Thursday, 2 May 2013

Sharing, collaborating and more awards.

In the HE sector we are very collaborative, much more so than in the private sector, despite being in competition for students and research grants. It's a theme that came up a lot in the last couple of days, as I've been out of Sheffield. On Tuesday I traveled to another University where I am a member of their new IT Committee. They have some major projects,  replacing nearly all of their enterprise systems, including finance, HR, payroll and student. Because they obviously like a challenge, they are using a best of breed approach rather than an integrated system to cover more than one set of functionality :-)  That's in addition to the other challenges we are all facing and other projects in areas such as learning and teaching and research. I'm there as an external to offer advice and guidance where I can, and give an outsiders perspective. Of course, it's not entirely altruistic, as there is a lot of learning to be done from visiting other institutions. In this case, I learned of the existence of the McKinsey Report into The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies. I've had a quick look and the summary looks very interesting.

Yesterday I was at the Janet Brokerage Advisory Board. Well, that's how it started out, but as the funding which established the Brokerage was from the University Modernisation Fund which was time limited, we're now a Sector Advisory Board looking at Cloud Solutions. Extremely interesting and productive discussion, and one of the most enjoyable meetings I've been to for a while. We were looking at the way JANET, as part of the new JISC, could help Universities with adopting cloud solutions. What could be revenue generating (ie what would the sector be prepared to pay for), and what should be provided free as part of what you would expect from an NREN. We were looking at services, not just infrastructure -  SaaS, IaaS and PaaS (Software, Infrastructure and Platoform as a Service).  JANET are working on getting vendor agreements with our major cloud vendors (eg Microsoft, Google and Dropbox) to save HEIs legal fees and make services easier to adopt.  We also talked about HPC and how much of that could be in the cloud, and why we are building our own.   Collaboration with each other played a big part of our discussions - on procurement, on negotiation of contracts, on sharing facilities, services, good practice and business plans. All good stuff, and I look forward to seeing the business plan which is the next stage of the evolution of this service.

Last week I posted about Tim Birkhead's award for teaching together with the video that we helped with, and tonight it was good to go to a celebration in his department. They were also celebrating being awarded  Athena Swan Silver status which is great news for them. The Athena Swan charter recognises employment good practice for women in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine). The University overall holds a bronze award, and this is the first silver award in the Institution, so well done on a good week of news for Animal and Plant Sciences.

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