Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Well it's that time of year again - Christmas is nearly here!  We had a great Departmental Christmas party yesterday - about 150 of us out for lunch, drinks and a disco. Much fun seemed to be had by all, and there's photos to prove it here.

I hope everyone has a great break, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Tablet news

Last week we had the second of our LEAN Rapid Improvement Events - another 5 days of people from all areas of the University locked (well not quite) in a room together, looking at a probleme and coming up with a solution. This time it was the way we maintain and manage our regulation on-line. Currently it takes a huge amount of effort in academic departments and in central ones, the process is complicated, and the data isn't always data timely or accurate. And yet this data is vital for so many of our student related processes - module choice, registration and timetabling for example. I was pleased to go up on Friday afternoon and have a presentation on a revised process which will simplify matters enormously, reduce the time taken and improve the accuracy of data. Great work by everyone on what has been a problem for the University for many years. Now we just need to put it into practice!

And in other news.....

Today sees the publication of our newsletter, myCiCSnews, which can be downloaded as a pdf from here.  There's articles on learning technologies, research on the campus compute cloud, information security, and many more.
For the first time we've made it available in a tablet version, which works really well on iPads and other tablets,  and includes embedded video etc. Click here to view.  Both versions look great, thanks to some fine work on the content and design.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

SSB, release and business continuity

Given that it's the run up to Christmas, its still extremely busy, and lots of meetings to attend. Monday was our Service Strategy Board, where we discussed a real variety of issues. Google features on most agendas these days as we start to roll out more of the apps, and see more use of it. Google+ has been activated now on the University domain, so we're piloting it with some people in CiCS at the moment, hoping to roll it out in the New year across the University. It will be very interesting to see the response. Those of us who have personal G+ accounts may find it confusing, or may like to see a separation of work and social circles. We will be watching whether it gets taken up in the learning and teaching area.

We also looked at issues around resourcing, especially in the development area - we have many projects ongoing, some outside of our control such as the changes imposed on us by UKBA, others are new projects we need to get on with such as our new portal.

Yesterday I had a catch up with our finance manager to see how our expenditure was looking against the budget, and looking at future financial planning. Also we had a really good discussion internally about how we implement release management into our service and project management framework. Interesting to see how the releases come not just from projects, but from small pieces of work we instigate, and from upgrades etc imposed on us by suppliers.

Today it was the Business Continuity Operational Group, where the main item on the agenda was a paper looking at Business Continuity issues around Teaching and Learning and how the University would deal with both major and minor incidents which might disrupt teaching or assessment.  A really good set of guidelines for academic and professional service departments.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Price is Right

Last Friday I was speaking at a UCISA event on What Price Your Service, which covered a number of aspects of pricing and costing services.

First up was Andrew McConnell who is chair of the British University Finance Directors Group, and has also sat with me on the UUK Group looking at Modernisation and Efficiency.  Andrew gave a good overview of the financial environment and the challenges facing HE. Continuous change and uncertainty, cuts in resource, competition for student numbers, inflationary pressures on pay and non pay costs, the impact of spending on the REF and cash flow changes all contribute to a difficult picture. Although the viability of institutions does not seem to be an issue at the moment,  we are operating on very fine margins, and many institutions are not generating enough surplus. So, we need to have entrepreneurial leadership and generate income from  diverse sources, have robust financial, institutional and growth strategies and take the efficiency agenda seriously. I've written before about the UUK report (commonly being referred to as the Diamond report), and of the 17 recommendations, 11 touch on IT. Andrew called for better collaboration between UCISA and BUFDG, and between Finance and IT generally, working together and overcoming the language barrier that sometimes exists between us. He reminded us what Ian Watmore had said at  the launch of the Diamond report - we used to say we had to spend to save, now we have to save to spend.

Next up was the University of Oxford, who have been looking at how their services are costed. Originally they worked on a simple basis, allocating expenditure to different cost centres, but more recently have been adopting the TRAC approach, and looking in detail at all aspects of expenditure including power, space, overheads, dependencies on other services etc. They received funding from the JISC, and have produced a toolkit for costing IT services, available here.  They've found this model to be extremely useful in looking at how much services actually cost, especially in departments. For example they found a small department running their own exchange server instead of making use of the central one, who insisted it didn't cost anything. However, it actually cost twice as much as the central one.

Then I spoke about the work we've been doing at looking at where our expenditure actually goes, rather than how much things actually cost. We've changed our accounting structure to match our seven service areas, but this year manually allocated all expenditure - staff, non staff and capital, as well as expenditure in those areas which generate income - to those areas. So, using expenditure as a proxy for activity, we get the following results:

Then each of the service areas can be broken down, and we can see where the expenditure is coming from  - is it mainly staff, capital etc. There's loads of information, and it's thrown up some interesting questions, as well as highlighting some issues. If you're really interested in seeing the results, and how and why we did it, you can see the talk here. All of the talks given on the day are here, and you will need Silverlight to view them.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Catching up

Lots to catch up at the end of this week, apologies for lack of posts, just didn't seem to get round to it! At the end of last week I went to a RUGIT meeting, the IT Directors of the Russell Group, and we had several interesting discussions around organisational structures, shared data centres and the recent announcement of £145m for eInfrastructure which has to be spent in an unfeasibly short timescale. We're very lucky that the new Chief Executive of JISC is one of our number, and Martin gave us an overview of the current review of jISC and some of the changes that will be made to current funding models. It seems clear that although the sector as a whole will be paying less for JISC services, individual institutions will have to pay more and we need to be putting something into our financial forecasts. Hopefully things will become clearer in the New Year, and it will be our role to ensure that this is seen as an institutional cost, and not something that can be found from within existing IT budgets.

W also had an overview from the Chief Executive of JANET on a number of things including SuperJanet6 Procurement, the JISC Review of Janet, the JANET Brokerage Service and IPv6.

This week I've had feedback on the action plan which came out of the LEAN Rapid Improvement Event looking at student computer registration, and changes that we will need to make. Some of these will impact on existing projects such as our Enquirer and Applicant Portal development so it's important to get them fed in as soon as possible. We've also had discussions about our capital spending plans, and some fairly big investments we're making in our infrastructure.

Finally, two really good news stories from the department. On Tuesday I got the feedback from our recent Investors in People assessment, and I'm pleased to say we met the standard on all categories, with many areas of good practice highlighted. Not unexpectedly there were a few areas identified where we could do better and we'll be working on those, but in general it was very positive. Lots of good work obviously going on in the department, so well done everyone.

Then last night we had a reception for staff to say thank you for all their hard work during the year, and we also raised some money for charity as well. CiCS have always been very good at digging into their pockets for good causes, and last night was no exception. We had a raffle, and 73 prizes were donated, some from suppliers, but most from members of staff. They ranged from an IPod, various bottles of booze, chocolate, two amazingly hand decorated Christmas cakes, various electronic gadgets, cameras, to a dubious chocolate shape on a stick (let's just say it rhymed with stick).

Altogether we raised almost £700 to be split between Prostate Cancer Research and Ovarian Cancer Research. Well done folks!

Today I've speaking at a UCISA event on service costing, so a post on that will follow later.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Apps everywhere

A couple of floors below the On Line Information Conference is Apps World. I couldn't get into any of the workshops (not without paying anyway), but did register for the exhibition and visit it a couple of times. It was very lively! Loads of app developers demonstrating apps for everything. And most of them multiplatform.  A good indication of rise of the mobile device, and our apparently insatiable appetite for delivery of services to them.

The last session I went to at the conference was delivered by Steve Wing, the Head of Mobile at The Guardian, and he gave an interesting overview of how their delivery strategy has changed over the years. He strongly believed that mobile had been overhyped in the sort term, but massively underhyped in the medium to long term, and the effect it would have on those of us who deliver services underestimated. The often quoted statement that mobile user of the internet would be greater than desktop users by 2014, which was unthinkable only a couple of years ago, was having a huge impact on publishers. As well as the growth in hardware and apps, consumers want to have access to content and services wherever they are - not just physically but virtually. So, The Guardian now has a presence in Facebook, YouTube and Google+.  The other driver is user expectations - we want a good experience, and are not prepared to put up with badly designed interaces or poor features. I loved him describe the "oh shit" moment at the Guardian when they looked at the ratings for their mobile site, and realised how bad it was...

