Monday, 28 September 2015

The Diamond opens...

So after years of planning, and nearly two years of construction, The Diamond finally opened for teaching today - on time for the first day of term.

Been a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the last few weeks, and a lot of people have worked very hard to get in ready to open. We've been installing and testing the network, wired and wireless, telephones, PCs, specialist AV equipment, creative media equipment and lots more! Yesterday many CiCS staff were in sorting the last few things out, but also going above and beyond - clearing up rubbish, unwrapping furniture, and reprogramming the plasma screens to show floor layout. We even built a diary room designed by Ian, and printed in immaculate fashion by our Print and Design service. From this:

To this in just under an hour

Since then it's had a screen, camera and microphone installed and we've been recording visitors reactions to the building all day.

Here's some pictures taken yesterday:

Its pretty impressive!!  As with all new buildings there are some bits not quite there yet, but they will be soon. 

This morning, students started to turn up from about 8.30, either for lectures at 9am or to look round, the first in was so excited she hadn't slept! Lots of good comments, and pretty soon, the students had adopted the building as their own, and were just finding spaces to sit and work, as it should be.

And engineering were even running lab classes.

I think it's fair to say most of us have spent the day with smiles on our faces, and loving talking and listening to the students. More facilities will start opening up over the next days and weeks, so it can only get better!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Data aftermath of the Ebola crisis

Occasionally it's good to listen to a case study from a different sector to your own, and this afternoon was such an occasion. We listened to Medicin sans Frontiers tell us how they've started to modernise their IT use.

MSF have 35000 employees worldwide. The bulk of them are out in the field. $1.48bn turnover. Big organisation. 15% annual growth. 90% of their budget is spent on 384 projects in 64 countries, often without Internet connection. Established in France 40 years ago by French doctors. Email was a revolution for them. Used to have cassette tapes posted to them in the field, with recordings of what to do, which could be 2 months old!

Have 5 HQs, 5 heads of ICT. Shadow IT has proliferated. Now need to get more digital. Mobile, smart devices everywhere. Many countries have jumped the PC phase and gone straight to smart phones. They are 5 years behind the curve because they liked stability. Only permitted Skype in 2014, despite being used for years. Migrating to Office 365 in 2016.

Started a knowledge management project. They have so much knowledge and experience. Joint project between ICT, general management and learning and development.

Started with small bite bite sized chunks: the Ebola review was a high priority. They were heavily involved in Ebola response. This video shows how much. And I hadn't appreciated the size of the treatment centre they built in Liberia

Pushed to their limits operationally. Imagine the effect on their meta data. They barely had time to write emails. Huge amount of unstructured information. No file structures. 500,000 unstructured emails and documents. Had to be reviewed to pull out the information. No-one had seen Ebola on this scale before.

The review had to go from launch to live in 2.5 months. Hired archivists and purchased enterprise search software, Knowliah. This was their first step into a bigroject like this. Had a full time project management and 2 key user facilitators.

 Defined a context information model with 3000 key words and 900 synonyms. did full text analysis and indexing of all unstructured info. Tagging, filtering and cleaning. Removed duplicates, out of scope documents.

Everyone underestimated complexity, including the supplier. Had issues with confidentially, where to store. Decided to build servers in house, but slow. Would have been faster if trusted the supplier. Had to get access to people's email inboxes, which included personal stuff.

Knowliah were the supplier. Asked them to do the extraordinary, adding wikis, advanced search, delete, mail conversation IDs etc at short notice.

Created an email mountain just doing the project! Email was the wrong thing to use.

They met the time and budget, but had extended scope. Went from launch to live in 2.5 months.

Now have excellent information retrieval system. For example, can now find situation reports embedded in emails and pull out health promotion presentations in all languages.

Lessons leaned:
In house project team vital
Relationship with supplier vital
Preclean documents before migrating
Knowledge management is not just about IT, but you can't get anywhere without IT
One proven project can tip the perception of a department. IT used to be the "don't go to" department. Now they are respected.

