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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Monday, 16 September 2013

The Social Portal

Final session of the day from Jim Murphy on Your Next Intranet, the Social Portal.

The old intranet vs the new social portals. Main differences:

Company centric vs People centric
Broadcast vs Engaging
Authoritative vs Empowering
Controlled vs Flexible
Orchestrated vs Open
Stable vs Adaptive
Business to Employee vs Employee to Employee
One place to go vs Omnipresent

Lots of people looking to replace their company intranets with more socially orientated platforms.

Intranet/portal can have many uses ranging from a gateway to applications, to a web based workplace.
Moving more from company centric, corporate news, corporate applications, through to people centric with voluntary, free form profile pages, social software, self directed team support.

Revenue of enterprise portal vendors is declining, enterprise social software revenue is growing,

Employee portal used to be there to improve adoption of enterprise systems. Now using social to help adoption of portal. Should be thinking how we can improve adoption of social. Stop thinking about technology, think about what the user experience is and what they want.
Not, what's in it for the organisation, but what's in it for me. Don't create an environment that someone has to go to, but an environment that goes to them, ie is wherever they're working.

Social intranets require new skills and disciplines:
Traditional cf. Social:
Executive sponsor. cf. Leadership participation
Site administration cf. community management
Content management. cf. content curation
Site design cf. User experience design

Need interaction and interoperability between mobile apps, enterprise apps, people centred services.
Provide services where people need them. Don't make them go to another environment.
Social capability should be in all portal strategies
But, "social" is no panacea, compliment it with business process strategies, content management, portal.

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Employee engagement

Having spent lunchtime juggling plates, folks, drinks, napkins and eating whilst standing up and talking to suppliers, it's time for a session on employee engagement, as opposed to customer engagement. Something I'm really interested in, and want people to feel part of a community that they can collaborate in and influence when they come to work. Lets see if I learn anything I can put into practice.

Why is employee engagement important?
Done well, engagement promotes better business performance and work efficiencies. Better customer and partner relationships, great innovation, improved quality, quicker problem resolution, improved knowledge sharing, richer more diverse culture. And, a better place to work.

It should be based on:
Trusted relationship with manager
Opportunities for learning and growth
Understanding and sharing the organisation's mission
Understanding individual's role and responsibilities
Sense of belonging and a shared culture.

Who's usually involved in employee engagement schemes?
Executive team, HR
Who's not?
The employees, the IT department
Not only should they be, they should be synergistic partners

IT needs to partner with the business to promote engagement:
Revisit consumerisation
Reach out to shadow IT
Understand demographic shifts
Become a stakeholder in the changing nature of work
Team with leadership and HR teams on engagement efforts

IT has a lot to contribute, but it needs a new mindset. We need to rething our approach to architecture, governance, support, identity, compliance.

Need to strategically use consumer computing tools and styles for business purposes. Think about people, networks, communities.

Think about all IT projects as engagement initiatives:
Upgrade the email client --> Rethink the inbox
Deploy social networking --> Optimise engagement
Application development --> User experience design
Deploy corporate systems --> Create an App Store
Respond to BYOD --> Lead BYOD

Case study:
Auto manufacturing firm used micro blogging tool to socialise the Helpdesk
Questions posed into twitter like space, private to the company
Any employee can answer questions, not just technicians and Helpdesk staff
Data is mined by helpdesk to augment FAQs, knowledge base and their own understanding of service
Collective knowledge of community is leveraged giving better insights into problems, and to gather information and opinion on future plans

Any engagement initiative should:
• Provide a common framework for diverse IT initiatives
• Supply a common language to talk to the business
• Deliver greater ROI from existing and new IT investments
• Provide a unifying theme across IT and shadow IT
• Provide new challenges as workloads shift to the cloud
• Foster new approaches to partners and customers
• Create new partnerships with leaders and human resources

But IT itself must become more engaging ...

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Digital Gaga

Next session is from Jamie Anderson, described as a management guru in the programme. session is on Doing Business in the Digital World, Myths and Realities.

