Thursday, 29 May 2008

So what is Enterprise Architecture?

Spent the day in London at UCISA meetings – began with a Communication Group, mainly discussing the UCISA web site and how we might target it more to our intended audience. A well as add some additional functionality – RSS feeds, blogs, wikis etc.

Then the UCISA Executive proper. Started with a presentation from the Open Group about Enterprise Architecture and something called TOGAF. JISC are funding a number of pilot projects to investigate an enterprise architecture approach to service oriented development at Universities. I must admit I was somewhat lost as to the value of this, and will need to sit down with someone and have it explained to me, and what benefits it might bring us, or even if we’re doing it already!

We also discussed a couple of projects we hope to undertake – one to produce a guide for calculating the costs of breaks in IT service to better understand how we should be approaching Business Continuity spending, and another to produce toolkit for institutions on student email outsourcing. We all agreed that this needed to be done sooner rather than later, as we are all beginning to look at it.

Final meeting of the day was the Annual Conference Organising Committee – lots of suggestions for speakers, social events etc. We’re also keen to reduce the carbon footprint of the conference, so looking at not giving free pads of paper to everyone, making most of the programme available on line, and an alternative to the bag that everyone gets. Apparently one conference recently gave everyone large paper bags, but they made so much noise, no-one could hear the conference sessions!

After an early morning train and 3 consecutive meetings in the same room, we finished too late for the 1730 train back, so I’m eating a Cornish pasty on the later train, and will miss my clog dancing session tonight!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Newsletter - printed or electronic?

Someone has, quite rightly, asked why we've just published a printed glossy copy of our Newsletter if we're trying to reduce printing. They've requested an electronic version.

Well, the pdf version is available from our home page, or direct from here if it's gone from the homepage by the time you read this.

Last year we did some surveys and focus groups on how people wanted to receive information and keep in touch with us, and it was quite obvious that people had different preferences - some preferred electronic, some preferred printed. So, we decided to do it in both formats - we've reduced the number of printed copies drastically, and only send a few to each department, and point people in the direction of the pdf version. There's a fair amount of PR involved in the production of the Newsletter - one of the criticisms of IT departments in general is that we don't market ourselves as well as we should and people therefore don't see the value, or the breadth, of what we do. A professional, well-produced Newsletter with interesting and informative content is one way to improve this. Printed copies can be given to colleagues and visitors for them to browse through. Piles of them can be put in the Information Commons for students to pick up - we know they do this, but don't read emails we send them! We've also found that our own staff like to have their own copy - any that get one and don't want it, can always return it to the Comms team.

I'd be interested in any comments on the format and content - both from inside and outside of the Institution!

Internal Auditors - Friend or Foe

Discussions with Internal Auditors are always interesting, particularly when deciding what to audit next year. Do I go for areas where I know there are problems and want help to come up with solutions - but do I really want the solutions to come in the form of a 22 page Audit Report with numerous recommendations and get hauled in front of Audit Committee for obviously being incompetent? Or do I pick areas where I don't think there are any problems - but then still get a 22 page Audit Report with.... and you can guess the rest. Or (more fun) do I pick areas where I think the Auditors will be totally clueless and we can run rings round them? Yesterday we went through a number of areas and came up with about 6 areas from which they'll pick 4 (4 audits a year is just not fair...). Data Security/Information Leakage will almost certainly be the main one - should be fun. One of the things they want to know is what controls we have in place to stop users connecting portable storage devices (such as USB sticks) to PCs and laptops! Well, that will be an easy one to answer.

Looks as though we might get an audit on our Green IT policies as well - I'm not too bothered about that one as I think we're fairly good on that. My mission at the moment on this topic is to stop people printing stuff - I am amazed by how much paper we use - people still print documents out which have been emailed to them and file them, (perhaps if I ban filing cabinets in the department....), we run a perfectly good electronic diary, and yet I see people with printed copies of it - in colour, and as for papers for meetings - don't get me started on that one again!