They now have a range of offerings, from their normal website , to a mobile site, to apps for smartphones, to their recently releases iPad app. They've done a lot of research, and it was fascinating to see different usage patterns,both in terms of what users do, and at what times of day. So they've tailored their services - for example the iPhone app is updated frequently but the iPad app is more like the newspaper and static during the day.

His view of the apps vs mobile web argument? Both have a place. They have different roles to play - its all about user experience.

So, this conference has really reinforced my view that we need to get ahead of the game for all aspects of mobility - infrastructure, delivery of services and support. Mobile is just too important and compelling to ignore.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Collaborative Consumption

Today's keynote was from Rachel Botsman, author of What's Mine is Yours. She was in Australia, so it was a prerecorded talk, which worked really well.

Her talk was about collaborative consumption, and she believes that we are in the first stages of a collaborative revolution which is going to be as big as the industrial revolution.
Network technologies create the right infrastructure for collaborative market places.
A simple example is  Taskrabbit -  a site where people post a task and what they're prepared to pay for it, and network of rabbits bid to carry out the task. It's available as an app and a web site.  You can get food, cleaning, shopping, things delivered.  All rabbits are checked and reviewed and therefore they build up a reputation. The number one task posted is assembling IKEA furniture!
At its core it's about empowerment. using technology to enable people to make money around their lifestyle. 25% of rabbits are retired people. Some rabbits make $5000 a month.

Social technologies are enabling efficiencies and trust. It can match needs and wants, without layers of transaction costs in between. Also enables trust between strangers.

Efficiency and trust are the basis of this sharing evolution.
We've moved from being consumers, to creators to collaborators. Now we're sharing assets, not just music and photos but things like money, cars, space. We're back to the old behaviours of sharing and bartering, but enabled by technology.

There are 3 clear systems in this new market place:

1       Product service systems
Eg Boris's bikes. Bike sharing is the fastest growing transport system in world. Paying for the use of a product without needing to own it outright has been around for years, eg libraries. But now we have a different relationship to stuff. We don't want the stuff, we want the need and experience it fulfils. For example we don't want the CD, but the music, not the DVD but the film, etc.

Idling capacity, or under-utitlised assets are fuelling growth in this sort of system.  Eg Car Sharing. Car companies are no longer in business of selling cars, but in mobility services. BMW in Germany provides cars you can rent car by the minute, with never a car more than 500m from where you are .
Peer to peer car sharing makes use of the millions of cars sitting idle for most of the time. For example Owners rent out their cars when they're not being used and set their own prices. The company provides the insurance. Claims are 80% less than traditional rentals. Accountability and transparency make a difference -  people behave better when real people dealing with real people. There's a neat little video about it here.

2    Redistribution markets
Some are monetary eg Craigslist
Some free, like Freecycle
Some buying and selling like eBay.  Lovely story about how this was formed  - the story of the broken laser pointer.

3    Collaborative lifestyles.
This is where not just stuff is shared, but things like time, skills, space
Task rabbit one good example, another is Airbnb.  This matches people with places to rent with people who want to stay somewhere.  You can find everything from rooms in houses and flats, to an Igloo, to a whole island. It's created a market for things that never had a market place before and put things in reach of people. In New York, more people will stay in Airbnb accommodation tonight than in a hotel. Also based on trust. There's only been  two incidences of theft and vandalism in Airbnb and they lead to  increased trust measures.

Trust is the new black, as said by Craig Newmark said yesterday

We are all building up reputation capital.
When you trade on eBay, or rent a room, you're leaving a trail of  your reputation. Reputation will become a cornerstone of 21st century consumption.
Collaborative consumption is a massive opportunity.

In the Q and A session afterwards she was asked about privacy, and I loved her response. Privacy laws are national, the internet is international -  it's a friggin' nightmare.

It was a fascinating talk, and I'd love to see it on line. There's some great places on Airbnb, I'm thinking of putting my car on Whipcar, and I wish someone would send taskrabbits to Sheffield!

She's done a TED talk which is worth watching:

Mobile By Me

Yesterday afternoon I presented at a session on Mobile, along with two librarians. One gave a very good overview of developments that are going on  both here and in the US in using new technologies, including mobile apps,  in University libraries. Her slides are here, and there's a lot of good, interesting stuff.

The second gave an case study of how he'd developed a mobile app for his library  - I haven't got a link to his slides, but will post if I get one.

In the middle was me - looking at things from an IT Director perspective. Almost all of the other sessions are from the customer or information provider perspective, so I thought it was time to redress the balance, and go through some of the issues we have to find solutions to with this explosion in mobile.  I started with an analysis of our "customers", the people we're providing a support service to. What's important is that unlike many other people in the room, they're not just a workforce, but we have 25,000 students as well. The Bring Your Own Device Wars that people talk apart have never really been fought by us. Or if they have, it's by using the phrase, "we don't support that". And that was only when we had control, when we owned the hardware, software etc, which we tend not to anymore. So, I talked about our recent mobile survey and the results showing very high percentage ownership of mobile devices, especially smartphones. Then the issues we have to deal with, including providing a good infrastructure  -very pertinent to us in terms of wireless at the moment.  I covered delivery of services to devices, whether by mobile web or apps - both of which I think have a place for different things. Apps can give a much richer experience with access to more features, but are device specific. And finally, how you support users who have a huge number of different devices.

That's only a very quick summary of what I covered, but the main thrust was that we used to talk about developing a mobile strategy, and now I don't think we need one. Mobile internet access will overtake desktop internet access in the next couple of years and will be the main platform of delivery, so we should be embedding it in everything we do - not seeing it as something separate.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Mobile is Everyware

The next session I was moderating, so couldn't take a lot of notes, and it began with a short keynote from Paul Golding who' s CEO of Wireless Wanders. He's been in the mobile business 21 years and is an international guru on all things mobile. I've heard him talk a couple of times before, and he gives a very good overview of what's going on in the mobile world.

His key point is that Mobile is Everyware, and that we shouldn't be developing mobile strategies as it's now mainstream and will soon be the main point of delivery for our services.  I managed to jot down a few key points and facts and figures which you might find interesting:
  • In 59 countries, there are more mobiles than people. 
  • 6trillion texts sent last year. Average response time is 4 mins compared to email of 48 hours.
  • We look at our mobile devices on average  150 times a day. That's once every 6.5 minutes.
  • Photographs used to be why people ran into burning buildings. Now it's mobiles.
  • 35% of us have smartphones. Expect by 2013 it will be 80%. 
  • Android and iOS are dominant and will remain so. HTML5 is important but will never give as rich an experience as native applications. 
  • A year ago people looked at the brand of the device before they bought it. Now it's the OS which is number 1 reason.  Selection of apps no2.
  • The computer we carry round in our pocket has senses, and allows us to make sense of and interact with the world. Will increase, 
  • By 2020 everything that can be connected to the Internet will be with power supplies that can last 10 yrs.
  • The paradigm shift taking place is the move to information being collected, processed and streamed in real time.
A fascinating talk, and you can see Paul's slides here.

The next session was from a publisher about the philosophy of developing web apps and native apps, and the need for what he described as polymorphic publishing, or publishing for any device.

Finally, we had the story of the Little Red App, developed by an employment law company, providing useful employment law facts for HR professionals. An interesting story of their journey in producing it, and it looks as though it might be useful - will be downloading it later!

Craigslist founder keynote

Today I've been at the On Line Information Conference in London. Not a conference I know much about, it's very big, with several hundred attendees and a fairly large exhibition. Started off as more for Information Professionals than IT specialists, but the two are merging and there's a lot of overlap now. I was there to speak, and to chair a session.

First however was a keynote by the  founder of Craigslist, Craig  Newmark on Effective Social Media, Past, Present and Future. He was fascinating. Speaking without notes or slides, he admitted to being a nerd who took things much too literally who decided to channel his traits into something useful.

