Friday, 25 February 2011

Coffee and Cake

in a department as big and complex as ours, we're constantly looking at ways of improving communication, and yesterday was the first of our coffee and cake mornings. An informal meeting between members of the Exec and 15 or so people invited at random - well I say at random, yesterday we had the whole of the Unix team there - does that say something about randomness, or the Unix team I wonder :-) The cake was provided by one of our Assistant Directors, and It looked very good, and I'm told it tasted as good. When you try something new you're always a bit worried that it won't work, and we could have sat for an hour in uncomfortable silence, but that wasn't to be. Lots of questions, lively discussion, and we ran over time by 30 mins. Some expected issues about the cuts and increased fees and how that might affect us. Some more local ones about our move into a new building later this year. And some very interesting ones - given that our annual report had just come out, did I feel we'd achieved enough in the last year or could we have done more, and what did I think we as a department were good at, and not so good at? Good interview questions! An interesting discussion at the end about the thorny topic of communication and were we getting it right. Too much, or too little, very difficult to win that one, especially with so many ways to communicate, so many places to store information, and so much to communicate about.

Later yesterday afternoon we had a visit to the Faculty of Medicine for a planning discussion - how we're going to support more distance learning and part time students, how we can improve some of our processes for non standard students including registration, computer account issue and Ucard production, and the different sorts of space and AV infrastructures they now need. Very productive, and it was good to go back to my old stomping ground as I worked there until 15 years ago.

We've just sent our monthly newsletter by email out to all staff and students, and the student one contains a link to a survey about mobile usage, what have they got, what'd they use it for etc. Will be very interesting to see results. Over 1000 students completed it in the few hours after it had gone out, so we're hopeful of a good, representative response by the time it closes.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Annual Report

Our latest Annual Report has been published - available as hard copy for a selected few, and as a pdf from our web site. It's split into reports from our seven service areas, and also highlights where we've taken action on our four cross cutting themes:
  • reducing complexity
  • green IT
  • resilience
  • doing more with less
Hope you find it interesting, and as usual, always happy to receive any comments.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Strange server names can cause confusion

Exec meeting yesterday morning- one of the main things we discussed was Business Continuity and incident issues. The possibility of more student unrest and  industrial action by staff, no matter what your political alignment might be, give us management issues which we need to think about in advance and have plans for. And as well as possible incidents, there's always real ones to deal with!  Last week a planned change to our DNS was followed by something falling over  - live solaris zones? a solaris cluster?  - not sure of the terminology, but it was Bad.  As usual, I was away (often am when Bad Things Happen) so they were able to deal with it without me interfering. However, yesterday when the same machines decided to have another unscheduled rest, I was here, so I could interfere. That usually consists of me wandering into the infrastructure team's office and asking silly questions like, Do you know what's happened?, and Can you fix it? Sometimes I look at screens knowledgeably and listen, although you can hear some strange things, like "Pussygalore's not responding". I'm hoping it's the name of a server...

So, another incident review this afternoon where we'll be doing the usual what went wrong, how can we deal with it, what lessons have we learned etc.

Later in the afternoon we met with an academic department to discuss some service and operational issues they'd raised with us.  I like to get out into departments, but it doesn't happen as often I'd like - things are always easier to discuss and resolve face to face.

This morning spent mainly catching up, reading emails and notes of meetings, and some new blog posts. You might remember me discussing an institutional review of twitter in Russell Group Universities which Brian Kelly had posted about on his blog. Now the study has been repeated, but looking at the 1994 Group of Universities.  Wide range of results, with some Universities making more use of it than others. Not had chance to see if there's any significant differences between the two groups yet, but there's some useful data there for people managing institutional twitter accounts.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Narnia in the Library, and a tidy data centre

It's always interesting to visit another University, and some of us we were fortunate to have some time after the RUGIT meeting and before our flights home,  to visit Queen's University Belfast. The main point of interest was The McClay Library, only recently opened, and replacing existing libraries on site, as well as housing all library and IT staff, and the main data centre. It is a lovely building, and we had a very good guided tour. Of course, it's virtually impossible  to walk round and not compare it with our Information Commons, but it is a different sort of building. It is the library, and therefore has different functions. there's lots more books, obviously, and it is very quiet. There are silent zones, and whisper zones. no places where students can work more noisily, apart from in the group study rooms.  It has a very fine atrium complete with real trees, and  lovely wood finishes. The furniture was also very high quality, and some very nice wood chairs and desks.