In the IT environment, they are now learning from their staff, not the other way round.

The Future of Work

Next keynote is from Perry Timms, Director of People and Transformational HR and is on the Future of Work.

Digital will transform the way we work. Has a big part to play in improving work. A digital enabled workforce will save the world from mediocre work. Has to be coupled with design, and a destiny mindset.

The world of work has changed. All about how HR has to change. We recruit and hire in the way we always have done. Most of our recruiters don't know how to hack linked in. That's if they've heard of it.

Need a 5G HR. Time for a digital makeover. What is the user experience of an applicant to one of our jobs?and it's not about having a system they can apply though. It's all about touch points. It's about the applicants we don't attract. Think about our reputation management though our digital interface. We need to be HRs closest friend, to enlighten, partner and create.

Social HR is important. People development in a connected age. We have celebrated the lone wolf, long hours culture. We need to re-energise people. Take a walk, talk to people, be more social. We need to push, promote and participate in the social agenda with our HR colleagues.

Cognitive HR. Our brain is amazing. Need to tap into what we are as cognitive, creative individuals. We need to help create a love affair between digital and learning. Linear click through learning doesn't work anymore.

Design HR. Who's good at design and UX. We tend to be. Help HR design things like policies that people will actually read. Extract what is important. Two places to hide a dead body - on page 2 of Google or in Apples terms and conditions.

In summary:
Rise of the HR technologist
Establishing social as the working default
Creation of world class digital learning content
Enhanced designs for work of the future
Rebirth of HR as startup entrepreneurs

Hit list of companies doing it right, disruptors!

Things to do:
Be best corporate buddies with HR
Share incessantly with HR about how Tech does its thing and influence their thinking
Allow HR to bring the best thinking from behavioural science into your ways of working and thinking
Just make like the Four Tops and Reach Out!

Great talk, full of energy. But again, difficult to blog, mainly because I was listening intently!
To get a feel for it, watch his TEDx talk:

Destroying meetings..

Opening session this morning is about destroying your meetings before they destroy you. A subject close to my heart!

Bad meetings cost a lot of money! Some organisations have recognised this and gone to a philosophy of no meetings. Eg Basecamp. CEO wrote piece called meetings are toxic with some simple rules.

If kept each other informed better, need to meet less. Put everything in one place, cloud based collaboration tools. Messaging, discussion, progress reports. Much quicker at problem solving. Meetings are fewer and shorter. Have to change the culture of how we work together.

Some meetings are necessary, but they need to be good meetings. Some companies, eg Intel , train everyone in how to run meetings. Also have signs in meetings rooms. Is there an agenda? Have you prepared? Do you know your role?

Have a timer. Restrict meetings to certain length. Have stand up meetings. Walking meetings. Go for a walk with a colleague.

Use software, structured tool for running meetings. Put agendas together, track tasks etc.

Future of meetings? Will never get away from them altogether. Should expect people to be smarter in their use of technology. Data and material sharing etc on screens. Drawing remote people in when needed. More virtual attendance.

Smarter meeting spaces eg Gridspace. Listens to meeting, interprets emotions, transcribes into minutes, identifies actions. More intelligence will be brought into meetings.

Think about the way we have run meetings in the past and change them get rid of meetings we don't need ( the dreaded status update meeting), and turn the rest into great meetings. Create agendas for every meeting. No purpose, no agenda, no meeting.

Maximise the use collaboration tools to add value to meetings.

Invest in technology in meetings spaces that will entice and delight.

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Leadership Illusion

Closing keynote of is from today from Magnus Lindkvist, a trend spotter and futurologist according to our programme. He's talking about The Leadership Illusion.