He told the story of how and why he founded Craigslist. It began in 1994 when he was a discount stock equity broker in San Francisco.  He became interested in the Internet through The Well and began to notice that people were prepared to help each other out.  So, in early 1995 decided to start a mailing list about arts and technology events in San Francisco.  It was the beginning of .com bubble and lots of stuff was happening. It grew, mainly by word of mouth, and eventually it was launched as Craigslist. What started as a hobby eventually turned into a real company, but didn't follow the venture capitalists route, charging for services and making a lot of money. He monetized very little of the site, and charged advertisers, not customers. His business model is doing well by doing good.  Currently it gets 60m unique visitors a month and 40bn page views a month.

Told my his friends and colleagues that as a manager he sucks, he appointed a CEO to run the company, and now he does customer service. As he said, he is committed to doing customer service only as long as he lives. After that it's over. He believes you have to be in touch on a daily basis to your constituency to  learn things. People want a voice, and want to be listened to.

Connecting people to the Internet gives them a voice, a power that they've not had before.
He's also involved with a lot (over100) not for profit organisations and started Craigconnects to bring them together.  Sometimes you get the problem of the sea of goodwill. Lots of organisations want to help but don't talk to each other. His long term aim is to help everyone on the planet to be connected on the net for the common good.  You can get things done and make a difference if people are connected.

He talked a lot about the importance of social media, and its history.  It's not new, It's just  about people talking to each other, new technologies just mean you can influence a bigger audience. Even Martin Luther ran a social media campaign  using a new technology invented by a nerd called Gutenberg.

His message was that we should use social media to support those things we believe in. We should persuade  our Not For Profits to set up twitter accounts, Facebook, Google plus. Get links shared, retweeted etc. and propagate what's going on.

In response to a question from the floor he said that  social media can be used by employees to feed back to the boss on what they think and want. Often bosses are out of touch with what employees are thinking. Well that's certainly not the case for the CiCS ones I follow on twitter  :-)

It was a great keynote, fascinating guy - a real entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Working Differnetly Conference continued

The remaining comments from last week’s conference on new ways of working.

I went to a session on Cloud, given by VMware.  Not surprisingly, the general theme was that Server Virtualisation is the first step on the journey to cloud computing. Some other points:
  • Cloud isn’t a new technology, it's a different approach to delivery. It enables the shift from in-house capital intensive IT, to the consumption of utility-based computing resources on an as-needed basis with an appropriate pay as you go model.
  • Cloud mimics the delivery of a utility eg electricity. For example, if you had your generator you’d have to deal with maintenance, capital expenditure, consumables, and wondering with whether it could cope with the surge when you turned the Christmas lights on.
  • Cloud has 5 characteristics:
  • On demand, network access, resource pooling, elasticity, pay as you go.
  • There are 130+ data centres in central government containing 90,000 servers running at 7% utilization.
  • A combination of virtualisation and cloud should drive down IT costs which you can reinvest in other parts of your business,  and it should also increase agility.
  • Automation v important. Amazon have 1 engineer for 1500 servers.
  • The New world is using mobile devices. Users are demanding access to apps and data on the move. Desktops are expensive to refresh. Solve this problem by unlocking data from the desktop and putting it in the cloud whilst keeping it secure.
The next session I went to was on Security in a Mobile World, given by Sophos.
Some notes I took at the time:
  • We've lost the argument about connecting things to the network. People are bringing their own devices. Applications are increasingly being delivered by a browser.
  • Smartphones and tablets are scaleable and increase productivity. They are cloud ready, and they are cheap compared to a corporate laptop.
  • Do they cause problems? Operating systems change frequently. Windows tends to be stable, but these update themselves.
  • Then there’s app stores. How do you stop people downloading stuff like Angry Birds to corporate devices (why would you want to?)
  • Most organizations Acceptable Use Policies are inadequate and poorly used. Most were not written with mobile devices in mind.
  • Executive teams are prepared to accept the rise of these devices. There are 70m Blackberries in world and 90m iPads.  There’s been a massive growth of not-enterprise ready devices.  Will the use of them get regulated, eg by ICO?  They will unless we take this seriously and deal with it.  Hmm, I don’t agree with this. You can tell this session is being given by a security vendor.
  • Mobility and consumerisation will only work if it's secure. Secure working practices require a whole company approach. Can't just be legal dept or IT dept.
  • Consider the implications of the power of the device you've got. It's a tool to do your job. Treat them as tools of the job. You must demand individuals are accountable for their actions. Consideration must be given to what happens when things go wrong. In the main, failure is almost human not technology.
  • He’s skeptical of cloud because of security.

So, one session on how cloud and mobile is going to save us, and one telling us it all needs regulating. Well I suppose that’s balanced

Friday, 25 November 2011

Flexible working, and a wireless rip off scandal......

Yesterday I went to conference on New Ways of Working. I was quite excited when I saw it advertised, as it was specifically for senior managers in HR, IT and Estates to attend together and look at how by working together we can improve ways of working. What a great idea I thought – those are exactly the three departments which could facilitate flexible working, by changing the way we design working spaces, by utilising technology, and by implementing flexible HR policies.  We sent a representative from each of the departments, and although we got quite a lot out of the day, most came from us talking together and bouncing ideas off each other, rather than the conference. Apart from the opening plenary session, the rest of the day were track sessions, which tended to focus on HR, IT or Space, so there was little opportunity for joint discussion.  My other big bugbear, was that this was advertised as a conference for the public sector, but it was assumed by almost every presenter, that public sector meant local authority – I don’t think education was mentioned once.

And now for the biggest outrage of all (fanfare……)
At a conference where we were looking at new ways to use IT, the only wireless network available cost £10 an hour (yes, that’s right), or £95 if you wanted it for the whole day. What sort of a rip off is that??  Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, (and the organizers of the conference) – you should be ashamed of yourselves!

I'll give you some key points from the sessions I went to. First the plenary session – some random jottings from the 4 presenters:

  • Innovative use of IT means that we can connect without travel, reducing the impact on the environment.
  • Devolving power to lowest level, whether customers or employees, will produce a better fitted organisation to deliver good public services.
  • People focused buildings save costs and encourages a more flexible workforce and improves work life balance.
  • During the London Olympics lots of people will need to travel, so 50% of civil servant will work from home to relieve pressure on transport networks.
  • IT is an enabler, not a solution. To get real transformation you have to deal with people, processes and technology.
  •  Highly adaptable and multifunctional spaces in buildings mean that you may not have a personal space, but your team does.
  • Look at roles. No point of hot desking if your job is to come in and sit at a desk. 
  • With flexible working you need to monitor and manage performance, not attendance.
  • We often assume that change means moving from one period of stability to another different period of stability. This isn’t the case anymore.
  • We’re in a state of constant change now, and It’s going to continue, no matter what happens politically. Organisations need to be able to respond to that change.
  • Apparently most leaders are men. I joke not, that’s what he said.
  • Biggest disciplinary issue in Public Sector at the moment is use of social media. That’s me done for then.
  • Most young people have better and more technology in their coats when they come to work than what they are given to work with.
  • Rapid user led development needs to be encouraged, but it’s not being. There is huge talent out there but most of the Public Sector is frightened by it.
  • Good leaders are people focused. Outstanding leaders don't see a distinction between doing work and working with people. (did I mention that most leaders are men?)
  • Energy costs will continue to rise, carbon reduction will not go away. We need to look at the way we use space.
  • Hampshire council for every 3 employees have 2 desks.
  • Mobility is the norm now and we need to embrace it. Moving form a model of cellular space, to open plan, to communal space working, to breaking the link between the workstation and individual. Finally, getting to a model of a full non territorial environment. Staff work in the setting most suitable to the activity they are carrying out.
  • Work is an activity, not a place. 
I'll post something from the rest of the sessions later - think that's enough to be going on with for now!

University of the Year

Really, really pleased to hear late last night (via twitter of course), that we've scooped the top prize of University of the Year at this year’s Times Higher Education Awards.

