Friday, 15 May 2015

Working together

Yesterday the Talent Management Steering Group discussed the recent Sheffield Professional Awards. We had a lot of feedback about the awards and the ceremony itself, as well as some statistics about the staff groups nominated, which departments they came from, and from which grade. Lots of good stuff, and it's great to see Professional staff rewarded for what they do - but lots of things to think about for next year when we run the awards again. Here's a great little video - produced by CiCS of course - about the event.



Today I went to a meeting about a pilot mentoring scheme we are about to launch. Established to break down the barriers between academic and professional service staff,  CAMPUS  will see academic staff mentored by professional service staff, and vice versa. I'm one of the mentors, and am really looking forward to it. It is a divide I have encountered so many times in my career here, but one I truly don't understand.  The "we earn the money and you spend it" divide between academic and professional staff is just so ridiculous, as is the belief that we have nothing to learn from each other. I'm hoping that after this initial pilot we can roll this scheme out across the wider University and recognise that we are all in this together, and that the only way we are going to be successful is if we all understand each other and work together.







Wednesday, 13 May 2015

User Group


CiCS User Group today - a chance for us to tell people what we're up to, and get some feedback. I
kicked off with the results of our survey of staff, and what we're doing about what people told us. we've picked eight themes to concentrate on, and you can see them and our action plans here.

We also showed our users what our new mobile apps for accessing our HR and finance system (SAP) will look like.  The interface into the desktop versions of some parts of these systems are complex, but these apps which are especially designed for mobile devices will be much simpler to use. You'll be able to book and approve leave, view your payslip, approve expenses, and eventually many more things, from your smart phone or tablet. We've been piloting them for some time, and we're just waiting for some bugs to be fixed before releasing them.

A rather exciting pilot we're just about to start is the use of iBeacons, (little bluetooth devices) in conjunction with our iSheffield mobile app to do student attendance monitoring in teaching space. The way it works is that as a student enters a teaching space, the iBeacon triggers the app on the student's phone to check if the student has a class running in there. If they do, their attendance is registered.
Ombiel have released an information paper which you can read here.

Another new development is the linking of our lecture capture system to the timetabling system, so we'll be able to record many more lectures. Lots of information about our lecture capture system here.

Finally,  we introduced our user group to the concept of Agile project management which we're now using for all projects where it's appropriate. More information on our projects page.







Tuesday, 12 May 2015

New projects and Diamond approaching completion

Service Strategy Board yesterday - had a good discussion about the Bimodal IT presentation we had a couple of weeks ago, and how it might work. It addresses how to deal with core stable services whilst also being able to quickly create innovative solutions. So,what sort of projects could we apply this quick, innovative sort of development to? Also looked at how we might generate ideas, and decide whihc to take forward. I'm really interested in talking to students, getting them to come up with things - and then maybe taking them on to help develop them? It will help when we get our ideas platform up and running again, which hopefully will be in a few weeks.

We also approved a couple of new projects. One to help with managing personal tutoring, and to pont tutors in the direction of student support resources. possible a good candidate for a quick, innovative solution! The other was to enhance our website by providing a facility for users to build and deploy data collection forms in a secure manner. This is being done now in an ad hoc way with various approaches including using Google forms, and using tailored apps so we want to find a better, more secure way of doing it.

Also had our usual look at existing projects, and new things happening. One very exciting thing coming up is the completion of The Diamond - our brand new teaching and learning building. A lot of work for us to do between now and the end of September when it opens. We have the network - wired and wireless - to commission. All of the teaching spaces - including 9 lecture theatres will have state of the art AV in, which also needs commissioning. And on top of that, there are about 900 computers to be delivered, unpacked, connected and imaged.  Not forgetting staff to be appointed and trained, and services to be designed. The building is enormous - and stunning, both inside and outside. The wow factor will not be a problem!


