Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas

So that's it. Another year over, we've had the famous CiCS Christmas Party, and it's nearly time to finish for a well deserved break. I'd like to thank everyone for all of their hard work over the past year, and to everyone who reads this - whether inside the department or outside, I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.  Here's a few pics of the Christmas Party to entertain you.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Sheffield Professional and an interesting print story

Interesting meeting today discussing our Sheffield Professional initiative which we have developed to make sure that we value the talent of our professional staff, and to promote team working and collaboration between professional services and academic departments. So far we've had three big events with the Registrar, and put together a set of useful web pages. Now we're promoting secondment and project opportunities to encourage movement between departments.

Last year we had an intern working with us to produce training and promotional material, and he produced several excellent short videos. We've just taken on another intern, with a similar remit, and he's just produced this as his first great video about our Sustainable Print Project:

Friday, 13 December 2013

Curry for lunch

CiCS User Group yesterday - always a good turn out, and we did presentations on our new iTunesU site which has just gone live and the new University web site, both of which I've blogged about recently. We also brought everyone up to date with work we're doing on Unified Communications which will integrate many features of our voice system, including voice mail, with Google apps. All messages, whether email, voice or chat will be integrated and accessible from one place. We're also rolling out soft phones and mobile integration - all exciting stuff. The final talk was on Infrastructure Demystified. usually the most hidden (until it goes wrong) part of what we do, we thought it was important to make it more visible - it is certainly critical, and we spend a lot of money on it. It was an excellent presentation - interesting and simple enough for non technical people to understand.

Last week we got together with our colleagues in the library for a joint awayday - we try and do it once a year and have a set topic to work on. This year we were refreshing our Information Strategy. But first, we had to cook out own lunch as a team building exercise!  Led by an excellent chef at the Tideswell School of Food, we made onion bhajis, lamb curry, dhaal, rice and indian salad.

No serious injuries, lots of team work, and an excellent lunch. And we did a lot of work on the Information Strategy, which has served us well for about 10 years with minor amendments, but was in need of a major refresh. Hopefully we will be able to share the revised version soon, when it's been through the approval processes.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

How to perfectly share a cake and other food related maths problems....

An exciting couple of days as two major projects have gone live. I mentioned the first the other day, which was our new web site which is getting some great feedback. The second, which went live at 1600 yesterday afternoon is our iTunesU site. It's been a bit of a long time coming - as a department we first suggested it a few years ago, but as a University we agreed that the most important thing was to get the content right, and now we have.  There's some brilliant stuff up there, with some good branding.  Looks great doesn't it?

Trouble is, I keep getting carried away watching stuff.. I particularly like Eugenia Cheng's maths tutorials, using food. Check out how to perfectly share a cake.

Another example of a collaboration between ourselves, Corporate Affairs and many Academic departments.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Push here....

I think everyone's trying to get the last round of meeting's in before Christmas - almost back to back ones for the last couple of days. Work is really starting to get in the way of preparing for Christmas :-)  Although I am pleased to see the decorations starting to appear in our building. One room is particularly spectacular - the one with Santa's runway. You know who you re.

Yesterday I chaired a meeting of our Incident Contacts project board where we're developing phase 2 of the system which will store departmental contacts, as well as all business continuity and incident management information, and links to information about fire marshals and first aiders. We also had a meeting to discuss how we might handle accounts and email addresses for our students when they leave us. there are various options that our move to Google gives us, all with pros and cons, so we need to think carefully moving forward.

We also had a Service Strategy Board meeting, where we looked at progress on projects, and our 'business as usual" work that doesn't fall into the category of a project. Unfortunately in some areas, this work has seriously impacted on other work which we hoped to carry out. I posted the other day about issues we have been having with our PC booking software and how we have had to turn it off, but this is nothing to the problems we've been having with another of our systems - our VLE. We've been plagued by problems since the beginning of semester, and despite working closely with our suppliers to fix, it is taking so much effort away from other things. We can only apologise to our staff and students. Lets hope normal service will soon be resumed - for all our sakes. It is so inconvenient to our customers, and so frustrating for us.

Today some catch ups and HR stuff, and then a meeting of our Professional Services Executive which took place in the University's new restaurant - Inox Dine. Open all day and evening, Monday to Friday, and open to the public,  I recommend it. We had two main items for discussion - one was the announcement in the autumn statement that the cap on student numbers was going to be lifted, and what that will mean for us, We also touched on how the government was going to afford it, but that's another story!

But, the most exciting item for discussion was the launch of the University's new web site. Sent live this afternoon, it's the result of a great collaboration between Corporate Affairs and colleagues in CiCS. I think it looks great, well done to everyone involved. Oh and if you wondered how we send things live.....

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Thank You...

I love my department. No, seriously, I do.  They are  a great team of people to work with and provide an outstanding set of services  for our staff and students. This year, for the third year running,  we had the highest satisfaction rate in the UK for IT services to students in the Student Barometer. So, every year we have a thank you event. Nothing too special - a really good buffet, some beer, soft drinks and wine, and what has become a bit of a tradition - the CiCS charity raffle. We ask people to donate a prize, and ask suppliers to donate something, and also those of us who are lucky enough to go to conferences bring as many freebies from exhibitions back as we can. At a recent Gartner conference I had to buy a new bag to bring stuff back in :-) . We also try to pick charities that mean something to us, and this year it was Leukemia Research and a local autism support group - both chosen because they affect members of our staff.  As usual we were inundated with prizes - including  a one night stay at our very special University boutique hotel, 2 mini iPads, a Kindle, a case of wine, Amazon vouchers - and about a 100 more prizes. We raised hundreds of pounds (still being counted as I write this), and I hope everyone had a great time.  Thank you to everyone - you make coming to work every day a pleasure. Here's a small section of the prize table...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Cloud Advisory Board

Today I was at the JANET Cloud Advisory Board. This was established when the JANET Brokerage was set up with £1.5m of UMF money and has acted as a Steering Group for the brokerage activities. Now the UMF money is coming to an end, and we were meeting to look at how we go forward with JANET activities, especially in the context of changes to the JISC.

We looked back at some of what the brokerage had achieved:
Frameworks are in place for data centre to cloud and telephony services
New frameworks are about to be announced for archive to tape and file synch and share
Two commercial arrnagements are in place  - Google and Microsoft
Financial X rays have been carried out in 18 organsiations

In the future we agreed that as a sector we need to  be more confident and assertive with suppliers, with a more commercial attitude to providing services. We also need to be ahead of the game more - speed is essential and as the digital world is moving fast we have to keep up. We must become thought leaders, and the inertia for innovation has to be banished!

We agreed that we need to work together - collaboration with ourselves, with JISC and Janet, with our suppliers and other organisations is vital. 

So, we will continue as an Advisory Board but maybe with a slightly different membership, and will act as a "critical friend" to JISC technologies which consisits mainly of JANET and Cloud services, advising on product offerings and services. We will also input into the different stages of a product life cycle including requirements gathering, testing etc. I'm looking forward to working with the new JISC, especially the new Director of Innovation,  on these developments.

