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. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

Home again

Well the conference is finished, we've had the closing keynote, the exhibition stands are packed away, and all of the signs are being taken down. It is a huge conference - several thousand attendees (about 6 I think), and hundreds of Gartner staff. It's a great place to hear about new things, network, attend workshops, and just generally immerse yourself in all things digital.

Takeaways for me included looking at how we might take advantage of the Internet of Things, whether wearables have any place in education and if so, what at the ethical implications, how can we use data and algorithms to improve our services, and most of all - we need to get digital!

And of course, I got to ride on a Segway again. Wouldn't be a trip abroad without a Segway ride. Can't wait for the UK to catch up with the rest of the world and allow them to be ridden here ;-)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Nothing but a pair of speedos....

Had an amazing talk from Lewis Pugh, an environmental campaigner, who was the first person to swim at the North Pole. Done to bring attention to the fact that he could swim there, when really the ice should be frozen, but it is now melting. The water is still below freezing because it is salt water, almost 2 degrees below. 5 degrees colder than the water the Titanic passengers froze in.

He swam a kilometre in 28 minutes, in just a pair of speedos and goggles.

I defy anyone to watch this video and not to take a gasp of breath when he jumps in, or to scream just put a blanket on him, to his team when he gets out!

He also swam around all of the Maldives, which was a bit warmer, to draw attention to the fact that as the oceans rise, they are disappearing, Half way round his boat broke and they couldn't fix it. Seeing a yacht in the distance he joked that he knew Roman Abramovitch had a yacht out there and wouldn't it be good if it was and he rescued them. After some calls back to London including to the Chelsea FC manager, the yacht started to come towards them. It was his, and he rescued them, and gave them use of it for a few days!!!

If you want to know more about this amazing man, read his book, 21 Yaks and a Speedo.


Digital Ethics

Went to an interesting session on the ethics around artifice intelligence, data mining and tracking etc.

Lots of public discussions going on at the moment, but should we be worried?

Reasons we might be:

  • Robots will take over lots of jobs
  • AI developing too quickly, once they get smarter than us...
  • Power+ bad people= disaster
  • Need to worry about artificial stupidity
  • Experts don't see the obvious

Or is there really no need to worry?

  • Like in all other eras new jobs will be created
  • Law of diminishing returns will kick in
  • Why would robots turn against us
  • AI in its infancy
  • We learn and adapt

Just 6% of adults think the government can be trusted to keep our data secure

Between 66% and 75% are not confident that their activity with social media, advertisers and search engines is private and secure

70% of CIOs are. worried that there is no logical place to raise these issues

Lot of confusion about. On the one hand we believe that in freedom and that Governments shouldn't snoop. On the othe hand we are concerned about safety and think the Government should protect society


This is what Facebook can predict about you with what accuracy

Should we be more worried about the accuracy of the top categories or the inaccuracies of the lower ones?

How organisations find themselves crossing the creepy line:

Digital ethics is a system of values and moral principles for the conduct of digital interactions among people, business and things

It determines what is good, what is bad and is all about the discussion and debate. It's not about compliance.

Compliance has a role, is the baseline of ethical behaviour, that's all.

One level up in our motivation to do the right thing is Risk. But, risk is not in charge of the digital ethics discussions.

Differentiation, competitive advantage, might be gained by investing in digital ethics.

But, it should all be based on our values.

Do the right thing because we feel it is the right thing to do.

Real example. Workforce analytics. Someone comes to you with this proposal:

Let's pilot predictive analytics for flight risk ( ie looking at who might be thinking of leaving the company) using text analytics to mine emails, social media analytics, monitoring use of corporate computers and following productivity indicators. We expecting 60-70% accuracy! and are starting the pilot with offshore operations.

Would you approve this pilot?

Interesting discussion followed with the audience. Some points made: What would you do with the results. It feels wrong. What about false positives. Up to employees whether they leave. If it's transparent and employees know about it, could do it. Creates lazy management. If you care, treat people well. Generally people very unhappy with the suggestion.

Dataterminism. Because the data is there, we can use it.

Well known story about Google street view. As the car drove round taking pictures it collected data on wifi signals. Got fined in 12 countries. Their defence was they didn't do anything with the data, and it's publicly available.

The more open information is, the more careful you need to be with how you use it

Danger is seeing patterns which aren't there. An example of someon who loved cooking and gardening ordering scales and fertiliser form Amazon. Unwittingly these are two ingredients involved in drugs. This was their next set of recommendations


The concept that "the user is responsible" is being challenged. What is the definition of a user? If you use a hammer to kill someone, it's not the hammers fault. But, are we fully in control when we use technology?

