaker, but they quickly saw what David Chan and I were trying to achieve. The debate was lively; I wanted to make sure that the MIL students were aware and could respond to the arguments against information as a source of competitive advantage.

    One thing I want to achieve is for students to be exposed to a range of evidence, concepts and ideas and for them to critically evaluate this and make up their own minds. As such this was a good start to the MIL weekend.

    More on this MIL weekend in later posts.

    Saturday, 1 January 2011

    A helicopter view of the MIL

    First of all, happy new year and hoping for a great 2011!

    As should be obvious to readers of this blog, the Master of Information Leadership (MIL) is an executive masters degree specifically designed for experienced IT and information professionals who aspire to leadership positions such as Chief Information Officer.  The challenges that information leaders face cross traditional disciplines; the role is more than purely technological or managerial: it also brings in issues from law and social sciences.  The content of the MIL can be arranged around five themes (below). More information on the details can be found on the official MIL webpages.
    • Role and Context (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Strategic Change and Transformation (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Delivery (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Stewardship (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Leadership (one module, 4 weekends)
    The capstone is an Individual Project usual in a masters degree. We feel that generalist management offerings such as MBAs, though excellent in their own right, do not cover the specific range of skills needed for a CIO position (I'll write on this more in the future).

    The design of the MIL is focused on combining professional experience and academic theory - I'll probably discuss this further in later posting but suffice it to say that the MIL includes aspects of both executive masters delivery and coaching.

    The two cornerstones of the course are the study weekend, and the syndicate groups. The group is the base unit of learning in the MIL (we induct students as groups). These groups allow exchange of experience as well as a tight-knit peer support network. We also share across groups in the feedback sessions each weekend.

    The MIL study weekends are delivered in London – Europe’s IT capital – at the Cass Business School, making it a convenient venue for professionals who may have to work on multiple sites (except for the September Professional Training weekends that take place outside City). The MIL is part-time over 28 months, over 10 weekends each year, so allowing students to fit it in with their work commitments.

    So what happens during a typical study weekend?  Just over half the time comprises seminar presentations from experts within City and the CIO community to provide a theoretical underpinning, and how information leaders put this into practice. Each weekend will also feature a syndicate group task to give a firm grounding of the issues covered based on a practical case study; groups report back by presentation at the end of the weekend. We give feedback to all groups together and record the presentations for later reflection.

    We support the MIL between the study weekends by online (and sometime on-site) tutorials, discussion boards and a dedicated course director to assist you with a take-home assignment to complete for the next residential weekend. The typical 2000-word take-home assignments comprise a list of assignment titles (students chose one) that requires students to focus on an issue raised in he weekend in depth, research and incorporate the academic and professional literature, and reflect that upon their experience. The blending of the evidence base with professional experience to produce a focused argument aims, with the academic support, to drive learning and its immediate application in the MIL student's current role.

    Hopefully the postings later will make more sense now!