During the day we had quite a lot of opportunity for discussion around cloud services, and one of the things I'm interested in is why more Universities, including us, aren't moving more into the cloud. Storage seems to be a favourite for many people, including many commercial organisations. Yet we, and I suspect other HEIs are spending vast amounts of money on on-site data storage. So, what are the barriers, why aren't we doing it? I asked the question on twitter and was directed to this article by Andy Powell which suggests that Universities think of themselves as special cases. Other reasons given included leveraging the already heavy investment we've made in on-site provision, cost, complex inter-dependencies with other systems, bandwidth and latency. All good things that need to be taken into account, but I think we really do have to look carefully at what we provide internally and what could be provided elsewhere, in a public, private or hybrid cloud. Cost comparisons need to look at the total cost of provision, including space, power, staff, and not just hardware and software. of course, moving stuff into the cloud has to have real benefits, in either service provision or cost efficiencies to make it worthwhile.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Gone, but not forgotten

Nobody likes removing services, especially one that is valued by customers, but sometimes we have to in order to protect a level of service. We had to do this very recently. We've been running a PC booking service in our Information Commons for several years. It means that students can reserve a PC and know that it will be available for them when they need it. However, recently we have had issues with it  - it has been failing  and unexpectedly logging out groups of students which creates a real risk of them losing work. Unfortunately our third party supplier of this software hasn't been able to provide a fix for us, so we've taken the difficult decision to turn it off. All of our PCs are now walk up only. So, although our students can no longer reserve PCs, we have a supply of laptops they can borrow which are bookable in the IC and library sites. They can also find free PCs here, or using the iSheffield app. We'll continue to work closely with the company that provides the software to find a fix - I hope it won't be too long.

We try and keep everyone updated with this and other CiCS news through our blog here, and our twitter,  and Facebook pages.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Fame at last ?

I seem to have made it to the home page of Google's Apps for Edu site, with a quote from my blog. Not sure how long its been there, but its about 2 years old.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Disasters, cables and music

It's been a busy couple of days. Monday was back to back meetings. A liaison meeting with colleagues in the Library where we talked about a new building we are helping to design, plans for a new student system, and some systems we are about to develop to improve our research infrastructure. We also had a meeting with colleagues in EFM to talk about another proposed new building, the problem with this one is that many of our optic fibre cables run under the site! Some complex discussions about how and where to move them to, and how we can minimise the risk of services being affected to buildings served by these fibres.

Yesterday I was in Oxford where I am a member of their IT committee to give an external perspective. Discussions included their disaster recovery plans - something we all struggle with. It's a balance of risk and how mic resilience etc to build in. It doesn't help when business impact assessments are very dependent on the time of year. You might think the HR system would have a fairly low impact if it went down, but not if it affected your REF submission for example, or the Finance system if a big research grant submission was due, or the student system at registration. The list goes on.

In the evening I traveled to London for the launch of JANET 6, our new network. To quote their press release, "Designed specifically for research and education, Janet6 is highly scalable up to 8.8 Terabits of capacity and uses state-of-the-art 100Gigabit Ethernet technology. Janet6 provides excellent bandwidth and a flexible infrastructure, enabling the UK’s research, higher-education, further-education and skills-development sectors to collaborate and compete on a global scale." Exciting stuff. And the project was delivered on time and in budget. You can't say that about a lot of public sector IT projects!

The launch was at the British Film Museum in County Hall, a very impressive venue, which had been made over for the evening

And when the big red button was pressed to symbolically turn on JANET6, the Internet lit up on our tables

We had a talk from Ewan Birney from the European Bioinformatics Institute about how important the network is from a research perspective, and a demonstration of the low latency of the network using two musician playing together, 400 miles apart. The violinist in the room with us, and the cellist in Scotland. Very impressive. Here's a two minute video recorded on my phone, pretty poor quality, and the first minute is them speaking, but you'll get the idea!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Social Business

Another session today was on how social business is changing the way organisations work by Stuart McRae from IBM

More companies now use social media internally than externally.
We are entering the post PC era. Apple selling 100m iPads in 2013. Usage shifting from creation at desks to consumption on the move
McKinsey estimates that social technologies could raise productivity in some areas by 20%
Driven by 4 disruptive mega trends. Social, mobile, cloud, analytics. (Now, where have I heard that before....)
Increasingly influential and vocal customers. We can't just listen to them. Need to interact and lead them,
Growing demand for 24/7 and mobile connectedness. People collaborate on the move.
If you want the best talent and employees, have to give them a working environment which gives them the best experience and productivity.

A Social Business strategy should be driven by the above challenges
It should enable the workforce to work more effectively, increase productivity and improve employee satisfaction
It should also produce exceptional customer experience, customer engagement and customer delight!

Primarily a culture issue, not technology.
Need to encourage employees to collaborate and not compete
Collaborate with partners to serve customers better
Engage employees in conversations with customers

Social businesses deliver better results by empowering their people to perform better and to serve their customers better.

Need to empower employees, even when it requires working across organisations
Corporate IT has to go away and become cloud based to achieve this.

20th century collaboration tools are no longer good enough. Eg email.
Email model vs social media model. With email everything is pushed to you, just in case you might need it. With the social media model you pull the information - when you need it, you can find it.

"It's not information overload, it's filter failure" , great quote from Clay Shirky

Encourage sharing of information, eg tweeting. Success comes from changing user behaviour, from "knowledge is power" to "knowledge sharing is rewarded".

Content needs to get away from being document centric. Move to online creation and collaboration with mobile device support. Focus on sharing.
Simplify the media. Focus on content and communication.
Make the content discoverable, use tags, social bookmarks. New generation of knowledge management.

Adoption is key to business success.

A thought provoking talk there's a lot more Information on this topic on his website.

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I've looked at clouds....

We had a session today from Tim Marshall, CEO of JANET on Cloud.

One of the first things he suggested that we should do,is make sure we know what's going on around us. Don't do things in a particular way just because we always have done.
A wonderful example is TVs coverage of tennis matches which is always for. The end of the court. That's because the aspect ratio of TVs used to be 6 by 4 and the end of court view fitted better. Now the aspect ratio is much wider, so you'd better a better picture if you put the camera in the middle, opposite the umpire. But, they've always done it like that...

We also need to examine our appetite for risk? Is it too low? Can cause innovation inertia.

Cloud doesn't change our business. Our business is not running IT. Our business is teaching, learning, research etc. Cloud is about changing the way we do our business, not the business itself. It's also about IT becoming more service orientated.
Much of the infrastructure is commodity now. If someone can do it better and cheaper why don't we let them.

We have to look at why we might want to keep things out of the cloud. Is it because we love the smell of a hot server in the morning...

the essential characteristics of cloud are:
On demand self service
Broad network access
Resource pooling
Rapid elasticity
Measured service

Tend not to get all of it, but bits here and there.

JANET 6 is our world class network which launches next week. It needs using. We should look at co-location. Get the tin out of the institution and somewhere else. (More than 50 miles away so people can't get in there cars and go and hug it.)

Several options from do nothing, to fully off site, via hybrid

UCAS uses cloud for burst capacity. Doesn't happen by magic. Took a lot of work to prepare UCAS applications to be cloud ready. But benefits huge.

Risk and innovation needs balancing.

What are the advantages of cloud?
Capacity, reliability, flexibility for large scale applications that are peaky
Cost effectiveness. Office 365 and Google are free.
Business Continuity
My comment, it's about service delivery and improvement
Cloud is about value, not cost

Mainly culture.
Some technical, ie getting applications cloud ready. But are lots of tools you can use.

