Friday, 21 December 2012

Keep Calm and Call Control

A week of catch up meetings and Christmas lunches, including the infamous CiCS Christmas party. Photos will be posted as soon as I've decided where to host them!

Today we gave our customers some Christmas reading and published our newsletter, which you can download here.


The article on our new major incident plan caused some amusement, and a rather good mock up what a poster advertising it might look like was soon mocked up by one of our twitter readers (thanks James...).  Lots of good articles in there including ones on our new desktop, migration to our new VLE, information security, research computing and using Google Apps in teaching. We produce this about twice a year, and an email one every month. You can see all of our back copies here.

So, that's it for a couple of weeks. Have a very Happy Christmas and may you all have health, peace and happiness in the New Year. See you in 2013.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Transformation Through Technology

This afternoon I've been to a briefing from the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) on their Transformation Through Technology (T3) initiative.

Started with an introduction from the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. He emphasised that there is no option but to save money by becoming more efficient. In order to make savings, we need to share resources and share common goals. They hope we can learn from their experiences.
Criminal Justice system has always relied heavily on paper, but that is changing rapidly. Lot of money spent on IT systems in last decade, but didn't always get proper return on investment, not enough joined up thinking between departments, and didn't get most out of the systems which were implemented. Now wanting to get good ROI, and achieve modern, paperless processes. Not easy. Hard to change working practices. Savings will ultimately be achieved by stopping moving paper and people. So as well as better digital processes, will make more use of video links, for example between prisons and courts. Most police forces now transferring information to CPS electronically. This is then transferred to magistrates court electronically. Lots of tablets have been bought so that cases can be heard totally electronically. CPS solicitors use them in court and can annotate and navigate through large case files. Most are finding it quicker and easier than using large paper case bundles. They also have a secure email in place. The efficiency programme has not involved major capital investment, but has used systems already in place.

Then we heard from Chief Exec of CPS, Peter Lewis. Up till a couple of years ago, CPS alone were using 1m pages of photocopying a day! To move that amount of paper is never going to be fast and responsive. Very traditional system. Hadn't embraced technology and change in the way some of the other parts of the public sector had. Had to make 30% savings. Have lost 2000 staff in last two years. Hadn't got enough people to work with that amount of paper, nor the buildings to organise and store it. Had to work differently. No choice.
Also were looking to make the system better and more responsive.

Looked at the IT system and basic infrastructure they had in place. Courts and police services were not fit for purpose. CPS had clunky, 10 yr old system. Also a cultural issue. People used to working on paper, had to fundamentally change how they worked. Biggest problem was the history of IT in CJS had been a series of disasters. Many millions of £s had been spent in a decade. People did not believe that you could be serious about changing the system through IT. Not enough that the CPS changed because it was such an integrated system with the courts and the police.

Decided to take new approach. Had to prove what could be done, change mindsets about what was achievable. Create confidence in IT. Also needed a basic level of connectivity in the system to start making immediate savings. And, needed to learn about what a digital future would be like, what was digital working going to be like.

Looked at what they could do by connecting the creaky systems together. Do as much as they could, and persuade colleagues in other areas to go with them. Had some brave people in courts and police who committed to work with them. Made bold steps to allow them to go forward. Create a sense of momentum, change is happening. Don't wait for perfection, do something now. Also create sense of inevitability. Next stage is mandation. Needs clear leadership.

Have made real progress in magistrates courts, a lot is now paperless. Now moving to crown court. But major achievement is having a shared vision. So, for example, CPS and court systems will be bought together, a common IT system for the CJS. There's a sense of ambition. Technology is part of the answer, not a cross they have to bear.

Then Jeff Thomas, Business Change and Delivery Manager for CPS. A personal story of what digital working means in the CPS. Started experimenting in 2009, before T3. Everything from police that can be electronic had to be. Master file is the digital one, not the paper one. That was a major change and was key. Connectivity in court is vital, for receiving emails and evidence. Something we take for granted, but no wireless in courts, so had to rely on 3G dongles.

When T3 came along, he reported to it. One of the key things he said was
as long as the paper file remains the master file, you are constrained by the framework of processes which support it. To move from enormous bundles of paper to a digital case file requires both a cultural change, and a different way of working. Mindsets have to be changed.

Going paperless hasn't saved the money from savings on paper and toner, it's the savings on people needed to handle and move it and space to store it.
Nationally 22.2m sheets of paper are produced by the CPS on guilty pleas, would stack as high as a mountain.

They use the HP tablet, the standard laptop which flips to become a touchscreen tablet. Demonstrated the electronic system and how easy it was to flick though the bundle, search and annotate it. Can highlight, scribble and put virtual post it notes on the bundle. Can also have lots of other stuff on your tablet for reference.

A few key points:
Digital working allows more flexible working.
Eliminate redundancy. Make systems and kit sweat for you
Standardise processes. But build in room for innovation.
Can't run two systems, paper and digital, side by side.
Don't digitise inefficient processes


Where to next, wish list:
Connectivity in the courtroom
Defence buy in
A truly electronic file
A shared platform across the CJS

Then the Ministry of Justice CIO spoke about things they were doing, many of them things we take for granted. Good, single network. Upgraded PCs. Managed print service. Joined up systems. Standardisation.

In the Q and A at the end, security was mentioned. Interesting. Going down to fewer security levels. The main challenge is classification of data and having a risk based approach to security which is standardised so no multiple copies are held. Started being nervous about it, but they were losing paper! Think they are more secure now than before. Be adult about it. Digital media is more recoverable if a lunatic burns the court down! Most of what they do is public. They share a lot of their information with criminals. :-) Need a balance. Treat really sensitive information securely, but don't apply same rules to everything.

Are looking at authenticity as an issue, but you can alter paper. Will need discovery tools because of amount of data being collected. The analogue age suggests you read everything. Can't be done now.

Looking at more modern tablets eg iPad and working out how to make them secure. But the HP ones were good enough at the time to get something working.

In summary, this was a very good case study which I found very interesting, hence the amount of notes I took! The room was packed with people from many different sectors, so the transformational story is obviously one that is in many people's minds.

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Secret Sheffield

Yesterday morning was mainly taken up with an Exec meeting where we were looking at the implications for us of some of our Faculty's plans, especially in terms of student number targets. We also worked through our operational plans looking at where priorities might need to be adjusted to take account of changing University objectives.

In the afternoon I was at a meeting of PSE ( Professional Service Executive) where we discussed a number of topics, including the first thoughts of our new Director of Corporate Affairs, (Nick), who joined us a few weeks ago. Lots of interesting debate around our brand, how we are perceived and what we aspire to be as a University. For example, what does it mean to be a civic university, is it just a descriptor of the sort of University we are, or does it have a much deeper meaning about how we interact with the City? A generally held opinion, and one picked up early by Nick, is that we have lots of excellent stuff going on, but we tend to keep it a secret, in true Yorkshire fashion, we don't like to brag about it :-)

I personally was pleased to see a much greater commitment to Digital Engagement emerging, and I look forward to working with Nick and his team on this strategy.

Today I'm off to London for a presentation on how the CPS have implemented their T3 ((Transformation Through Technology) programme where they plan to make the whole criminal justice system paperless. I've been reading up in it, and it hasn't been without its problems, so I'm looking forward to hearing how they've done, and what we can learn from it.


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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Space, SSB and George

Early start yesterday for a UEB/HoDS meeting (I should include a glossary shouldn't I - University Executive Board, Heads of Departments). One of the main discussion items was Space. I have to resist the temptation to always add The Final Frontier.  Specifically teaching space. Have we got enough, do we need to use it better?
Lots of data provided, including the different patterns of teaching (Monday mornings and Friday afternoons aren't popular), and the number of rooms booked which aren't used.  Discussions centred around how we can change our systems to improve efficiency of use, and what cultures need to change. Lots of very constructive discussion ranging from central timetabling to extending the teaching day. Lots more discussion to come as we cannot keep building more space.