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Summer of Student Innovation is here again

The JISC Summer of Student Innovation is with us again. If you're a student with a good idea to improve student life through digital technology, or know of one, and want to win £5000 to help develop it, then submit it here

This year's there's other categories as well -

Supporting technology start-ups
Learner ideas in Further Education
Apprentice-led ideas

Looking forward to judging - over the past couple of years we've had some great projects - you can read about some of them here.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Achieving Digital Agility with Bimodal IT without making a mess

Yesterday was spent in a workshop with colleagues from other Universities and Sheffield on Biomodal IT.

So, What does that mean? Biomodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability, and the other on agility.
Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasising safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and non linear, emphasing agility and speed.

That's the text book definition, and we spent a lot of time unpicking what it actually meant.


Gartner estimates that by 2017 75% of organisations will have a Bimodal capability. Half will make a mess.



Bimodal IT is not a nice to have - we will have to embrace it.

So, here are some notes of my key take-aways.

Bimodal is not:
Anything that splits in two.


Agile development

Pace layering

An IT capability, it's a business capability. Requires engagement from the business.

An operating model or organisational chart change

Shadow IT

This slide perhaps illustrates what the differences are between Mode 1 and Mode 2




Key risks in implementing bimodal IT:
Really important that both modes are connected. You need to work in a collaborative style with shared alignment.
You fall into the timid middle   Because second mode can look scary, there is a temptation to  de-risk it. Wrap it in comfort blanket.
Technical debt. Inevitable that you will take shortcuts. Have to monitor and manage it
Create an us and them situation. Need to create equity between teams
Renovating the core. A lot of agility in second mode comes from what you do with your core applications, so need flexibility in those

Need to apply filters to decide which projects you apply Mode 2 to. Customer experience, mobile, social, all are common

Mode 2 is always iterative. Apply the principle of producing the smallest viable product. Then use and iterate.
Have to delegate the autonomy to the team.


Need innovation management as part of governance.  Prune ideas.  Fail visibly and fail fast. 
 If the organisation is not prepared to accept failure, then it won't work.

 Need to identify people who can work in this way.



Start before you think you are ready

Some people start with an innovation lab

Or innovation team


Others start with agile

Then show how you can apply this to your digital strategy
Everyone starts small


Important thing is to start




Answer these 3 questions in order, as you go through a project:

Does this idea has value
?
What shape should this idea take?

How do we scale this idea

?

Mistake is to start with last question, or nothing will get off ground

Bimodal is very experiential, you have to do it to learn it.



You have to find a part of the business to work with you in this way. If they won't, find a different project.


Select projects which have minimal interaction with mode 1 team

Important to avoid tension between teams, Need to make sure there is equity between teams in terms of recognition and reward.  
Be careful with language
.  There has to be more that unites them than divides them -  common goals, values, priorities
 

Some examples from other places:


One University uses students to come up with and develop ideas - they are a cheap resource and enthusiastic.
Provide some money to have a competiton and let them work with you over the summer to develop something.

Another University has created a small innovation team in IT. 2 people - one a developer and one with a web marketing background. Exploring gamification. 
Also have students working on mobile app development.

How do you transfer things into services? Especially if developed by students
Easy to develop a bright shiny object, and then move on to next bright shiny object
Organisation needs a clear understanding of what "done " is
Mode 2 needs to take responsibility for something to be useable.
Going back to 3 questions, when you get to last one, have to decide whether you can afford to scale it or not.


A very interesting workshop, and something I am keen to take forward.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The first chick....

After watching our peregrines incubating their 4 eggs for a few weeks, its exciting to see we've got a chick! Hatched sometime overnight, it's been hiding under the adults all day, but I managed to get a picture of it feeding about 4pm this afternoon.


So, that's productivity down for a while then :-)  I love watching them - keep up with them here, and the new camera will make for some great viewings.

But for now, this was filmed early this morning, just after the chick hatched. I think breakfast was being eaten....


Diary of a 24 hour Inspirational Lecture

Finally got round to writing up the 24 Hours from Thursday 16 to Friday 17 April. A truly inspirational day and night!