Monday, 26 May 2008

IT Director 1.5 meets Web 2.0

This Web 2.0 stuff is starting to get to me. I started with a Facebook account, then started this Blog, opened Flikr and Photobucket accounts, then last week in Barcelona started to Twitter. I've just spent the last hour trying to get my blog posts to appear as tweets, (come on, keep up...). I've wrestled with RSS feeds and discovered Twitterfeeds. I've even got my Facebook status linked to Twitter.

This weekend I was having a pint (or 3) in a very good pub in York, where I mentioned logging-in to Facebook to a couple of friends - "you actually log-in to Facebook?", one of them said, "that's so yesterday". I've now got to sort out Friendfeed to find out what he was talking about. Reminds me of my son who told me over a year ago that he didn't use email because it was so old fashioned.

Why do I do it? Several reasons. One, like garlic bread I believe it's the future - I'm running an IT department where the majority of our users are 20 or under. We HAVE to use this stuff and understand what they're doing and how they communicate. We also have to look at how we could take advantage of these technologies to improve our working - I can see a great use of web 2.0 technologies for collaborating on projects for example. As a non technologist in a technology department, I also love how these things are so easy to use - no horrible user interfaces, no training courses, no manuals required. Everything I've done in the last year I've taught myself - yes, I've used Google a lot and read a loads of help forums - but I haven't been beaten yet. I can sign in to most apps using my OpenID, everything's integrated - (even my dot mac account is getting in on the game and I can post pictures straight from iPhoto to Facebook) and it's all free!

Web 3.0 is on it's way and I'm worried that we haven't got our heads round Web 2.0 yet - we have made some great progress with our Innovative Communications and Student Learning Communities projects, but until we have people actually using this stuff for real we're not going to keep up.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Dead pigeons, and a lucky one

Went for a walk round a deserted building this morning - part of the Jessop Hospital which has been derelict and empty for several years. We're looking at possible uses for it, including turning it into teaching space. Some nice rooms with plenty of light, lots of corridors and poky rooms (typical of an old hospital), and numerous dead pigeons. Even a live one which had been stuck in a room for a while so a colleague caught it and threw it out of a window. It felt good to be wearing a hard hat again - not done it since the IC opened. It will be an exciting project if we get the go ahead.

Exec meeting this afternoon, where we discussed many strategic issues including whether staff should wear uniforms. Other discussions centred around how we manage our involvement with teaching space, and how projects should be handled at the delicate go-live stage, where it's important that everyone is kept informed.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Chelsea Flower Show was brilliant yesterday.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Back to work

Straight back to work and a departmental meeting first thing. Presentations on the recent telephone upgrade (which went very well - thanks guys), sustainable computing, the new self service helpdesk (going live very soon), projectslite ( a way of managing smaller projects and pieces of work without using the full suite of project management tools), and the University records and archives (an interesting look at some of the records out records manager has discovered in the archives - lots of fascinating insights into the history of the University). Nice to see everyone and catch up.

Spent the afternoon interviewing for some new University posts, and am about to dash off and do the same thing for 4.5 hours this morning - good job I kept up with my email while I was away last week. Then tonight I'm off to London so that I can spend tomorrow at one of my favourite events - the Chelsea Flower Show!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Home at last

A last meal at my favourite restaurant in Barcelona, a trip to the Sagrada Familia to see if they're any closer to finishing it (they're not thank goodness - I shall be disappointed when it stops being a building site) and a short flight later and I'm home. An excellent conference - a good agenda with interesting sessions and good presenters - something that I find very important. It can be a riveting subject, but if the presenter's no good, then I soon turn off. A lot of things to think about when I get back to work! The theme of the conference was emerging trends, and ones we need to keep an eye on are cloud computing, context aware networks, social trends, virtual worlds, 3d printing and intelligent objects.

Oh - and I learnt how to Twitter!