There's also a very impressive door leading into the C S Lewis Reading room:
I was expecting to go through it and enter Narnia, but instead there was a rather nice reading room,with a map of Narnia on the table in the middle. No Aslan in sight.

Finally, we had a look at the data centre, which is right in the middle of the building. It's very bright and shiny, and tidy! I'd never seen one like that before. Didn't know it was possible. And lots of coloured cables. I know the colours make no difference to how it works, but they do look nicer!

Friday, 18 February 2011

New funding era, and IT support

This morning's session began with a discussion, led by me  - quite how I managed to get the early morning spot when we'd spent the evening before in a very nice bar partaking of Bushmills I don't know...  The topic was IT Support, Central or Devolved?  There are several models, ranging from a central IT department running all services, support and staff, to a model where the IT department runs only basic services and departmental, faculty or college staff run local services and support. We talked around the pros and cons of all models, and those Universities where changes had been made shared their experiences. The general pattern is a move towards a model where the IT department runs all services, and locally based staff provide local, dedicated support, but they are managed by and part of the main IT department. This can provide a number of benefits and a better service to departments, particularly better cover, access to a bigger skill set, less duplication of effort and better business continuity arrangements. It was a lively discussion, and we'll be feeding some of the points raised into our IT as a Shared Service project.

Then we had a session on Higher Education in the New Funding Climate, led by the Registrar of QUB. Taking into account the global recession, public spending constraints and intensified competition, he postulated that we would see permanent and long term change in the higher education environment. In terms of our different stakeholders, we will need to be much more aware of student expectations and demands, and will have to clearly articulate our outputs and benefits, especially our economic and social value, to the taxpaying public. One of the challenges will be to differentiate ourselves, which will need to be based on capability, and focus on excellence, agility, viability and sustainibility.  A good discussion followed, particularly around cross subsidies in the new era including teaching/research and arts/science.

The final session of the morning was on a recent UCISA project on the cost of IT downtime.  I'll blog about that in detail when the report is published very shortly.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Student experience, issues and great results

The second part of this afternoon's session was spent looking at some of the top issues we'd raised. Before every meeting we each submit 3 issues to the group, in confidence - things that are troubling us, or causing us work, or things we're wrestling with. It always provides topics for lively discussion, and it's good to see what other people are struggling with. The three top ones today were finances and planning, the student experience, and reorganisations and restructuring.

We split into 3 groups and discussed each, and then reported back. I was in the student experience one, and it was good to see we're all in the same boat. And that boat is, of course, how can we maintain and improve the student experience in a time of decreasing funding, but increasing expectations especially after the introduction of fees. Of course, you can't know you're improving satisfaction unless you measure it, and there are different ways of doing this. The NSS is often quoted, but the only question in the entire survey about IT is fairly useless - did you have access to IT? Nothing about how good or relevant it is. There are other surveys, and one I have to plug today is the Times Higher Student Experience survey, which was announced today, and Sheffield University came second. We were top for library facilities, which we mustn't forget includes a building we have a joint involvement in, our Information Commons.

Other things we touched on include a unanimous agreement that we need to improve the way technology is used by teaching staff, both in whether they know how to use it, and how it can best be used. Also, what if anything, will be able to charge for under the new regime. Printing for instance.

Last session was a good presentation on the interaction between University IT departments and NHS ones, especially in those Universities that have been awarded Academic Health Science Centres (AHSC). Lots of issues, especially around the different networks and systems we use, and the need for very strict security controls where patient data is involved. Many of have experience of buildings with dual networks, wireless access points in the same room broadcasting different networks, and desktops so locked down that valid systems, such as the VLE, can't be accessed. Some tricky problems, but good to see that some small progress is being made.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Murals and Clouds

Very lucky to be in Belfast at the moment, at the annual RUGIT (Russell Group IT Directors) awayday. We meet 4 times a year, mainly in London, but for our 2 day session we visit one of our member's city. I've visited Belfast a couple of times before, its a lovely place, and very different from when I first came here 20 years ago when there were still soldiers on the street and guarding the entrance to shops. We had some free time this morning, so a small group of us went in a cab, with a very knowledgeable and friendly driver, on a tour of West Belfast, taking in the Falls and Shanklin Road areas Saw the amazing murals, and the "Peace Line" which separates the Protestant and Catholic areas. Had a great history lesson about the history of this city and the recent and not so recent, Troubles.