Also yesterday we had a Business Continuity Steering Group where we  had a demo of our new Incident Contacts system, and a debrief of the incident simulation of a couple of weeks ago. Some headlines coming out of it include the need for "sub plans" to have in case of an incident - how do we evacuate a building safely without using fire alarms for example, or how do we cancel and rearrange exams. 

Then yesterday afternoon was our Service Strategy Board. As usual, a full meeting. In fact all meetings yesterday were full, not one less than two hours. But, all useful and interesting. SSB had a presentation on our Incident Procedure which has been revamped. Some of the key points to come out of the discussion included:
  • Front line support are a vital part of the process. We need to integrate the helpdesk and service catalogue, and complete our  Service Level Agreements (SLA's).
  • We discussed target resolution time for typical low-medium-high level problems which will be in the SLAs
  • We're introducing more regular reporting on incidents and the following reviews
  • One of the major areas of discussion was around out of hours incidents which are often the hardest to manage. Our new  incident contact database will help but we do have an issue with customer expectations of  24/7 suppor.
  • Major incidents will continue to be  handled by a team, with an identified incident co-ordinator, working with the University incident management plan as appropriate. 
  • We also noted that the Service Manager for the area is key to strategic decisions and needs to be involved in all incident teams.
A good discussion and the revised plan will now be subject to further consultation before being finalised in the New Year when we'll start a period of training and awareness raising. 

Lots of other good stuff in the Service Managers highlight reports and project progress documents. I was pleased to note the continuing success of the creative media suite in the IC, and a recent session for 40 students in the production of creative media was fully booked within hours. You can read about in the IC blog here.
We looked at several new project proposals and approved one of them - which can be summarised as Getting out of uSpace  (uSpace is our collaboration software which we hope to be out of by end of next year).  Others will be subject to further discussion and prioritisation.

And the most exciting thing to happen yesterday - I adopted a new cat. George. He's huge and furry. Does he look like a maine coon to anyone?







Friday, 7 December 2012

A new JISC and Christmas trimmings

Had a good meeting/lunch this week with a colleague from SHU and JANET. Interesting to hear about the changes happening in JISC as it moves to being a new legal entity. It's now a registered as an independent charity, owned by the Association of Colleges (AoC), GuildHE and Universities UK (UUK). JANET and JISC Collections have come together to form a wholly owned subsidiary company of JISC, and a Board of Trustees has been appointed.  Their ambitions for the future are:

1. Innovation for further education, higher education and skills - lead the way in technology aided learning, product development and new services to keep the education sector ahead of the game at the forefront of international practice 

 2. Support research at the highest level - deliver against the needs of researchers, providing core infrastructure services and innovation support 

3. A fast and powerful network - continue to supply a strong and reliable network to education and research organisations 

4. Work in closer collaboration - continue to better understand and deliver against the needs of our customers and users, to ensure a positive student experience and skills transferable to the workplace 

5. Business as usual - continue to provide, those highly valued and used services and deliver support, through networks such as our Regional Support Centres, who supported over 2,000 providers in the UK last year 

6. Advice and guidance - be a trusted source of expertise for all our customers 

7. Drive digital enablement - drive the use of digital technologies to improve efficiency, save money, drive student engagement, benefit the student experience and support innovation

 8. Offer services on a large scale - provide services for universities and colleges which they are unable to implement individually.

So, it will be interesting to see how they move forward with these over the next few months.

Also this week I gave a presentation to the launch event of our latest Sheffield Leader 2  cohort on what its like being a senior leader in a University and the challenges we face. Unluckily I woke up this morning with a sore throat and the beginnings of a cold, luckily my voice held out till the end! I covered a number of things - challenges we face in the University created by changes in government policy, recruitment, international students affected by UKBA changes, postgraduate funding and the need to be more efficient. Then I covered challenges faced specifically by us in CiCS - consumerisation, mobility, BYOD, customer expectations, 24*7 services, carbon footprint, information security - ran out of time so stopped there. So many challenges, so little time.

The other priority thing tackled this week was the annual Christmas trimming up of the offices. I thought my Christmas trees were quite festive:


 until I went upstairs......



 Round of applause for the web and portal teams I think!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

epiGenesys Showcase

On Monday i went to the 5th anniversary and student showcase of epiGenesys. epiGenesys is a business set up by the University's department of Computer Science in late 2007. It's wholly owned by the University, employing Sheffield graduates and giving  experience to current students on IT projects for businesses and charities, as well as ourselves. It's a great set up and has been hugely successful. We saw some really interesting projects, including a secure way of storing committee papers and displaying them on an iPad, a bibliographic search tool for researchers, a web interface to local hospital radio for patients and relatives to make requests and a PAT testing system. There were lots more, but I didn't have time to get round them all. A great venture, and something we are becoming more involved with - to mutual benefit I hope. We are commissioning epiGenesys to write systems for us, and I hope we will be able to give students some experience of what it's like to work in a large, enterprise organisation.

One of the systems epiGenesys has been working with us on is our incident contacts system, which we are piloting at the moment. Updatable by individual staff who've been nominated by their department to be incident contacts, it gives a nice clean search interfaces for our security staff to find contacts by name, department, building, role etc. The project group met this morning, and we're hopeful that after the pilot departments have reported we can roll it out across the University.




Friday, 30 November 2012

Thank you and raffles

Last night was our thank you get together - some food and drink to thank everyone for the hard work they put in over the year, especially during the summer when the rest of the world think we're having a rest because the students aren't here!

For the last few years we've combined it with a charity raffle - we collect prizes donated from suppliers, and from ourselves (this year a fair number of small ones were collected from exhibitors at Educause!). This year our star prizes included a Nexus 7 tablet, a chocolate hamper, whisky, wine, a camera and loads of toiletries, food etc. A great collection - thanks to everyone who donated them.

We raised over £520 for The Bluebell Children's Hospice and the Teenage Cancer Care Unit,and I think a good time was had by all. Hopefully even by the people who didn't win anything! Thanks folks.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Talent Management

Yesterday lunchtime I went to the first "Registrar's Event", as part of the launch of our new talent management initiative for Professional Staff. It had about 100 attendees from all areas of professional services from a variety of grades and job areas, and began to explore how we can continue to develop a cohesive, flexible and values team of professional staff. It was acknowledged that behind every outstanding piece of research work which  reaches the national and international press,  every award the university  achieves, and every outstanding piece of teaching, there is a team of professional staff which make this possible. Our aim to to describe the Sheffield Professional, in the same way that we do the Sheffield Academic and the Sheffield Graduate.

It was a good event, lots of networking, opportunities to meet new people, speed dating, spot prizes, and a very uplifting and stimulating talk from the Registrar.  As part of the discussion, attendees were asked to identify the One Big Question. What would they like answered, and my favourite was "what does the Registrar actually do?  I've been asked the same question myself (about me, not him), and that's how this blog started. More to come - watch this space.

Today I've been in the UEB Information Services sub group - a small group who discuss items which might be relevant to our Executive Board. One of the main items from CiCS we discussed today was Information Security, especially in relation to mobile devices. User education is as critical as policies and technical solutions, and we are rolling out an on-line training/awareness programme which we have piloted in one faculty and are about to implement in CiCS.  Our discussion today was how to implement it across the University, and how much should be mandatory.

The other main discussion we had was around open access publishing of research journals. Suffice to say, it's complex!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Chemistry and transformation

Last night I went to a meeting at The Chemistry Club in London, and no I haven't suddenly decided to go back to my science roots, it's Chemistry as in networking. It's a place where IT professionals and CIOs from all sectors can come together in an independent setting and discuss items of shared interest. The discussions are partly facilitated, in that you have an "introducer" with all of your details and of the other attendees on an iPad, and you are introduced to people who've either requested to speak to you, you've requested to speak to them (this is all done in advance), or during the course of the evening mutual interests are uncovered. It's a bit like speed dating.