Announced as the winner at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House hotel in Park Lane, London, last night, the judges said Sheffield had stood out as a result of a strategy “based on its values and rooted on its founding principles”. In particular, they praised our “determination and grit” in focusing on our local community.  Great news - I'm proud to work here.

Here's a picture of our Student Union President Thom Arnold and Education Secretary Jon Narcoss proudly holding the award - and looking very dapper in their tuxedos.

Thanks to Thom for the pictures.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Shares in post-it notes anyone?

A fairly major event took place all of last week for those staff involved in registering students - we had our first LEAN Rapid Improvement Event.  Facilitated by the excellent LEAN Unit at St Andrews, we were particularly looking at how students get registered for a computer account and issued with a UCard. Staff from many different areas of the University took part over the 5 days - from CiCS, Student Services, Student Union, Institute for Lifelong Learning, Medicine - and I'm sure there were more I've missed.  I wasnt there, but have reports back that it was an excellent event - hard work for everyone involved who had to completely and in detail map out current processes, uncovering many things along the way, including how many different "statuses" we have for our students:

Also how the process which was originally degined for undergraduate students arriving in September, didn't fit other students - part time, postgraduate etc. Then come up with actions to radically change and improve the process.

Lots of hard work involved, and I'd like to thank everyone who took part - especially under the pressure of the stop clock! Of course, the really hard part starts now, as we have to make the changes that the group came up with.

We've got a second event coming up in December, and hopefully we can then persuade the University to get LEAN established to radically improve and streamline processes across the University.

One of the other things I missed was our departmental meeting yesterday. Normally I am there, but due in part to the lack of public transport from a small North Yorkshire town on a Sunday which meant I couldn't get back from a weekend away until yesterday, I couldn't be there. So, instead I decided to use some of the technology we use in Teaching to give my report - we use Echo 360 for lecture capture across the University, and I have a version for personal capture installed on my mac on my desk. So, I used that. Apart from forgetting to look at the camera rather than the screen, I don't think it was too bad, and I'm going to use it now for recording other short messages which will probably go on here. For anyone who missed it, or wants to look at the technology, it's here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The death of the PC?

Today I was at the last meeting of the UUK Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group in London. Following the publication of the report, it's now time to get an action plan together and start to implement it. The 17 recommendations have been grouped into five workstreams, and  various constituent groups will act as delivery partners, overseen by UUK and a monitoring group. Key to the success will be a hub - a place to share good practice, discuss initiatives and be signposted to case studies and useful information. The group is still finalising details, and the plan will be published soon - I'll post a link as soon as it's ready.  UCISA will be one of the constituent groups helping to deliver on the plans.

Following on from recent discussions on the increase in mobile devices, the rise of the tablet and the question about whether we need PC labs anymore, I was interested to see today that Gartner has released figures showing that the sales of PCs in Western Europe have declined by 11.4% in Q3 of 2011.  In contrast, sales of smartphones have increased by 42% in the same period, with Google's Android operating system leading the market at 52%, Apple iOS at 15%, and Microsoft down to 1.5%. Rory Cellan Jones has summarised the figures in a good blog post here, concluding that:

"So the overall message from Gartner seems to be that the PC has entered a period of decline, that netbooks are dead, mobile computing is the future, Android is winning the smartphone wars, and Microsoft and Nokia have already been left behind in the most important technology industry of the next decade."

"Then again, this time next year, the world may have changed again".

Monday, 14 November 2011

Efficiency, continuity and resources

So, back from Gartner Symposium, and into a day of meetings. First off a discussion with a colleague about how we're going to implement the recommendations in the UUK's Modernisation and Efficiency report. We're coming up with some themed workstreams which we're discussing with our Professional Service director colleagues later this week before we take them to the University Executive Board.

Then the Business Continuity Steering Group. A couple huge pieces of work finally signed off -  a complete rewrite of the University's Major Incident Plan and the Incident Communications Manual. Lots of hard work involved, but we've now got some really quality documents. Now we have to implement them - Duty Managers are already recruited, and we'll be starting to train the other roles including Incident Managers in the New Year. Lots training, testing and communication now.  Then we'll hope we never have to put it into practice.....

This afternoon started with our Service Strategy Board.  As well as the normal look at progress on projects and other issues the service managers have raised we had a lively discussion about priorities and how resources are allocated to them. In the light of some of the things I posted last week, and the need to really move towards more innovative services, it was timely. I think it's fair to say some full and frank opinions were expressed, all in a constructive way of course. One of the main issues is the balance between large projects which require considerable resource to be allocated to them, and the lots more, smaller pieces of work which will benefit many and be quick wins, but unless they have resources allocated to them, will never happen. So, do we prioritise the larger projects, throw all our resources at them to get them done, or allocate a percentage of time to the smaller pieces of work, which means the large bits of work take longer....

Of course, it's never quite as simple as that, as there's other factors to take account of. But something we need to address fairly urgently.

Friday, 11 November 2011

What next?

One of the hardest things after a conference is putting what you learned  into practice. It's so easy to come back and just get back into the same old routine.

The Gartner one I've just been to was different from most others I go to as it covers every sector, and only a small number of attendees are from education. There were just over 4000 attendees, nearly half of them at CI O level, and a real mix of areas covered. It's good for us to look outside of our sector and see what the rest of the world is doing.

So these are just my first thoughts on what I think we need to be doing and the areas that we need to concentrate on.

Most of the current trends are driven by the consumerisation of IT, BYOD (bring your own device) and the wide adoption of social media, all fuelled by mobility and cloud services.

Taking social media first,  we're getting pretty good at using it in the department. I posted about it a couple of weeks ago, and it was picked up by Brian Kelly in his post here, which gave us a lot of kudos! It is definitely here to stay and isn't going to go away at all, so we really do need to find ways of making it work for us. My biggest challenge is getting more of the department to engage with it.

Mobility is another area we need to prioritise. We have been ahead of the game in terms of the development of our mobile app, and we need to really push ahead with it again. I know we have plans for doing so, and have found some resource,  but we need to put the development of web based, mobile, transactional services at the forefront of what we do.  We need mobile friendly web sites and services as well as dedicated apps.  There's also the question of having the right infrastructure in place, including pervasive wireless, and good support structures.

Cloud is another area where we have begun to develop, our mail and calendar services for all staff and students are in the cloud, and increasingly our document storage is as people are moving to Google docs and Dropbox. There's still a lot more we can do, and we need to consider cloud based services alongside in house ones wherever it's appropriate. The development of SaaS and IaaS will make this increasingly an option .

There's some great developments coming up, including context computing,  and tracking them through things like the Gartner hype cycles is a challenge which we need to address and then choosethe ones to implement to bring the biggest benefits.

So, we need a reliable, robust infrastructure, with an agile development framework so that we can respond quickly to changes and move more towards innovative services rather than keeping the lights on. So, that's Monday sorted as we work out how best to achieve that!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Context computing

A good session this morning on context computing.
Context is based on a set of principles and technologies designed to make services more usable, relevant and fun. Using more information sources, more social information leads to  hyper personalisation of services.  It's the integration of mobile, social, digital and physical worlds.
Theres a lot of it already about. Face recognition and emotional detection already being used on vending machines in Japan so they can make judgements about what you might want. 
Smart products exist, eg glasses with electronics in so know when full or empty and can order your next drink.

Consumers are motivated by emotions. Detection of emotions will be increasingly important in next few years.

By 2014 40% of smart phone users will opt in to context services that track you. Will trade off some privacy for better services.

Last decade of Internet dominated by search, a pull technology. Next decade will be dominated by proactive push technologies.  Will be personalised and involve social information and be  multi channel.
Information will be key, and will be collected in  4 key areas:
Intent. What does user want or want to do?
Environment. The current state of user. Where are they, what are they doing. Social dimension, community
 Identity, validating who you are, reputation information.

 Will be very complex, and one of the biggest challenges will be that all this information comes from different places. Currently no standards. Will require sophisticated information models.

New technologies being developed such as Emotion ML, a mark up language to tag events with emotional context.