He's from Sweden, and started with an interesting fact that they have the most heavy metal bands per head than anywhere else


The rest of the talk was great, all about whether we should embrace change, or just do the same thing. Very difficult to make any notes on, but extremely enjoyable. The following is just a set of random notes, which probably won't mean anything much to anyone else, but will serve as a reminder to me about what he said :-)

We don't notice small, slow changes. In 2015 there a lot of people who think they are well informed, but it's the wrong information. He calls it Infobesity. Some wonderful examples.

There's also not a lot new in the world. Stories get recycled.

When we think of change, easy to think only about gadgets and technology. But the soft issues are as important as the gadgets. We have a tendency to refer to it as the future, a place that is waiting for us. But we should think of it as an activity. What does it mean to future? Can we get better at futuring? We all have choice about what we do. Changing or saming? Most of us same.

In business we use R and D to change and to innovate. RIP off and Duplicate. We start off with diversity, then everything converges to the same. I love this slide.


What do people say when we say we want to change something? That will never work. Or that should be illegal. Like launching an app based cab system in Belgium.

Or telling doctors to wash their hands 150 years ago. Saming or changing? Nancy Sinatra had it right in Those Boots are Made for Walking....

In the 1800s an ordinary person had to work 6 hours to earn 1 hour of reading light. Now it is half a second.

The future is not a straight line that we extrapolate from. The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones. It's a series of mountains that we climb up and then down, then up a different one. Have to be open to the fact that we are climbing up the wrong mountain

Leaders vs managers. Richard Branson modelled himself on a lion?A leader?

Most of us work for people who look like this. The reason the office was funny is there's David Brent in all of us.


What do we need to change?

Once it's a trend it's too late. Look for secrets. There's nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. Be open minded to all individuals. Look at all sides.

Experiement. If you can explain what you do for a living, your job is set to be automated. There has to be experimentation in all jobs. The reason most of us fail is we do the same thing for too long. The danger lies when we are saming and the world is changing.

Think slowly and be patient. See things over time. Patience is a necessity. The most idiotic thing you can ever say is we've tried that before. Can recycle old ideas.


Leadership illusion - we yearn for Richard Branson when we're all David Brent


If you can't think of who the idiot is in your company, it's probably you.














What to to when every employee is an IT employee

What to to when every employee is an IT employee

Look at where Total IT spend comes from - Mainly IT department and shared, but increasingly by business units, and more recently, employees. More jobs becoming deeply depending on technology. 81% of employees bring their own applications into the workplace. More work is collaborative, requires problem solving.

PWC have estimated that more than 50% of the changes in the way we work in the next 5 years will be due to technology breakthroughs. But, an unrelated survey by IBM on Millenials found that only 4% thought their IT organisations had no issues implementing new technologies. So, 96% aren't ready for fulfilling these increased expectations?

Three decades on we are still email centric organisations. So, is it about the organisations ability to change?

Accelerating pace of consumer technology.

CognIToy. Toy Hippo driven by IBM Watson.

Hello Barbie, records children's voices, processes, and replies. And stores it in the cloud. privacy concerns? .

Drones are very inexpensive. Are already delivering rings to weddings.

Wearables have wearables. Tiny tattoo like sensors on your skin.

These are changing what people are expecting to get

Emerging workplace technologies include Virtual personal assistants, Production studios and space planning.

So, what do we need to do to prepare for this.? Need a new skills and workforce strategy.

What are our top business goals?

What will employer expect from employees and vice versa

What skills do we need to meet those goals?

Sorts of skills we should be looking at are

  • Digital acument
  • Ability to change roles and groups
  • Local leadership
  • Effective partnering

What will our employees expect?

  • Easy access to content and data
  • Tablets, macs, smartphones
  • Apps not applications
  • Collaboration tools
  • Engaged IT support
  • Thriving enterprise social network
  • Having the right tools for the job
  • Stimulating work
  • Ability to learn
  • Autonomy in how the job gets done
  • Digitally literate leadership

Who will we need in our teams? Think about some or all of the following. :



Knowledge management in a digital workplace

Next session is about managing all of the knowledge and data coming out of smart workplaces.