1340 The team starts to take the kit in


1530 A Diary Room is being constructed, and yes, it does look like a beach hut. But it will be decorated with fairy lights and a shower curtain, so that's OK...



 1650 almost ready to go. And lots, and lots of food is arriving.



1655 The audience is ready



 1658 and Alex (aka Biscuits) is wide awake and raring to film for 24 hours..


1700 We're off! Opening welcome by Catherine - chief organiser.


1705 First session - a Tribute to Victoria Henshaw by John Flint. Researched the Importance of smell in a city and how important it is to an urban environment.  She argued that there was movement to get rid of smell. To sterilise the city. Had bottles of smells. Room like something out of Hogwarts. "She pulls out a can of Glasgow" quote in the guardian.

1730 - its Nate Adams on Nanobots, and we have props!


All about the need to harness energy from the sun. Gene jockeys and Biochemists working together :-) We got a demo of Freddie and Mabel (2 parts of an enzyme, obviously), being hit my a laser


And a hydrogen rocket!


We did let the party poppers off, but  can't remember why

1800 - talk on music for well being from Victoria Williamson. First (and only) technical issue of night
Fascinating talk about the connection between music and memory and emotion.

1830 Paul White on population growth - latest UN projection for global population in 2050 is 9.6 billion.
Managed to grab some tea - noodles cooked by Stuart.

1900 More about sound. 10% of population have tinnitus.Sound very important in our environment.
BBC used recordings of mutter to make people feel more at home in quiet offices. B and Q turn the music down on Wednesdays as it's pensioners day - who knew!

1930 Morag Rose. On loitering with intent! Great talk about the Loiterers Resistance Movement in Manchester. First Sunday on every month they go for a wander. Sometimes throw a dice to decide which way to go. Or follow a different map. Or follow things that are yellow. Sometimes there's an organised route eg to look at something in particular. Just done a sense walk.
Currently running contest for the most audacious buddleia! Love it!






2000 Clare McGourlay getting very upset at changes to legal aid. And rightly so!
Justice is now too expensive to pursue for many people.
3 months after changes, sex discrimination cases dropped by 90%. Race similar.
Just because people can't afford it.
Courts getting clogged up with people turning up to represent themselves.
Our own students are in the courts helping the judges out.
Loved the fact that all the way through the talk she referred to the Secretary of State for Justice as The Odious One. Or just Odious.

2030 Music and dancing going strong in the foyer


2100 First particle physics lecture of the night.  And, the chalk has come out for writing on the blackboard!!!   Anatomy of the ATlAS particle detector. Built some of it here in Sheffield.
3000 physicists in 40 countries working on ATLAS experiment.
It's well known that CERN collects antimatter to make bombs, illustrated with a great clip from Angels and Demons. In reality (!), he calculated it would take 15m years to make 0.5g of antimatter

2130 Tim Sheppard - a Musicologist. talking about Renaissance music and it's role in governance.
Machiavelli mentioned a lot.



2200 very popular talk - Catherine Fletcher - academic advisor to the producers of Wolf Hall.
For example, what sort of accessories did they wear?
Interesting that they didn't try to reproduce the actual colour. Would have been very bright and colourful, would have looked garish to us, we're used to seeing that period as faded.

2230 Something about neutrinos
Is it time to put the pyjamas on yet?

2300 This should be fun. Matt Mears comes in with 5 boxes, to illustrate 5 laws of physics, and we pick which box to illustrate which law. Ad lib physics




2330 Put pyjamas on. Toyed with idea of wearing panda onesie, but seems to be distinct lack of them this year.  Missed apparently very good session on codes and secret messages. Must watch when videos are out. Ian standing by door - his place. Apparently you can't go to sleep standing up. Tell me that in a few hours....


 Midnight - and I'm on as MC. First up in my spot is Andrew Parnell on colour. Complete with colourful shirt. He has a slinky and lots of feathers. We have 3 cones in our eyes, birds have 4 so can see more than us. But we're not sure what! Beautiful picture of Peacock feather under electron microscope. They're trying to work out the colour of a dodo from a tiny piece of feather that has been kept.


