UCISA Executive meeting in London last Thursday. I'm getting used to the early morning trains to London now, but I still find the lack of connectivity frustrating - even the phone signal isn't enough to have a reasonable conversation for any length of time. Not that I usually want to in public of course, but getting and sending the odd email would be nice!
As a membership organisation, UCISA has a responsibility to help its members, and one of the main things we discussed was how we could help in these times of financial constraint. All of our organisations are reporting it as their main concern, but it isn't up to us to tell IT departments how to save money or manage themselves. What we can do however is give advice and share good ideas and best practice. A recent UCISA seminar on How to reduce Your Infrastructure Costs for example had presentations from a number of organisations, including how Westminster University estimate they have saved £1m by outsourcing their email, personal storage and productivity apps to Google, savings to be gained on printing, and a keynote from a Gartner analyst. All of the presentations are on the web site.
We discussed what other things we could do, other events we might organise for example, including tips on renegotiating contracts, showing the value of IT, outsourcing and outhosting options. As I've said before, the government is very keen on shared services at the moment and one of the areas we touched on is IT as a shared service within the institution. Many of us who run relatively centralised IT departments are still aware of the many IT support staff out there in departments, file servers lurking in corners, IT staff re-inventing the wheel as they write their own systems for doing things instead of using centrally provided ones. Surely, we need to look at IT spend across the institution, and look for efficiencies in how we provide it, which will mean bringing distributed staff into bigger teams, physically located still in departments but with a much closer relationship with the central IT department.
We touched on a number of other topics, including a forthcoming meeting with the Chair of AUDE (Association of University Directors of Estates), where we're going to discuss a number of areas of overlap between IT departments and estates departments - more next week after the meeting.
We also were brought up to date on the Digital Economy Act and the effect on us. The more I look at this, the more of a mess it is, and the more I think we should be using the Government's web site to vote to repeal it! Peter Tinson wrote a good blog post back in May about the next steps for the Act. basically, the consultation on the cost of implementing the measures in the Act has now finished - both JANET and UCISA responded, and now the consultation is on Ofcom's code of practice. This initially focuses on ISPs with over 400,000 subscribers. There is still no clarity on what an ISP is, and whether University's (or even JANET), are ISPs. So, watch this space - I'll post on news on this Act as I get it.