ICT departments have traditionally enjoyed a close partnership with the Library, and the same is true for our professional organisations. UCISA and its library counterpart SCONUL have a good working relationship with joint events and regular liaison meetings. So, both in my day job and my new role as Chair of UCISA I’ve been thinking about the relationship with other departments and whether we should be building relationships with similar professional organisations. IT/IS departments provide services to all areas of the University but some of those services require closer collaboration with other departments to ensure that the University gets the most added value.
One of those areas is Estates, where we have a number of close links including:
The design and installation of the infrastructure in all new buildings and refurbishments – the pervasive nature of IT and its critical importance in teaching and learning and research means that we need to be heavily involved right at the beginning of the design process.
Data centres – business continuity planning requires close collaboration in the design and operation of existing centres including the installation of specialist equipment such as generators, air conditioning, fire and flood detection, monitoring systems and alerts. This in turn puts pressure on the Estates department to maintain and test such equipment. The growth in eScience and the expansion of High Performance Computing facilities has also lead to increased demand for space to accommodate the numerous racks of kit being acquired both centrally and by research groups.
The Green Agenda and the need to reduce power consumption and the carbon footprint is another area where close collaboration is required. For example, those racks of HPC equipment throw out huge amounts of heat which has to be removed – a huge waste of energy which requires careful design of both the data centre and the cooling system.
Last, but certainly not least, the design of teaching and learning spaces, as well as their management and utilisation. The operation of 24*7 facilities such as our Information Commons provides interesting challenges both for ICT and Estates departments.
So, you’d think that ICT and Estates departments enjoyed a good partnership wouldn’t you? At the recent AUDE (The Association of University Directors of Estates) conference, only half of the attendees thought they had a close working relationship with their IT Director. I wonder if the reverse question had been asked at the UCISA conference the response would have been any different? Probably not. Of course, there are good examples of working well together –the design of our Information Commons is a good example which was definitely a partnership between the ICT department, the Library and the Estates team. But in many areas there is still a lot of work to be done, and it’s something I’ve committed myself to trying to improve at the national level as well as locally, and we’ve already made a start from the UCISA end. I think the biggest issue is communication and understanding of each other’s concerns, which we can only resolve by talking to each other and close liaison. UCISA will be meeting represetnatives of AUDE soon to discuss areas where we might collaborate, how we might highlight examples of good practice and break down some of the barriers that obviously exist.