Case study about customer engagement using a brand which has risen to be a global brand in only 3 years - Lady Gaga! Fabulous animation showing her success. She has:
40.5m twitter followers
50.5m Facebook followers

At a time when music industry in decline. Done it all by understanding customer engagement. Have to stand out and be different, but also have to be a brilliant musician. Also have to be connected. Need a brand. Used to hum Queens's Radio Gaga so given name (brand) of Lady Gaga at 18.
Then worked on look, art performance on stage.

Launched as $4m start up project. No record contract etc
Thought differently. Singles usually 3 minutes because that's what fitted on a vinyl single.
Couldn't get radio time, so went straight to video, on YouTube. Length of video depends on attention span. 7m 47secs optimum time apparently,
Changes her look weekly. Keep customers interested.

There are 4 pillars of engagement in digital world demonstrated by Lady Gaga:

1. Excitement. Have to excite customers with services

Must have great product.

Also need to be known. Connectors in music industry used to be DJs. Now new ones especially music bloggers. So, they targeted influential music bloggers, and generated 10s millions hits on YouTube. That lead to her videos being viewed millions of times.
Now has 2.2bn downloads. For free.
Her debut tour was 200 concerts raising $227.4 revenue.

Forming a community is very important. Use social media for mass intimacy. Only person with password to Lady Gaga account is Lady Gaga. Authenticity is hugely important. She retweets, answers, thanks.
Gets involved eg with anti bullying campaigns. That leads to....

2 Emotional connections

Give things that are special, that other people don't get. Eg telling twitter followers about perfume launch.
Picture of her without make up caused huge spike in sentiment analysis. So, has done it again.
Take control eg Daily Mail published picture of her looking fat, tweeted about her problems with weight control.

Built her own social media platform. Little monsters. Have to ask to become part of it......

3 Exclusivity

Information just for you. Makes you feel special.

Gaganomics. Given away more than 2bn free downloads to sell 23m albums and 91 m singles. Piracy still rife but you don't steal from your friends.

Now, streaming (Spotify) is changing download market. Producing huge amount of data and analytics. Using analytics to track customers behaviour, likes etc.

4 eCommerce
How do you connect with customers?. How do they connect with you? Need to be whoever your customers want you to be. Lady Gaga has been with iTunes, Amazon, Spotify.

Excitement, Emotional connectivity, Exclusivity. eCommerce - get them right and you'll get customer engagement.

Brilliant presentation, and nice to hear some Lady Gaga music and watch some videos. This blog won't have done it justice, but interesting to see a case study using a musician.

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Social, Mobile, Digital

Well, here I am at the Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit in a lovely sunny London. Shame I'm going to be in conference sessions in a windowless room for the next 9 hours!
Will blog as much as I can, but as usual, it will be in note form.

Opening keynote is from Daryl Plummer, on Succeeding in the Digital, Social and Mobile Enterprise. I expect to hear those three words a lot during this conference, together with with "cloud".

The way we engage with each other has changed. The way we engage with technology is also changing. From wearable technologies to 3D printers, innovation is allowing us to engage in new ways. We need to be adaptive and aggressive about how we deal with these changes which are taking place.

Consumerisation revolution started with the PC, and is continuing. After the PC, the web, allowed people to interact with information everyday. Now we have mobile, cloud, social software. Think mobile first. Have to accommodate the mobility of people in all of our services.

The consumer is changing. Live in a culture of we, not me. Expect to be able to share, to interact, give feedback and expect it to be heard. Engaged, not passive. Experience orientated. Informed not ignorant. Connected. Consumers expect to collaborate. People will use technology and avoid telling IT department if they are disconnected. Dropbox good example. People will use it even if IT dept say they can't. Twitter and Facebook still banned in some places.

Employees are business consumers. ( NB Consumers not users. Not drug addicts :-) ). Will acquire technologies that IT dept not aware of. We need to help them and connect with them.
This disruptive innovation has 4 main forces, social, mobile, information, cloud.