Mobile consumer application platforms becoming increasingly important as most of the information necessary for contextual computing  will come from mobile devices.  Many different architectures exist, Apple and Google are taking an early lead, but lots of others coming up eg Appcelerator and Kony. Gartner have a  magic quadrant for MCAPs which is worth a look.

Ensemble interaction being developed, ie  interactions that cross more than  one device. Eg TV and mobiles. So, you could be watching TV, like the look of some clothes someone is wearing,  point mobile phone camera at screen, find what they're wearing and buy it.  This is already possible.  A  NFC (near field communication) enabled phone will pick up information from smart posters. 
Smart posters exist  in Japan with web cam in it, looks at you and decides about what sort of advert to show you and enables you to pick up a discount voucher on your phone. 

Starhub have developed  smart changing rooms which detect the RFID tag in clothes you're trying on and chooses the music to play. Hmm, not sure about that one!

Social media very important to context. Can deduce influencers.already developing " Pay with a tweet" for music downloads, Ie pay for a music track by tweeting about it. 

Managing risk, the dark side of context aware computing.
Gartner predicts that Google, Microsoft, Nokia and Apple will continuously track daily journeys and digital habits for 10% of the worl'ds population by 2015.
Some people will find this creepy and won't want it. Some will see that it gives them better services and see the advantages. 
Privacy will be important. Need simple, transparent privacy policies, and easy ways to opt out, and to correct deductions about behaviour.

Good session to finish the conference on, and some interesting things on the horizon. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How Internet giants plan to take over the physical world

Final session today was another Maverick one! This was looking at how traditional business models and industries might be disrupted by the large Internet companies moving into them.
Everything will be connected in 2016 and beyond.
More than 25% of commercial and tourist places will be found on social networks allowing users to check in
Over 10% of consumer items will have an IP address
20+ billion devices will be connected to the Internet
More than 50% of US population will have a profile on a social network

So, if everything is connected to the Internet , Internet business modules will apply in the physical world, and will take away market share. Google could take over parking. Connect parking spaces to internet, mash up with google maps....

A few areas were explored and presented as battles. 

Battle 1: Retail
Amazon vs the retailers.
By 2016 more than 5% of digital transactions will be initiated from an image, video, audio or sensor captured in the physical world. Can already take a picture of an item in the Amazon app, and it will recognise it and direct you to one click purchase. So you can be in a shop, comparing prices, and ordering from amazon. 

Battle 2: Advertising
Google vs print, broadcast, signage
By 2016 more than 5% of search queries will be initiated from an image, video, audio or sensor captured on a mobile device not a keyboard. Already possible in google. Take a picture of things, google will search. When this image recognition improves, anything in the physical world is a search term.

Battle 3:  Manufacturing
Google vs standard manufacturing.
3D printing can already manufacture things with moving parts etc. in future will be able to manufacture toys at home. Google already has a 3D model warehouse. 
Will manufacturers get into selling 3D models?  

Battle 4 public sector
Radnet. A public sector service in the US for measuring for radiation
Pachnet. A portal for the Internet of things. If you use search term "radiation" find everything streaming information about radiation levels, lots in Japan. 

Battle 5: Payment
Apple iTunes vs Visa, MasterCard etc
Mobile payment will soon be mainstream in phones, but who will get the payment transaction? Visa, MasterCard etc wants to be behind transaction, but what if apple have own payment system, so charged to iTunes account. What if apple could bring transaction cost down?

Battle 6: Social public services
Social workers vs Facebook
Research has shown that with the right algorithms you can determine depression etc in students. By analysing their Facebook updates. Also, when they display those symptoms, others in their social networks reach out to help them.  Won't put social workers out of business, but could be complementary to them.

Battle 7: Car insurance
Google vs insurance companies
Pay as you drive insurance exists in some places. In other places you pay premium at beginning of year. Pay as you drive is based on the mileage that you do and is now starting to look at other factors including how fast you accelerate and decelerate, also where you go.  Who's better at tracking driving? Satnav paired with an insurance company? Or Google via your android phone? 

Battle 8: Healthcare
Currently sites like WebMD are reference sites only, no attempt is made to give medical advice. But, if you commie this information with smart phones? There are already apps to calculate risk of skin cancer, do blood analyses. Currently assessing risk not making diagnosis. But if they get better? Remote diagnosis and Internet prescriptions?

Lots of opportunities. Sometimes only need a little bit of extra technology, image recognition, NFC, location awareness, to have big impact. 

Finished with a picture of what looked like a shop with a guy scanning items in it. Only it wasn't a shop, it was a subway wall in Korea covered with a picture of items on shelves. You can take a picture of the items, and it adds them to you shopping basket and delivers them to you, shopping whilst waiting for the subway.   Online sales have increased by 130% since its introduction?

Interview with VISA Europe

Couple more good sessions this afternoon. First was another keynote featuring an interview with the  CEO and CIO of VISA  Europe.

VISA Europe is a technology company, a payments association, and was sold off by VISA Inc to be a not for profit organisation.  It was an interesting interview, focusing on how important technology is to their business, and how their systems have to be extremely reliable and give extraordinarily high performance. They've built their own platform which is modern and allows them to add new services rapidly.
Seem interesting questions and answers:. 

What about the future of money? Are we moving to a cashless society?  Probably not, but we'll use a lot less cash. Mobile devices are they way we're going to be paying for most things in the future. By the London Olympics, in London payments on taxis, buses everything will be by phone. 

Who's going to win the mobile war, apple, android, someone else?
Don't know, don't need to know, don't care

Have you a contingency plan if a country leaves the euro?

What's going to be the most disruptive technology of the next few years excluding mobile?
It wont be a new technology, but the penetration of an existing one, IP networks. Will enable huge changes in the services you can deliver. The Internet of things  will be very disruptive.

And a wonderful piece of advice to CIOs to finish with. When talking to the Board don't go into detail because you think they're interested. They're not. They don't care. If they cared, they'd be in technology

To iPad or not to iPad

Next session was called iPads and beyond. About 80% of the 300 people in room have tablets, 90% of them iPads. But then most are IT Execs, and it is a session about iPads, so probably not representative of general population! 

In general, 75% of current tablets are iPad, 20% android. Problem with android is that it's been fragmented, and originally wasn't designed for tablets. Also high price. But will increase and Gartner expect it to reach parity with iPad by 2015. Microsoft is completely missing from scene but may appear with Windows 8. Many new devices and hybrids will emerge over the next few years and hit the consumer market.

The session looked at tablet use in the business world. Very corporate, and all about security, control etc. Quite different to the world we operate in in HE. 

Some  interesting observations, not all I agreed with. 
Good for documents, especially annotating, easy with touch screen, gestures.
Good for content consumption, but not for creation.  This I definitely don't agree with. I find it easy, and  I like the softkeyboard. I can type on it as fast as on a hard one. You've only got to look at all the blog posts this week, all typed during the sessions, on an iPad. It's different sure, but you soon get used to it.

File sharing can be an issue. Dropbox is one of the most common apps on iPads. But according to the presenter, it is the most insecure service you can think of. Again,  I don't entirely agree, I can think of others! Picked up by a questioner at the end, it was pointed out that it is no more insecure than a USB stick. 

Their good graphics capability makes them ideal  for dashboards, business analysis etc. Many of companies are putting in lots of work to optimise dashboards for tablet use. 

Enterprise application vendors already developing mobile and cloud apps including SAP, IBM
We should be talking to all of our vendors and asking them for their plans on mobile, tablets ands cloud

Lots of stuff on  risks and challenges which are intrinsic to consumer mobility. Mobile device management is important, but lots of cloud based services out there to use.  We need to evaluate the  risks in security, compliance, costs, HR, and identify mobile policies to regulate deployments, usage and support. 

Policies are not just about technology but people as well. 

Surprised that there wasn't much about the conflict between work and private use, and BYOD.  Most of us have tablets with a combination of work and personal apps and data on, including photos, games, music, work files, emails. 