Virtual worlds and intelligent objects

According to a session on virtual worlds, 9 out of 10 virtual world projects within organisations fail. The most popular virtual world is Second Life, but there are others. An area where VWs have been successful is education - I mentioned in an earlier post some examples, but they can also be used for Can be used for teaching social skills, training and simulations.
Role based and scenario driven training exercises are well understood and to do them in a virtual world can save money and reduce danger. For example, a multi agency exercise – fire, ambulance, police – simulating an incident in a city centre can be very expensive and disruptive - a lot less so in a virtual world. They're also being used for training military personnel how to
survive in an urban environment and to simulate large scale evacuations.

IBM have built a virtual data centre display information from many remote data centres
Most virtual worlds can import 3d information so buildings etc are easy to create

Avatar enabled collaboration is an area which is growing and is proving successful if the scope is kept small - for example on projects. Examples include Sun's Virtual Workspace and qwaq forums.

User interfaces will develop and become simplier (anyone who's tried Second Life will know that it's not easy - my avatar definitely has a mind of her own!). The type of intertial sensing used in the Wii will lead to a different generation of user interfaces. Alpha brainwave sensors are apparently just coming onto the market, enabling you to move a cursor or an object just by thinking about it. Even more scarily - these are already priced at only $299!

There may be a use for virtual worlds in social networking - for example replacing the coffee room and water cooler for remote workers.

Some interesting discussion on demographics - I was suprised to learn that the average age of active SL user is over 40. Other VWs are targeted at younger audiences eg Habbo Hotel for young teenagers. A new VW called Barbiegirls went from 0 to 1m users in 6months – guess who that was targeted at! The child and sub teen market is the huge success story of virtual world and 9 out of 10 virtual world residents are under 14. But - they don't have spending power, eCommerce in virtual worlds therefore hasn't taken off the way it was predicted to.

Legal matters are still one of the biggest issues. Apparently the police aren't interested if someone steals your virtual property because it's virtual, and doesn't exist - but if you sell some virtual property, then the tax office is interested.....

Some interesting discussions on avatars - can you have a sensible business discussion with a pink rabbit for example. And as avatars get more realistic they get less believable and enter the Uncanny Valley.

All in all a good, thought provoking session on how we might think about using VWs.

The last session was on context aware computing and intelligent objects. A definite theme of the conference. I just found it scary!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Geek and Poke strike again

Given the last post, how could I not share this - sent to me by some colleagues!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

How the CIO should manage the CEO....

...Or "If you have a yes-man working for you, one of you is redundant!" — Barry Rand of Xerox

Well presented talk about how we as CIOs should work with and manage our Senior Managers especially the CEO or Vice Chancellor

It sounds simple, but the use of time is the starting point for improving the CIO's position as a business leader. Some Gartner research has shown that most CIOs' engagement with senior business colleagues is limited — 71% spend less that one 1 day per month, or an average of less than 20 minutes per day.
Those CIOs who routinely spend the most time learning and engaging are more involved in setting business strategy, having their advice sought more by the CEO, and spending almost a quarter of their IT budget on transformational projects rather than just keeping things going.

We need to engage senior management/CEO not on IT issues, not on business operations issues, but on business success – it’s all about focus.

There was an interesting slide about the right and wrong questions a CEO should ask a CIO – wrong ones include why is IT so expensive?, How can we cut IT costs? Right ones would include How is IT helping us win?, How we can use IT to get a strategic advantage?
The CIO's challenge is changing from "doing things right" to "doing the right things."

Emerging trends

Excellent presentation by Nick Jones on Emerging trends - one of my favourite Gartner speakers - very enthusiastic, great presenter and usually has an interesting gadget in his pocket. I'm trying to get him to Sheffield, not just to talk to the department, but also to talk to the University senior management about the potenial of IT.