Some competitive reasons eg HPC often kept in house. But why? Maybe culture. A lot of is commodity and people are buying it from amazon on their credit card as we speak.
JANET working on a provisioning portal for amazon

Some barriers are senior management who are concerned about cyber security

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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Whack-a-Mole of new ideas

Next session was from Abilene Christian University about lessons from their mobile learning initiative

ACU is in Texas and has 5000 students,
They were the first university to establish a comprehensive 1to 1 mobile learning initiative that provides every student with an iPhone or iPod touch.

One driver was innovation and providing something to attract students.
But, the primary driver was the student profile.
Students coming in now were born in 1995, (he made the point that some of us have t shirts older than that)
They've never lived in a world where disaggregation isn't possible; where you can't always pause and rewind live TV.
They inhabit a world where you are always connected. There are more text messages sent now in a day than there are people on the planet.
Consumption spreads faster today, eg it took 2 years for Facebook to get to 50m users. It took 39 years for radio.
Implementation to saturation is very fast. It is only 3 years ago that the iPad was invented.

The world has changed, but have our classrooms?
Are our students engaged?

At ACU they had been trying to address the above two issues. In 2007 the iPhone was released. The Internet could now be in your pocket, all the time.
They set out to explore how this could be used in HE to foster innovation, and decided to give one to very student.

Some myths around innovation that they leaned during this implementation:
Innovation doesn't happen in eureka moments.
Innovation doesn't have a methodology. Need lots of trial and error and risk taking.
Best idea always wins. It doesn't.
People love new ideas. Not all do. Need to give people permission to go slowly. So, when they decided to roll out iPhones to all students, ( and they told faculty staff after they'd announced it),  they told staff they didn't have to let students use them if they didn't want to.

Resistance to change is part of our culture.
Are we playing Whack-a-Mole with new ideas? As they come up, we smack them down.

Organisational cultures are like an iceberg.
Top of iceberg things you can see. Artifacts
Below the surface are exposed beliefs. What we think is important
Down below. Basic assumptions. Things so engrained we can't find words for them. Each bottom one trumps the one above.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Only way to change culture is to work together to solve a problem. We need to reframe our discussions into a problem that we can solve collectively.

As you think about innovation on campus, remember that it's not about the technology. It's about the students, and preparing them for  the world they are going to inherit, not the ones they live in now.

IT at the Olympics

The opening keynote at CISG was from Gerry Pennell, former CIO for the London Olympics, and now Director of IT at Manchester University. Unfortunately I missed the first few minutes as I was at an organising meeting for next years UCISA conference - apparently he started with a video of the highlights of the olympics which I would have liked to have seen.  He went through some of his experiences, and pulled out some learning outcomes for HE.

Some notes I took of the key points:

We only had one shot at it. Getting it right was key - Atlanta suffered reputation damage by not being able to deliver the results needed. 
Embrace deadlines  - they are your ally. This was an IT project you can't be late on.
 Olympics is a fantastic example of real time data distributed to different channels and audiences.
Real time data & provision of mobile meant that the way people engaged  digitally was different to any other Games. In previous Games, people had checked results about 3 times a day.
60% of traffic during peak web activity during Andy Murray tennis final  came through mobile device
Consumer behaviour has changed. They had put lots of infrastructure in people were checking the real time data much more frequently -  checking results on a blow by blow basis and in the Andy Murray example, point by point
This lead to lots of requests to central servers which were running 88% utilisation when they had planned for  25%

Learning point:  get your plans right, but build in flexibility

Lot of testing took place. 1000s of hours including set piece technology rehearsals.
There were also 42 test events between May 2011 and games (eg the London marathon)
They learned things from the subtle to the blindingly obvious.
Good example of the blindingly obvious - everything depends on the delivery of cabins which have to be connected to the radio network.
At the first test events the cabins were made of metal. A faraday cage! They then discovered that they had been procured in a bulk deal for of all test events,  and the Games!

Learning point: Don't test technology in isolation. Have to test with processes and people for real learning

Cyber security was critical. They knew games would be cyber attacked and were advised that it would be from anonymous hacktivist groups.
There were 6 fairly serious cyber incidents. Some a surprising including:
A probing attack from semi professional hackers in Central European who have form for looking at web sites and publicising vulnerabilities. A DDOS attack from 90 IP addresses for 20 mins. Very sophisticated. A carefully timed and synchronised Botnet. Still don't know who or what they wanted
Another DDOS attack causing them to  fail over.
And a state sponsored attack.

Learning point: Build your cyber defences around people, processes and technology. Its about how fast you can respond.

Dealing with operational challenges was interesting! A really good example was the photo finish cameras in the main stadium which have to be at a steep angle, and subject to no vibration or movement.  The best position for the angle was the top of the stadium, but this was subject to vibration. So, they constructed a steel cage, connectect it to the bedrock, put a vibration dampening platform on it, tested it by getting hundreds of people jumping up and down to look for jitter.  However, after when Jessica Ennis had won her final race, the photo at the finish line was blurred. They concluded that the incredibly loud roar in the stadium had travelled up the steel cage which had acted like a tuning fork and vibrated!

Learning point:  Life is not always what you think its going to be. Expect the unexpected.

A question from the audience about how to motivate staff when they are engaged on a limited contract, with no real sanctions such as performance management or financial rewards got a good answer.   Get them engaged with the vision. A shared vision aand one that everyone is committed to is the oly way to do it.
Another good lesson for HE.

Keep calm

Monday was our Business Continuity Steering Group where we caught up on all things BC related, including Phase 2 of our incident contacts system where we'll be developing it to be used by departments to store all of their staff contact details and BC plans. We also looked at a number of procedures that we've been documenting in the light of various incidents and exercises including using our student accommodation in the event of a major incident, and evacuating buildings in an emergency that's not a fire. That's more complicated than you think! We've also produced a handy little fold-out card telling you what to do in an incident - which is summed up by Keep Calm and Call Control.

At the moment I'm at the UCISA CISG conference, primarily to have some meetings relating to next year's main conference which is being held in the same venue. I'm on the Conference Organising Committee, and with such a big and prestigious conference its important to get every detail right if you want to keep attracting delegates. Its is the little things that can make people enjoy, or not, a conference. The quality of the coffee gets as many comments as the quality of the speakers! Being at  a conference in the same venue means that we can check these details out. For the first time last night I was involved with choosing the menu for the gala dinner, which involved trying 6 starters, 6 main courses and 3 desserts. I wasn't very hungry this morning.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Engagement, experience and tattoos

The final few sessions of the conference covered a variety of things. a particularly interesting one was on engagement, with our employees and customers. It looked at the different ways people like to be interacted with, and how that can change depending on whether in a work environment or a social one. For example, people who are happy to sit at a desktop computer and use email at work, can use only mobile devices and shun email for other ways of communicating in their social lives. The talk proposed establishing an "engagement initiative" within our organisations which would bring together new partnerships for IT, especially with HR and other digital initiatives such as in marketing and internal comms.

Another session looked specifically at customer engagement, and how we can improve our customers' experience, and began by asking how many of us gave our customers such a good experience that they were willing to have the company logo as a tattoo. :-)

One of the key takeaways for me from this presentation was "Don't think that the customer experience is something soft, trivial, immeasurable, another name for customer service or will go away if ignored". Interesting.  Something we're looking at at the moment is how to introduce the wow factor into our customer experience.  Maybe we'll know if we've succeed if we see some University of Sheffield tattoos appearing....