Knowledge Management (KM) is a discipline to enable effective action through access to relevant intellectual assets, including those that are known, but not documented. It's not a technology. Its biggest challenge is going beyond information into knowledge.

Easy bit is capturing the facts, harder is the implicit stuff, stuff that's in people's heads. Contextual information, experience, expertise etc. Can't capture this, so have to connect people through collaboration systems and capture what makes it possible to act effectively in given situations. Very difficult to capture what everyone knows using conventional methods.

Is it time to automate knowledge extraction? Use AI techniques. Machine learning, linguistic analysis.

For example, fraud detection. Conventional way is to get characteristics of a fraudulent transaction from a human expert and code them up manually in policies, rules or in an automated system. Or, get a machine to look at the history of all relevant transactions. Let it discover common patters and automatically build an automated model to detect fraudulent transactions.

Or Helpdesk. Train agents to deal with problems, talk to each other, capture information in a knowledge base. Or, example from a SAP Helpdesk. take a machine learning system and give it data, software manuals, previous queries, also activity monitoring systems, real time data, data from public sources. Built a service that the user could interact with. Learns form all queries that the system can't deal with and gets passed to an agent, can answer question next time round.

Already using this sort of learning eg in Spam filters.

Will become more prevalent. The digital workplace will increase our ability to observe work. What is being done, by whom, with whom, where,how, at what time, in what context, resulting in what. This will all be observable, recorded and analysed. Will result in either decision support systems, automation,

Example of Boston hospital. All patient records and data in this sort of system. Intended to improve diagnosis, treatment. Decisions still doctors, but this acts a smart assistant.

Use data from previous outcomes to have more data driven approach to support decision making.

Technical challenges:

  • Access to all relevant data
  • Ability to distinguish between positive or negative outcome
  • Existence of historical patters
  • Lack of skills in machine learning
  • Computing resource challenges
  • Still need lot of manual intervention and tuning
  • Spurious correlations, not always a casual relationship

Another big issue - the creepiness factor! Big brother factor. Watching people at work to see if you can automate their job. Have to think about how these techniques are applied.

Expect that by 2017 virtual personal assistants will collect data from applications you are using, will contextualise this. Give you advice and recommendations.

By 2020 will be dominan specific knowledge extraction and reuse systems. Eg HR systems will have built into them analytical tools. Will predict turnover etc.

Need to look at our business activities where we have a lot of data and start to think about automating the extraction of knowledge. Look at areas where we can increase our data collection. Architect, procure and deploy new applications aiming to create feedback loops between automated knowledge extraction and decision support or automation. Talk to our vendors to see where they are going in this area. Identify high priority areas with minimal technical challenges.

Need to track industry responses to cultural, legal, security, compliance and ethical questions.

Interesting session, and some thinking to be done about areas where we might implement some of these ideas. After all, we do have a lot of data! How can we turn this into knowledge?

Digital workplaces

I'm at the Gartner Digital Workplace summit in London for the next couple of days, bit of a last minute booking, as this is a new summit and I hadn't spotted it until recently. Am hoping it ties in nicely with the work on digital strategy we want to start soon. I'll try and take as many notes as I can of the sessions. Will definitely be in note form and not joined up English, so bear with me! I'm also using a new blogging tool on my iPad as my previously one has died, so who knows what posts will look like.

Opening keynote is entitled "Workplace Reimagined, Agile, Empowered, Engaged"

Digital Business is the creation of new business by blurring the digital and physical worlds. Three components people, things and business. Difference to 10 years ago is that the things are smart.

Digital workplace.

Engaged employees are more enthusiastic. By promoting employee engagement digital workplaces create a workforce that makes discretionary contributions to business effectiveness. Has to be based on trust. Building tougher increases trust.