Of course, there's also the debate that always happens about why an iPad? Why not a laptop, smartphone etc. Personally I think you should use what you want. I don't use an iPad because it's cool, I use it because it's great! I don't take a laptop away with me anymore, and most days don't take one to work. The killer for me at conferences like this is the ease of use, and the battery life. I can easily get 10 hours out of it. Gone are the days when I'd be wandering round after a couple of hours looking for a power socket. 

Emerging trends

Another Nick Jones session early this morning, on emerging trends  - what's hot, and what should we be looking out for. 

1800 different technologies are currently being tracked by  Gartner on their hype cycles. We need to be good at tracking technologies, and focussing our attention on the most relevant ones. Also need to be aware that opportunities don't come from technology alone but from the intersection of technology and society. 

Seem trends to watch:

Lifelogging -Lots of examples, including twitter where  200m tweets per day are sent.  Being driven by ubiquitous CCTV and mobile phone camers, instant upload to social media, Image tagging and search, cheap storage.
Lots of business opportunities, especially in data analysis and predictive modelling. 

Technology in healthcare, including  on-body monitoring technologies. Bluetooth 4 allows mobile phone to talk to low power sensors. Eg blood pressure sensors.  This is leading to new preventative services and analysis of risk.  Also a trend for individuals to take more responsibility for their own health.  Evidence based healthcare a trend to track.

Internet of things. More a concept than a technology, based on  embedded low cost sensors and low cost wireless communications or near field communication.  Whole generation of new, smart products. You can already buy intelligent plant pots where plants tweet when they need watering. In the near future there'll be  10s of billions of smart objects.

Predictive analytics. Passive data capture through sensors, cameras, social media, and real time processing. Lot of interest for sales and marketing, hyperpersonalisation, healthcare.

Natural user interaction making the experience of interacting with technology more friendly. Multitouch and gesture recognition. New displays including 3D. Natural language systems. 

3D printing. Costs are falling and a personal  3d printer is now about € 2500. Is going to revolutionise manufacture. Recently in the  UK a drone aircraft has been designed, printed, assembled and flown in a week.

Robotics will have a  massive impact, especially in healthcare.

Gamification.  A deep understanding of motivation and reward and behavioural design into applications. Lovely example of a speed camera in California where at the end of each month, all drivers who have been under the speed limit are entered into a lottery to win the fines of the people speeding. 

All organisations need to decide which technologies to track. Are tools you can use including the  Hype cycles. If you have a high tolerance to risk, adopt technologies at the beginning of the hype cycle. High risk can give high reward, so you can be selectively aggressive. 

Must have an emerging trends and technologies group which must talk to the business about how they can be used.   Conduct a regular trend scan. Be proactive and follow a process. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Mobile vendors

Next session was  Apple, Google, their friends and enemies, the vendors that will define your future from Nick Jones.  Lots of information about the vendors, and I only captured a bit of it. But entertaining and useful as always. 

Some key points: 

Interesting in mobile space at moment, the vendors having the biggest effect are Google and Apple, relatively recent players.
Also not behaving like normal vendors, not asking us what we want, but giving us things we didn't ask for and didn't know we wanted.
Definition of a mobile vendor is changing. The device is now just a small piece of a complex portfolio made up of devices, apps, subscriptions, channels, broadcasting, TVs, social networking. Also quite complex business models. All about leverage of interrelated businesses.  Combining different channels. None of these new vendors has a single purpose. All seeing opportunities to make money in different ways.
In 2010 $2 trillion spent on digital products and services. Split between device, content, video services, fixed services, mobile services. That's a big market to exploit!

Nick then compared the main vendors on a number of characteristics:

Amazon.  Getting into tablets, building on the success of kindle and ebooks. Real strength is knowing our behaviour. One to watch.

Apple. Real strength is uncompromising usability. Also understand the intangible stuff, the wow factor. In innovation terms, control freaks, control everything end to end. Is a strength as well as creating challenges. Only release things when they work, totally controlled, no beta releases.

Baidu.  Chinese vendor, looks like Google 10 yrs ago. Vendor to watch.

Google. Vendor with broadest scope. Weakest point is social networking but getting into that with G+. Innovate without considering consequences. Purchase of Motorola has annoyed other android manufacturing partners. Not aspiring to be enterprise vendor? Security not high on agenda. Android has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese.  Most influential of these vendors.

Microsoft. Lagged in mobile space. Not doing anything of note. Tablet won't be there till windows 8, and will be enterprise not consumer product. Nokia partnership is interesting, and may increase use of windows mobile. 

Nokia. Very strong play in emerging markets as well as established ones, eg in India. Symbian going. 

RIM in difficult situation. Losing the corporate market, not big in consumer market. 

Samsung being hit by patent challenges by apple over Samsung tablet. Could be a serious challenge. They are big in other devices, fridges etc, could exploit this.

HP in a mess!

Some future scenario likely to involve  3 big players and lots of small ones, no middle ones. Need big ecoomies of scale to compete. So will be limited choice of vendors to deal with. 
Also, vendors not will not be classic enterprise vendors but consumer first. Consumer vendors behave differently. So, we will have to change as well.  No roadmaps. Rapid change. 
Go for platform neutral architectures. 
BYOD will be huge. 
We need to pilot innovative tools and services from key vendors and ensure we have the skills and tools to do this. Agility is critical. 
Vendors will continue to move into new areas. Keep an eye on them. 
Consumer products evolve rapidly. Have to live with it. Also brings real opportunities for innovation. 
Always have an exit strategy!

Mobility is an opportunity for innovation, we need to create the environment to discover it. Examples:
New ways to communicate and share information
New ways to delight customers
New roles for mobile devices eg as sensors
New services eg m-payments

Mobility is the best chance for radical innovation we'll have in a decade.

Interview with CIO of London Olympics

Big keynote session, an interview with the CIO of London Olympics, Gerry Pennell. Absolutely packed, about 3000 people watching.
Takes stage to Queen's Don't Stop Me Now playing and a film of Olympic sports.
Introduced by Gartner analysts who asked  does anyone have a difficult and challenging set of customers, complex clients and vendors to manage, punishing and uncompromising deadlines?
Gerry has an operation which will feature 4500 km of cable, 80k voice and data outlets. There's a very hard deadline of  260 days to go. 
Real time information will be needed 24 hours a day for 17 days. He has a team of 5000 to build from scratch and then disband.
This is a challenge on steroids!

So, some questions and answers :
This role is different to normal CIO role, more operational than strategy. Have to deliver!

Single biggest technical challenge is the amount of data,  from measuring the athletic performance in all sports. Take data from different sports and integrate, and make available to different audiences including: 
Venue, scoreboards,  commentator information systems, TV graphics, results, athlete biographies, journalists, press agencies, own web site, broadcasters web sites, international federations.
Has to be timely and accurate. For commentator systems, measured in sub seconds.  Has to enable effective reporting.

Technology operations centre being set up in London, has been used in test events. At games will have 180 staff,  and run 24/7. Looks like Houston mission control. TV feeds, rows of desks facing same way, keeping everyone informed. 

 What most proud of? A bit early to ask, but still operating to same plan they put together in 2008/9, where they want to be. Also of team itself. 

How do you deal with hard deadlines, very public?  Get most of core deliverables done early, then spend a lot on testing. 
Change management very important, very strict. All equipment standard and locked down.  Nothing will be changed once it's been tested and shown to work, not even the PC.

Anything being reused from previous games? Some applications, but many of core systems are brand new for London. Big focus on integration and testing. Network purpose built by BT and CISCO. 

Results will be delivered to smartphones. 

Complex vendor relationships. In total 200,000 people will be working for games, a variety of suppliers, partners, employees and vendors.
In IT there will be 300 paid staff, 2500 volunteers, 2500 contractors. 
Have to make sure everyone knows what they're doing, shared objectives, strong project governance, strong and clear reporting, relationship owners.  It helps that it's in everyone's interest to get it right. It's a one shot time for everyone, everyone's brand, reputation is on the line.

Leading a transformation? Take as read that you know where you're going, know what target looks like, have a plan. Then the trick is to maintain a sufficient detachment from your programme to be able to intervene and change it and not get too wedded to what original concept was. Need to be able to look at things  with your customers eyes. If too wedded to something, unable to look at things objectively and change them. Also don't try and do your teams job for them. Don't be the programme manager supreme. Have to be able to see and drive the big picture. Detachment, delegation and objectivity. Sometimes be collegiate, sometimes an autocrat. Just have to know which ones right for circumstances.