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Is the world flat?

This morning I got together with colleagues from the HE Sector across Europe to talk about service portfolios and catalogues. Was really good to exchange ideas and see the different stages in the process we all were. Many different models, and different stages of maturity. Challenges across the patch also similar, and we will be sharing our work with each other to see what we can learn.

At lunchtime I went to the CIO lunch, and listened to a talk by Pankaj Ghemawat on Globalisation and the CIO. An excellent speaker, with a really interesting website.

He's done a lot of research on globalisation, and how the world is not exactly flat yet! It has been said for over150 years that the technology of the time is going to destroy national boundaries and make one world, starting with steamships and railroads.

Rather than summarise everything he said, (I was too busy eating to take notes), I suggest you play with the maps section on his website, or watch his TED talk:

Also today I've had a good walk round the exhibition floor where there are about 150 vendors, some we use, some offering new technologies. Always good to get a feel for what's out there.

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Keynote today was from Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, described as a thought leader.

It was a talk about change and relationship building. A fantastic speaker and storyteller, very compelling. Very difficult to take notes, but as usual, I've jotted down some main key points.

Behaviours don't change easily until your practices change.
For example, If you want a collaborative organisation, change 50% of your staff meetings to collaborative problem solving.

Relationships are critical to all elements of transformational success.
Highest return investment is a relationship investment.
It is the core of your success as a leader.
Need to build an environment round you that invites people in to build a relationship with you.

Most important element of a great relationship is trust.
Structural trust, eg because of role that you're in. But, this can be a barrier.
Professional trust, you get it because you respect each other's capabilities.
Personal trust, this is the critical one. Can be proactively driven and built.

Personal relationships can be built purposely.
People with better social capital are more likely to be promoted early, get better jobs, get larger bonuses.
He tells the story of someone complaining that a colleague always gets promoted, better chances etc because "the boss likes him better". His answer? "No shit."
That is a personal trust proxy.
Employees with most extensive social networks are 7% more productive.

How many of our staff think that we care about their success?
Managers with better social capital have teams which reach goals more rapidly, make better project managers, have teams which generate more creative solutions.
The number one factor for high performing business teams is deep social bonds.

Have many of us have a to do list?
A project plan?
A financial plan

Where is our people plan??

We need to identify the five to ten most critical people that we need to build better relationships with to archive our objectives. Could be vendors, senior team, business partners, own staff.
Then put plan in place to build those relationships.

He told story about how when he works as a golf caddy he was told by his Dad to turn up half an hour early. He used that time to walk the course, look at what was going on, talk to other workers. The information he gained made him one of the best caddies, and often requested.
So, think how you can show up at the golf course half hour early. Get better information.
Think how do you get to know your key people personally.
Build peer to peer connections and peer support groups.
In our teams, ask whether we we would let each other fail, not stay in our silos.

Action plan

Always ask who, not what.
Set goals, and see who can help. Who are the most important people to help us reach goals.

Systematically manage your targets
Focus attention where it counts. Measure the relationship quality. Don't just focus on the people you're comfortable with.

Expand your currency. Do your homework on individuals and how to help. Are you the sort of person people want to be around?

Accelerate relationships in every interaction
Prepare, research people.

Define your lifelines. A group that won't let each other fail.

Build your personal brand. Use social media

Lead with generosity, intimacy, candour and accountability
Ask for coffee, lunch, a call.

Never be afraid to ask, the worst anyone can say is no.

Ask, who in your life do you not let help you?

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Mobile Scenario

Wouldn't be a Gartner conference without a mobile scenario from Nick Jones.

Opportunity is to find new ways to use mobile to innovate. New business processes, more satisfied employees, competitive advantage, improved efficiency. All can be done using mobile technologies. Success is about tactics. Pragmatic decisions. Being agile to take advantage quickly. Don't need long term strategies.

Smart phones dominate devices, and notebooks in the minority, PC shipments falling dramatically. Tablets rising. Will overtake PCs in next couple of years.

Two platform world, iOS and Android. Microsoft still not taken off, but may rise.

Interesting technology trends.

Flexible screens coming, screens wrapped round wrist?
Faster CPUs, more efficiency.
Better cameras, multi lens cameras
More sensors
NFC ac still slow, but payment with it still low
Pressure sensitive touch screens, face recognition.

In wifi area as well as new technologies, are a lot of new requirements. Greater capacity demands, full coverage, new applications. More uses of wifi. Will have to be redesigned in many organisations.

Intersection between smart phones, mobile apps and Internet of things. Smart phone becoming the user interface for controlling or looking at data.
Smart fork, monitors how fast you eat. App to monitor how much you use as an inhaler. Smart home sensors. Smart light bulb. Smart cat collars.
By 2020 could have 500 smart objects in a home, all talking to a smart phone.
Mobile, cloud, information all come together to add value.

Need to make sure mobile strategy and unified comms strategies are developed and implemented in tandem.

Mobile testing is hard because of diversity of devices, but can buy testing time on multiple devices from specialist companies.

Key technologies to support mobile strategy
Cloud tools and apps.
Secure document sharing
Containerisation. Future security strategies will favour containerisation over MDMA (mobile device management)

Customer facing mobility really exciting.
Only 3 reactions to an app. - Yes, no, wow
Need to look at putting wow factor in.
Look at:
Creating new interactions and experiences
Satisfying new needs in new ways
Providing services in new situations
Contextual services

Technologies to look at:
External cloud for stability
Metrics and instrumentation to know how app is performing
Location awareness powerful tool for context
Augmented reality.

Look beyond efficiency and effectiveness and look for transformational change. Invest in ideation. Many innovative uses of mobility are still undiscovered.

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Interview with global CIO of BP, Dana Deasy.
Huge operation, budget of $3bn.
20,000 IT staff in 50 countries.

Really interesting interview. Just jotted a few notes down that resonated with me.

Radical changes, new people brought in with new skills. Biggest change is that BP has moved from trying to cut cost in IT, to spending more. Business is pushing IT, rather than pushing away from it.

Important that no matter how much change you want to implement, you have get the basic IT right.

Cyber threat very important to them, 40% of all attacks are in the energy sector. Organised crime, state sponsored activity, very well organised and sophisticated. Don't always know what they're after. Risk is a part of the weekly agenda.
Big debate at moment is locking down of personal devices. Balance between flexibility and freedom and protecting the firm.

Most IT organisations have sophisticated service stacks, data centres, networks, applications, all with service levels etc. Now need to flip it and move to business outcomes. SLAs are different. Eg Not based on "uptime", but based on whether outcomes have been met. IT professionals have to be able to see services end to end, not just know or understand their bit of the stack. It's not about network availability, or storage, it's about meeting business objectives. Need a radical change of culture. Need people who are business savvy, and technical enough to talk to technical IT people.

HPC very important to them. 4th largest HPC centre in world. Memory measured in petabytes. Analysis of seismic readings requires a lot of compute power.

Huge advocate of getting to know your peers in industry. Eyeopening and sometimes humbling. Only 50% of CIOs in audience regularly network with their peers. Including me of course :-)

Moving to a new role in banking soon. Most important legacy for him to leave behind? "Have I left a sustained talent base and delivered leaders for tomorrow?"