This was a session on emerging trends, and taking a fairly long term look - not just at technology trends, but economic and societal which will have an impact on our use of IT and the role of IT departments in the future. Innovations come from unexpected places and in unexpected ways and we need to take a broad view

Many potential developments were rattled through by Nick in his hour long talk, so here's a selection:

The Web. Used to be like an online magazine – we accessed info and read it. Web 2.0 – about community and social interactions. Groups of peers and people working together and user-created deliverables.
Web 3.0 will be about context – what I need to know here and now. Real time information. It will be proactive and take into account location, context and mood. Blurring boundaries between the virtual and real world. Interfaces will spread out into the surrounding environment. Chios will be cheap, and almost anything that can have one, will - so we'll be surrounded by intelligent objects

Cloud computing – an emerging paradigm combining several concepts. There's a technical architecture with many processes. A business model of pay by use and an acquisition model for functionality. Users don’t know or care where service is – it’s in the cloud.
Early examples alreadyv around are Amazon web services and Microsoft Livemesh. Apparently the technical and business implications of cloud computing are huge, and we were encouraged to start pilots in our own institutions. I don't really understand this at all, so will have to do some investigating when I get back.

User interfaces – evolving fast. New interfaces for old functions – eg iPhone. New sorts of interfaces – flexible screens will be here very soon. Microprojectors – by 2011 they will be abe to project an A3 image from a projector the size of a sugar cube.
The new generation of interfaces will combine information and become more social. Perhaps if your phones detects that your in an airport, and running, then it won't put a call though. Eventually the interface will shift off the device and into surrounding environment - remember those waving arms interfaces from Minority Report?

3D printing (aka fabbing). Basically these are personal manufacturing devices. I thought they were like teleportation devices - you put an object in a machine somewhere, and it comes out in another machine somewhere else! Fab at home machines are already only $3000, and the price is falling all time. I thought these were amazing devices - imagine getting your furniture from IKEA as a file, and printing it at home ready made....

Robots - Lots of work going on in this area - especailly in Japan. The Japanese seem to have a thing about robots. Several areas where these are being developed for - to carry out dull, dirty or dangerous jobs; for carrying, lifting, and rescues; home healthcare – especailly to to look after old people; humanoid robots to be receptionists, companions or co-workers.

Human augmentation. Today it's about restoring normal performance levels. Tomorrow it will be about achieving above normal performance levels – very controversial.
Is it discriminatory? Or ethical?

Power. Demand is increasing but batteries are not getting better fast enough. Innovate ways of harvesting power are being developed from vibration (your trainers will generate enough power to keep the iPod in your pocket running), and thermal body heat from sensors on your skin.

Finally Nick ran through some scenarios - a sort of "day in the life of" - for 20 years time and we were encouraged to do this in our own organisations. Make the predictions look real and use a long time frame to avoid arguments about timing. Our emphasis should be on intelligent, always-on objects and recognising that the impact on business activities will be more significant than specific technology advances.

He suggested that on Monday morning when we get back we should set up some brainstorimng sessions on 3d printing, mobile robots, cloud computing. We need to build a robust process for tracking technology innovation – scan, track, evaluate - and expand the scope of technology tracking to incorporate business and societal trends. Use scenario planning and visioning exercises to identify possible long term opportunities.

Watch out for Monday morning then.....

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Nokia Interview

Watched an interview with Ilkka Raiskinen, Senior Vice President, Context, Advertising & Emerging Markets, for Nokia this morning. Discussion centred around Innovation.
Nokia have targets for innovation – eg certain employees have to meet targets for patent applications. He said that often shocks were needed to promote innovation - for example the iPhone in terms of handset design - and they can come from inside and outside “Nothing energises you more than a tough competitor”

In order to be a successful, innovative company, good portfolio management is needed to balance the high risk, high reward initiatives with the cash cows.

Sometimes innovative ideas have to wait for a demand in the market before they can be implemented. For example, Nokia had working on navigation for 10 years, but had to wait for the right time before deploying it - cost of sets to come down, and customer demand ie using them in cars.

He gave a demo of a Nokia phone knowing where you were, bringing up a map, finding the nearest pizza company, being able to dial the number and showing you a satellite image. All very clever, but the iPhones's been doing it for a while. His point was that this sort of application needed lots of partnering, and that most innovation was collaborative. and about partnering. Lot of IP and technology behind it not visible to consumers.

He was asked whether there was a role for open source in the commercial world, and he thought there was - especailly where you needed to bridge over multiple companies. and when you needed to make rapid changes.

In terms of taking risk - he quoted his grandparent who said, if the boat's not squeaking, it's not moving.