I love it, suits my shy, introverted nature :-). I get to network with some very interesting people and discuss lots of things that I wouldn't normally get chance to. I'm a great believer in networking and making contacts. It's also a way of getting introductions to people and organisations, which is great for getting people to speak at conferences and events.

Last night I spoke to the CIO of British Airways about the complex nature of their real time IT systems and a senior IT executive from John Lewis about shopping. Well, not really about shopping as such, but of the importance of making the customer experience as similar and seamless as possible no matter what platform customers are using, whether it's a web site, an app or actually being in the store. I also chatted with several people from local authorities about the transformational effect "going digital" can have on the way they do their business and interact with the local population.

The word " transformation" cropped up a lot, especially in people's titles. CIOs have suddenly become Heads of Transformation, signalling a change from IT being systems and infrastructure based, to transforming the business.

The BBC had a lot of people there as the Head of Future Media was the keynote speaker, and I spent some time chatting with one of their senior R and D executives about how they are moving their services forward. They work on the "shape, build, deliver" philosophy, with three separate teams. Shape is the innovation team, Build, the developers, and Deliver an operational team. Something I think we need to get our heads round more.

Much of the keynote speech and the other discussions with the BBC centred on their coverage of the Olympics, the challenges they'd faced, and the huge success it had been. Fascinating to hear it from the technology perspective.


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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Staying safe on line

A panel discussion now, Cory Doctorow and Matthias Klang discussing staying safe online, the dark side of apps and social networks.

Cory up first. Three ideas about changing the way we look at privacy.

Need to keep kids safe, but should we spy on them, harvest what they're doing? How does that teach them to respect privacy. better to teach them to detect surveillance and become intelligent consumers. Could turn our kids into advocates for their own Internet privacy.
Find out what's over blocked and under blocked. Then gather info about kids get around it. Because they do! Then use FoI laws to find out what schools are doing, what they're paying, and research the companies. Then publish it. Teach kids to think critically about privacy and that they should steps to protect it.

How do we become an intelligent user of services that collect our private information, especially in return for free services? We give up all sorts of information about ourselves, browsing history, location etc. Use technology. Analogous to blocking pop ups. Need to turn off some third party cookies. Cookie blockers or plug ins. Just leave those on that do work for us like keeping us logged in.

Also need to do something about mobile privacy. When you install an app it knows all sorts about you, including who you're speaking to, location etc. Usually have to agree to all Ts and Cs, not some of them, should only send info that's valuable to us. Example, location data is useful to an app for healing cabs, but not to to others.

Now Matthias.
The unexpected depth of shallow media.
The Millennium, the year of the I Love You virus. Lots of rules about using the Internet. Don't give your real names on line, or your age, or your sexual orientation.
Then Mark Zuckerberg came along, and we told him everything.
Then Steve Jobs invented the smartphones.
Then we needed something to do with it, and apps were invented.

Social media timeline, end of the communications monopoly.


Also the end of boredom! We're constantly being entertained, but we want to take part. The performance lifestyle!

I love this:




How do these tools affect society? How are things controlled and why aren't politicians passing laws to protect us? Because they don't want to because at the moment we are under surveillance like never before.
Need to take some of our rights back. Start with End User Licence Agreements. It won't start with technology, will have to start with us.

Lots of interesting questions. How do you keep very young children safe? Don't use blockers they don't work. Be in the room with them. Keep an eye on what they're doing. Be prepared to explain things. Guide their Internet habits.

Also a good discussion about social media around the BBC newsnight story and the incorrect assumption that Lord McAlpine was a child abuser. The Paul Chambers case also got a good airing with everyone in agreement that it should never have been a case. Lots of discussion about freedom of speech on social networks.

Great session.


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The University of Google

Exciting session now, our own Andy Tattersall talking about our move to the cloud (Google) and how he's been using it to aid collaboration in an academic department and the shift from enterprise software to Google Apps.
Popular session, almost standing room only.

Why did we go to Google? Interesting to hear this from one of our users. Luckily, Andy's reasons are exactly the same as I would have given :-)
Because they do it better. Our students and staff demand more than we can give them. Data storage, better ease of access, better communication tools, more resilient systems, social platforms, better interfaces. Students were already using google apps.
Staff were using tools like Dropbox. We had small amounts of storage, and a perceived lack of social collaborative tools. Also propriety tools are expensive.
Moved in two phases, students first. More adaptable than staff.
Then staff, no opt out, all moved across.

Andy's journey began before the University's in 2007 by doing 3D sketch up of the library, and started a ScHARR library blog. Then YouTube Channel. In 2010 moved the enquiry desk form to Google Forms. By 2011 when everyone moved he had a lot of experience.

Encouraged department to start to build web sites, more staff can use google sites and blogs for creating small bits of content. A lot of integrated functionality in google apps, - can easily embed docs, calendars, videos etc. into sites.
University still at stage of early adopters, but in front of many. On Gartner hype cycle, we have people on all parts of it, some have reached plateau, some hurtling to trough of disillusionment. Need champions, (nice picture of Graham McElearney there).

Awareness raising sessions in SCHARR include 2 hour hands on workshops, 20 minute bite size sessions, screencasts, webinars and hangouts. Also university wide events such a Making the Most of Google Day.

Need to change old habits, such as moving away from client to Google interface, using Google hangouts for meetings, presenting sessions. Sharing ideas is happening, lots of collaboration going on.
Doing things differently. Will get different results, will make mistakes, but will get better. And as Google moves forward, so will the University.

Interesting in the Q and A, Andy got asked a lot more questions about the use of the apps, different sorts of apps, what happened if apps get withdrawn etc. When I talk about our move, I tend to get asked about the technology aspects, and that old chestnut, security and privacy. A different audience I suppose, and also a very different presentation.

Excellent talk, and it generated a lot of interest.










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Platform Wars

Next up a session on Platform Wars, someone else I follow on twitter, Charles Arthur Technology Editor from The Guardian.

Written a book, "Digital Wars, Apple, Microsoft, Google and the battle for the Internet"
We've had the digital wars, Google vs Microsoft in search, Google won but may be anti-trust issues.

Apple vs MS in digital music. Apple won with iPod. Zune never took off. Came in far too late, just as iPhone coming in.

Google vs Apple vs MS in smartphones. Apple initially won, but huge growth in Android.

Google vs Apple vs MS in tablets. Too early to say who's won because a young market. Changed the way people thought about mobile computing. Tablets will overtake desktops soon, and eventually maybe laptops.

The next war is a Platform War.
Windows used to be only platform that mattered. Apple used to be an also ran. But apple hugely changed what it does and has expanded.
Smartphone will pass PC installed base in 2013.
Platform is a matrix, not just about OS. What about google+, twitter, Facebook, Skype, 3rd party apps. These all want to be on as many things as possible.
Success depends on users, how many, and how many £s per user you get.
Few users, more £s. Niche quadrant. Eg Windows phone
More users, less £s. Commoditised quadrant eg android
Few users, less £s Quadrant of doom eg RIM?
More users, more £s, Quadrant of Dominance eg Apple

Good picture of different apps and platforms



Monetization is a complicate interplay between desktop and mobile. Need to monetise at scale, but hard to do.





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Copyright Law doesn't work

I'm at the On-Line Information Conference in London today. It's primarily for Information specialists and librarians, but I spoke at it last year and enjoyed a lot of the presentations, so thought I would come down this year for just one day of it.

Opening session is someone I follow on twitter and read a lot of what he writes, Cory Doctorow. His title, "There is no copyright policy, there is only Internet policy, there is not Internet policy, only policy" looks interesting!