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Enterprise Google

Went to a session this morning on Google for the enterprise. I know we've been a Google customer for several years, but there was nothing else on I wanted to go to, and I was interested to see how they would pitch it, and whether there was anything new. Good session. Pitched very much at the enterprise customers, and selling points were innovation (200 new features released each year), collaboration, and 24/7 support. Security and privacy obviously covered, and they showed the data centre video - I love the disc crusher!

They did a nice demo of the integrated nature of Google apps, including maps using an iPad and I learned things I didn't know were possible. I also learned that if anyone from Google asks you to go on stage as a volunteer say yes! You come away with the mini iPad they were using. 5m companies worldwide now use Google, including 44% of the FTSE100 and 74 of the top 100 US universities.

Showed a nice video from Ocado on how they use Google.

And they'd produced an app for the conference, and at one point had us all standing up playing golf by swinging our phones. First one to get a hole in one got a chromebook!

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Monday, 11 November 2013

Top Ten

As well as large sessions, there's round table discussions, workshops and one to one sessions with Gartner analysts to schedule in. This afternoon I had a session with Simon Mingay who ran a workshop for us recently on service portfolios, discussing with him our latest thinking on where we might go with our service catalogue and transforming it into a portfolio. It was great, well worth it. Lots more to think about now.

This afternoon finished with a session on the top ten strategic technology trends that CIOs should be aware of and factoring into their planning over the next three years. In summary they are:

Mobile Device Diversity & Management
Mobile Apps & Applications
The Internet of Everything
Hybrid Cloud & IT as Service Broker
Cloud/Client Architecture
The Era of Personal Cloud
Software Defined Anything
Web-Scale IT
Smart Machines
3D Printing

Most are self explanatory and not surprising. But a couple of interesting ones.
So, some notes about each one. I might not quite have grasped some of them, but I use the excuse that it's late in the day and I'm tired. :-)

Mobile Device Diversity & Management
No single vendor will dominate, will still be multiple phone and tablet platforms.
Will be many form factors, screen sizes, interaction styles, platforms, architectures. Knowledge workers will use at least 3 to 5 devices by 2016.
Will be management and security issues but many opportunities including new ways of working.

Mobile Apps & Applications
Will be much richer User Interface models – Voice, Video, (gestures, eye tracking).
Microsoft, Google and Apple will battle for leadership.

The Internet of Everything
Connected stuff. Lots of it.

Hybrid Cloud & IT as Service Broker
Hybrid is the future. Along with garlic bread.
It's about linking internal systems with external services.
Combining services to add value.
ITs role will be as an adviser, broker, provider and integrator.

Cloud/Client Architecture
This is very important. It's also very technical. My mind might have wandered off a bit here....

The Era of Personal Cloud
Center of each user's personal digital ecosystem, a unique collection of services for each user, assembled and evolved by each user.
It's the glue connecting the devices and services they choose to
use daily.

Software Defined Anything
Everything will be programmable.
Will have implications. Not sure I understood what they were.
We will live in an API economy though.

Web-Scale IT
A pattern of computing that delivers the capabilities of large scale cloud service providers, eg Amazon, Google. They have had to build their own infrastructure. Some of their best practices will leak down to our environment, eg DevOpps.

Smart Machines
These are cool, and I've blogged about them before.

3D Printing
Growing area. Will be lots of opportunities. Work out what they might be for us.

The end. Thank you.

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Taming the Digital Dragon

Next session is on the CIO Agenda, what are the practical implications of the things covered at a high level in the keynote.

Spending priorities - need to invest in new technologies, but also to refresh our core infrastructures to be ready to take advantage of new technologies.

Where is this innovation coming from?

Large IT vendors not the leaders, (apart from Google). Will be a large number of small vendors, we will have to work with more partners, and probably more immature ones.

Some questions CIOs need to ask themselves:
How do we get our core services digital ready?
What's the role of cloud?
How can we be fast enough?
How do we lead in an increasingly digital era?

Main reason for investing in cloud is not cost, it's innovation and agility. Risk can be managed, and benefits are there.

Many CIOs are running two speeds of IT, fast and traditional. Some using a separate, fast team, some using agile for small projects, some use methods like SCRUM.

Partnering with new, smaller organisations can produce fast, innovative results.

No more vanilla in IT any more. No right answer, all organisations will require different solutions.

Think about the digital strategy, and how it integrates with the IT strategy.

Ask ourselves, what will our digital legacy be.

In summary
Refresh and review infrastructure to be digital ready
Introduce and strengthen two speed approach
Reinvigorate sourcing and partnerships to get more innovation
Define and pursue your digital legacy

Avoid digital leaderships gaps, overlaps or ambiguity

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Leading in a Digital World

Opening keynote of conference proper this morning. Huge auditorium, very slick and professional as usual.
Conference theme is leading in a digital world, focusing on not if or when we go digital, but how fast. We need digital strategies that are integrated with our business strategies.
4 forces driving what we do, cloud, mobile, social, information
We are entering an era of digital industrial economy where every budget is an IT budget.

What should CIOs be responsible for in this new era? They need to manage, and have skills in the following five things:
Digital technology architecture
Enterprise information architecture
Cyber security and risk
Industrialised IT infrastructure
Digital leadership

3 imminent and important challenges:
Digitalisation, what it means, how it grows
Suppliers, and how digitalisation affects them
Information and the opportunities and risks it presents

Transformation of the business. Unprecedented combinations of new technologies. Digital products, services and customer expertise. More transparency, higher effectiveness. Internet of everything. Better connection with customers.
Some Gartner predictions:
By 2017 10% of computers will be learning
By 2020 1 in 3 knowledge workers will be replaced by smart machines they trained.
By 2020 there will be 30 billion devices connected to the intent.

Suppliers will change. In digital industrial economy we will see a new wave of vendors. We will need different supplier management skills.
There will be more IT, not less.
Largest growing technology market is the consumer one. Mobile, smart devices have taken over the technology world. By 2017 more words will be typed on glass than on physical keyboards.

Everything connected to Internet produces data. Data is consumed and produced by smart devices. Is a lack of organisational skills to manage this explosion of data. An opportunity, but also a risk. Cyber security will be an ongoing concern. Big data creates vulnerabilities in our infrastructures. We need to create privacy by design in our infrastructure. Use data driven predictive security. Rapid detection and response will dominate security budgets by 2020.

We are seeing rise of Chief Digital Officers. Are they competing with CIOs? Or are they change agents? CIOs need to build their five skills listed above to become the digital leaders. We need to harness digital technologies to transform our organisations.

Things, people, places and systems come together in the Internet of Things, Nice illustration using a city plaza, buildings and cars communicating with each other. Cars that autonomously move them selves when parking becomes available somewhere cheaper.
Senseaware is an early example of digital future. Monitors everything about transport of organs by FedEx and sends information about location, temperature, light exposure etc.
Financial institutions will also change. Already seeing beginning of this with Kickstarter, bitcoin, peer to peer lending. Can rent your driveway out as a parking space. Someone else parking in your drive used to be a problem, now it's a revenue stream. Everybody can be a technology company.
Every company will become a technology company

Internet of things, will be a huge range of smart objects. Some as simple as a sensor that tells you when a plant needs watering. Some as complex as a car. Every piece of domestic equipment will be controllable and able to report on its status. Already appearing.
Adidas have a football with sensors that link to an app to tell you how to improve your game.
A smart cooking thermometer is linked to an iPhone app to monitor your cooking
Huggies, nappy manufacturer have a sensor called tweetpee! Tells you when nappy needs changing.
Nike fuel band, wrist band monitoring health.