0030 - OK, it's time for the Smut Slot. Wonder why they asked me to MC these next talks? And real coffee arrives courtesy of my mate Vanessa!

Chella Quint bursts in wearing a onesie (wish I'd put mine on now....) and empties her props onto the table. Seems to be various types of sanitary wear.... Some men in audience looking uncomfortable.Then we get 30 minutes on periods - including a fair amount of interactivity!
Fantastic talk - funny, informative and breaks down many taboos.
Bizarre sight of a PVC in a sanitary belt will be forever etched on my mind.
Favourite quote - "Vaginas are self cleaning, like ovens"




0100 More in the Smut Slot - Allan Pacey on the Ins and Outs of Sperm donations. Thankfully no live demonstrations.
First donor insemination was 1884 when a doctor inseminated a woman with the sperm of a student, without telling her.
Law changed in 2004 to remove anonymity and we suffered a drop in the number of donors.
Now we import about 1/3 of our sperm, mainly from Denmark. Look out for the sperm bike.....

Loved some of the advertising slogans used in the past, including "Give a toss for Britain"

0130 And more smut - Tony Ryan on condoms
Oldest form of contraception - 6000 years old. Originally to protect against disease
Pregnancy not recognised till much later.
Originally made from animal gut. Intended to be reused. Sterilised by boiling.
One area where you pay more for less - the thinner they are now, the more expensive.
First imported and sold in barbers shops
Condom factories are funny - 10,000 glass knobs on a conveyor belt
Have to have a sense of humour to work in condom development - understatement of day!


0200 Yay - it's time for Ed Daw to play some blues on his piano - and here is is playing You Are my Project Sunshine for Tony Ryan




0230 Drew Tarmey
How many people are frightened of needles? I suppose I can't be, as I've spent quite a lot of time having my back tattood - but about 10% of the population are needle phobic
When did we first start injecting people with needles? In Roman times
So, we need needle free injection device like Star Trek
Drive medication though skin with a high pressure jet was around  from 1947.
Can get modern jet injectors. Not completely pain free! So, drew injected himself with one to prove it worked, and wasn't painful!



0300 More music in the foyer


0310 Took a bit of time out to talk about magic with Aneurin Kennedy. He's great at mind reading. Or is is all a trick.....

0330 James Mullarky dressed all in black fortelling the end of the earth and universe....

In 100,000 years we'll have another period of glaciation. Everything North of us will be crushed.
In 10m years. Africa will slowly crash into Europe due to plate tectonics.
In 100m years, Australia will crash into Indonesia.
Everything that we know won't exist anymore.
6.5bn years away from total extinction of life on Earth. The experiment that is life will end. We are now closer to the end, than the beginning.
In 100bn years things start to get a bit weird...
This is bloody fascinating, and all delivered by a man in a black hooded dressing gown

Ian's taken over the filming, but is still standing up...



0400  Anna Topakas  in a fab onesie - and the microphone transmitter fits in the hood. A must have for departmental meetings...


 0430  Rhonda Hawkins on what is life. My main take away quote - "If you saw hair gel moving across the floor you'd be a bit freaked out"

0500    We're trending!!


Bit of a gap to stretch legs - a quick walk round the local area. Very interesting at this time of the morning. Need to make sure I get my step count up too..


0525  Glad to see Greg in his PJs.




0530  Alistair Warren resplendent in PJs talking about whips and lashes




Whiplash injury accounts for 70% of all RTAs.  Adds about £100 on to all of our car insurance per year.
Human head weighs about 11lbs. Crash helmet weighs 4lbs. Helmet can protect, but can also contribute to whiplash because makes head heavier
A 15lb helmeted head can travel forward at 107g in a 40 g head on collision.
Then lots about vertebrae and a demonstration of how hanging works. Nice.

