Thursday, 29 August 2013

Back to work, again

Hi folks - I'm back, and have just logged into blogger to find my last post stuck as a draft - hence it only just being published. You must have wondered where I'd gone :-)   Whitby was fantastic, in case you're wondering. If you're really interested you can read about it on my personal blog. This year you're not getting the obligatory morris dancing photo, but one of the cottage we used to stay in a few years ago. Or rather, where the cottage used to be - lost to a landslide, and I must admit, many of the quaint cottages perched on the cliffs now look a bit unsafe to me...

So, back to work. This week has so far been about meeting the new Student Union officers - always a pleasure, looking at a number of HR matters, and dealing with an incident. For obvious reasons, can't say too much about it, but it involved three people thinking about it, one watching them, and a huge chocolate cake, which is out of shot!

Also had a good conversation this morning with a Gartner analyst about a workshop we're doing next week on service portfolios and service catalogues where we'll be reviewing our existing service catalogue and looking at how we might develop a portfolio. Should be interesting.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


Today begins one of our busiest times of year  - A level results are announced!  We've been busy for the last few days - A level results are sent to us in a file transfer over the weekend, and we have a few days to process them so that when the students get them we're prepared.

We're heavily reliant on our systems being available so for a period of 10 days we have a change freeze - no-one can make changes to any of our systems unless they are essential (of course, it can't be a complete change freeze, or nothing would actually work!), but we try and minimise risk as much as possible.

The past few days we've been setting up on of our open access computer rooms to be the confirmation and clearing hub, and this morning at 8am we were off!

Dedicated incoming and outgoing telephones lines are set up, about 40 temps answering calls,a nd another 6 or so staff making outgoing calls. Big plasma screens round the room gving status updates on courses and information for the operators. Our voice and data and IT support teams are down there making sure everything works OK and providing stas on phone calls to the admissions team. For example they can see how many calls are waiting, how long they've been waiting for and then suggest changes to the incoming/outgoing operators.

Also, our colleagues from epiGenysis who wrote the clearing system are on hand to provide techncial support and help with data issues

Altogether a great team effort, which if this morning is anything to go by, ably assisted by donuts!

After today, no more blogging for a week as I'm off to one of my favorite annual events - Whitby Folk Week - so see you after that.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Still here....

Saying you're too busy to blog is a bit of a lame excuse really isn't it, but that's how it feels this week. Or is could of course be that I'm struggling to get back in the swing of it after a couple of weeks off. And, there's not been a lot happening to blog about - been busy with HR stuff and Finances mostly.

Had a good meeting at the end of last week with colleagues from JANET - talking mainly about changes happening in the JISC, and I'm pleased to see that Phil Richards from Loughborough has been appointed Chief Innovation Officer.  Will be interesting to see how innovation is taken forward. We touched on Janet6, the new Janet network - it's going very well, with many areas, including us, live already. We also took the opportunity to show off our creative media facilities, our producuction and edit suites and the equipment loan service.

This week I've had a conference call with a Gartner analyst about the draft  Digital Strategy which we are working with Corporate Affairs to implement. What became clear was our existing strategy is very much focused on marketing, and what we don't have is a University Digital Business Strategy. That's something that could be interesting to pull together. It would need to cover all of our business areas - Teaching and Learning, Research, Internationalisation, Civic Engagement, as well as operational areas.

The other thing that I've used a lot this week is HipChat - something we're trialling for use in incidents, and for having technical chats that twitter and other social media isn't appropriate for. Hosted off site so resilient, and private. Impressed with how it works so far. Not that impressed that I've had to use it, but that's another story :-)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

MUSE is dead, long live MUSE

Well, back from hols - great relaxing break, only spoiled by the amount of emails in my inbox, most of them junk. Perhaps we should all adopt this technique - put a vacation message on saying all mails received while you're away will be deleted. As long as you give an alternative address for urgent things to be forwarded to (PA, a colleague), would it be a good idea?

Exciting day to come back to work yesterday - launch of  new portal - MUSE (My University of Sheffield Environment, in case you wondered).  All gathered at 8am, and after a bit of a hiccough due to a slight hardware failure problem over the weekend, some magic was done  and it was live. Here's the team just a couple of minutes after it had gone live

Not forgetting Nomit who was out of shot.

All developed in house by our great team of developers, it looks really good and has been the result of a team effort.  This is just the first phase, there's lots more to come. What was really pleasing was how little issues we had - we had extra staff on the Helpdesk standing by, but very little came through. So, shows what good preparation and comms were done.

There's a nice little video about it here:

The videos are produced by our intern, who is doing a great job. Here's one he's just finished on phishing: