Thursday, 18 August 2011

ICE - watch this space.

Some interesting meetings this week - am involved in a design team for a new building which will incorporate some exciting  new learning space, and it's being designed by the same architects  that gave us the Information Commons. Really great to be involved in a new building again. Will give more details as soon as I can - code name is ICE - watch this space!

Also been involved in discussions about major improvements we're making to our teaching space  - several million pounds being spent over the next 3 years to really make a difference to the facilities we have. Not just a lick of paint, but major design improvements, new AV and display facilities and better wireless provision.

Hopefully that will mean the students have a better experience with us, but I wonder if it will improve our score in the NSS (National Student Survey), the results of which have just been published. The questions on academic services are fairly meaningless, especially when it come to IT. The sole question is about accessing general IT facilities. I wonder what students think general IT facilities are, and there are no questions about the quality of services. Peter Tinson has just written a good blog post about it which sums up the situation well.

Now I'm taking  a break for a few days again - off to Whitby Folk Week. While I'm away the A level results will be released, so good luck to anyone getting them, and also good luck to the team who will be dealing with the thousands of phone calls we'll get over the next few days.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Good Service Strategy Board today. Reports from all of our service areas, but no project reports - we cut the project managers a bit of slack in August!

Highlights from the different areas include:

Learning and Teaching  - 300 of this year's 700 new PCs going in student computing rooms have been installed, we've ordered 50 more laptops for the IC laptop loan service, we're well on the way to transferring existing content from our old VLE to the new one, the student managed printing service has been upgraded, and we'll be piloting our new windows 7 student managed desktop soon.

Research and Innovation - HPC upgrade has begun, another member of staff to help with research support has been recruited, work has begun on our research data management project.

Communication and Collaboration - android version of our mobile app CampusM has gone live, Google calendar for staff is live, new Contact Centre style phone systems have been created for Clearing, Registration Help Desk and the Enquiry and Applicant Portal Help Line, implementation of our new CMS has been accelerated.

Help and Support -  main Helpdesk issues are Google calendar and browser problems with SAP. Nothing else major.

Infrastructure - new storage purchased, core network upgraded in readiness for 10Gbps link, reviews of quotas starting

Corporate Information - Enquirer and Applicant Portal and on-line registration about to go live.

Business Activities - new staff  managed print service about to be piloted in CiCS. I believe it's called dogfooding.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Costs and Calendars

Back at work for a  whole week now, and first blog post. Not being lazy (although getting back into the swing of things after a couple of weeks lazing by a pool is hard), just not a lot to write about.  Spent the usual few hours deleting emails - I've tried to be quite rigorous recently in clicking the "unsubscibe" button on many of them, and it has paid off, but still indundated with suppliers thinking I'm actually going to read their cold emails.

One of the first things I had to grapple with on my return was a new calendar - we went live with Google calendar for all staff whilst I was off, and now everything is different!  A new interface - web only, no client - and different ways of doing things. I have so say, so far I'm impressed with the functionality, especially the integration with email, the overlaying of different calendars and the amazing colour scheme I seem to have ended up with! The synchronisation with mobile devices is also good.  The biggest headache we had as a department was migrating all of the data from our existing Oracle calendar to Google. Some places haven't even attempted it, just gone live with the new calendar and given staff instructions on how to move meetings. We decided to be more helpful than that, and exported the data out of Oracle and imported it into Google. Not as simple as it sounds! Calendar data is quite complex, and because of the way data around resources connected to meetings, repeating meetings and different attendance statuses are held, we had several test runs, testing the data, picking up anomalies, correcting it, running it again etc. Eventually we were confident that the data was pretty good quality - at least 95% accurate and better in some cases. A lot of work was done by the people involved, and some very long hours worked - a great job by team.

Other meetings this week included one on activity based costing - or trying to understand the cost of what we do. We've already done quite a lot of work on this, and this year have completely restructured our account codes to make it easier to report. No longer are budgets held and orders coded by organisational structure, but by service. Staff costs are also being allocated to services and activities, so we should be able to get some good data on how much individual activities cost. This will then feed into decision making about services, and whether we're using our resources in the right way.