Finally he was asked how you stop good people leaving the company - his reply - "put the company HQ in Finland and if they join you you know they're serious….."

Good chat - enjoyed it.

Tuesday continued

I was lucky to have two one-to-one sessions with Gartner analysts during the afternoon. First was to discuss mobile support - particularly how to support the multitude of devices students have, and how to support staff who have to travel abroad and therefore have relatively special needs. The latter is especially a problem in areas where data coverage isn't good or where our carriers don't have agreements with network providers. Lots of good ideas for a strategy which I hadn't thuought of before. The next was to discuss matters relating to higher education, and we spent a lot of time discussing the future of eLearning systems. This was prompted by the merger of Blackboard and WebCT, and the increasing number of institutions looking at open source eLearning products - especially Moodle.

Final couple of sessions of the day were on Unified Communications - bringing together your voice platform with email, IM, video conferencing etc. Again, a lot of importance being placed on context and intelligent notification systems.

It would be difficult to get away with a whole day without a mention of Digital Natives, and I went to a session on how the current generation of students will affect the workforce and how organisations might need to change. It's a commonly held assumption that this generation understand technology more than us - but they don't, they just use it more. They see technology as just stuff - they happily play with it and don't need to read manuals, and will make it work for them, but they don't know how it works, and can't fix it if it breaks. This session was intended to educate people about the sorts of technology in use - social networking Web2.0 type stuff, but in Universities we're fairly familiar with it, and I didn't particularly learn anything.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Opening keynotes

Well, first proper day of Symposium is nearly over, and I've got half an hour before my final one-to-one analyst session - so I'm taking the opportunity to sit in the sun and write this. It's been a busy day, and as usual I'm feeling a combination of enthused and knackered.

Opening keynote was about the emerging trends that Gartner think that we should be addressing - this session is always very upbeat and stage managed - lots of music, slides, lights and dramatic statements - but it set the scene well. Key themes were:
Globalise - key developing areas are India and China. Thats where the workforce is, and the markets
Connect - context is going to be all important in connectivity. WYNIWYG - what you need is what you get. Network intelligence will be utilised - far more than presence awareness. The network knows about your present state and can anticipate your future state.
Eg calendar knows you have an appointment. Sat nav knows where. Phone knows contact details, document management system has papers.... put it all together.
Socialise - the most transformational movement today is the socialisation of technology.
The market value of Facebook is more than Marks and Spencer. – a dating site has 2.5m visitors month and makes 10m dollars per year. It has 1.5 employees - how do we compete in this kind of productivity? Need to look at turning your customers into a sales force, marketing team, helpdesk.
Industrialise - utilise the power of cloud computing.
Advance - learn to take risks instead of avoiding them all the time

Second session was another big keynote - Why IT Leaders place IT Strategy before Business Strategy - excellent presentation from the entertaining Andy Kyte. It was all about Asset mangement - assets being everything under the IT department's control - people, processes, hardware, software, services. He talked a lot about systems that we sometimes refer to as legacy systems. he had two definitions of legacy - something that works (if it didn't work you wouldn't still be running it), or something that was here before I was appointed! His view was that we shold adopt a life cycle approach to these systems - take a 7 year look at them - identify areas for development and improvement. An IT Strategy is a process -not a project, and IT managers need to become asset managers, not an expense manager. Portfolio management – need portfolio strategies to clean up, reduce dependencies, simplify and reduce complexity.

Accept that you can't make everyone happy. I liked this next bit - Governance creates options but management decides.

Dangerous side effects of pigeon poo

A word of warning for anyone visiting Barcelona - leave credit cards, passport in the hotel, and keep hold of your wallet and handbag. Pickpocketing is rife. A fairly standard scam that gets many people is the sudden realisation that a bird has crapped on you. Well - it hasn't - someone has thrown a white mixture of stuff on you. A helpful person then appears, full of concern, and conveniently armed with a wad of tissues and begins to clean you up - usually moving you into a doorway or somewhere away from the street. Magically, after you have been seriously cleaned up, your wallet has gone, or your bag has been rifled. Happened to two people with us yesterday - one realised what was happening and got away, the other didn't and had his wallet nicked. Unluckily the latter person happened to be Stuart, my husband! As one of our Assistant Directors said this morning - "Send him home - a man without a wallet is useless".

