Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Well it's that time of year again where I sign off for Christmas.  Yesterday was our Christmas party, lots of fun was had by all I hope, and although there maybe one or two headaches this morning, I hope everyone enjoyed it. Pictures available here.

Thanks to everyone who's read this blog over the last year, and to those who've commented and interacted, usually in a positive way!  Will be back after the holidays.

Hope you all have a great time, a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Miscellaneous meetings

Rather aptly given the number of incidents we've had recently, we had a Business Continuity Steering group this week. Lots of discussion about how we handle incidents, and the imminent review of our incident plan. Also a lot of discussion about recommendations which have come out of  the incident simulations we've done. The last one was a student shooting, in an exam hall - the simulation, not a real incident! Lots of recommendations about how we communicate, and how confusing the aftermath of anything is, with no-one really knowing what's happening.

Our Admin Team meeting had a report from the internal auditors about the past year's audits, and some of the findings and recommendations. One of the most interesting from my perspective was one on procurement which discovered that a significant proportion of IT spend in departments is not going where we would expect it to. We are starting to look at IT as a Shared Service which will bring procurement more together, so that should help.

I shared with the team our proposals for moving staff to Google apps, and also our project to introduce a managed staff printing service, which both went down well.

Also this week we had a visit form colleagues at another University which is always interesting - lots of opportunities for sharing ideas and information.  Finally  we had the last of our faculty strategic liaison meetings - with Science. A good turn out and a lively discussion about future plans and how we can work more together.

Spent quite a lot of time keeping an eye on the weather forecast as well - lots of ice, but not much snow thank goodness!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Question time

Oh, dear - another long gap. Must try harder!  No real excuse, apart from more snow, a student occupation, and then over the last few days a bad cold.

So, a summary of last week. The student occupation took some of my time as no matter what you think about the rights of what the students were protesting about - and there was a lot of sympathy with them, it was still an incident which had to be managed. There's health and safety issues to consider, the media to deal with, teaching has to continue, even if the students are occupying teaching space either by rearranging it to different rooms, or hoping the students will let it continue without disruption and in this case they did. Anyway, that's over now, the students came out on Thursday, and in the main traveled to London to protest at the fees vote.

On Thursday I traveled to another University where I'm doing a review of their IT services - as a critical friend. I had an interesting chat with students, and with the IT staff. Next week I'm going back to talk another group of their customers - the academic staff.

Friday was our departmental meeting, and we had an external speaker - the Deputy Director of HR to tell us about the work of the HR department - very interesting. I think few of us have any idea of the range of different things they deal with.

Then we had an experiment - a question and answer session with the Executive Team - me and the 3 Assistant Directors.  A bit like Question Time. Some questions had been submitted in advance, some asked on the day. Predictably some of the questions were about communication in the department, some about the current financial situation. A nice mix, and an experiment we think we'll do again.

Friday afternoon was our Service Strategy Board, introduced as part of our Service Management process, where we look at reports from all of our Service managers, progress of our projects, and new projects. A few requests for new projects this time, including one to change the way we handle course information, allowing departments to input more data themselves. this should help to ensure that data is in the system in a timely manner, to feed into services including timetabling and on line registration. SheffUni people can find out more about the Service Strategy Board here.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Funny day today! Went to bed with it snowing, and woke up to find it still snowing. I've lived in Sheffield City Centre for 15 years, and have never seen snow as deep. I reckon it was about 12inches. It was also very quiet. I'm used to noise - trams, buses, cars, people going past. So, as Business Continuity is a part of my remit,   some calling around various senior managers to decide what to do. Not going into all the decision making process and rationale, but it was agreed to cancel teaching and only ask staff to get in if they could safely walk. eMails had to be sent to all staff and students, and my first mistake was to do it from home, from my laptop, using my personal email account, with my phone number in the signature. Cue hundreds of replies and phone calls from students who thought I could answer questions about every single lecture, seminar, tutorial, practical class.....

Despite the University being quiet, those of us involved in managing the incident seemed to be busier than ever! Lots of phone calls to make, emails and web pages to sort out, snow to walk through to 4 incident meetings.  Trying to keep basic services going such as helpdesks, the switchboard, maintenance, and liaising with other senior managers about services and cover. Most people have no idea what it takes to run a University and keep it operating - even with restricted services. We kept many things open today, including the Information Commons, the Students' Union, Catering outlets, Libraries, telephone and IT support, estates support, security, portering and lots more. Lots of thanks due to many staff, some of whom had very long uncomfortable walks in to work and back.

Now we're keeping an eye on tomorrow. For folks at ShefUni, updates are here.