Then on to the main business of the day. we started with a session on Cloud Computing, and whether it is relevant to RUGIT. Spent some time arguing about the definition of "Cloud", and the one prosed to us was a service hosted on a just in time provisioned platform and charged on a commodity basis, which I think most of us accepted. It also has the following key concepts:
Scale on demand
Priced on a commodity based on instantaneous usage
Enabled by sharing customers or workload
Should be replicated or clustered and be resilient to a failure of one
Should be geographically dispersed and resilient to failure of individual site
Multiple points of entry
Deliver service close to point of consumption

We looked at the different sorts of Clouds, private, public, hybrid and community, and had a good discussion about whether we could or should get together to form a community cloud, for example in the HPC or research area.

The main part of the discussion was a on the different cloud services - Infrastructure as a Service IAAS
Platform as a Service PAAS
Software as a Service SAAS
(which all sit on cloud storage)
and which of these might be relevant for the different services that we all currently run.
For example, could we have access to a suite of applications through SAAS so we didn't all have to run our own installations of Matlab.
Our conclusion was that Cloud services are currently in their infancy, but are going to become increasingly important- there are some big players involved (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Oracle) putting a lot of investment in, and we need to make sure we're not left behind, or out.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Google Apps User Group

Today I spent the day at Loughborough University at the first Google UK User Group for Education. Very good attendance - well over 100, probably more, made up mainly of Google customers but also some who were in the process of making up their minds. A good mix of sessions, some business and strategy based, some more technical. Lots of backchannel action as well with nearly a thousand tweets. A very useful day, and some notes rather than a carefully thoughtout blogpost follow.

Kicked off with a demo of some new features of apps. In Gmail, threading can be turned on and off.
Priority inbox sifts through your inbox using an algorithm to select important messages. eg those you reply to, and how fast you respond.  Can be trained to increase priority and learn.
 Unified search across mail and docs has been introduced.
Google translate demo'd in chat window in browser.  Also  on email, docs and sites.  Demo'd using Hindu, Japanese and Welsh. Thought it was encrypted.  Translates in real time on the fly. Is machine translated but is learning all the time.
Intelligent  scheduling in calendar demo'd. Looks good. Gives you best fit for meetings, and indicates who's available and who's not and makes suggestions. Quick add for meetings looks powerful - even adds map etc.
In docs,  doclist was shown. Can manage versions on non google documents in the cloud eg PowerPoint.  Can share docs in cloud and collaborate on them - emails a link, not the document.
Can do real time collaboration - looks like a reincarnation of Google Wave. Works on iPad, or any other device because done through a browser. Can see revision history and can convert back to word or other format. Docverse allows collaboration on docs produced using Office. Can synchronise document to google apps.

Google Sites very powerful and integral part of rest of apps suite. Easy to set up straight from a document or a search result. 

Then we saw a Chrome OS device - first time in UK apparently. A small black laptop running a browser only. No desktop. Stateless. If lost or damaged you lose nothing. Very quick to turn on - "Cold to Chrome in <10 secs".  Would like to get my hands on one to try. Looked very impressive but will be interesting to see ow easy it is to cope with just a browser.

Second session was delivered by the Open University, and was about their migration to Google Apps which is currently in progress. They have a strategy that puts Moodle, Elluminate and Google Apps at heart of their collaboration and content delivery  service. They haven't completed thier migration yet, and I was interested that they still have contractual issues which they are yet to resolve. They also had a concern that their Helpdesk would get an increased number of calls - the distributed nature of OU students can put a big load on the helpdesk. Interestingly, if depts or members of staff put out incorrect information to students - mistakes in course material for example - and this results in calls to the helpdesk, they are charged for them. Interesting business model!

The OU also had concens about the accessibility of some Google Apps features, but this was being addressed by Google.
They had plans to use mashups to create eportfolios, and there was some interesting discussion about whether we needed Moodle, Blackboard etc, or whether we could mix and match Google apps to create a LMS.

A panel session, which me and friend and colleague Aline Hayes from SHU were members of,  then looked at building a business case to move to Google Apps. To me it was (and still is) a no brainer. Why would you run an email, calendaring etc service with the associated hardware, software, staff, power, space and other costs - when someone is offering to do it for you for free?  As expected, we had lots of questions about security,  risks, whether or not we'd moved staff, what the reaction had been and what our plans were for future deployment.