Copyright is a regulatory framework for the entertainment industry who have also been responsible for laws, writing them etc. Nothing wrong with a big industry being regulated, but has to have some sort of test to see if you are within the regulatory framework. In copyright, this is handling a copy of a piece of work. OK when dealing with some media eg print, but does not work now. In the past, observance of the rule was as much a technological thing as legal ie difficult to copy a movie or a book. But now, we have computers and the internet. All computers do is make copies. Look at how many copies are made in buffers and caches everytime you click a mouse.

We talk about a difference between streaming and downloading. But only way for a file to render on your computer is for a copy to be made. The only difference is that streaming doesn't have a save button. Still a copy.
Need to come up with another test to see if we are within the law, but entertainment industry haven't done that. Still use the arcane "copy" rule. But internet and computers are vital to everything we do, so this is ridiculous.

Martha Lane Fox and PWC did research looking at benefits of internet by using communities in socially deprived areas where some had free access to the internet, some didn't. They found that every aspect of life is enhanced. Better grades at school, better jobs, health outcomes. More civically engaged, better informed about current affairs, more likely to vote.

Soon, all services will by default be delivered on Internet including benefits etc. Policy has to be changed, currently there is no public interest, policy is ONLY made to benefit the entertainment industry.

Digital locks cannot be removed or disabled. But they stop us doing things. So, we remove them. So they are hidden. So they can't be removed. So we can't see all files on our PCs. This is a bad thing. Good example Orwellian. Amazon recently removed copies of 1984 book from all Kindles because it was an unauthorised copy. Orwellian or what? If you work in a bookstore, can't go into someone's house and remove books.

1995 Sony sold 50 audio CDs with root kits on- some files on which watched what you did and if you copied music, would shut down. Owners couldn't see them, great opportunity for virus writers. Many hundreds thousands of computers infected.

2 yrs ago MacBooks given to kids in US school with camera able to be turned on remotely without green light on. School in effect spying on student.
This year leasing company installed software on loan laptops which could be used to record everything, what they did, where they were, videos of them etc. In theory to recover computers if payment stopped. Scary.

In future we will have computers in our bodies, eg if we lose our hearing. We must not have things in them hidden from the owners. We have to trust them. Also in planes, cars.

Entertainment industry has called for easy censorship of networked material. They want "notice and take down". Not just used by entertainment industry but by others, eg Middle East dictators, Church of Scientology. No judicial review or oversight.

Viacom has taken a case out against YouTube. YouTube get 72 hours of video uploaded every minute. Not enough copyright lawyer hours remaining between now and the end of the universe to examine every bit of video uploaded. Viacom have said YouTube are acting illegally by not having every minute of video reviewed before it goes live! Also saying YT is a party to infringement because it allows private videos, ie ones that can only be seen by friends and family, and therefore Viacom can't police them.

Three strikes is even worse. If you are accused of three acts of copyright infringement, you and your family lose your Internet access. Has been passed too quickly and badly in many countries including this one where is was passed without proper debate in the "wash up" before the election.

Copyright not fit for purpose for regulating the internet. But not good for regulating the entertainment industry either! DRM is a disaster for writers and creators of content. Lots of authors etc now avoiding big players and using open ways of publishing. Using PayPal, twitter, blogger, youtube, etc. Free stuff available to all which copyright law would kill.

Copyright law must be changed. It must not be used to rule the Internet. The Internet is so much more than the entertainment industry.

Absolutely excellent talk. Sorry if notes are a little disjointed, so much excellent content in it.


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Monday, 19 November 2012

Getting to know you, incidents and blogs

Last week we had an awayday for our Executive team - me and the Assistant Directors, including our new one, Dave, who starts with us in January. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other, our preference styles for working, and how we might work together as a team, identifying where we had common strengths and weaknesses, and where they might complement each other. We also had a look at some of the feedback we've had on the results of our recent staff satisfaction survey. We'll be drawing up a staff engagement strategy and implementation plan over the next few weeks to address some of the areas we need to improve.

Today I've been at a major incident exercise. I could be called upon to be University Incident Manager or on the Incident Management Team if we had a major incident, and today we had three teams of people playing a variety of roles ( for example Incident Manager, Gold Liaison Officer, Duty Manager, communications officer) managing three different incidents. These were not purely table top exercises, but done in real time, with real time information provided, and real communications and actions being drawn up. Our incident involved an unexploded bomb, a very large exclusion zone, evacuation of buildings, disruption to exams, and the threat of a power shutdown to a major science block. All quite tiring and stressful to deal with, especially as more and more information hits you, which it would do in real life. Essential that we keep testing and refine our plans, and our ability to use them, even though we hope we don't have to use them!

I was also sent this link to a list of HE technical blogs by the Guardian Higher Education Network on twitter, and although I'm quite chuffed to be included, it's worth a look to see some excellent resources there for the community.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

SSB, PSE and other acronyms

One of the penalties of being away is coming back to a diary full of meetings and the last two days have been very busy. Monday was our Service Strategy Board which began with a presentation from our Problem Manager on where we are with problem management and how he is taking it forward. He now maintains ownership of active problems which has improved the monitoring of them, and he is working with our helpdesk to achieve a more consistent service catalogue and logging against problems. We are also trying to be more proactive about problems, reducing their impact where possible, and this was used in our recent release of our new student desktop where known issues where flagged in advance and publicised. This will involve close working with our release manager.

We had our usual look at progress of projects and other ongoing work in the service areas. It was good to see that our mobile app, iSheffield is proving very popular with students. We approved two new projects, a review of our Student System which is just getting underway, and a new way of looking at recruitment and outreach data. We also had for information a document of lessons learned from projects over the years - really interesting to see how things have changed.

Yesterday we had our Professional Services Executive which opened with a presentation on the impact on us of The Bribery Act. Expect more training and awareness raising sessions if you are in a high risk group. We had an interesting debate on whether me and Kath should have accepted a car that one of the exhibitors was giving away in a raffle at Educause last week! Other items covered included an update on the planning process and review of the University Strategic Plan, and I did a presentation on how the consumerisation of IT is affecting us, challenges and solutions.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Back home...


Back home after another great Educause. The sessions were mainly excellent, and if they don't come up to expectations,  you can easily pop out and find another - there's about 15 happening at any one time. The final session was from Edward Ayers, President of Richmond University who spoke passionately about the important of technology to the Humanities - the digital humanities are as important as STEM subjects. He gave some great examples of projects he has been involved in, including The Valley of the Shadow - a digital history of Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War which was put together from scanned newspapers from the time. He's also been involved with a similar project looking at the emancipation from slavery in the US.

Other highlights for me were seeing Clay Shirky, networking and exchanging ideas with colleagues from the UK and US, and of course the now traditional (well I've done it for two years), Segway tour. You never know, one day the UK will actually come into this century and follow the rest of the world in allowing their use! But the best was being in the US for the presidential election, and sitting in a bar watching Obama be re-elected.


Friday, 9 November 2012

What makes a great conference session?

First session this morning is how to write a good conference presentation. It had better be good. Started with a slide of how most of us are too busy to think about presenting at conferences. Had a cat on it so good for me.




The notes from the presentation are here if anyone wants to see more detail. There's also links to some good resources.

What makes a great conference session? Quick survey round attendees came up with 11 terms:
Enthusiasm
Interactivity
New take
Great graphics
Clear message
Applicable
Honest
Though provoking
Matches title
Uses humour
Informative

Avoid death by PowerPoint. Most people tend to put everything they want to say on the slide and just read it out. You lose the audience immediately doing this. Another common mistake:



Think of presentation as a story, and you as the storyteller.
Work out what your one big idea is, who your audience is, and deliver with authenticity - bring a human touch to it, a little bit of who you are. Bring yourself into the sessions.

Blueprint your session. Define and thoroughly understand your audience. You need to focus on what matters to them.

One big idea. The one key message you must focus on. Make sure everything you say relates back to it.

To get to give a presentation you have to write a winning proposal, at EDUCAUSE it goes to a programme committee.
Need to research and understand the CFP (Call for proposal). Understand themes and tracks. Connect your one big idea to the conference theme. Have a catchy title and abstract. There's some resources on how to do it in the link above.
Make sure the abstract whets the appetite, make it intriguing and interesting, but has to represent what you'll actually be talking about.

