Thursday, 28 January 2016

Carnival time

Well, January is proving a bad month for blogging!  A number of reasons.....

I'm spending some time reviewing digital services at another University which has meant I've been there for 4 days this month. Always interesting to, to cast an eye over another places services. I can make suggestions, but they are of course only my personal opinions - and I learn a lot from them too.

I've also taken a few days leave. I had a bit of a significant birthday last Saturday -  I know, difficult to believe isn't it :-) and had hinted quite heavily that I didn't want to spend it in Sheffield. So, I spent it in Venice instead. Which was rather nice. Nice of the Venetians to open Carnival on my birthday as well.

Other things over the past week include further work on our planning statement, a meeting with a colleague as part of the Campus mentoring programme , and a review of a major incindent we suffered last week when we lost our internet connection for several hours due to two separate cable issues from our internet supplier. I was away from Sheffield at another University when it happened, and couldn't understand why I couldn't connect to our roaming wireless service, Eduroam. I rebooted my iPad, turned wifi off and on again, blamed the other institution....  Until I remembered how Eduroam works - it has to authenticate back at your home instittiton, which of course was unreachable... Another service we need to add to things we lose when our Janet link goes.   We're seriously considering how we can mitigate against these failures. We always thought that two links gave us enough redundancy, but now we're not that sure.

So, I'll leave you with a short video of the opening of Carnival - quite spectacular.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Planning, recruiting and degree ceremonies

Earlier this week we had a Service Strategy Board where we had a look at the key objectives for next year for each of our Service Areas. Some key things coming up including our VLE review, a new digital media hosting solution,  implementing our new teaching and learning strategy, a new BI/MI solution, our new research IT support team - and many more! Over the last couple of days me and the rest of the departmental executive team have been on an awayday pulling all of this together, as well as adding in other big initiatives including digital transformation, into our strategic plan for next year. Our theme is capability - helping the University achieve its business objectives by increasing its capability and capacity to do things.

Capability came into our other set of discussions over the last couple of days, which was about looking at how we can increase the pool of people we recruit from in order to increase diversity. We talked about recruiting for potential and capability, rather than just for skills people have on the day, and being more flexible in our recruitment practices.

One disadvantage of being away over the last couple of days was missing our winter degree ceremonies. As usual we record and stream live all of the ceremonies, as well as producing DVDs, USB sticks and our famous handshake videos.

A real team effort - thanks to everyone. Here's some photos from the day to give you a flavour of what's involved.

The AV team suited and booted ready to operate the cameras

A view from behind camera one

Some of the backstage production kit

And the creative mediateam producing the recordings

Well done everyone involved!!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Fridge cams and robot projectors

A Happy New Year to you all, and welcome back.  The first week back after the Christmas break always seems longer than 5 days, and the things we talked about before Christmas a dim and distant memory. But, we son get back into the swing of things, and this week I've been having some discussions about setting up a Digital transformation team - I dont think it wil be called that, but that's it's working name.

We've also had a Process Improvement Unit Steering Group where we had a report form a recent event to improve and streamline the production of our prospectus which has been very successful.

I'm doing a bit of work over the next few weeks to help another University review its IT systems and services, and I've spent a day there getting to know the IT staff.

Finally, I've been keeping my eye on what's been going on at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. New technologies often appear in the consumer space first, and it important we keep up to date with them. Things that have caught my eye this year include wearable gadgets, which are getting smaller, and more integrated with clothing, 3D printing, which is quickly becoming mainstream, and virtual reality.

Some of the weirder gadgets include the smart fridge cam
which takes a picture of the inside of your fridge everytime the door opens so you can check what's on the shelves whilst you're shopping.

And the Tipron - a cross between a robot and projector. Apparently it learns the layout of your house and can wander into your bedroom and project the weather forecast onto the wall...  Spooky!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

December round up and party pics

Sorry - not posted in a while.So, a quick round up of the last couple of weeks. As part of our student systems project we've been scoring the ITPD responses from interested suppliers. For those who are interested in the acronym, that's Invitation to Participate in Dialogue. This is where we take the suppliers who got through the first round in our tendering process, and score their detailed answers to a number of our questions, to decide which ones to take to the next stage. A lot of people have spent a lot of time on this over the last couple of weeks, as scores are done individually, then moderated in a group, and then aggregated into the final scores for the Sponsorship Group to take the final decision on the next stage. All this has been completed in a relatively short period of time, so well done to all involved.

I've also been talking to a group of Sheffield Leader participants about challenges facing leadership in Universities, and meeting with the Sheffield City Region CIO forum, which brings together the CIOs from local authorities, the NHS and the Universities. One of the big topics on the agenda was devolution in the Sheffield city region, and what that might mean for us.