3D printing will totally revolutionise product manufacturing,
Can already print concrete. Jewellers using it. US military has deployed it to fix components.
Gartner predicts that by 2017 at least 7 of the worlds top ten multichannel retailers will be using 3D printing.

Analysing data produced by Internet of things is a huge challenge. Also need decisions, not just analysis. This needs processing power. IBMs Watson is a cognitive computer. Computers can drive cars. They can make sophisticated decisions, and we will have to allow them to do so.

We need to move from running IT to being an information and technology leader. We need to find ways of enabling the digital future and embrace innovation. Explore emerging technologies.

Good start to conference proper.

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Technology strategies

So, I'm in Barcelona at the moment at the Gartner Symposium IT Expo. It's lovely being in one of my favourite cities, which we managed to get round on Segways this morning before the first conference session.

Did I mention I love Segways? And yes, the first session is on a Sunday. Today we're talking about building strategic technology maps.

IT strategies are usually based on supply, demand and control. Traditionally, IT depts concentrated on supply and control. But, demand is most important now. What is the institutional context, what are its capabilities, what does it need, how can IT contribute to the institution's success?

As CIOs, we should be translating the needs of the institution into the services and tools we supply.
We can use the hype cycle to map where we are with technologies. Label technologies at or near peak as experiments, not pilots. Used to stick to right hand side of cycle, but we should be looking now to use some of new technologies, we need to be at leading edge. Could be a competitive advantage.

The education ecosystem is expanding, there are increasing options, and more competition. We used to do everything ourselves, but now we use more and more tools, and buy in services. We need to stop thinking about infrastructure. Think about exostructure. Using the right standards, connectors etc, so we can make use of these tools and services easily and quickly. Need to work out what our own ecosystem is and we are positioned in it.

Lot of institutions still think of IT as a cost. But, the only way an institution is going to succeed is to invest more in IT to bring cost down in other areas.

Expectation setting and management are important parts of any IT strategy, and a funding strategy is key.

Need to know what sort of institution we are, and what we want to be . Develop IT strategy to match this and help institution get to where it wants to be.

Strategic technology quadrant can be very useful. Map what we do on a grid of improving organisational efficiency against improving student and staff experience.

Often as CIOs we are in the cold case, bottom left quadrant, thinking about infrastructure. But this has to be connected to other services in other quadrants.
Then look at how strategically important things are. Can be really good aid to discuWill also help and promote discussion in University wider than IT department.

Interesting discussion about learning stack services, including lecture capture. Conclusion was that it will be more important to have individual capture on staff laptops etc than an echo360 set up in every lecture theatre.

Define your services. Produce a service portfolio, linked to project portfolio with service catalogue at lower level.

Connect the dots
Find the white spaces
Think new things
Redo your service portfolio

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

One Step Beyond

As part of our Sheffield Leader programme, groups have to work on a joint project, and I am lucky to get invited to some of the feedback sessions. Yesterday I went to such a session on a project entitled "One Step Beyond".  This group had decided to look at the relationship of the University with the city, and had concentrated on our relationship with the Muslim community. It had obviously been a journey for them, and they had been in some interesting conversations with the local community, as well as our own chaplaincy, the Student Union Islamic Circle and the BME society. They'd also visited two local mosques, observed prayers, and had the faith explained to them,as well as visiting local Eid celebrations. A lot of fact finding, and some interesting conclusions. We perhaps aren't as visible to local communities as we should be and  it's easy to stay in our "silos" at work, and in our social lives. An interesting example was that many of us are too tied up in our own calendars, celebrations and events, and are often not aware of what's happening in other communities and faiths. A really interesting and thought provoking presentation.

Also so far this week, I've had a number of KITs (not kittens, Keep In Touch meetings), which are vital to me to keep abreast of what's going on in the University, and to network with colleagues.

I also had lunch with a colleague from Gartner, where we talked about how they might help us with some of our big projects which are coming up. Gartner have an enormous amount of research available, and anyone with a University of Sheffield Account can access it through our portal, MUSE. Just click on View All Services and go to Gartner Research. There's some fascinating stuff there.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

How my job has changed....

Last week I posted that I'd given a telephone interview with a journalist and how concerned I was about what I might have said. Well, the result has been published (see here) - there's a bit of poetic licence, and some things I refer to are theoretical rather than actual, but it's not at all bad. It reflects pretty much how I feel about how our jobs are changing.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Back to work

Back at work this week after an amazing holiday in Jamaica - not normally away at this time of year, but last year we got hit by Hurricane Sandy, and they offered us a free holiday to make up for it. It would have been rude to say no.

Interesting to watch  business continuity plans swing into operation on our way out - we were at Gatwick when they suffered a power cut which brought their computer systems down. People with loud hailers appeared telling people what gate to go to, all tickets were checked manually, and although we were lucky and got on the plane, just after the cut, our bags weren't so lucky. Each one taken out of the container by the side of the plane and manually checked against a list. three and a half hours later, we took off. Interesting to see how a complex organisation can cope without its systems, but so much slower.

Some good news to get back to as for the third year running Sheffield's topped the list in the student barometer for student satisfaction for IT Support - I'll post more detail when I have it, but well done everyone.

Spent most of this week catching up, and also gave a telephone interview to a journalist about the changing role of the CIO as technology changes. I always out the phone down after these and think "what did I say?" Well, I hope it makes an interesting read when it comes out. It's always fun seeing how journalists interpret what you say.
 Here's the result of the last one I did. Bears some resemblance to what I remember saying :-)

Other things this week include a catch up with our finance manager about our budget, and some discussions about the data issues around a research proposal.

It was also Senate - our academic governing body -  where we had some really interesting debate around changes to our curriculum structure. Also about the environment we're in at the moment - there's constant change, there's no HE Bill so we're being ruled by a series of ministerial statements, and the "GoveEffect"is affecting everything about our admissions.  And our Vice Chancellor quoted Russell Brand when talking about immigration!

So, as it's Halloween, here's a scary fact to finish on from our comms team - our students print 5.6m pages a year.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Still here....

Lots of stuff to catch up - sorry for lack of posts. Lots happening both at work and in the evening and just haven't had a minute. Last week we had a meeting about how we're doing on our iTunesU Project. It will be launching in the New Year and we're working with our colleagues in Corporate Affairs to deliver it - looks like being very exciting.

Also saw the results of a study of the different points of contact into the department we have.  Although we might think we have a single interface - the Helpdesk  - the truth is we have many. Some are for good reasons, others could be consolidated. Also a lot of variation in how things are recorded - we are trying to standardise on our helpdesk software, but there are still groups using spreadsheets or inboxes. Lots to look at to both improve services, and make sure as a department we're more aware of our interactions with customers.

We had a meeting with a colleague from janet to review the services we get from them, and how we might work together in the future. Today I found myself being interviewed by janet about their super high definition TV project which was premiered last year. Done a lot of interviews recently - as well as three at the Google/janet event last week, I had a phone one on Friday, and have just been asked to do another. I'm in demand darling....