Then you have to design your presentation. Use your one big idea as a filter, and keep the audience in mind. Outline the pretension using story boarding. PowerPoint very linear, prezi makes you think in a different way. Lots of other tools - Google docs can be very powerful. Think about design, very important.

Think about how you might use social media, twitter hashtag, Facebook etc.

Delivering session. Prepare and practice. Memorise as much as possible. Engage with your audience. Read and abide by the TED 10 commandments that all TED presenters get sent to them!





Good session, and the resources are definitely worth looking at.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Today's Modern Music Marketplace

A conversation with Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO of Recording Industry Association of America.

I should preface this, with these are his opinions, not necessarily mine!

Bottom line is that music industry has transformed how it does business.
The music industry is now primarily digital. Way ahead of other industries including movies and newspapers
There's new business models, subscription models, free streaming, music bundled with mobile phones, music in the cloud. All types of digital business models are now embraced and licensed by the major music labels.
A major RIAA priority is to make it easier for new services to be licensed.
Historically very few albums have represented majority of sales. Not so any more.
Illegal downloading has hurt the music industry. Vast majority of downloads are illegal. Fewer people today trying to make a living from music. Piracy is a problem for our economy and our culture. Protecting rights can stimulate sales. If you close illegal sites down, users go to legal ones. Also if you go after illegal sites like Megaupload, other illegal sites close down.
Music industry going forward with innovative ideas. Collaborations with ISPs, payment processers, advertisers, search engines. Internet should be open and free but not lawless. (Most of these "innovations" seem to be about closing things down).

DMCA notices to Universities are dropping so they must be taking action. Lot of education of students, policies about file sharing etc.

I'm afraid the cynic in me came out in me during this talk. The music industry was very slow in adopting new technologies, almost to the extent that it put its fingers in its ears and hummed for years, and it could be this that has caused the fall in revenue. He admitted that more music is being consumed now than ever before. Of course, I recognise the need to stay within the law (I'm an IT Director, I have to say that :-)), their criminalisation of some of our young people and their inability to recognise that current copyright law is not fit for purpose in this digital age really annoys me.
Someone from the floor who is a musician said that the decline in the number of musicians is related to many things, including the increase in DJs and electronic music and the decrease in the number of venues and is not necessarily related to digital rights.
Another audience member pointing out that there is something wrong with their business model if more music is being consumed, yet their revenue is going down.


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Innovation Station

Fostering Innovation and a culture of openness through crowd sourced idea generation. Davenport University, Michigan.

What is innovation and why do it?
The act of introducing something new. New services or repurposing existing things to provide new and better services. Continuous improvement to services. Can be big changes, or small changes which have a big impact.
Continuous improvements over time give big strategic benefits.

In Davenport's mission statement it says " we will develop a culture that encourages innovation from all employees and will implement a process that allows all ideas to be vetted so the best ones become reality".

They needed a system which could harness the features of social media, including community based discussions.
Used a tool called Ideascale. Allows rating and ranking of ideas, comments and discussion, different communities ( eg staff and students) and collaboration.
Called Innovation Station. People can vote on ideas, comment on them etc.
But this is only part of a larger process.
From the ideas you have to research and experiment possible solutions. Report progress back to the community through Ideascale.

To keep discussions focused they have campaigns, eg how we can improve x. Also moderated to close questions that have already been answered, reply to off topic questions etc.

Need a culture of innovation to make it work. "If you build it they will come". No, they won't . They use gamification, scores, badges etc. You can see most popular ideas, and the people who've contributed most.
There is an innovation fund for new ideas to be experimented.
Provides visibility and openness on how things work. Has increased synergy between academics, professional services and IT.
Also visibility on why things are stopped or not taken forward.

They pick pick top 5 ideas to fund each cycle. Ideas which are not funded are often taken forward in other ways, for example using systems and processes already in place, coming up with cost neutral solution or finding other funding.

I really like this idea. I can see it promoting discussions across the University, especially been central staff and those in academic departments.





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Changing models of education

Keynote session now. Blueprint for change in an area of rapid reinvention.
Great opening video about how higher education is critical to economic development, but that one size of education cannot fit all. Different models can serve different needs.
Then video from Student Experience Lab about student experiences. Some key points they've found:
Many students unprepared for University experience.
Drowning in bureaucracy
Pressures of HE can be daunting
Want to work on their own
Learners want more than a piece of paper at the end, they want to achieve something outside of the classroom.

Director of Student Experience Lab talking about new models of education.
Not all students are the same.
Competency based learning. Task based. They are piloting an online system where students perform a series of tasks and demonstrate a set of competencies.
Service based learning. Students need to get credit for some of the work based learning they do.
Put students at heart of the redesign of education. Involve them in the R and D process, that's what the Student Experience Lab is doing.

Now Elliott Maisie. Apparently he invented the phrase eLearning.
We're in the world of personalisation. Look at how TV has developed, most of us watch it on demand, with tablet on knee. Music personalisation was a game changer.
People want to learn in a very personal way. Learn what they want, when they want, how they want, where they want.
Social and collaborative learning important to some people, but not everyone is social.
Need real research and evidence base to design different education models.

Now talking about MOOCs. Most too easy. Everyone passes. No credentials attached to them.
They will develop.

e in eLearning is for experience

Collaboration will be key to developing different models.
We will be operating in a global society. Need to understand how that affects how we operate.

Never been a better time to rethink the rules.


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Helpdesk FAQs




A very practical session now, from the University of Maryland (UMBC) about how good Helpdesk FAQs can change the culture of IT support. Obviously popular, the room is packed, and people stating at the back!

Problem: not enough self support. Knowledge base used infrequently, too much pressure on Helpdesk staff. Most vendors encourage self support before calling support desk. Users want a consistent, high quality support environment available 24/7.

So, they decided to revamp their FAQs. They analysed common requests.
Used "show and tell" screencasts of key IT tasks.
Prominently displayed FAQs on portal
Encouraged users to suggest and correct FAQs
Identify and eliminate dead wood
Created an FAQ on FAQs
All support staff encouraged to recommend FAQs

Their site is here
Is a wiki.
Good example here.

Show first, tell later. Encourage comments, can email page to a friend, rate page etc. Can see date it was updated and by whom.

Visits to site in 2011 were 1100, in 2012 45,000. More queries are resolved, and quicker. Number of calls to Helpdesk has reduced.
Helpdesk manager grades all "tickets" every week. To get an A you have to have either referred to an FAQ or written/suggested one.
Have implemented self reset of passwords with a security question.

Now mining search terms customers are using on web site. Top term is "meal plan" , not an IT term. Students searching it for other things. So, now going to other departments eg student services, to get their information into knowledge base. That's where the FAQ on FAQs is useful, tells staff how to create the content.








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From IT Silos to IT Alliance

Despite the free beer and cocktails last night, I'm in the 8am session. It's from the University of Minnesota about a training programme they have run for IT leaders. It's a very distributed University with 5 campuses and many research centres spread across the state. They have a highly distributed IT structure, with about about a third of IT staff in a central IT department, a third in colleges and campuses and a third in admin offices.

They wanted to build a community of leaders, and implemented a leadership programme. Took 30 people from across all IT departments for a couple of days a month for 8 months. They used active learning concepts and applied their learning to real issues. They spent a lot of time investing in relationships to build trust across the institution and developing personal networks.

Taught to look at issues through three lenses, strategic, political and cultural. Consider that feedback is a gift. Get rid of defensiveness, and thank people for it.
Develop leadership skills, important to coach staff. Don't solve their problems but get them to a stage where they can solve their own problems.

Programme was a success, and led to real initiatives, including development of a service catalogue, consolidating Helpdesks ( they had 73!), virtualising servers and implementing Google Apps across the whole University.