Need to bring consumer like experiences into the workplace. Our most sophisticated computing environment these days is often in our home. Digital workplaces have an explicit goal of creating a consumer like computing experience that enables teams to be more effective. Need to strive for digital dexterity. The things people want to use, will always change. Don't chase the tools. Chase what people want to do.

Use smart technologies and people centric design. Instead of us becoming digitally literate, our computers need to be people literate. Digital workplace strategies exploit rmerging smart technologies and people centric design to support dynamic non routine work. Need to connect people to people, people to things and things to things.

There is no one vendor that will provide what we need. It's like an ecosystem of vendors that we need to stitch together. Need to use lighter weight technologies that will interact. Our teams need specialists who are not technologists. Need to have people who understand people.

IT will be measured in the future by internal customer satisfaction, not by how much money they save!

People need a more natural way of working. The way we interact with computers is improving. Apps that can talk and listen are not new, but apps that can interpret, learn and evolve are. Gartner predict that by 2018 25% of large organisations will have an explicit strategy to make their core computing more consumer like.

Emotion detection, already being used in some call centres. Facial recognition being used in marketing. What might these things mean in workplaces. Teachers with wearable cameras. Really will have eyes in the back of their heads. Workers in dangerous situations such as oil rigs wearing sensors to measure fatigue and stress levels.

HCI will become CHI where the computers are interacting with us.

Access to data, technology and people needs to be universal. Smart machines needed to create contextual experiences. Not talking about AI, ie replicating the way people think, but processing information and feeding it to us in a way we want. Building better tools.

How many people in room use things like Dropbox, when they're not allowed to? Loads. Convenience always trumps security and regulations! Need to change our policies, but also our language.

To really achieve a digital workplace, we need to involve people from outside of IT, eg HR, FM.

People will not only bring their own devices and apps to the workplaces, but will be bringing their own digital assistants. Different ones for different purposes. Amy from works across time zones to schedule meetings. Amelia from IPsoft handles front line queries and learns from experience. We will be opening up our data eg email and calendars to these digital assistants.

WYNIWYGWYNI great acronym! What you need is what you get when you need it.

Reimagine the workplace. Make it natural, make it universal, make it helpful.



Saturday, 19 September 2015

Students are back......

41 years ago today I arrived in Sheffield. A rather naive 18 year old from a market town in North Nottinghamshire. My Mum and Dad brought me in their car - I think it was a Hillman Minx but I
I could be wrong - dropped me at Halifax Hall, helped me unpack, and left. My room is still there - it's part of a suite in the Halifax Hotel. My room is the living area, and it's been knocked through to the room next door, which was the bedroom of my best friend Jane, who I met on my first night and remained my best friend throughout the three years of my degree. 41 years!!! I can't really believe it was that long ago. I remember it really well. And I've never left. But, the reason for thinking about it, is that today another set of young, apprehensive but excited students arrived in Sheffield.

Today many things are different. We greet them in a very different way. When I turned up, you got your key, were told where your room was, and that was it. Now, we have a fantastic red carpet for new students to walk down to collect their key, as well as a whole set of welcoming stalls and information stands. There's even free ice cream from Our Cow Molly.

And of course, we are there to help students with any IT issues. Mainly how to connect to wifi - which is all they really want. But, we are there to help them with anything. It was a bit quiet when I was there today, but that's a sign we've got thing's right. Everything just works, and they don't really need our help as much as they used to. But, don't this team and our stand look wonderful ;-)

And we'd produced a really good leaflet for students based on the idea of free IT deals...

I had a walk round all of the venues where we had staff today, and spotted something new in the Information Commons - self service laptop hire.

Finally, I'd like to pay tribute to a good friend of mine - Pat McGrath who retires next week - this is her last freshers weekend. She has worked tirelessly over the past 25 years to improve services to students. Today, as usual, hers was often the first face students and their parents saw when they arrived to start this exciting journey. She had a friendly and supportive word to say to everyone, and Freshers' Weekend will not be the same without her.