We got quite a bit of media coverage from the interviews, here, here, here and here ;-)  Not all of the quotes are entirely accurate....

Today was our Service Strategy Board, where we catch up on progress on projects - everyone can look at our news page which is here, and is updated shortly after each SSB. One of the issues we touched on was how to get rid of Windows XP. It won't be supported after next April, and although our managed service is based on Windows 7, there are still quite a few unmanaged XP users out there. Our unified comms project is getting underway, and we're working with Corporate Affairs on redesigning our website. Of course, there are still projects we can't progress because we just haven't got the resources, but we prioritise and deliver as much as we can.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

janet and Google announce framework agreement

Today I was at Google HQ in London for the launch of a framework agreement between janet, (part of JISC), and Google Apps for Education.  The agreement will make it easier for Universities and Colleges to sign up for Google Apps by using a model contract which has been approved by janet as meeting UK legal requirements. There's also a detailed guidance note to help Universities which is part of the agreement. There's more information in the press release here.

I was there as we've been a Google client for several years - we went Google in 2007 for students and 2009 for staff, and now have over 56,000 live accounts 15,000 of which are used daily.  We didn't have the benefit of this framework agreement, and did the due diligence and legal checking ourselves.

Today it was interesting to hear from Google and janet about how they see this partnership developing, and to take part in the customer panel with other customers. We were asked why we'd moved to Google  - better service provision, innovation, accessible of all devices including mobile, affordable (free), releases resource to concentrate on more value added services. We also talked about some of the really innovative ways our staff and students are using the full range of apps to collaborate, for learning, for information dissemination and for research. The usual questions about security and privacy and gave the usual answer - know the risks and manage them. It's really not a big issue. Also had an interesting question about the whole ecosystem of cloud based services - it's not just about the apps, but the infrastructure (connectivity, wireless), policies and processes, and support.

Lots of press there, and I did give a couple of media interviews - will look forward to seeing any coverage the event gets. Oh, and Google's offices were pretty good - who wouldn't want somewhere like this to sit in and work?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Question Time

Today I took part in a "Question Time" debate on the Future of Engineering Education in the Faculty of Engineering in some very good company including two PVCs and a Director of Learning and Teaching. Some great questions, including "Are MOOCs an opportunity or a challenge? The answer is of course yes.  Tremendous opportunities, I heard them referred to recently as the democratisation of HE - a much more accessible way for anyone to take a University course. There's also the opportunity to think differently about ways of teaching, pedagogy and course design, and to reach an entirely different demographic population. There are challenges - I used the example of the famous New Yorker quote from the mid nineties drawing attention to the anonymity of the internet - "On the internet, no-one knows that you're a dog". We don't actually know who is really taking our MOOCs, and there have been some instances of disruptive behaviour. They're also a lot of work to put on and have a very low completion rate  - about 5%. But, these challenges will be overcome, and it will be really interesting to see how the MOOC landscape unfolds.

Other questions included "As we grow our student numbers, what better kinds of automated teaching support can we expect, that will assess students’ active competence?" Answers ranged from my rather futuristic view that we will be using gamification techniques and attainment badges to motivate students and measure attainment using student, peer and self assessment, throught to the rather luddite we'll stick to human evaluation. A good debate :-)

We also talked about the importance of getting more women in engineering,  how industry can improve the employability of graduates, and whether we push our students enough.

Given that we are still having ongoing problems with the performance of our VLE, I rather expected a barrage of virtual rotten tomatoes, but being engineers, they understand that things break. And, that being in the hands of a supplier to come up with a fix is not a good place to be.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Grannies on Segways!

Something to amuse you. To help publicise the Mobile University, we had the world's first, and only,  shopping trolley formation dance team, Granny Turismo. On Segways!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Start of term.....

After a morning of meetings, Friday lunchtime was spent celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our Information School. Founded in 1963 as a Postgraduate School of Librarianship with only 3 full time staff, it's now one of an international group of world leading iSchools. There were staff and students there from almost every year of the school - great to see some faces from the past.

I spent some of the weekend working on the Mobile University - a great event of about 30 mini lectures delivered on a vintage bus. The sun shone, and it was very popular with some lectures packed, both on the bus and in the tent where we had the overflow.  We even had deckchairs!

Today started with a Business Continuity Operational Group, where we discussed Business Impact Assessments, Evacuation procedures and a debrief of a recent incident involving a fire!

Today we had a visit from a facilitator who'll be working with us on an awayday for our Service Strategy Board in a few weeks. Discussed what we might cover, and what we wanted to get out of it.

And, we dealt with an incident, (which still has people working on it now as I type this) where we had to take a system down for a while because of performance problems. Unfortunately, it still isn't quite right.  System interruptions are thankfully rare, but when they happen they are very disruptive, especially on the first day of term. I'm really grateful to the people who work so hard trying to deal with them, from the people trying to fix them to the ones dealing with our staff and students.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Inspirational, Mobile University!

There are some things that happen that reinforce my view that the University is more than a place to work, but is a community. One of those events was the 24HourInspire which took place earlier this year in memory of Tim Richardson. 24 hours of lectures - my diary here, and more importantly the lectures are here.  Today I went to the first planning meeting for next years event - great ideas, lots of enthusiasm. Watch this space!

Another great event happening this weekend is the Mobile University. Three days of lectures from some of our best young academics on a variety of subjects all delivered on a vintage double decker bus!

All part of our civic engagement mission, to bring the University to the people of our wonderful city. And of course, an event wouldn't be an event without us providing the technology. A wireless base station transmitting a wireless signal without being connected to the internet (I have really struggled to get my head around that!), and mini iPads to deliver the slides to the passengers. There's even a conductors cap for someone to wear. Looks like it should be fun!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Welcome to new students


Well done to CiCS colleagues for their great page for new students, especially the new brochure we've been giving out to them. Although I think the order might be wrong - I don't think they unpack before connecting....

There's some great short videos on there to help students use our services and stay safe on line. All were made in house by our comms team, particularly our intern Kieran. This is my particular favourite, where Kieran has a starring role. Love the moustache.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

You dirty rat....

Just realised I haven't posted about the end of the Gartner conference - great finish. An improvisational comedian - Neil Mullarkey - showing us how the techniques used in improv can be used to improve engagement with others. Colleagues, customers, all benefit from increased engagement and it was fascinating to see some of his techniques. I've seen Neil in action a couple of times with the Comedy Store Players, and am fascinated by how good improvisational comedians can seemingly think so quickly and be so creative and funny. He taught us about how to listen, how to offer things to people and how to deal with blocks. And, as soon as I saw 3 microphones on the stage, I knew someone would have to go up with him. And as soon as he got my name, I knew I'd be one of them. And I was. Great fun trying out some improv games.

And now I'm back, and so are the students!  There's a real buzz about the place. I missed most of the arrivals weekend, but managed to get to The Edge on Sunday for an hour. The sun was shining and it looked great as always

Lots of CiCS staff on hand to help students get on line and help out with any IT problems. Not as busy as in previous years, which is good, means we're getting all the pre-arrival stuff right.

This week registration starts in earnest, and without tempting fate, it seems to be going very well. The sports hall where most of the process occurs had virtually no queues - looked very different to in previous years! Again, testament to all of the hard work put in to improve the student experience when they arrive. Great teamwork across many different areas.