Trust has been established, and there's a shared commitment to the institutions goals. Formal and informal communities of practice have been established.

Interesting session, and a good example of how disparate groups were brought together. Hopefully our own leadership programme is having the same effect,


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Obama, light sabres and podcasts

Spent lunch in the exhibition area talking to suppliers, and catching up on some new technologies. Suspect I've also ended up on lots of mailing lists. Of course, we also collected one or two (a bagful) of freebies, the best so far being a light sabre! The exhibition is enormous, and I think I've only seen about a third of it so far. Lots of technologies around wireless, social networking, and managing iPads and other mobile devices. Some exhibitors have certainly scaled down, others have grown. Lots of our suppliers here, and it's good to chat with them.

It was interesting to be over here during the election. The Brit crowd spent last night in a bar watching the results come in, and luckily we had someone with us who understood it, and had a map which he coloured in as states were "called". So much is done on the basis of predictions, states can be called when as few as 29% of votes have been counted. Because of the time difference, some East Coast states were called before West Coast ones had finished voting. Obama was declared president very early, just after 9pm I think, to much cheering in the bar.

This afternoon I went to a panel session on eLearning and Distance Learning which wasn't really relevant to a UK audience, but reasonably interesting.

I was also interviewed for a podcast, EDUCAUSE is making a series of them during the conference. I talked about our values and mission in CiCS, what challenges we face, what I could see coming up in the future, and what I thought the US could learn for the UK in HE IT. I'll post a link when it's up.


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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Next session is from Kansas University and is about a change programme they've just run. They have a ten year strategic plan, and they're two years in. Lots of change, including in the curriculum, in research and has an efficiency agenda. 70 different initiatives, many involve IT.

Used experts in change management from across the University, many in academic departments. Developed an organisational change workshop for all staff, everyone from Deans to cleaners went on it, delivered 40 times. So, everyone on campus understood why the changes were being made, and how it was being done. Very important to understand the campus culture and climate.
Workshops looked at the different stages of change, and categorised people into 3 categories:
Denial. Not going to happen to me. Left out of workshop.
Judgement. Why are we doing this, not a good idea. 44%
Acceptance. Ok, it's going to affect me, better see how. Not necessarily agreement. 36%
Transformation. Hey, this is exciting, it's going to be great. 20%.
Most in this latter stage had been involved in planning the changes and were usually in leadership roles. So, lot of work to do in bringing everyone forward.

Task, Relationship, Identity are all important components of change. Lot of effort normally put into task, ie what is the change, implementing it. But, relationships and identity are just as important.

Resistance from three main places:
Thought based resistance, do people understand the change
Fear based, understand it but fearful of impact
Capacity based resistance. People worried that they might not have skills to to cope with new regime.
Good leaders understand these, and recognise that resistance can be positive.

Framework for communicating:
Initiative, explaining change
Understanding, make sure everyone understands it
Performance, where does everyone fit
Closure, celebrating success.

KU trained 15 volunteers from across academic and professional staff to act as facilitators to groups discussing the changes and implementing them. They helped the change leaders plan meetings, anticipate problems, have a clear focus, and held debriefings. Lot of good feedback from all areas.

Change doesn't happen by itself. Change needs to be facilitated. Change can be managed by acquiring skills and using a common language across campus. Change must fit the culture.



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Location:Managing change

Square One

Next session, Square One: a prescription for operational excellence. Just took a few notes, but the presentation is here.

Institution's success and reputation is built on operational excellence, and our credibility within the University is built on it. Your never going to have a strategic conversation with your VC, if your talking about why a system isn't working.

Most outages caused by either systems and hardware failures, or people and process issues. 80% caused by people and processes. 50% of these are specific to change processes. Concentrating on hardware/systems only gives you the opportunity to improve 20% . Need to get your processes right, and invest in people.

Most of our budget is on staff. We need to invest in them, training etc.

Need to deal with negative reaction avoidance, fear of doing something and getting a negative reaction.

Fear of failure is high. People respond to positive rather than negative. Need a space where it's safe to say I can't do this, or I don't know how to.

Leadership sets the tone. The team needs to be in control with management as coach. Teams and individuals can increase their skills and ability to expand their capacity to think and solve problems as they arise. Catch people doing something right, spotlight it and reward it. "Right" can be as simple as someone documenting a process.

Managing change has the biggest impact on improving the reliability of a service. A change request process, Change Advisory Board and Change Window are the foundation of operational excellence. The default position for a CAB is that changes are not approved.

We have regular progress meetings etc during projects, but what about services that are in production? An operational planning meeting focused on only the health of a service needs to happen regularly for critical services even when there is no change planned.

Use RASCI charts when decisions made. Responsible, Accountable, Support, Consulted, Informed.

Then we went through a plan for looking at a service and delivering operational excellence. The plan is here.
We chose email on our table. Interesting discussion about different way of achieving operational excellence and different risks with in house vs outsourced services.


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EDUCAUSE opening, Clay Shirky

So EDUCAUSE proper is about to start. Huge theatre, about 6,000 delegates and many thousands of wireless connections. Eduroam coping quite well! Opening remarks as usual from Diana Oblinger, introducing EDUCAUSE as Uncommon Thinking for the Common Good.

Then it's the opening keynote, Clay Shirky on "IT as a Core Academic Competence"




Degree of connectivity we now have is so large that we can make impossible problems trivial. It changes how we approach our jobs. IT is increasingly the place where we collaborate, research etc.

Used the DARPA network challenge as an example. 10 weather balloons put up in different locations in US. Had 30 days to find them to win $40,000. MIT found them in 9 hours using social media. Read about it here.

There's a new resource we can take advantage of, the cognitive surplus. Made up of two things: the free time and talent of every one In world, and a communications infrastructure which is based on collaboration and groups.
To take advantage of this means doing more sharing, being more open.

For example, Smithsonian Institute took several thousand of their photos and put them on Flikr. Users tagged them, thousands of different free-form tags. Tags that professional catalogers would never have used, eg moustache, steampunk. Made the collection so much more valuable.
Photos were also put into different databases.
Only done by opening it up to see what people will do with it. Don't need to know what will happen to data sets before you open them up. Need to see what users will do. This collection had been sitting in the institute for years, and is now being used.

Experiment in openness in academic mathematical community, the polymath blog. Problems posted, community throw out ideas about how it might be tackled. One such problem solved, submitted to journal, but journal wanted list of authors! But it wasn't clear who authors were, it was so large and so collaborative. So they put up a wiki page and said add your name if you think you were an author! The old system has to change to adapt to new ways.

Music industry in 2000 was selling playback quality. Then MP3 came up. Music industry laughed at it because of quality. Then Napster became fastest selling piece of software in history. They sued them, closed them down. But still lost, didn't take control. They couldn't kill the story that Napster told, that the user is in charge. Now hundreds of legal music distribution channels. Music industry didn't see the changed paradigm.

Student set up Facebook group to study chemistry, college charged him with cheating. They said all collaborative study is cheating. He said if this is, then so are tutorials. Google Chris Avenir, Clay has a couple of YouTube videos talking about this case.

Journal Register Company, newspaper chain. Struggling with transition from paper to digital. CEO said everyone has to publish something digitally in their town. No budget. Can't buy new tools etc. We've all sat in meetings talking about whether something might be a good idea, and it's cost more than just trying it. So, they used YouTube, etc. It hugely improved the level of communication by staff between departments and different papers. This was the big win, collaboration.

Rapgenius web page, page for annotating rap lyrics. Someone noticed that it was just an annotating tool and posted a paper on the Mayflower project. Which was promptly annotated. This morning Obama's acceptance speech was there and being annotated.

Big change is openness. If you want to do something, don't put a multidisciplinary team of 20 together with a budget of 200k and a 6 month timescale. Ask 5 people what they can do in a month, for free.

Great opening talk by Clay. Lots of him on YouTube and TED, he's worth a look.