Need to think about different ways of using information. Sentiment analysis is more important than surveys. Mining for trends is more important than mining for data elements. The wisdom of crowds can be mined.

Interfaces changing. No longer roll, click, lean, type. Now gesture, touch, talk, swipe. Services need redesigning for mobile. Can't just move them.

IT is moving out of the domain of IT the department. Our role will be to add value, coordinate, facilitate - not control. We need to concentrate on improving the experience. Simplicity of design, simplicity of use. Architecture and strategies need to change. Identify scenarios for change - especially in how we interact with employees, customers, partners. Put control into hands of customers. Lots of good examples. Airlines, on line check in etc. Some airlines use iPads for entertainment, continue watching movie after flight has landed.
Guardian, moved to cloud, launched Guardian API, launched on Amazon cloud. Extended their engagement, kindle edition, Facebook apps using API, social sites etc.

Digital engagement initiatives require input from portal managers, web developers, mobile managers, enterprise architects, content specialists.

If we don't get involved, it will happen without us.

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Dead Hedwigs, Pierced Angels and Omi

A common theme of this blog is why I love working at the University - last night was another good example. An invite to the opening of another exhibition in our great Western Bank Library Exhibition Space. This time it's of the work of the Sheffield sculptor, Anthony Bennett. Anthony has been working for 30 years, but has been relatively unknown till recently. He has produced some amazing work - the Pierced Angel at the bottom of the Library stairs is really impressive

But the strangest piece of all is of The Great Omi - aka The Barbaric Beauty or The Zebra Man. He was really Horace Ridler, a British cavalry officer in WW1 who after the war decided to join the circus. He had a variety of mundane jobs, and in 1935 decided to transform himself into an exotic sideshow curiosity. He was tattooed and pierced, and this is an extremely lifelike sculpture of him. So lifelike it's creepy. I kept expecting it to wink at me.

It's a great exhibition - curated of course by the great Professor Vanessa - here she is opening it in front of another work - Humbug

If you can get to see it, it's open to the public every weekday from 0900 to 1900 and weekend afternoons - details here.

My only concern was I thought that he had killed some Hedwigs - but he assured me they were handmade...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wow factor

Several years ago I was involved in a really exciting project as part of the client design team for the Information Commons. This lunchtime I was back pouring over plans and 3D images, discussing power supplies, even talking about colour swatches - all very exciting. Our New Engineering Building (working title only, watch this space) is starting to be built. The old hospital site has been cleared, a big hole has appeared, and piles are being driven.

Although the building will have a substantial amount of space for Engineering teaching, there will also be a lot of student-led learning space, or as we call it, IC-type space. These are the bits that we're interested in, and it was great today to see how it's all coming together. There'll be many more group  rooms, silent areas, group study areas and we'll be seriously increasing our creative media facilities for both production and editing of all kinds of media.

The building will certainly have the wow factor. Desinged by the same architect who designed the IC, it has an innovative cladding, and although some media coverage has referred to it as a pyramid, it really isn't - it's more of a cuboid, although from this angle it does look a bit as though it's higher at one end.

The inside is going to be really funky, with a spiral staircase, pods, and bridges in a central atrium. Here's a couple of taster images of the latest renderings.

Glad we've started the really detailed design and the build now - can't wait to see it start to rise out of the hole in the ground!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Art on the pasternoster and other ideas

Several big meetings over the last couple of days as we get back into the swing of the new academic year. Yesterday was the Process Improvement Steering Group, an important, high level body chaired by the VC which oversees the work of our PIU (Process Improvement Unit).  Lots of projects in various stages of progress - you can see a list of them here.  There's been good progress in the year that the unit has been set up, and the VC is holding a formal launch event later this week. The PIU uses a mixture of techniques, concentrating on LEAN, and it was interesting to hear about some work going on in our Management School using Six Sigma  which puts much more emphasis on data analysis.