HE Day - part 3

Green IT - excellent session. So much information I can only reflect some of it - most of the time I was too interested to take notes!

What's the problem? Mainly CO2 emissions. Must be cut by 60 – 80% by 2050. Kyoto recommendations come nowhere near this. Cuts can’t be made by changes on supplier side ie on power generation - there must be a cut in demand. A low carbon economy will not be business as usual!

ICT accounts for c2% of carbon emissions same as aviation industry - but, there are lots of inefficiencies so savings are possible. IT will also assist in reducing demnd in other areas.

How is the 2% made up?
Printing 6% (NB Printing not printers – ie paper )
LAN and office telecoms 7% - look at power consumption of boxes, switches etc, don’t put in capacity until you need it
Mobile telecoms 9%
Fixed line 15%
Servers 23% includes cooling
PCs, monitors 39%

Focus should be on PCs, servers and printing

Ewaste - Fastest growing waste stream on the planet. 460k pPC come to end of their life every day. 550m mobile phones will be replaced this year - only 5-10% will be reused.
Need a recycling policy.
Think life cycle - for the embodied energy of a PC, 80% is in its manufacture and distribution and only 20% in its use.

Some suggested actions:
Define a policy and strategy
Start measuring and analysing
Green the staff – it’s mostly a behavourial challenge
Life life on the edge – dare to switch things off
Begin the journey from always on to always available
Take out all machines not doing anything in data centre
Consider energy at every decision level.
Take a holistic approach to reducing IT cooling and power loads
Print less - educate staff, enforce duplex printing, drop banner pages
Green procurement - look at environmental assessments of vendors
Create asset dispostion policy

HE day was very good. finished off with a meal at a restuarant on the mountain - Montjuc - with fantastic views over the City. There were firework displays going off everywhere because it was a bank holiday - but no-one could tell us what the holiday was!

HE Day continued

Rest of conference blogging will probably be in note form - unless I get much free time - doubtful as I'm in sessions from 9 till 6 everyday, and with some one-to-one sessions with analysts as well! At least the sun has come out today.

Future of eLearning

Lots of Gartner survey data - 50% of courses delivered by elearning in some form – no increase over last year although increases noted in all previous years - has plateau been reached? Top two reasons for using eLearning are meeting student demand and pedagogical advantage – has moved to top. Previously top two were cost savings and generating revenue.

Another trend is OSS – huge increase – up to 35% now – 10% increase from last year.
But commercial software still used to deliver most courses ie lot of institutions trying out open source software - influenced by Blackboard/WebCT merger. Moodle being considered by 53% of institutions in EMEA compared to 23% in North America.

Have to consider changing students – growth in consumer devices, social software, virtual worlds, gaming. In 2000 the producers were in charge – controlled distribution, production, marketing. Not today – consumer are in charge – cheap production tools, multiple channels, new methods of discovery, viral and social networks.

Social networks -Myspace has 65m users with 1% yearly growth. Facebook has 28m users but 77% yearly growth. Can't ignore the gaming experiecce – look at what’s happening in online games. There are 77m World of Warcraft players - more than golf players!

Changing teaching – Is there a place for social software and virtual worlds in teaching?
Should social software/elearing platforms be combined?

Look at Peace Innovation on Facebook, a Stanford University course. You can see documents, videos, share files, and discuss the material. None of it delivered by the central IT service - so how can we add value? University of Mitchigan provides ther library search through Facebook, because that’s where their students are.

Virtual worlds - a demo of teaching applications in Second Life - Chemistry simulations, Genome island, Anatomical models, Clinical simulations.

Changing technology – change in sourcing options. Application overlap – course management systems, student information systems, library systems, CMS and repositories, CRM all have functionality which overlaps.