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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Things to do in Denver...

Hello folks - I am still here. In case you're wondering about the long lack of blog posts, there's a number of reasons. I went off for a long holiday - not something we usually do in October but there were a couple of personal reasons for doing it. Got caught up in Hurricane Sandy whilst we were there, but otherwise it was great. I only had a few days back at work then, during which I dealt with 1,200 emails and tried to catch up with everything I've missed. Luckily I had few meetings so was able to do it.

Now I'm in Denver for Educause, the big HE IT conference held in the States every year. It's a great opportunity for networking, meeting suppliers and listening to some great talks. I'll try and blog the sessions as they happen, but a lot depends on what the wireless network is like  - there's about 6,000 delegates and that's a lot of pressure on the network in one room during the keynotes.  There's also a 7 hour time difference, so they'll appear at funny times. The timings of the conference have been changed to accommodate the presidential election, so although I have some meetings tomorrow, you'll see real posts appearing from Wednesday.  We're hoping to find a bar tomorrow night to watch the election results coming in - should be interesting - Colarado is a swing state.

Friday, 12 October 2012

User Group

CiCS User Group this morning - always a good attendance. About 60 people from departments, a good mix of academics, technical support staff and professional service staff. We use it as a way of disseminating what we're doing to a wier group of staff than our own people. Sometimes if we feel a presentation is on a subject that might not be well know to the wider department we repeat it at a departmental meeting.

Today's meeting had 5 presentations.  First on the eLearning strategy which I mentioned yesterday and is being consulted on at the moment. One of the drivers for this is student demand for technology enhanced learning, they are looking for us to be leaders in the filed. We also have to be aware of the global market for students, and TEL could enhance our competitive edge. The strategy proposes an enhanced eLearning environment,an audit of digital resources, an online environment for public facing materials, a network of eLearning academic champions, more flexible teaching spaces and the provision of appropriate technology.  if you're interested in this area then I can strongly recommend our Learning Technologies blog which is excellent.

The second presentation was on our creative media facilities which I've blogged about before, and I think was new to many people in the room. We also gave them an update on where we are with the managed desktop, and this provoked an interesting discussion about what a staff managed desktop should look like, or even whether we should have one.

Switching to research, we then talked about the new N8 HPC facility which is obviously of interest to many researchers in the University.  Finally we told them about how our ICT support team had been making improvements to their services over the past year. Lots of very good stuff, and they got a well deserved compliment form a member of the group.

No blogging for a couple of weeks now - I'm off somewhere hot! 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

System and project reviews

We had a meeting of our Service Strategy Board at the beginning of the week, and had our usual look at projects progress, and at our new eLearning Strategy which is in the process of being approved. More later when it's been through all of the consultation process.

Other meetings so far this week have included a gateway review of our Common Timetabling Project.   This was the first of gateway reviews, and I felt it went  very well. We looked at what had been achieved so far, what the drivers were for the project - including better space utilisation, more efficient use of staff and student time, more flexibility, a more responsive timetable, and a better student experience.  we also looked at some different mechanisms for achieving this, changes to the way we deliver timetabling, changes to the timing, and changes to the timetabled day.  A great discussion, and in the end, we have closed this project down  at we can look at starting a new one so that we can focus on really achieving the benefits we need.

Finally, I've had a couple of meetings to kick off the review of our student system. Implemented in 1996 (I think), its home grown, written on an Oracle database, and has served us very well. Because we've written it, it's also very functional. However, it's time for a review to see what the best way forward is. Stay as we are, stay with the current system but invest heavily in further developing it, or implement a package. All have pros and cons, and we've established some working groups and a Steering Group  to oversee the review and come up with recommendations. It will be very interesting to see what comes out of it.



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Juice for all...

Last week we had a visit from a Commission from the Institute of Public Policy Research who are looking at the future of Higher Education in England. I was part of the panel of staff they were talking to, and they also met a group of students. We talked about many things, including the sustainabilty of HE, and different funding models. We also raised with them the over-regulation of HE at the moment - it appears to many of us that as the amount of central funding has gone down, the amount of regulation has gone up.  For example, there's a cluttered landscape of bodies asking for data, and we have to supply it in many different forms, to many different organisations who don't seem to talk to each other. As the amount of public funding decreases, there's a possibility that some universities may become completely private, getting all of their income from student fees, research councils or other partnerships.  That could be an interesting development!

Yesterday we had our Professional Service Executive (PSE), and had some feedback from a pilot our HR department has been running. Called Juice, it's a health and well-being strategy, and offers staff a number of different options, including bootcamps, Body MOTs, Tai Chi and healthy eating workshops. It's about to be rolled out to all staff, and will aim to look at all aspects of health including physical, mental and social. I think it's a great initiative for staff, but count me out of the bootcamps at 7.30am.....

Thursday, 4 October 2012

New Year, New MOLE

A new academic year and a new virtual learning environment has arrived at the university.  Although our project to implement a new VLE has been going for almost two years, this year marks the first year that our old system is retired and everyone uses our new VLE, MOLE 2 (My Online Learning Environment).  It’s based on Blackboard Learn 9 and although it went live to half the university last year, this point marks its arrival across the whole of the institution.  MOLE 2 is the culmination of 2 years of review, consultation, collaboration, piloting, developing, training and implementation - and lots of hard work!

I thought it might be interesting to share some of the facts and stats behind what’s been involved in changing our virtual learning environment:

Starting with our first pilot in the Library and the School of Clinical Dentistry in October 2010, we have...

    •    Migrated approximately 2700 courses from MOLE to MOLE 2
    •    Created approximately 1100 new courses
    •    Created 115 organisations
    •    Developed 6 different training courses (from face-to-face group sessions to webinars)
    •    Held 152 training courses
    •    Trained over 1000 staff and students
    •    Held consultation meetings with more than 40 departments
    •    Answered more than 7500 support calls

We’ve also created documentation, knowledge base articles, screencasts and more to support our 27,724 users.  Our support resources can be found on a dedicated website and we’ll be developing these further as we respond to users’ needs and the opportunities which MOLE 2 is giving us.

So, while the project to implement MOLE 2 may be winding down (and a big thanks to all involved in this huge task) - it’s going to be exciting to see what our brilliant staff and students do with it and where it takes learning and teaching at the University!  

How social media can make history

A colleague tweeted a link to this talk today - Clay Shirky talking about changes in communication and journalism brought about by the internet and social media. Well worth a watch if you've got 15 minutes to spare, and I was quite surprised to see it was filmed as long ago as 2009.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

KITs, ICE and satisfaction.

This week has involved a lot of KITs. No, not little cats, but Keep in Touch meetings. Vitally important for building networks, finding out what's going on, and sharing ideas and experiences. I try and meet most of my senior colleagues for an hour once a month, and this week a lot fell together - Coffee Revolution has done very well out of me this week, but I feel slightly high on caffeine!

Monday was spent in a design team meeting for our New Engineering Building, and we all trooped outside to put different cladding samples out so we could see them in daylight - such a lot to choose from, but luckily we were all agreed, and even agreed with the architect's choice. I think the building will look stunning, and although this isn't a very good picture, gives an idea of what it will look like. Of course, the reason we're involved is the amount of student-led, IC type space it will have in it, including group study rooms and creative media pods which will complement what we have in the IC.


Yesterday we had a meeting to discuss the results of a recent staff survey with our senior managers. This was a University wide survey asking a number of different questions about staff satisfaction with their jobs, their department, their management and the University.  It's fair to say the results were mixed, some good, some where there's room for improvement. So, an action plan is being  drawn up, together with some facilitated discussion events so we can better understand the reasons behind some of the answers.

Today I've been taking to the Janet Brokerage Service about our move to Google, our experiences of contract negotiation, and some of the concerns other Universities seem to have. Hopefully they will be able to take the lead in discussions with Google, as they have done recently with Microsoft, to make it easier for more Universities to move to cloud based services.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Janet News

When I offered to do an interview for Janet, I didn't think I'd be quite so prominently featured in Janet News!