As machines become smarter, we stop being users and become interactors. Who is responsible for the outcome of the interactions?

in Switzerland an art installation had a robot randomly buying things from the Internet. Unfortunately two of the things that got delivered included ecstasy tablets and a fake passport. Story here.

Sandra the Orang U Tang in an Argentine zoo was granted limited human rights when animal activists took out a court cases acing thatbwe'ce was being held captive against her will. First judge ruled that that there could be something as a non human person. Then overruled. But, when will a smart machine become a non human person, responsible for their own behaviour.



Mind unexpected consequences. There are always unintended consequences

Take responsibility. Monitor what's happening.

Be disciplined.



Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Bits and Pieces

Some of the other things I've been doing here at Gartner Symposium:

Went to a workshop yesterday on implementing Bimodal IT, a parallel form of implementing innovations. We looked in detail what the barriers to setting this up and getting it going are and how we might overcome them.

Meeting analysts and having one to one discussions with them. I've had three. One on student systems and what's happening in the market, very appropriate for us at the moment. One on Digital Strategies - should we have one, if so, what should it contain, and if not, how do we embed digital in our Univeristy strategy. And finally one on organisations, what makes them work well, structures, processes, policies etc. all extremely interesting and useful

I've also been to the exhibition, which is huge

Every evening they have a reception where they try and get you to their stand. This one with vodka poured through an ice sculpture worked quite well!


And I'm not sure who these were, but they were photobombed

And finally, I've been to. Couple of evening receptions which are a good opportunity to network with colleagues, and try new technology. I did get a go on an Oculus Rift which was set up to simulate a theme park ride. So realistic I had to keep closing my eyes!



Mobiles and wearables

There's always a lot at Sympsium, and I went to two sessions which were very interesting. One on the direction mobile is moving in, and one on wearables. The following is a summary of both sessions.

Seems to be general agreement that we are moving towards the post app area, where intelligent assistants (think Cortana and Siri) will provide control and automation and carry out takes for us without apps.

Technical trends affecting mobility:

Algorithms will drive innovation. One University has taken the accelerator information and can work out if you're happy or not! Weables can detect if your drinking by the movement of the accelerometer.

Device technologies matter less, supporting technologies matter more including electronics round the edge such as iBeacons

Social and political issues such as privacy, security, ethics will become more important

Services- mobile is an integral part of services such as Uber


Two platforms will dominate.

Smartphones - Apple and Samsung dominating with a long tail of small vendors. Some vendors will struggle

For platforms, iOS and android dominating. Be cautious of Windows 10 phones

Wireless getting more complex. No standards for IoT.

Who will drive the future of mobility? Different companies in different spaces:

Mobile and IoT will drive innovation. Some things already available: Selfie drones camera fastened to you wrist which can fly away to take a selfie). Smart beds. Smart furniture. Smart tags to track everything. Motorcycle helmet using smartphone to see what's behind you ( Skully)

App fatigue happening. Research says we are not downloading as many apps as we used to.

We should be using mobility to enable digital workplace innovation to create mobile digital workers.

One of biggest disruptions facing us is windows 10. Will hit us in 2016/17. Cortana is everywhere, on phones, tablets and PCs., and will be an integral part of it. Speaking to machines will be common place. Update model for windows 10 is very different. Need to start looking at it now,



So much more than smart watches. A lot more.

Head up displays. Displays in contact lenses. Smart clothing. Clothes that adjust to fit you.

Doppler, wear on wrist and keeps you awake and alert. Wearables for pets.

Smart finger nail

Smart dress with 10s thousands LEds

Smart bike helmet can fire air bag

EEG sensor wear on head can control games

At the moment, market is very immature. Low entry barriers with many innovators. Very fragmented technology, no standards. Rapidly evolving, things come and go, short life spans. Battery life still a problem. Useability and security challenges. Lot of current technology very proprietary.

New consumer habits will emerge.

Will be a huge market. 500m unit shipments by 2020. Will become mainstream consumer products. Prices will fall. Health and fitness wearables being subsided by health insurance companies.

Key trends

Android watches will be leading smart watch in terms of shipment numbers. Lower unit price. More open system.

Apple will have lower shipment numbers. But higher unit prices. More closed system.

Some proprietary niche/specialised vendors will appear and survive.

Biggest use case at moment is notification, glance able information. Discrete notifications Short messages, email headers, sms. Proximity alerts. Service alerts. navigation.




Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Social CIO

First session this morning from the CIO of Health Service Ireland about using social media as a member of the leadership team.

Why would you use Social Media? Many different organisations to engage with, and all very different. They have opened up all social media channels, trained clinicians for example to write blogs, encouraged openness and transparency.