One of the few problems we had to deal with today was the loss of connectivity to one of the accommodation blocks. After investigation we discovered that a rat, (or some other animal) had chewed through the optic fibre!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Learning about user experience from app stores

Always try to catch a Nick Jones presentation if I can at Gartner events. This ones on App stores, and what we can learn from them

100bn apps will be downloaded from app stores this year. Some will be rubbish, some will have wow factor. How do we get wow factor from our apps?

Key user experience (UX) lessons from app stores:

Emotion matters - happiness, engagement, wow factor
New design principles are emerging - design for partial attention, interruption, expose experience rather deliver functions
New devices and habits enable new opportunities - eg using tablet while watching TV, mobile apps controlling drones
Watch for new ideas - eg6 second video clips,

Understand and design for user context
Understand context of user. Where are they, what are their goals, attitude, which device is nearest. What are their habits and preferences. If don't understand context, get a lot of things wrong.

A mobile experience is more than pixels behind glass. More senses ar engaged, audio, haptics, accelerometers, voice.
A user experience is not a user interface. Lot more dimensions to it. Aesthetics important, as is end to end process.
Design for issues outside your control, eg battery life, network performance, data quotas,
Think end to end user experience.

Some dos and dont's
1. Do invest more in testing — it doesn't end once you ship the app

2. Don't "mobilize" your website or portal - generally stuff on website not designed for mobile. Putting the website on a mobile device is not an app.

3. Do ensure the user understands and approves of what you're doing,
e.g., location tracking, asking for access to system resources

4. Don't provide everything users ask for. It's not economically sensible to
respond to every request. Also produces apps which are overly complex.

5. Do provide a feedback mechanism. App stores are social networks, users
tell you what they like and hate

6. Don't add too many features, good mobile UX design is about providing just enough functionality

7. Do experiment with new ingredients in the recipe, e.g., mobile + social

8. Do understand platform rules and expectations, eg a lot of android users don't have sophisticated phones

9. Do design apps for minimal (or zero) support

Some of best mobile designers use different principles, eg HEART
Task success

Good UX apps will improve process efficiency and effectiveness, employee and customer satisfaction.
Need to put pressure on vendors, increase weighting of UX when selecting products
Use agile life cycles, iteration is important.
Simple features can create wow factor. Eg app to read and submit gas meter reading utilises flash on phone as torch to see it with.

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Much more than robots

Session on Smart Machines, the next big disruption.

Apparently the era of smart machines is emerging now.

So, what are they?
Robots aren't necessarily smart!

Some common features:
They encroach on human space: Do what we thought only humans could do
Surprise: We didn't think technology could do that
Some smart machines are only clever brute force automation eg the Google Self Driving Car

Some technologies smarter than others. Really clever ones are self learning, autonomous, self guided, adaptive, creates its own rules, seeks data to test hypotheses, detects novelty.
Deep learning, eg language translation.
If if's not autonomous, it's not smart. Have to be able to do things on their own.

Some examples
Movers - autonomous vehicles
Kivas. Work in warehouses, collect items for dispatch

Robotic pack animal. Follows soldier. Recognises voice commands

This truck is used in mines. Autonomously drives, navigates around people, rock slides etc.

X47b drone just being developed. Can land and take off autonomously
Curiosity Rover on Mars another good example.

Sages - information based helpers
Virtual personal assistants
Showed a video clip from an Apple vision for a Knowledge navigator, produced in 1987. Demonstrated many of the things we have now, voice recognition, context etc. Siri hasn't quite got there yet.

Google are building a set of personal assistant technologies. GoogleNow.

Smart advisors
Focuses on content, is an expert on particular areas.
IBM's Watson best example. Can be delivered to a smart phone. Some examples of its use:
Clinical oncology. Recommending treatment plans. Can digest and analyse scientific knowledge in seconds.
Accelerating medical research. Retirement account planning.
All done with co development

E discovery
Can digest numerical data eg sales reports, and create textual analysis using AI technologies. Removes perceptual biases.
This is a good example of a textual analysis from a completely numerical sales report.

Baxter. World friendliest robot. Grab it's hand and show it what to do.
Robotic personal assistants. Observant, predictive. For people who need physical help.

This is a whole new way of people and technology working together to be far more effective than before.
Will be competitive advantage in using these technologies.

Smarter machines and smarter people will raise performance and lower costs.
But will there be significant unemployment? Truck drivers?
Will in some cases replace people. But will also assist, advise, help and extend people.
By 2020 there will be personal smart machines. Bring your own robot? Consumerisation will play big role in development of smart machines.

Expert advisors, Watson type machines, will start to take off in 2015
Personal agents by 2017
Autonomous vehicles by 2023

Some actions for us:
Can we exploit technologies like Watson to provide smart advisors using our specialist knowledge?
Could any part of our organisation benefit from being advised by smart advisors?
Look at implications of virtual personal assistants, security, privacy etc. Our employees and customers will use them, and we need to be prepared.
Smart machines will assist, advise, extend, observe and help knowledge workers to perform non routine tasks. Look at where we could pursue smart machine technologies.

Really interesting talk, showing that smart machines are so much more than Robots. Watson looks really cool. How could Universities, with our huge amount of specialist knowledge, use it?

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Leading a Controlled Revolution

Interesting case study from Schneider Electric about how they introduced a social enterprise program.

Big company, 150,000 employees in 100 countries. Introduced the programme to tap into the knowledge held by the employees, to connect to people. To make sure people are connected to each other, and connected to information.
IT department is a key player in the programme. Part of IT strategy is working smarter.

3 main objectives.
One window to the world of Schneider electric
Know what's happening around us
Bring collaboration to our line of work

Designed an enterprise wide social collaboration platform using Tibbr, and are building a collaborative and personalised employee portal. Integrating a collaboration layer, wikis, blogs etc. Will eventually integrate with business apps to create a desktop.

Deployed in a phased way using focused communities and locations, and influential teams. Trained them, showed them carefully how to get best out of solutions. Then let it spread out of pilot group, ie let it go viral. Eventually opened it up to whole company. Gone from 6000 users to 50,000. 70% of users return every week.

Three phases, connect, contribute, collaborate.
Connect- learn what a network is, understand how to use it, observe conversations.
Contribute - use new media to broadcast content, post new content, engage in 2 way dialogue, launch and participate in conversation, develop working relationships
Collaborate - really use the tools to collaborate across teams to support business objectives of the organisation. It's all about adding value.

Using it for IT support, users posting questions on social platform instead of going to Helpdesk, crowd sourcing solutions.
Also being used to share information on vendors, to get help with engineering problems.
Communities are being formed on the platform, >100. Communities of experts, of practice, of interests. Has caused big culture change. Comms used to be top down, now much more bottom up, and much more interactive. Comms team not happy at first, didn't like concept of comments etc, wanted to keep top down communication. Have changed now :-)

Some challenges
Technology - fix the basics, check the quality of product before release, have clarity on technology landscape, have a roadmap for future, develop apps in house if cant get functionality from vendors.

Leadership involvement is necessary - actual participation, not sponsorship.
Set up communities, communication and training, celebrate successes
Is a space called Cafe Schneider for non work related conversations.

Good presentation. Glad our comms team aren't like theirs :-)

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