Notes to self! Must look at Second Life, ( should we buy an Island?), iGoogle (are our students using it?), RSS feeds to get info to students via Facebook etc (eg info from plasma screens, especaily PC availability).

Monday, 12 May 2008

HE Day

Good session on service management - some thoughts jotted down during it - in note form as I'm still in the sessions:

Why would you run IS as a business?
External competition – it's a generally held view that a monopolistic organisation must be more inefficient than one that has competition! Therefore there is a perception there must be better services outside the organisation.
Most IS organisations are funded to supply core services – one size fits all – finite funding – demand perpetually exceeds supply! Only recourse is to say no – not a good way to win friends and influence people – so we often say yes and struggle to deliver.
Value – what have IT ever done for us? Why am I spending so much money on IT? – need to be able to answer these questions

First thing to do is look at the market – your customers. They have needs – you have to address them. But first you need to know what your services are - need to be explicit and understand the services.
Then look at processes – these are the ways we deliver services.
Services and proceses are not the same thing!
Cannot optimise what you don’t understand, which is not explicit.
ITIL etc is good, but understand their limitations.
Stop being a victim! Step up.
Bring perceptions in line with reality
Understand what you’re good at, and what not good at. Maybe source some stuff elsewhere?

What is a service – it’s an action not a thing!!! Software applications are not services. Processes are not services. People are not services. Put them together to deliver benefit to a customer. Describe services in terms of a benefit.

A well positioned service portfolio which describes who you are and why you exist and–why a customer should use you is a valuable tool which can help you establish credibility in the organisation.

A service portfolio and a service catelogue are different. The portfolio is targeted at senior management (ie the people who pay the salary bill!). A catelogue is targeted at people who use the services - the customers.

Start with the portfolio and move down to catelogue – top down - not hte other way round.

When benchmarking, benchmark to the competition. Don’t compare to yourself to other HE IT organisations – you'll just be seen as comparing yourself to other non credible organisations!

Get some of basics right – eg start by implementing ITIL.
Take a few processes at a time. Slow incremental change is better than a big bang.

Not a one to one relationship between processes and services - will have many more processes than services. Need to map processes to services. Can see which processes are core. Which ones need to be optimised. And which ones if you change, might change other services.

A profit and loss statement for services is also a useful tool. "If I was to charge at or near market rates for my services, would I cover my costs?"
Can put a value on your services. Measures expenditure the organisation has avoided by you being good at what you do.

Don’t have to actually charge – but can say if we were charging you, this is how much it would cost.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Barcelona in the rain

In Barcelona at the moment for the Gartner IT Expo Conference. I always enjoy the Gartner conferences - it's a chance to meet with IT professionals from across all sectors, and listen to sessions which aren't directed specifically at HE. The only exception is tomorrow when we have a specific HE day. Barcelona is a beautiful city, but I'm used to seeing it bathed in sunshine. it's therefore a shock to rain lashing down - especially when it's so warm at home! Never mind - it has steadily improved, and I did get to have my favourite lunch of p'am tomaquet (lightly toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato and dribbled with olive oil, iberian ham and beer! Walked miles this afternoon, and saw the usual street entertainers on the Ramblas, including a girl blowing huge multi-coloured bubbles. networking dinner tonight with the rest of the UK delegates, and then the first session starts early tomorrow. Will blog about the best ones - there's far to many to write about them all.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


There's an interesting post on the BBC Technology blog about browsers and how they make money. It states that Firefox is approaching a 30% market share. I thought I'd have a look at the stats of people reading this blog - you might find them interesting.

53% of visitors use Firefox, 43% IE, and 3% Safari.

75% use Windows, 21% MacOS, 3% Linux

43% of Windows users use Firefox

The most common search term for people finding this blog is "iceberg news"!

Incident management

We discussed the new incident handling procedures at this morning's Executive Meeting. These go live next Monday, and will change the way we handle all types of incident affecting our services - whether planned maintenance or unscheduled interruptions. Different levels of incident have been identified, and they will be dealt with appropriately. One big change will be the way we communicate with users, doing away for example with our famous "cics-faults" mailing list which has been used to notify the University of faults and problems. This will now be restricted to internal departmental communication only and external communication will be handled by our Customer Services and Communications team using their communications toolkit.