Most immediately significant technology for London Olympics is mobility and consumerisation. Ownership and capability of smartphones and tablets hugely increased since last Olympics. Very high on their agenda to get stuff delivered to devices via browsers. Important for public and journalists. 

What advice would he give to CIOs aspiring to do what he does?  Important to have a good sense of humour.  Get experience. A lot of it is judgement calls. Need experience to make correct calls. 
Also, work outside IT!  Get experience as a customer. That gives you a real sense of what good is.  

Fascinating interview, and what a cheerful and relaxed guy. Wonder if he wants an assistant?

Will machines take over the world?

First session this morning is a Maverick session, not recognised Gartner research, but a personal view. "Judgement day, letting machines run the world."  How far can we use machines to make decisions?

We're moving from automating the simple, to automating the complex. In the next 40 years there will be big changes to what machines can do.
Why do machines make better business decisions than humans? When we make business decisions we think we're acting rationally.  But, it's anything but rational.  Lot of behavioural factors affecting decision making, we're very influenced by behavioural and cognitive biases. Good example, why is there always a €250 bottle of wine on wine list, so you spend more on medium wine so you don't look like a cheapskate.

 Also, so many pressures on decision making, we find it difficult to cope with them. Very volatile economic climate, information volumes exploding,. We're now creating as much information in 2 days as we did up to 2003. Impact of social media, pervasive mobile computing, loss of control.  Traditional decision making methods can't cope. 

Motivation systems can force bad decisions. Eg in a recent fatal airline crash, the pilot ignored 15 automated warnings to go round again.  Turned out pilots were being given bonus if they saved fuel and this was a contributory factor. Pay for performance incentives work best for mechanical tasks. For cognitive tasks, monetary bonuses can result in worse performance. 

Business decisions are all about predicting the future, choosing between different future outcomes.  Machines win in all areas. Machine-based algorithms beat humans on clinical diagnosis, hiring staff, predicting the wine harvest....

Predictive modelling is big business now, and growing.  Machine based models can ask the questions that no-one dare ask and challenge perceived wisdom. Talent management algorithms can be used to hire staff, it lowers turnover, improves retention and has better employee effectiveness.

Machine learning is well established and growing in sophistication. Combination of statistics and brain models. Cognitive chips launched by IBM in August 2011, a combination of programmable and learning synapses. 

Most big business decisions are made by a small team of people with little transparency. Quality of decision making today is not good. Research shows that the more people are involved, the better the decision. Collaborative decision making is a technology that allows people to be involved in decisions, brings greater transparency, and improves the decision making process. 

IBMs Watson computer, massively parallel probabilistic evidence based architecture, developed to win a game show, Jeopardy  in the US. They give you the answer, you have to give the question. It beat two of the champions. and you can see videos on YouTube. It worked by looking for patterns in masses of data, not thinking like we do. Often humans got the answer, but Watson got there quicker.
Will see a new generation of modelling tools over next few years to analyse masses of complex data. 

Machines now can do more than we ever envisaged. We are just at the start of this new wave of technologies. Machines won't replicate what we do, but they imitate what we do. 

Today, we are in a phase of augmented decision making. Humans plus computer agents are better predictors than either on their own. Already in use in supply chain planning and insurance underwriting. Algorithm and model design will become the must have skills during the next 10 years. 

Within 10 years we will be able to hand over most of running a business to machines and they'll do it better than us. Computers will control operational decision making. Humans will focus more on strategic decisions, innovation and risk management.

In the far future, systems that run corporate entities will be linked together, Skynet based economic system! They'll share data and make rational decisions about how resources should be allocated, potentially optimising the global economy. 

Some impacts? Humans  may lose key skills, pilots already forgetting how to fly planes because they rely on computers so much. It may stifle real innovation, and too much automation could cause a system that's too big to fail, or cause massive shocks to the global economy if the models are wrong

First day catch up

A quick catch up on a few of the sessions yesterday I've not written about. I went to a workshop on organisational change, which was very interactive and had us undertaking a number of tasks on our tables, including making a triangle from a number of different shaped pieces of card. Not my finest hour. I even cheatd by looking at what the table next to us had done, and still couldn't do it!

I also had a one to one session with one of the Gartner analysts, their specialist on social networking and all things Google, about our Google implementation and how we might capitalise on it more. Some good advice, and some interesting insights into Google's business model and other players in this space.

Finally yesterday evening we went on a visit to the Open University of Catalunya, based just outside Barcelona, to look at their Learning Management system. They've developed it themselves, using a variety of different things, some open source and free, some stuff they've written using a variety of technologies. Very impressive stuff, all web based, and all optimised for delivery on mobile devices. I particularly liked the use of blogging software, they've used Wordpress with some plug ins they've developed themselves, to assist with language teaching. Students can record and upload video clips, comment on others, and also work collaboratively on projects.

It was a long day, finishing at about 9pm when we finally got to relax and have a meal. Today the sun is shining for the first time since we got here, so I'm off now to spend the day in the conference centre. First up is another one to one with an analyst, this time talking about reviewing our student system.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Opening keynote, leading from the front

The opening keynote was huge, over 3,000 attendees , and was as usual very slick.

Gene Hall, the CEO of Gartner and various analysts talked about "Leading from the Front".  It was a long session, well over an hour, and these are my notes, not had time to turn them into proper English so hope you get the general gist.
IT innovation has been one of the biggest drivers in economic growth in last 30 years. Most of them have reached maturity. For mature, read increasingly obsolete. Now approaching perfect storm. Unprecedented technological change in cloud, mobile, social media, consumerisation of IT.

Only need to look at music, advertising and print media industries, to see the effect disruptive technologies can have.
CIOs will have to lead from the front to drive innovation in IT for business growth
Cloud, mobile. Social, information. Combining to give real disruptive change.
Cloud should be first consideration for all new IT initiatives. Are we ready for that?
Mobile, not a coming trend, it's already happened. Tablets. By 2016 916m will have been sold, and they'll be in the hands of our customers. Are we ready for that?
Mobile OS will have overtaken desktop OS in a couple of years. We've spent 20 years designing for the desktop. Have to change.
Not just mobile, but combine social, information and cloud to  get context aware computing.
This will make the architectures of the last 20 years obsolete.
Financial situation changing, and we may be heading for another recession.
Incremental cost cutting may not be enough. Radical stuff needed and will include shared services, cloud computing.
Big strategic vendors such as Oracle, SAP, HP, IBM will face significant integration challenges in this.
There are two big disruptive vendors, Google and Apple. They don't behave like other vendors. They don't need to.

Businesses have to have no walls, and be flexible, change when our customers change. Three things are important,  Customer delight, customer involvement and customer intimacy. Will change faster than our architectures.

Learn from your customers.
Adapt your business, not your technologies
Go where the customer is.
Invest in company loyalty to the customer.

How will people cope?
We crave simplicity.
People gravitating to the simplicity of mobile and tablet. By 2014 mobile application development projects will outnumber PC projects by 4 to 1

Users want more, but do they need less? Always asking for new features but not using the ones they have.
Simplifying applications and ease of use, gives richer experience if you understand the true needs of the customer and develop only that.
Context aware computing critical, you need to understand intent to deliver richer experience.
Not just about location. About everything in your social and digital world.

By 2015 your digital devices will know more about you than you know about them.

Will need to concentrate on people centric design. Look at patents Steve Jobs took out, nearly all about the user experience, very few about hardware or software.
Experience will have to be on any device, and in any environment.

Think about creative destruction. Burning fields to make them fertile again. Are we capable of it?
Most IT organisations have 70% of resources locked into reliability. Keeping things going. How do we release resources for innovation?
Implement Pace layered application strategy.
Destroy perfectionism and embrace calculated risks.
Never taking risks means you are predictable.
Actively managing destruction is as important as creation.