Of course, the highlight of the last couple of weeks has been the famous CiCS Christmas party, and this year for a change we were entertained by the excellent magician Steve Faulkner, who visited every table and entertained in the bar afterwards. My last post of the year wouldn't be complete without a few pictures from the event, so here goes, and I hope you all have a very Happy and Peaceful New Year.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Digital transformation workshop

Yesterday I went to a Digital Transformation event run by Gartner

It was an interesting workshop, and introduced by looking at some of the drivers behind digital transformation, and some of the leadership issues, as well as some advice on how to start an initiative. As always, these workshops are made all the more interesting by having people there from a mix of sectors, and this session we had representatives from public sector, education and manufacturing. Here are a few notes I took:

Technology is everywhere, and has moved beyond the screen. The first 3D printed components are now in production Boeing 777s - technologies such as 3D printing are no longer for fun!  Information and intelligence are being added to many products, gamification is being added to digital learning systems.

Leadership in this era is becoming more complex. There are paradoxes:

Operational excellence vs business innovation. So, you must improve the business model that feeds you while creating a new one that won't let you starve.

Acting quickly to gain an advantage requires long term pattern recognition. It's not just about acting in the moment but having a long term insight and collecting the right data.

Working together beyond organisational borders while creating a united offering. we need to interact and collaborate with many different organisations and groups, but offer a coherent service to our customers eg Apple have a very coherent app store, but a huge number of people outside the company are contributing to it.

You are providing a product or service at a moment in time, but the digital value of that product needs to evolve over time.

Digital business and services are technology dependent, but technology alone is irrelevant. Social sciences, culture etc are just as important

Digital leadership therefore requires leaders to move beyond the management of definitive goals, and into  a world defined by numerous contradicting objectives with more team based delivery.

Digital business transformation is not a one off, therefore it is dangerous to call it a programme, which implies it has a finish. It is really a culture change.

In setting up a digital transformation initiative start with the why?  Why are we doing it. Define the digital business principles.

Then look at the driver, what do you want to get out of it? Is it business growth? Customer experience? Mobility? Operational excellence? IoT?

Then come up with a design plan. What are you going to do?
Get commitment to embark on a journey, not to finish it.
What is the blueprint? Narrow all of the ideas down to the digital business opportunities you want to develop.

Then look at what operating model you are going to use - how are you going to do it. Various ways you can begin including building a bimodal capability or implementing  a framework for working with small vendors. Establish the governance, and consider whether infrastructure and support changes are needed.
Leave the "how" till last.

The rest of day was spent doing exercises - looking at how digital transformation might work on a few different case studies. Interesting day, and very relevant to the digital transformation programme (oops, mustn't call it a programme), we are about to set up.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Let's get connected

Monday spent most of the afternoon interviewing for an exciting new post - Head of Research IT. Can't say much at the moment of course, but wath this space. hope to announce something soon.

Yesterday I was in London. In the afternoon talking to JISCcom, the commercial arm of JISC. I was with the CIO of Sheffield city Council, and we are working together, along with other public sector bodies across the city, to improve connectivity, in order to improve the delivery of services. I have an interest in getting our wireless network, Eduroam, rolled out across the City, and the City would like to have their network out there, as well as free connectivity for the people of Sheffield. Once the connectivity is in place, we can look at how we can use it to drive improvements in the services we all offer. Exciting times, and it's great to work across the boundaries of different organisations on a City wide project.

After killing time in London for an hour ( I saw a Lego train in Covent Garden - how cool is that), I was off to the Chemistry Club - a networking event for CIOs from across many different sectors. Great to catch up with colleagues from the Government Digital Service, Tesco, the BBC and many others. Only downside was I had to travel back on a late train, to Doncaster - luckily I got a lift back from there. Hanging around on Donnie station for 30 minutes at 2330 waiting for a connection didn't fill me with joy...

Monday, 30 November 2015

Prizes and cakes....

An annual event for us is our thank you party in November/December every year. A couple of hours of beer, wine and food once the beginning of term has died down. We combine it with a charity raffle, prizes donated by the department and suppliers, and we regularly raise several hundred pounds for charity.

This year was no exception, the prize table was again groaning last Friday, much beer was drunk, and almost everyone took home something. Thanks to everyone for donating raffle prizes, selling tickets, and helping set up on the day. Great effort!

Today I was mainly interviewing for a new exciting post, more later as I clearly can't say much at the moment. But, the highlight of the day had to be judging the TEL teams bake off efforts. With 6 amazing cakes, it was very hard to pick a winner, so we picked three. But really, all of them deserved to win. I tasted all six, and as someone who doesn't have a sweet tooth, I really wondered how they do it on Bake Off where they have to taste many more! Well done to all of them.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

A new Chancellor

Today was a big occasion at the University - the installation of a new Chancellor. For most of us working at a University, it doesn't happen very often. The last time it happened here was the installation of Sir Peter Middleton in 1999.

It was a great ceremony, with a brass fanfare composed by our music students especaillay for the occasion, the chancelor's choir singin, and the ceremonial passing on from one Chancellor to the other by both touching the University mace together.

