Friday, 2 September 2011

Value for Money?

Back from a great week in Whitby, and luckily to a fairly quiet week, as far as meetings are concerned anyway. Lots of work going on - installing 700 new PCs in our student computing areas including the IC, and getting our new Enquirer and Applicant portal ready to go live in - about 48 hours! I love it when people ask us whether we have a quiet time over the summer when there's no students here - it's usually our most frantic time!

One of the main things I've been doing this week is drawing up a value for money report  - all professional departments and major committees are doing it for the Audit Committee. In these financial times its a subject everyone's interested in, and one where we in particular have a very good story to tell. In terms of what we've done over the past 18 months the highlights are:

  • Introduced a new service strategy with  particular focus on customer service & business value, putting in place structures and processes that underpin the requirement to provide both high quality and value for money IT services.  Specifically we are now presenting our services to customers via a "service catalogue". Service Advisory groups have been set up to oversee our seven main service areas. We have introduced change management, incident management and problem management processes which have improved reliability, resilience and effectiveness of our services.
  • Comprehensive strategies and operational plans have been developed for all of the service areas. These have been widely disseminated and discussed in the department, are aligned with the University's mission and are used to allocate resources and set priorities.
  • As well as the above service strategies,  there are overarching themes for all areas of the department which are: sustainability, reducing complexity, doing more with less, improving the student experience and resilience.
  • Individual computer servers have been replaced with a handful of more powerful computers capable of running many services at once. This has four benefits: a small number of staff can continue to manage the increasing numbers of services; direct costs of computer purchase and maintenance have been significantly reduced; indirect costs of energy and cooling have been reduced, and CiCS are able to offer hosting services for other departments with a very rapid turnaround and at a low cost.
  • Work to upgrade our main Data Centre's cooling system is taking place in conjunction with the Estates department. Meanwhile, computer servers and the racks they occupy have been resited in order to improve cooling air flows. Computing equipment is being monitored for energy usage in order to understand better energy usage patterns.
  • The increased use of the University records store  has assisted large departmental moves  reducing the demand on more valuable space.
  • A managed staff print project has started to manage university wide printing strategically, to provide best value by driving the volume to shared multi function products  reduce purchasing and operating costs and   electricity costs.
  • Design and Print Services are developing web-to-print  job submission for staff and students to support 24/7 ordering and an EU tender has been completed for the University's outsourced print ensuring VFM.
  • A specialist consulting company has been engaged to review contracts for hardware, software and services and renegotiate on our behalf where feasible, with payment only by results.
  • CICS core accounts have been restructured to allow more efficient reporting and to reflect the new service-based approach to CICS activities. Together with careful allocation of staff cost, this will enable each of 32 major services to be costed and its VFM assessed.
  • A Business Process Improvement toolkit has been produced and a pilot LEAN programme has been established
  • Over the past two years student and staff email has been outsourced to a free service provided by Google. This allows us to decommission and not replace a large amount of computer hardware, including mail storage.  The associated backup of mail data is no longer necessary.  The introduction of Google Calendar has enabled us to decommission the previous software  and its associated hardware and further improvements in efficiency are anticipated as we make increasing use of Google Apps and associated cloud storage.
  • Over the past 6 years all computer data storage has been centralised on to two large data servers, and individual computer disks decommissioned.
  • Increased automation of University processes such as student registration will reduce lead times for many student activities and remove unnecessary hold-ups in the flow of data and information. 'Mobilisation' of student facing services is reducing the need for students to use a desktop computer for many tasks, improving their overall experience while not substantially increasing support load on CiCS.

That's quite a list - and only a selection from the report, there's quite a lot more. Of course, there's some areas where we need to improve VFM. Areas we've highlighted include the increasing burden of complying with FoI legislation and responding to requests (although I'm not sure what we can do about that without some change to the legislation), some of the duplication of effort between the central services and departments, and timetabling.

Lots of work planned for this year to address these and many other issues.


SSiD Staff said...

We're not going to have to swipe for every bit of printing are we? We do 35000 docs a year, and speed is of the essence!

Concerned SSiD-er

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