To succeed in the social age, follow this law, More Social, Less Media

IT department are going through a transformation from just providing services to being business change partners. They have used social media to aid communication with staff spread out over whole of Ireland

If you are a digital leader, you leave a digital footprint. 140 clinicians have volunteered to be digital information officers and use social media. Important that you are seen as real people. Encourage people to ask questions.

Authenticity is key. Real people. Don't recruit people to manage social media. But, challenge is to stop it being all about "me".

Be part of the hive mind. Share ideas, ask questions. Simple questions can start a good conversation.

Not always about putting information out there, but about conversations and answering questions. Comments have to be timely and authentic.

Emotional reputation is a big part of using social media. Can do serious damage. You need to know, like and trust the emotional reputation of your organisation. But, you still need to be a real person. It's an easy job done well, but it can go wrong. Whether you do it well or not, you take it with you.

Influence through feelings not through thinking.

Innovation very important. Innovation through accessing the width of the social mind. Clinicians have built different care pathways by sharing information between each other and patients.

Social media gets you out of the office . Exchanges with others creates innovation.

Social media can create an Eco system of fans, the clinicians who are interacting with IT department through social media are now a fan base, critical friends and advocates.

Can't ban social media, and equally can't make people use it.

What's the difference between good healthy debate and arguement? Has to be a balance. Lock social media away after more than one glass of wine :-) Are you representing your opinion, or your own? Are you sure you're right? If in any doubt, don't post it.

Why be social? Because it's part of making connections. Allows you to engage openly with the right people. Allows different groups to come closer together, to understand each other.

As CIOs become more business leaders and less about the technology, using social media will assist this

Social media is not a fad, it's a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. It's here, and you can use it or not.

If you write a social media strategy, you're immediately taking too much control. Teach people how to use it, benefits and risks, and then let them use it.

Mixing personal and corporate messages on Twitter is fine if you are comfortable with is as it paints a picture of a real person.

Good talk, and interesting to see how they are using social media in what has previously been a sensitive subject ie healthcare.


Monday, 9 November 2015

I met an astronaut!!

I was very lucky today to be invited to a lunch at which Commander Chris Hadfield was speaking. I've always been fascinated by space, space flight and exploration, which given that I'm scared of flying is interesting. Actually I'm not scared of flying, I'm scared of not flying...

Chris Hadfield is a world famous test pilot and astronaut who was commander of the International Space Station in 2013. He used social media to really bring the mission alive using Twitter and Facebook, and famously recorded a version of Bowie's Space Oddesey while he was up there.

He's a bit of a hero of mine....

His talk was literally awe inspiring, and was about rising to the challenge. How do you rise to the challenge of getting up one morning knowing that by the end of it you'll either be floating effortlessly round the world, or be dead. Apparently the odds of death during launch in the early days of the space shuttle were 1 in 38.

It was impossible to capture the talk in notes, but here are some snippets and pictures.


Driving to the launchpad of the shuttle in a bus with the other astronauts, with everyone else driving away from it. Basically they are getting as far away as possible from the bomb you're about to sit on.


The spacesuits are huge, and you have to crawl into the shuttle, which has many switches in it. It was built in the 70s with extremely limited computer power - everything had to fit in 128k of memory. So it is mostly manual with 500 switches. If you knock one, you're dead.


As you sit waiting to launch, you think, what's the next thing that could kill us. Be ready for the next threat, ignore what doesn't matter


There's no problem so bad you can't make it worse.


With the flick of a switch a situation can go from bad to dead very quickly


Showed an amazing video of the launch of a shuttle.



It burns 12 tons of fuel per second at lift off and has 80million horsepower. When those solid rocket boosters light, you're going somewhere.


His first simulator:


Give yourself a long term goal, and work out how you're going to get there.


The ISS travels 8km a second and goes round the earth in 92 mins. People have been living in it for 15 years


To cope, you have to Visualise failure. Relentlessly. Then work out what you do.


In space, Earth is just a Helpdesk. (This has to be one of my favourite quotes)


Two things to remember:

All machines eventually break

All simulators are wrong.


Told story of how they spotted a leak in the ISS and realised they were leaking ammonia which cools the station. If they didn't fix it they would have to abandon ship. Normally a space walk takes 8 days of preparation, but they did one with 12 hours notice, and fixed it. Only possible because they had visualised failure so much and prepared for it.


Whilst on ISS he took some remarkable pictures, and he came down into the audience to look at them with us.


Finished with a video of how the they land when they come down in the Soyuz capsule. A very hard landing!


An excellent talk, and I got my picture taken with him later. He told me he'd waved to me every night as the ISS had flown over my house. A charmer as well as a brilliant man!