0600  Brill pictures from Ash Cadby and Katherine Inskip - voting on what are best - very small (microscopy pictures) or very big (astronomy pics)


0630 Peter Bath - sharing infomation on forums if you have a life threatening illness

0700  Jane Hodson. What can bad novels tell us about dialect  - Lots of interesting dialects, good and bad, from novels including Jane Austen



0715 - Coffee Rev and Johns Van are both open - thank the lord!!  Do a run to both for coffee and bacon butties

0730 Something about Einstein and protons

0800  Now maths.  Golden Frames in buildings.


Why do mathmaticians write on blackboards? Best bit of morning - he got the formula wrong and his PhD student had to shout out the correction from the audience!



Losing it a bit now.  Should I have a nap? Decide to have a quick walk outside, but then grab a few minutes of a nap....

1030 Wake up in time to hear  Katie Edwards on the Hollywood epics and the character of God - God's a brat.
"To look upon God would kill a human" : Exodus. Makes for a pretty tricky one to one.


1100 - whoooo lots more props arriving. David Mowbray and Marieke Navin on Light.
We have glow sticks, a Mexican wave. A demo of light travelling in a straight line by sprinkling chalk dust on a laser to see it. Disappointed to learn that James Bond films are wrong and you cant see laser beams. 
Making optic fibre with a water cooler

Trippy glasses


Nate makes a fire rainbow


Raspberry pie demo of infra red camera pointed at audience



Well that woke us all up!

1200  Marek Szablewski tells the story of one of his father's friends - Joker.  One of the few to escape from Auschwitz and survive.
Gripping


1230 - Penelope Ottewell on cancer research. Cancer very prevalent today. In 1900 most people died of infectious diseases. Now, cancer and heart disease
We've improved standard of living and used antibiotics to get rid of infectious diseases
Also, people live longer.
Why do people get cancer?
Age, cellular mechanism gets tired, more mistakes: Bugs - some bugs cause cancer; Genetics; Environmental factors eg smoking, obesity, asbestos, radiation, pollutants etc
But for most cancers, still don't know what cause is
First link between environment and cancer 1775. Boys, chimney sweeps, cancer of scrotum

1300 - hungry. Thank goodness for John's van

1330  Heather Campbell on planning.
Effective planning is about possibilities. A sense that you can create a better world
All about the collective good not individual interest
Planning is necessary to change the world for the better

1400 - It's Professor Vanessa!!  A last minute substitution as someone has dropped out. Here she is with her Auntie Brenda

Some great life quotes from her real fairground family:
Educate don't patronise your audience or public
Never turn your back on a snake
Never stoop down without picking something up
If you want something done ask a busy woman
My favourite - Never go to bed with a man you can squash. (or Go into partnership with people who are your equal)
Family motto - Fun without vulgarity
And - there's always the dancing pig.


This 1907 film, made in Paris by Pathe, never fails to amuse and disturb me. Mainly disturb.




1430 from dancing pigs to robotics with Tony Prescott, Director of Sheffield Robotics talking about the singularity.
"The technological singularity is the hypothesis that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization in an event called "the singularity".
Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is an occurrence beyond which events may become unpredictable, unfavorable, or even unfathomable."  So there.
Expected in 2045. Or maybe not.
The future maybe more like today than you think.




1530 Amber Regis talks about Love at First Read and her love affair (metaphorically speaking) with the writer John Addington Symonds. There's still a lot of people here....



1600 have just noticed that John Flint is sitting behind me with what looks like a bottle of Grande Marnier!



1630 - finally - the last lecture!! Richard Jones on Making Life.


Golems,  Homunculus, Frankenstein.
2010 saw the first artificial life breakthrough - first living cell controlled by synthetic DNA.  Led to great Daily Mail headline.


This synthetic DNA has a  watermark in the DNA including quote from James Joyce. Most pretentious parasite ever?
Most important thing about living things is that they are massively out of equilibrium.


And finally - some moving closing words from Catherine.



and Tom has already edited some of the diary room video....



Great event again. Despite several of us making it through 24 hours, only one person saw every single lecture.  Well done George!