After lunch we had a presentation from @edintheclouds about moving primary schools away from traditional virtual learning environments  towards a VLEcosystem based totally in the cloud. He had pulled together lots of software - as long as it was  "Simple, Safe and Free"  - and was using Sites as a front end. Lots of info about it here.

Following on from this a session on cloud based learning environments in Universities. Similar sentiments to those expressed in previous sessions - can we get away from the walled gardens of insitututional VLEs to more open systems. Students use Facebook when they want to, but institutional VLE when they have to. Both Blackboard and Moodle  (or Bboodle), are developing Google integration and using it for features they haven't got. Eg personal web tools, calendars.

Finished with a panel session from the Google guys where we touched on Google books, YouTubeEDU and engagement with customers. Slightly unnerving to have a picture of me on the screen - publicising the interview I did for them last year.

A very interesting day, and lots of ideas. My concern is that at the moment we are just rolling Google Apps out - how we get people to see the potential and use them to get the most benefit out of them will be a big challenge.

Monday, 14 February 2011

From Drama to Bums on Seats

Quite a lot of meetings to catch up on, so here's a quick round up.

Friday morning was the Drama Studio User Group, which we effectively disbanded!  Well, in its current form. Rather than try and look at operational issues, management and policy, the group will reform and look at operational issues, becoming a consultative groups for all users of the Drama Studio. There's a wide range of them - academic departments, students, local amateur dramatic groups, and we'll be meeting for some of the time in the evening to make sure all users are represented.

Then on Friday afternoon the Exec spent 2 hours going through our operational plan and prioritising all of the different objectives to present to the Service Strategy Board for their comments. A big job, and interesting to see where we might have different views to the managers who have put it together. In these tight financial times, and where our users want more services than ever, it's important we get this right.

Today I had the first meeting of an important project - we're calling it IT as a Shared Service, and it will be looking at how CiCS and Faculty and departmental IT staff can work more closely together. Lots of benefits to be had if we get this right including better IT support in departments, efficiency, less duplication, better career development for staff.

Then this afternoon it was the Service Strategy Board.  Lots of good discussion. Topics covered included how we're coordinating improvements to the registration process for new students, how we ensure development work done outside of the development team gets the right technical advice and progress on all of our projects. No new projects to approve today, but one "lessons leaned" review which we carry out on all completed projects.

Each month for  the  meeting of the SSB the service manager produces an overview report of their own area - not just projects, but other developments and significant changes. These are invaluable for me and the rest of the team to keep up with everything happening in the department. I can't summarise all seven of them here, so I thought I'd highlight one or two after each meeting. Today it's the turn of  Teaching and Learning, and the following new developments were reported:
  • Managed laptop service being piloted to allow departments to use space more flexibly, eg using teaching labs as IT spaces
  • New PC availability service (or Bums on Seats as it's affectionately known in the dept) which will graphically show individual PCs on each floor in the IC and display availability status. This will be linked with the PC booking system so you can walk into the building and book a PC on level 0 and it will be ready for you as you reach the higher levels
  • Creative media space opening in the IC where students will be able to produce audio and video material
  • Laptop loan service in IC being piloted

All good stuff and well done to everyone.

Off to Loughborough tomorrow for the Google Apps for Education UK User Group.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Never say no, but put a price on yes

After any incident - whether within the department or University wide - we have an incident review. Today we had the review of how we'd handled the bad weather at the beginning of December. An incident management team (IMT) had been put together, and although we'd suspended teaching for a day and a half, the University had remained open. The purpose of any incident review is to learn - what went well, what could we have done better, and what actions do we need to take. We covered all aspects of what happened - how we'd handled putting together the IMT, decision making, effect on teaching, staffing and resource issues. And underlying everything - communication. Communication within the team, and to staff and students. We took the decision very early on to do everything via a web page, updated at specific times, and with links to other useful pages. It was a good decision - the page had 10s of thousands of hits, and although we used other methods including social media such as twitter, everything pointed here. Lots of improvements and actions though arising out of this morning's meeting.