Friday, 18 September 2015

TELFest and Robots

Today was the final day of TELFest - our week long set of workshops, seminars and drop in sessions to help our academic staff enrich their teaching using technology. Organised by the CiCS TEL team, it's a fantastic event, very well attended, and showcases the best of what's happening here in the TEL world.  This afternoon the two last events were a panel session which I chaired on the future of technology in teaching. We were very lucky to have our new PVC for Learning and Teaching on the panel, and our artistic scribe for the event had prepared a bit of a surprise for him...

After the panel session, we visited "Innovation Corner", a new development where we got some cool bits of technology that were being used across the University to showcases their applications in teaching and learning. We had wearables including Google glass, drones, 3D printers, Oculus Rift and of course robots. There was the cute Nao root, who will be making a star appearance in The Diamond as part of a robot football team

And a very scary robot who uses facial expressions to interact with autisic children. Didn't get a picture of him having a panic attack, but it was really creepy.....

Big thanks to everyone who helped to organise TELFest, who presented sessions, or just attended - it is going from strength to strength and I look forward to the next one.

Sunshine on Leith

Yesterday I was in Edinburgh for a UCISA Executive meeting. It's a lovely place, but a long way to go on the train - just under 4 hours each way. Still, the journey is one my favourites in the UK - past Durham Cathedral, the Angel of the North, Alnmouth, Berwick on Tweed, and the wonderful bit where the train runs so close to the sea. And I do get lots of work done on the journey. Had to go up the night before, and stayed in Leith, because Edinburgh was full!

I only know Leith because it's where the movie Trainspotting is set (despite in being filmed mainly in Glasgow), but it was very different to how I envisaged it. This was my view on a quick walk before breakfast this morning.

We had the meeting in the Edinburgh School of Art Boardroom - definitely a room with a view, and apparently a location for a number of movies! This is not a good picture, but might give a flavour of what it was like overlooking Edinburgh Castle!

One of the main items on the agenda today was how we present ourselves to our stakeholders. We have a website of course, and a lot of publications, and we put on loads of events. But how discoverable is our content? We have so much content, but you'd have to know what it was and where it was to find it. And we only have one "view' onto our website. No matter who you are, you come in to the same place. Our discussions today were very reminiscent of the ones we're having in Sheffield about our own website.

We also looked at progress on a number of projects, including a toolkit on Designing Learning Spaces. UCISA's toolkits are a great resource for the sector. Recent ones include one on Major Project Assurance, and one on Information Security Management.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

If "digital" had been around when I was a teenager

I had a conversation the other day about what a shame it was that I didn't have many photos of my time as a student, or at school. How we just didn't take them in those days, and if we did, they were often blurred, or we'd lost them. And I started thinking about what a shame it was that digital photos and social media weren't around when I was younger. What a better record I'd have of my life back then. Then I watched this, and I wondered.....

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Narrative Goals

Last week I went to the first meeting of a project to look at producing a set of narrative goals about why diversity in our staff is good for us. I've been involved in the University Equality and Diversity Board for many years, and in a project to look at equality objectives for a couple of years. It's really important to understand that this isn't about box ticking, trying to achieve targets, or positive discrimination. It's about recognising that people are diverse, and that diverse teams have been shown to work better together, to solve problems quicker, and achieve higher outputs. It's a real tendency to appoint in our own image - we all like to think we're great at our job, and if only everyone else we're just like us.... Well actually, that's not true. We need different people, from different backgrounds in our teams. And instead of appointing the best person for the job we should often be looking for the best person for the team.

Our department is taking part in a pilot to produce a set of narrative goals (not targets!) to help us work out what sort of teams will help us be the CiCS of the future! What sort of skills and personalities do we need, what have we got, what are we lacking. How should we be recruiting etc. we're in the early stages at the moment, we've had one workshop with Simon Fanshawe and Roy Hutchins, which was a fairly intensive 3 hour sessions with just two of us from ViCS, but certainly made us think!