DevCSI Stakeholder Report: Conclusions
The stakeholder analysis exercise has enabled the testing of a number of assumptions that the DevCSI project is based on. Each of the assumptions is listed below along with data from the exercise to support or dispute the assumptions.
a) Developers understand local context and can act as a bridge between remote service providers and local end-users
The data strongly supports this assumption, with 77.9% of survey respondents stating that they “agree‟ or “strongly agree‟ with this. Discussions with key stakeholders during the initial semi-structured interviews also supported this view:
“Developers can relate things to the local context, understand the structure and procedures of the institution, and use local terminology to explain possible future developments to end-users”
Vendors and service providers supported this view, providing examples where they have worked with developers within institutions to develop products to suit the needs of end-users (e.g. Chem4Word with Microsoft).
However, some respondents felt that there was an extra stage to this relationship, utilising a mediator between developers and end-users (examples given included managers or systems librarians).
b) Developers can take the remote service which is helping the HEI to realise economies of scale and add value to them by integrating them into the local context/systems
This assumption also had strong support with 83.9% of survey respondents answering „agree‟ or „strongly agree‟. Numerous examples of local customisations were given to support this, including customisations of VLEs, repositories, library management systems and content management systems.
c) Developers, working together and closely with end-users can deliver innovation which can then be shared to the benefit of the sector as a whole
The majority of respondents (71.2%) “agree‟ or “strongly agree‟ that developers work closely with end-users to deliver innovation, with 87.7% who “agree‟ or “strongly agree‟ that local innovation can be shared to benefit the sector. The advantages of this to the sector are clear:
“The dissemination of knowledge and experience benefits the broader community, reduces the burden on individual institutions and fosters greater interoperability”
However, there are still some barriers to wider sharing including concerns about competitive advantage and worries that software will become more generic as institutions all adopt the same shared software.
d) Developers can offer extremely cost-effective training to their peer community, especially through ad-hoc training events
82.7% of respondents felt that a developer community could help realise this benefit (cost effective training to peer community), and 90.4% for peer to peer support (both figures totals for either „agree‟ or „strongly agree‟). Some developers had already supported this by presenting at DevCSI events. Others gave examples of providing support to their peers via mailing lists and blogs.
e) End-users in HEIs can benefit in terms of understanding and developing expectations and a better appreciation of what is technically possible by working closely with developers, even in an occasional, incidental way (e.g. mashed lib)
There was clear evidence that users who had attended events organised to bring together users and developers valued this opportunity and welcomed more of these events:
“Future similar events which bring together the different groups would be useful – it was good to get a mix of people together for a specific event”
One end-user (an academic) talked very highly of his experience working with developers:
“A good developer is far more than a developer – they are your strategic instrument and should be listened to”
f) Managers are often uncertain how to offer meaningful staff development to developers
Although there was some support for this assumption, and particularly in justifying to managers the value of more general networking events, it was not clear from the manager’s responses whether this assumption is true (responses were relatively evenly split). More investigation into this may be necessary to establish the manager’s position on staff development opportunities for their developers.
g) HEIs offer developers an inadequate career path. Developers either leave for better opportunities elsewhere (resulting in the loss of invaluable tacit knowledge of the local context) or they are promoted into unsuitable management roles.
There was definite support for this assumption, with 75% agreeing or strongly agreeing that there are limited career development opportunities in FE and HE. Many expressed the view that the only way to progress was to move into management which takes them away from development work. One case study supported the notion that developers in HE do not have enough career opportunities and must look elsewhere:
“I left my previous role as a developer in HE because of a lack of career development opportunities in that environment…despite the fact that I actually had a very understanding manager, who attempted to provide the proper opportunities for me. However, even she was limited in what she could provide based on the constraints placed by upper management, budget and the university as a whole”
h) The developer community can easily prototype/test new initiatives/services/APIs etc
78.9% of respondents supported („agree‟ or „strongly agree‟) the statement about supporting funders through testing of new initiatives/services/APIs and framing problems for future funding. In addition, funders supported this view of developer community being utilised to support testing:
“Most of the recent work has been research to test out ideas and commission developments”
i) Developers, working as a community in HE can help to identify and frame problems which could benefit from sector-wide intervention and funding from the likes of JISC
There was clear support for this, both in the benefits of a developer community question about funders (see above), and also in the questions specific to funders:
“Software developers are key to most of the projects [my organisation] funds. Their role includes exploring new technical possibilities and opportunities… R&D around established platforms… and embedding and localising commodity technologies into local environments”
j) Vendors would be willing to sponsor developer community activity as it provides cost-effective testing
One vendor had already supported the developer community in this way, and another was keen to do so in future:
“An over-reaching developer community in general would be good to get involved in (e.g. sponsorship)”
Some of the vendors had also already worked with the developer community to test their products through challenges at developer community events.