The whole publication is definitely worth a read - not just my bit. There's a really good article on password security for example, and lots of information on the Janet brokerage.

Major incidents..

Sorry, not many updates this week - lots of HR stuff going on,  that I can't really blog about.  However, yesterday was fairly exciting. A bit scary but exciting.   Spent 5 hours in a training session for incident managers. These are the people who will manage a major incident, so it's quite a responsibility. we looked at how incidents are reported, assessed and declared, and the things that should immediately be covered by an IM. Some of the exercises we did included how we would respond to a duty manager contacting us at 2am on a Saturday to report and incident, and as was pointed out to us many times, the clock is already ticking. At that time on a Saturday you could be anywhere (I've been phoned in the middle of a field), or in any state!

 One of the biggest recent changes in incident management is in communication. We no longer control the reporting or the messages. Chances are that any incident will be reported on Twitter, Facebook or other forms of social media before we know about it. News and rumours spread quickly. Citizen journalists are everywhere, and we just have to deal with it.

Anyway, I'm now the proud owner of the Incident managers handbook, and this is definitely one thing you hope you never have to use!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Starting the week tripping over a cat

Well this week didn't start too well - I tripped over the cat walking down the stairs, hit myself in the face with my laptop, and gave my self a black eye!  Luckily it got a bit better after that. On Monday I was in the last of the workshops that I've been involved in looking at equality and diversity issues in the University.  I've been in a team looking  at staff and student recruitment, and we've set some objectives for the University which go to UEB next week for approval. We've seen some interesting data, the most recent of which used postcode mapping software to look at where we appoint our staff from, and it's very obvious that we only recruit from about half of the city. Hopefully some of our recommendations will address that.

Today I've been with other Professional Service Directors looking at how we can refresh the Strategic Plan, and how we can make it  relevant to more staff. We came up with some interesting ideas, and we'll be working on them over the next few weeks. Rest of the last couple of days have been spent mainly on HR matters and responding to an audit report.

Also over the last couple of days I've been keeping an eye on a problem we've been having with mail. Most of you will know that we have outsourced our mail to Google, and normally we get a very good service. However, over the past few days we've experienced an issue, and what it's demonstrated is how different this is when the solution is not in your control. Luckily the problem looks as though it's been solved, but it has raised questions about how we manage support for such services.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Social media policies

Session on Social Media Policies. Will be interesting to see if it convinces me that we need one.

Biggest risk in social media is in public facing communications. Are risks, but need to understand what the real ones are, and not overblow them. Policies should encourage good behaviour as well.

So, why do you need one?
Employees can be too enthusiastic, eg product manager caught praising his own car on a forum, retailer tried to get complaining customer fired.
Some just don't think :
Dominos example of youTube video fairly famous.
Chinese official didn't realise twitter was public and was using it to arrange meeting with mistress.
Some retailers used Arab Spring tweets to promote lines
Quantas promoted luxury during nasty labour strike

None of above have anything to do with social media policies. Policy cannot prevent stupidity.

You need to Inform everyone of what is expected of them, prevent what you can and deal with the rest

More important to deal with things quickly and effectively than attempting total prevention.

Policies should describe desired outcomes. What is the behaviour we want? What are the values we're trying to express? More important than detailed rules. Describing good outcomes make them more Iikely.

Adoption of social media is usually a bigger issue than misuse. Policies which have too many rules, risks etc, less likely to use it.

Things to include in a policy:
Need to point out that existing policies still apply, eg acceptable use, codes of ethics, confidentiality, privacy, harassment, bullying. These should cover most social media situations.
Use case studies of good and bad to promote discussion and understand the issues.
May need to determine "hot zones", ie stuff that is very sensitive. Could include compliance issues, scandals (!), financial and commercial information.
Give people somewhere to go for advice, or to report something.
Discuss goals, intentions, purpose, why are we doing this
Guidance on personal vs business personas. What can you tell an employee not to do? Anything?


Not everyone in an organisation are the same. You might want different policies for them:
Forbidden: no access to social media, cannot comment on company business. To be avoided if possible
Neutral: no blocking, but not expected to participate on behalf of the business
Encouraged: not really their job but encouraged to participate, eg thought leaders in senior management blogging ( does that make me a thought leader?)
Tasked: usually in PR and Marketing, job includes social media monitoring and participation

Long list of do's and don'ts won't work. Use values, eg we respect our colleagues, we value confidentiality. This allows a discussion based on
content, not rules. Rules can never cover everything.

Interesting discussion on blocking access to social media sites. Used to be common, but getting better. Blocking blinds the organisation to social media activity, drives the use of personal systems eg own mobile phones, sends bad messages about innovation and trust, and is using technology to solve a management problem. Biggest reason for blocking is time wasting. This is not a technology issue. We don't ban newspapers, or suduko books!
What I've been saying, especially to local authorities, for years!

I've always though that famous quote " Don't be a dick" is the main, if not only, thing to include in a policy.


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Mobile trends

Another Nick Jones session, this time on trends in the mobile area we should be watching out for.

Mobility is 2nd on list of CIO priorities in 2012. Mobility isn't about devices or networks, it's about business innovation. It is an area where you can get a competitive advantage using innovative mobile services. Seize it now while it's still an option!

Smart phone ownership growing, by 2016 90% of mature market will have them. Tablets growing, but Gartner don't think tablets will make a difference to laptop sales. Personally I disagree, but we'll see.

Android dominating smartphones at moment. Expected to remain so. Apple second, and in a different market space. Microsoft expected to rise to no 3 and may overtake Apple ( again, Gartner's view, not mine). RIM/ Blackberry disappearing, 5% market share and falling.

In tablets, Apple dominating, but Android will overtake them. Windows tablets might grow in enterprise market, but won't be consumer device of choice.

So, we all still have to support multiple platforms. Older versions of Android not disappearing, so getting more diverse. Unlike iOS where newer versions replace older versions.

HTML 5 will not solve cross platform problems. Although it has good vendor support and new features, it is an immature and fragmented collection of different standards with multiple inconsistent implementations and security challenges. Be cautious with it.

Other trends to watch for include more touch screens, more sensors, voice control, higher res screens, new user experience, more NFC ( near field communication).

Apps will become more sophisticated and more complex:
Better user experiences including cosmetic design, psychology and motivation.
Multi channel integration, mobile has to be integrated
External integration. Peripherals, links to consumer electronics
Increasing sophistication, context, gaming, indoor location, augmented reality
Improving quality, less bugs and better support
Cloud for context, payment, social.
We will need to up our game if we want to compete

Wireless enables the Internet of things. Prediction is in 2016 there will be billions of devices that are not handsets. Already sensors in trainers, body monitoring etc. What are we going to use to talk to our smart freezer? The mobile phone. Smart phones and apps will be the end point. Different wireless connections. Things will talk to cloud, cloud will talk to apps.
By 2020 there will be more machines connected to cellular networks than people.

Our strategies should include innovation, agility, flexibility, defining business goals and supporting and developing for a fragmented market. Replace mobile strategy with multichannel strategy.

Consumerisation is everything, devices, applications and services. We need endpoint independent architectures for a world where Windows is less dominant ( been there, done that).

Native app vs web? Stop fighting the war, there isn't one. We'll need many different architectures. Trick is to use the most appropriate for what you want to deliver.



Mobile and cloud combine to enable many services and business processes such as payment. Scalability much easier with cloud, as is agility eg integration with other services. Push computation into cloud to improve performance of apps.

Key technologies to support mobile strategies:
Apps stores, consumer and corporate
Multi platform mobile development tools
Secure, multi platform document sharing
Mobile testing - some companies offering cloud based testing on different devices, OS etc
HTML5 - despite previous negative comments, mobile web apps are attractive.


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