Our new Chancellor is The Right Honourable Lady Justice Rafferty, DBE, a graduate of the University. I have to say, I am looking forward to her term of office with great expectations. The first woman Chancellor here, she delivered her address with passion, feeling, dignity, and without any notes, nor the comfort of the lecturn. Very impressive.  The ceremony was videoed, and when I have the link for the stream I'll post it. Meanwhile, you can see her speak about her new role here:

Ceremonies like this do not organise themselves, and many people make it run smoothly. I would especially like to mention the team from CiCS who organised and ran all of the technology - the filming, live streaming, the audio, and video  - you did a great job. Well done and thanks.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

10 billion eccentrics...

Departmental meeting today - as always some great speakers. We had a talk on our progress and  success in the Green Impact Agenda, a look at how the development team are putting in place techniques to schedule, prioritise and manage work, and the University's "Achieve More" programme. We were also very lucky to have our new PVC for Learning and Teaching talk to us about a number of things including the upcoming TEF - Teaching Excellence Framework.

This year's Achive More Challenge for our second year students is entitle 10bn - based on the theory that in their lifetime, the population of the world will reach 10bn. What will that mean? What threats, challenges and opportunities will it brin? take a look at what some of our students think here:

Oh, and if you're wondering about the title of this post. One of the UKs best folk singer/songwriters Pete Morton is a great friend of mine, and he wrote a song called Six Billion Eccentrics. I intended to call this post 10bn, but that's not what came out ;-)

It's all about the digital...

This week it's mainly been about digital. Yesterday I attended an awayday with the University Executive Board (UEB) to talk about a Digital Strategy. First question - do we need one? Or shouldn't is just be part of everything we do?

Second question - what do we mean by "Digital"? In a University context, it often means digital teaching and learning, but the point I was trying to make yesterday is there is so much more to it than that. I came up with five other areas, but there are probably a lot more. There's also an implication that this is new - but we've been doing "digital" for a long time. I think we are extremely innovative in this area - we agreed that our strategy would be web based wherever possible back in 1996!!!  I know, I proposed it. And we've continued to be innovative. I shared a picture with UEB about the different strands of digital, what we've done, and what we are either going to do or are doing. It is by no means exclusive, and could have been a lot bigger, but it was to illustrate the point. it also showed the enablers that need to be in place to make it happen, not least, digital literacy. And I mean of our staff, not of our students. wr have a lot of work to do n theat area!

Anyway, here's the picture. Watch this space. Something is going to happen soon!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Prioritising projects and coffee ordering

Having met the new Chief Executive of JISC at RUGIT the other day, yesterday I was pleased to welcome him to Sheffield. We had a really good discussion with our CFO about the future of JISC, especially around funding arrangements, and then I chatted with him about our plans and strateies and the issues we were facing. Of course, I took the opportunity to show him round our excellent learning spaces - The Information Commons and The Diamond. I think he was impressed ;-)  As well he should be - they are some of the best technology enhanced learning spaces in the UK, of course, I might be biased, but I'm sure I'm right. 

Later in the afternoon we had a meeting of our Service Strategy Board to look at how we prioritise projects. Considering a number of criteria including alignment to strategic goals and impact, we played an interesting game of "Play Your Cards Right", for those old enough to remember it. Having all the projects written on cards, we placed one in the middle of the table, then ordered the others either higher or lower. We got to an agreed list in the end. But of course, that doesn't necessarily mean thats' the order we will do them in, as so many other things impact on that. The resources needed, deadlines, availabilty of resources - all come into play.

Finally this week we had a very productive meeting with the Students Union about how we might work closer with them on a number of digital projects. My dream is to be able to order a coffee from Coffee Revolution from my desk, walk over to the SU, find a table and sit down and have it delivered to me. Apparently we're not that far off :-)

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

UCiSA, RUGIT, JISC and JANET (acronyms galore)

Back from Barcelona, and straight off to to more exotic places - Manchester and London!  Manchester was another site visit for the UCISA conference to be held there next March. This time we were looking at how we might use some of the technology we have available, including disply screens for our posters, which aren't going to be posters at all but videos, and a rather exciting exhibit looking at wht theuniveriyty of the future moght look like.

London was a RUGIT (Russell Group IT Directors) meeting. We were very fortunate to have members of JISC with us including the new Chief Executive. We had a very good discussion of what JISC is about, and how we benefit from it. JISC has three main functions - to provide a digital infrastructure, primarily through JANET, our network; to broker sector wide deals, mainly for electronic journals; and to provide expert advice and practical assistance. They're funded mainly from the funding councils and Universities, and provide a great deal of value to the sector - they calculate about £140m per annum. That's a lot of money! This mainly comes from the provision of the network, the work they do on cybersecurity and protecting us from attacks, and the deals they are able to do for us. We had a very interesting and frank discussion with them about what the furure holds, especially as their funding decrease and our current subscription ceases to become mandatory and we can choose whether we pay it or not. Personally I think it is worth it for the provision of JANET alone, despite the problems we've had over the last year. It is still the best network around!

Other things discussed at RUGIT included our response to the PREVENT guidelines, how and why, we're going about Student Attendance monitoring, and Information Security training.