This afternoon we discussed or response to bigger incidents as we began the process of reviewing our Business Continuity Plan, especially the comms aspects of it, and the way we make up to date information available in the event of a loss of the network for example. This includes how we make sure that all of our information is available to use other than from networked devices - we already have hard copy and memory sticks but we need to revisit the process for keeping these up to date.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Service Quality Team

Service Quality Team this morning - this is the body that oversees our Service Level Agreement. Interesting meeting - two of our SLAs looked at in depth today - Room Bookings and Car Parking. Always good topics to stir up a bit of emotion! Lots of praise for how we carry out duties in these areas, but a lot of comments on policy which I will need to follow up.

We also looked at how we convey news about our services and SLA compliance to staff - currently we have a number of web pages which we need to look at bringing together including our service status page and our compliance page for example. We also talked about the way we consult staff about our services and carry out mini surveys - the results of the latest two can be seen here.

This afternoon we met colleagues from Leeds University - it's always good to talk to colleagues about issues, particularly to share what we do and how we might work together. We talked about collaborating particularly on issues relating to our SAP implementations. Watch out for some half day sessions where our SAP staff get together with Leeds and Newcastle.

Monday, 5 May 2008


Just over a week ago I got the very sad news that John Padley, Registrar of the University from 1982 to 1998 had died suddenly, and on Friday I went to his funeral. It was a very moving occasion, with many people there from Sheffield, and two beautiful and emotional readings from his daughters.

John is the reason I am where I am, and doing what I do now. He gave me my first job in 1983 when he appointed me to an administrative assistant post, and I didn't even know what the administration did. He encouraged me to move jobs several times - I didn't stay in any more than 2 years - to build up my experience in different areas. He had the confidence in me to appoint me to a senior post in the Faculty of Medicine, and then to help me form the current department and appoint me to this job. He delighted in developing staff, and made a habit of appointing young people who he knew had the skills, even if they didn't have the experience. He was a real mover and shaker, and completely changed the image of the University. He was also incredibly bright - a quick skim of a paper I'd spent days writing, and he understood the key points and knew what needed to be done. He was inspirational to me, and the reason I stayed in University Admin, and in Sheffield, for so long.

He was a good friend as well as a work colleague - I remember him and his wife Meg being the first to arrive at my house with a bunch of flowers and a bottle of champagne after the birth of both my children. I am stunned and saddened by his untimely death - he retired ten years ago, and should have spent many more years with his family and grandchildren.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Risks, auditors and students

Yesterday could have been a stressful day - in the morning I was in front of the Risk Management committee, presenting our departmental risk register and explaining what measures we were taking to mitigate the risks, and what action we would take if any of them happened. We've had a fair number of practices at dealing with power cuts, but so far haven't had to deal with some of the other physical ones including floods, fires, gas leaks, and high pressure steam leaks from the Sheffield Heat and Power pipes! Viruses an other security incidents remain high on our radar, but there are many people related risk - such as key staff leaving especially in some areas where specialist expertise is spread relatively thin. I think maybe I should find out if there's a departmental lottery syndicate and join it...

I the afternoon it was another scrutiny committee - Audit Committee - a recent audit had come up with a "Grade 1" recommendation, and the head of department is therefore summoned to explain themselves. It was a SAP end to end audit, and the meeting actually went very well, and they seemed to accept our explanations.

In the middle of appearing before these two committees, I had a pleasant lunchtime visiting epiGenesys - a student spin out. It's a software company using computer science students and graduates, and they had some interesting projects on show. The one perhaps of most interest to us was a student feedback or quiz system which used students own mobile phones to transmit the feedback or answer in real time using bluetooth. It was good to talk to the computer science students, and made me realise that perhaps we don't have enough interaction with them - we could certainly share our experience of running production systems and services with them, and the difficulties faced by taking small scale projects and turning them into enterprise solutions.