This afternoon we had an interesting discussion with some colleagues from Gartner, looking at some of the challenges currently facing IT in the HE sector. We covered a number of topics especially the need to look at different models of service delivery including outsourcing, and how to prioritise at a time when our budgets are decreasing, but some parts of the University are intending to expand. Knowing the costs of services is key. We should know the cost of everything in our service catalogue, and use this to draw up a portfolio of services for different roles. Knowing what we provide for a member of academic staff for example, or a student. If we have the cost information, we can have informed discussions about the effects of changes. We should "never say no, but put a price on yes" was a quote that I liked, and it's something we  rarely do.  Of course, that's not appropriate in many areas, especially for core services, but the idea of "core plus" services is something we've toyed with in the past.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

HEFCE review of JISC

Two exciting announcements from HEFCE in two days - yesterday the investment in cloud computing and shared services, today the report on their review of the JISC.

This review was commissioned in September 2010 and has been chaired by Sir Alan Wilson from UCL.  The full report  is available here, and can be summarised into  some key points:

JISC has been very successful over a number of years - the provision of the network, JANET, was singled out, as it should be, and also the creation and collective procurement of electronic resources. These two services have been invaluable to the sector and have been critical to our delivery of high quality, innovative services.

But, (and there's always a but in a review), there were some criticisms, none of which came as a surprise to me at least. JISC is considered to be too broad, too complex, involved in too many things and there were questions raised about the impact of some of its activity. It governance arrangements, structure and processes also came in for similar criticism.

So, the main recommendations were that it should become more focused on a smaller number of activities with demonstrable impact and linked to the priorities of the sector. In addition, its structure should be simplified and clarified to become more efficient. Rather than sitting as part of HEFCE it will become a separate legal entity which will have implications for its existing four companies which includes JANET. Discussions will also be held to determine what funding structure will be put in place, which it is recommended will consist of a mixture of grants and subscriptions/user charges.

Will this see the end of the provision of a network funded largely by a topslice which we don't have to pay for at the point of use?

Consultation on how the recommendations will be implemented will start shortly.

Shared, lean services

I posted yesterday about the investment by HEFCE in shared services and cloud computing. Today UCISA is running a managers forum on Shared Services which I'm sad to be missing, but following a lot of the proceedings on twitter (#ucshare).  Various themes running through proceedings so far - can we afford not to, being one, and why are there so few really shared services in HE (with the exception of the national ones such as JANET, UCAS etc). I'm glad to hear that the VAT barrier to shared services, (although Universities are classed as VAT exempt, they have to pay VAT on services they buy - even shared ones - which is non recoverable),  is recognised by the government, and there may be a solution on the way.

I was also pleased to see business process improvement mentioned as a key driver for shared services. Those of you who've heard me speak on the topic recently will know that I believe one of the barriers to sharing services across institutions its that sometimes we can't even share them within our own institution - we need to get that sorted first.

We've just established a project to review and improve key business processes by developing a framework based on LEAN.  Originally developed by Toyota for the manufacturing industry, LEAN attempts to identify and eliminate “waste” in any process, and therefore reduce complexity and time. It concentrates on the value of the process to the end customer, has been used successfully by many Universities and organisations, and is a simple and common sense approach. It also promotes local ownership of processes and the culture of continuous improvement, as well as being relatively quick to identify areas to change, as it uses process mapping workshops which can identify “as is” and “to be” maps in two days.
Had a good discussion yesterday with one of our project managers who is going to help me  take this forward. The intention is for a Steering Group to prioritise which processes need review and improvement, and to have a group of trained LEAN facilitators drawn from a number of different departments to take it forward. With the current financial climate it's essential that no resource is wasted, and that we deliver the most value to our customers.

Several processes have already been identified, including regulation/module and programme approval and change, computer account registration and uCard production, staff recruitment and postgraduate admissions and we'll be canvassing for more soon.

Finally, there's obviously been a lot of discussion at the forum on the potential for shared services to reduce our carbon emissions.  A tweet from the fantastically informative @ajaybb says "ICT in HE: 1.47m computers and £116m electricity - surely we can find some scope for sharing resources amongst that lot?" One would hope so!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Investment in cloud computing announced

One of the committees I've been involved in  but unable to blog much about till now, was a HEFCE Advisory Group on how £12.5m of the University Modernisation Fund could be used to promote cloud computing and shared services. The press release detailing where the funding will go was issued today, so I assume I'm now free to write about it!