Student information systems

Second session is on changing student information systems. Very timely as we'll be starting a review of our SIS soon. 
SISs are expensive and complicated, but necessary.  
In US, there's high competition for students, finances are with the student, not controlled centrally. The  average student applies to 14 institutions, so recruitment and retention is much more a focus and the emphasis is therefore on competition and efficiency.  This is now spreading to Europe and UK as the funding model changes.
The major North American systems are now spreading throughout the world. For example, Sungard  has 150 international clients in 40 countries in 9 languages. The reason is they are very flexible and adaptable. As European environment central control loosens there'll be more demand for these systems. 
We've had two decades of measured growth and functional changes, that's now over.
Changes now happening faster in mobility, social networking, and consumerisation.  These are speeding up change, not just in SIS but in ecosystem surrounding it
Vendors are making systems more flexible and more modular. Interconnections are becoming easier with APIs to the most popular solutions.
These changes give us more flexibility, and it's not necessary to reimplement an enterprise level system to get significant benefits. 

We have to adapt to a new paradigm in the relationship with our students. The death of distance and the  consumerisation of IT  means that now we have to push the transactions to our customers so that they can use their mobile devices. And they love it. 
The number of devices touching our networks is rising exponentially,a  recent study showed that students in the  US have 3 different internet enabled devices. ( We know that locally looking at access to our wireless network  ). 

We need to manage expectations and devices. We've lost control, live with it. Users have expectations of mobile access to everything, 24/7 and collaboration with each other and the institution using a variety of different social platforms.
We need to develop a coping strategy to deal with BYOD, and advertise the goal as being maximum safe use of the institutions data, technologies and systems.

Go for a common denominator, flashy is nice but if it works, that's OK. Look at how information is delivers to mobile devices
Two of the biggest vendors in US, Oracle and Sungard are looking to expand around the world.

Money is tighter, technology is changing fast than before, and vendors are scrambling too. We need to watch for vendor changes such as modular upgrading, and consider cloud and SaaS options. 

Is the SIS a "money pit", or an effectiveness engine? A properly implemented SIS can help provide efficiencies and effectiveness for your institution and it can serve as the foundation for adding other value added services.

Benefits can be improved, but we need to address these issues :
Initial implementations are often not efficient.  Often decisions are made by users who are unfamiliar with the processes of the system. Often the cow paths are paved over - we've always done it this way.
Governance issues can result in poor compromises. Lines of authority are blurred, especially where processes cross organisational boundaries. Expensive modifications lead to maintenance and upgrade nightmare. One university discovered that hundreds of modifications cost them $750000 every upgrade.
Data integrity issues from poorly controlled data migration can cause problems 

Have to have a continual improvement philosophy. As users learn more about the system, you can incrementally change configurations. Useful to have periodic outside reviews by a vendor expert. Participate in user groups, blogs and share new techniques and discoveries. 
Have business analysts review new functions with users. Look for new and improved processes. 
Configure, don't customise. 
Committees can advise, not decide. (How true!)
Stay vigilant! Use business analysts, user groups, release notes, technical conferences, vendor demonstrations.
Implement add ons to get maximum value including the following:
Mobility apps 
Business intelligence
Alumni development
Research management
Document management
Some of this is functionality is in the baseline system, but may not be best of breed

Seeking increased value is a process, not a product.

Gartner symposium, using Innovation to change business models

This week I'm at the Gartner Symposium. Blogging app still broken, but I'll do my best. Early start today with 0745 breakfast session looking at "Radically Innovative Business Models".

In the CIO survey last year, Gartner asked how digitised various processes were in the business. Results showed a bias especially around finance and back office areas. But still a lot of things we don't do very well, especially around dealing with customers, and where there's a lot of legacy systems. If we just evolve the stuff we're doing with IT now, probably not going to differentiate ourselves from others, we'll just be the same. So how can we use IT to significantly change the game? Look at how technology has change the book industry, from being able to buy books from Amazon, through e-readers, to rich multimedia books. Technology has driven changes far beyond process change.
But, the value doesn't come from technology alone. The value comes from business innovations, enabled by technology.

Some examples of business innovation supported by technology:
Quest to Learn. A school where every subject is taught as a team based interactive digital game.
Chain of opticians in Japan, called Megane 21. Radically decentralised decision making by setting up an internal blog/wiki. Anyone in the company can make a decision, as long as they put it on the blog for 3 days to get commons. Small piece of technology radically changing the business model.
Friendsurance . Groups of 5/6 friends buy insurance together and partly insure each other.
Topcoder. Split programming up into small units, put them on the Internet and give a prize for best bit of coding. Very successful, and very quick to develop systems.

A little bit of technology, combined with a lot of business process change, can change the way we work and genuinely differentiate.

In some cases, CIOs are too busy with managing existing systems and are not doing the cool exciting stuff. Digital Change Officers are being appointed to do the innovation, whilst CIOs are being tasked to just keep the things running. Interesting that I know one University where the CIO doesn't have any operational responsibility for IT.

Look at other industries for innovation. Eg hotels looked at airline industry and brought in kiosk based on- line check in. What industries could Universities look at to steal innovation from?

Interesting opening session. Now to find some coffee!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Green Gown Awards

I'm very pleased to tell everyone that CiCS were shortlisted in the Green ICT Initiative category in the Green Gown Awards.  However, the bad news is, we didn't win.

We put in a submission based on a number of initiatives to reduce our impact on the environment.   To quote from our submission:

"We believe that there is no “magic bullet” to becoming more environmentally friendly and that we can only address the issues by attacking on a number of fronts at the same time. By putting over a coherent message to our users and by practicing what we preach ourselves, we have managed to keep our own carbon footprint static while meeting an ever-increasing demand for our services. In turn, we encourage our users to utilise ICT to work in a more environmentally manner, for example by working from home, and video-conferencing to reduce travel."

We used examples from our server virtualisation which has drastically reduced energy costs, intelligent cooling in the data centres, moving major services including email and calendaring to the cloud, user education and PC management, environmentally friendly printing, and sustainibility in projects through the Environmental Impact Assesssment which is carried out on all of them.

Sadly we didn't get an award - the ceremony was last night at the Grand Connaught Rooms - a very impressive venue - and hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy.  Several of us went down, and I hope you agree we scrubbed up very well and did the University proud! Congratulations to the University of Hertfordshire who won the award.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Social Media in CiCS

Had a good meeting today discussing how we as a department use social media, and how we might use it to engage more with students and staff.  Blogging is something some individual members of the department do. Some, like me, use commercial products like Blogger or Wordpress and have them hosted off-site, some use our in-house blogging software, uSpace, based on a Jive product. Some blog regularly, some less often.  What we haven't had before is a departmental blog, so we've changed what used to be a static news page on our web pages into a blog. So much better - it's easy to update, we can include pictures, links and videos, and, more importantly we can collect feedback in the comments field.

We've been using Twitter in the department for a few years, and have learned a lot of lessons. We've gone from just posting status updates, to being much more interactive - asking questions, looking for feedback and responding to comments. We're now considering whether we should have a separate feed for the status updates or not. Our intention is to make the main CiCS account much more interactive. 

Whilst Twitter is extremely popular, the main social network used by students is still Facebook, and we've finally taken the plunge and set up a page. Early days, and we haven't formally launched or advertised it yet, but are optimistic that this will prove to be another good channel to interact with students. A few years ago we felt that students were quite protective of their social space and didn't want us to invade it, but the evidence now is that if it is carefully handled and targeted - and the change to "liking" pages rather than having to be "friends" or in a group has made a big difference here - then students will engage. The University made a lot of use of Facebook for our new intake of students this year, and it was very successful - it was good to see a peer network developing as students helped each other, and that's what we want to encourage.

Of course, I'm really supportive of all of this and think it's definitely the way to go, but there are issues we'll have to deal with -  how do we log and collect feedback, especially if faults etc are raised with us,  how do we link it to our problem analysis, and how do we resource it? We also have to be acutely aware that everything we post is available to the world. None of this is insurmountable, especially with the good teamwork we have here.

And then of course there's Google + on the horizon.....