The Senior Professional Services Leaders Conference

The gathering on 24 August at the Hilton Hotel in Edinburgh of approximately 100 professional services leaders and managers from across the University’s Support Groups, Schools and Colleges marked two years since the Senior Professional Services Leaders Conference first met in the summer of 2015.

They came to hear Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea reflect on his fifteen years in post, engage with presentations, workshops and a Q&A panel discussion about the Service Excellence Programme (SEP), and receive further details about the South-East Scotland City Deal, through which the University expects to play a pivotal role in creating the “Data Capital of Europe.”

Key members of SEP delivered a programme of activities designed to brief attendees, clarify how they can help to deliver the Programme’s objectives and draw out questions, opinions and feedback about issues of legacy and our impact on the next 3 to 5 years of the University’s development.

This included facilitating an “icebreaker” exercise at each of the eleven tables on the day, and prompting conversations about the attendees’ experience of SEP thus far in order to surface answers to: “What is the most burning question you have about the Service Excellence Programme?”

High-level “lightning session” briefings at each table followed in order to draw out any further questions about the Programme and its sub-Programmes, and then use the panel discussion at the end of the session to respond to them.

The most common themes that emerged included:

Q: Are the SEP timescales realistic?

A: A great deal of planning, on-going programme and project co-ordination, assessment of the skills and staffing required to implement successfully, acknowledgement of risks, and an understanding of our internal capacity for change have all been considered in defining SEP timescales for delivering improved professional services. In addition to this, we have incorporated the lessons learned from previous University programme and project activity, undertaken best practice visits elsewhere and proactively engaged with benchmarking initiatives like Uniforum as part of the Russell Group. We feel confident in the timescales that have been set on this basis and plan to share some of these planning tools with you in next month’s edition of the SEP newsletter.

Q: What is the impact on our people?

A: We expect there to be three primary areas of impact on staff and colleagues, including: changes in the nature of some jobs; the need to redeploy and reshape some resources, and opportunities for staff looking to develop their own skills.  We are still working through the detail of these changes – focusing on our processes and then the best way for the work to be delivered (more information available in our FAQs section).  So we don’t have all the answers colleagues are looking for at the moment but these will be emerging in the coming weeks and months.

For this phase of the Programme we are bringing in extra resource – externally and internally – and staff are being asked to contribute their ideas and experience. At the same time, SEP is providing opportunities for staff to learn new skills in change and programme management, including opportunities for secondment into the programme management office and the individual programmes themselves. We are also running a variety of staff engagement workshops, working groups and 1:1 discussions to gather the views and opinions of staff and colleagues that will help shape how we deliver our professional services across HR, Finance, Student Administration & Support and the core systems that will underpin them.

Q: How do we effectively lead our teams through change?

A: We are developing a change management course to train our leaders on how to effectively manage their team through change. The course is being piloted with three teams before being released to the wider business.

We will continue to work on and respond to the feedback we receive from attendees about our progress, the challenges we face and how we can ensure greater awareness of the Service Excellence Programme in future.

You can access the presentation slides from the event on the Service Excellence Programme Dashboard at

And please use our online feedback form here for any questions or suggestions you may have about the Roadshows, Dashboard or the Service Excellence Programme itself.

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