The bulk of the funding, £10m, will go towards establishing a shared IT infrastructure for HEIs. A broker service will be established as part of JANET to help institutions procure shared virtual servers and data centre capacity.  A cloud will be established using a virtual server infrastructure to offer data storage and management solutions, with an initial pilot based at Eduserv who will work in close collaboration with the Digital Curation Centre. In addition, there'll be a considerable investment in the development of research data management applications. This is good news, and many of the recommendations from the UKRDS project will be able to be progressed. Research data is a growing problem for many of us, in IT, in Libraries and to the researchers producing the data. As well as ever increasing storage requirements there is a real need to address the whole life cycle of data management including metadata, achiving, retention and deletion policies.

The remaining £2.5m is going to be used to develop shared services in administrative systems, initially those which support teaching and learning and research. A small expert team will be established to advise and help Universities with the procurement of systems, including advising on interoperability and setting up frameworks for large IT purchases. This is something I think the sector needs, and could provide a very valuable service. There'll also be a service to support the management of research, and electronic resources such as the electronic distribution of secure documents.

So, the funding has been agreed, and now the hard part starts - making it work, spending the money within the allotted time, and realising the benefits and savings. The THE has already announced that major savings are to be expected - lets hope they are right.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Upgrading SAP

Lots of projects on the go at the moment. One of them is upgrading our Finance/HR/Payroll systems - SAP. This project is a very much 'a CiCS provides the foundations for others'  project so there is a lot of initial pressure on us to deliver the technology upfront. It has been a real collaborative effort, calling on colleagues in different areas of CiCS in order to meet the goals.

There's  two main phases -  a technical upgrade and a functional upgrade. Currently the technology used by SAP does not lend itself to easy customisation, whereas the upgraded technology is far more flexible and accommodating. Also, the current SAP infrastructure consists of 13 physical servers and we plan to migrate all  the SAP applications onto a new cluster of virtual servers - so far the team have set up 25 virtual servers. There's lots of benefits to this - easier maintenance, better performance, increased resilience and disaster recovery, its easier to maintain, and it reduces our carbon footprint therefore helping us achieve our carbon reduction targets.

Because the responsibilities for SAP are spread across different departments (us, Finance and HR ) one of the key issues is communication. We're making extensive use of our collaboration environment uSpace to address this issue,  and the project manager is posting documents, logs and  a blog to help keep people informed of progress.

The project has also had to quickly adapt to changes in circumstances, so that if a resource is going to be unavailable in a particular area, then the project has had to re-prioritise to accommodate this, and this can lead to extremely tight deadlines.  Our SAP support consultant spent a day evaluating one stage of the project and concluded that we had an extremely aggressive timescale and that even with their knowledge and experience they would find it difficult to meet and suggested an extra 4-6 weeks would be a more realistic timescale. But - the deadline was met through sheer hard work and determination by all involved, so well done - especially the BASIS team, who I know worked through the Christmas break to get there.

As with any upgrade project, the work has had to be fitted in around the day-to-day running of the systems, which currently include applying and testing the legislative legal patches in time for the end of the tax year. So, thanks to everyone for the work so far - the BASIS team, the developers, the Unix team, the storage team, and the project manager, who I'm told still looks a little shell shocked by the whole thing....

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Back to work....

Had a nice relaxing week last week in Sherwood Forest, and now back into the thick of it again - not sure where January went!

Spent yesterday at a University presenting my report on a review on their IT services I've just completed - always interesting to visit other places and act as a "critical friend". We've had the same done to us several times, and although some customer comments can make uncomfortable reading, it helps to focus the mind on priorities and somtimes reveals things that you didn't realise were a problem. I've had the opportunity this week to be a customer of our services and to see ourselves as others see us. I am helping with a production at the Drama Studio - our excellent performance space - working front of house with The Company, who I've been associated with for many years. So, I have to have the fire briefing, know what to do to evacuate the building,  - and sell programmes, refreshments etc. And best of all get to watch most of the performance - Arsenic and Old Lace - great production about two old ladies who make a habit of killing lonely men!  I also had some time between meetings and didn't want to go back to the office so spent an hour working in the Information Commons - very peaceful at the moment as it's exam time and we've increased the number of quiet zones in the buildings. A great place to work on a comfy sofa with my iPad.

Other meetings this week include a meeting with the Faculty of Arts to discuss their strategic plan, and an internal communications group where we agree what corporate communications are going out, in what medium, to whom etc. Lots of discussion today about our new Strategic Plan which has just been published - more on that later.