Then it was our Service Strategy Board where we had our standard look at reports from all of our projects, and highlight reports from each of our service managers. Interesting discussion about resources, particularly as we introduce more and more new services, seemingly without stopping any. System and infrastructure support is becoming a real issue for us -  I'm sure every IT Director is facing the same issues. It doesn't help when things come out of "left field" at us - things that are apparently very important and have to be implemented, but they haven't come through any of our governance processes, and we have no resource allocated to them.

Today was PSE (Professional Service Executive), and we had a brilliant presentation from our new Student Sabbatical officers. Our aim is to work collaboratively with them to maintain the University's exceptional provision for students, and we have a good track record of an excellent working relationship with them.
They outlined their prioritues for the year to us, which fall under the following themes:

Well Being  - sport, links to health service, encouraging students to be active, helping women feel safe, safety abroad workshops, training for tutors on support for students

Community - volunteering, outreach, student engagement, getting women into STEM subjects through science outreach

Campus Life - promoting Reslife, integrating home and international students, public art on campus, (they suggested an art exhibition on the paternoster lift - inspired!), making rooms accessible for student societies, eliminating booking charges

Postgraduate research students - issues relating to contracts, continuation fees, pastoral care, allocation of teaching hours

Protecting international student rights - campaign against NHS fees, leveraging #weareinternational campaign, accommodation issues, welfare

Student Union - set up gumtree network accessible through MUSE for textbooks, household items, languages; implementing SU policies across University including living wage, funding education not war, bottled water ban

Student Voice - undertaking a one year research project using active critical engagement resulting in a long term strategic plan for the University written by students.

Great set of priorities, (especially the last one) - looking forward to working with them.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Time To Ring Some Changes

Yesterday we had a visit from a Gartner Analyst, Simon Mingay,  to talk to us about the "art and science of service portfolios". We had as many service managers, process owners and exec as we could get, and it turned into an excellent workshop. Simon talked us through a number of principles - for example, the service portfolio is an outside-in view -  nothing to do with how we do stuff, how many people we have working on stuff, how much stuff has cost, or how important stuff is.

It is a demand-led tool, there for the benefit of our customers, not there for the convenience of the IT department.

We talked a lot about why we need a service portfolio - common reasons are to communicate the value we bring, to define what we are trying to optimiise, and to make it easier to do business with the IT department.

Defining what we mean by a service also sparked an interesting discussion. A service is an action, not a thing. If you can point a stick at it, it's a thing not a service. So, servers and networks are not services. What runs on them probably is. So, a service is an action that delivers a benefit to a customer, and often, but not always, involves a technology, people and processes. Not all of our services involve a technology - process improvement or project management for example.

The difference between a service portfolio and a service catalogue was something that we haven't really thought much about before, but now need to get our heads around. The portfolio's audience is usually the senior executive team of an organisation,  and it should be is a strategic, value based description of the IT organisation's mission role and capabilities. It can be used for investment planning, prioritisation and business justification.   The catalogue is used more on a day to day basis by customers and is an operational tool to simplify service requests from customers and to link to automated back off processes for improved IT efficiency.

We've been developing our own service catalogue for a couple of years now, and Simon had seen it in advance and reviewed it for us. Definitely time to make some changes. We need to separate it out into a portfolio (which will mainly be the top level - the left hand column) which will need value statements adding,  benefits listing, and SLAs writing, and a catalogue, which will be mainly the right hand side column. Once we've weeded out the technologies masquerading as services.

Good debate about what is in ours that shouldn't be - there was general agreement that "infrastructure", where it refers to hardware, is not a service , but there are aspects of it that can be described as services   - access to the internet for example. I was also surprised at how much was missing. High value services such as process improvement, project management, consultancy services including advice and guidance don't appear at all.

An excellent session with lots of debate and questions, and I think we were all agreed that it's a good time for a review!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Plain English

I posted yesterday about the Design Principles adopted by the GDS. Well, I've also been shown the content principles, and in particular a list of banned words if you want to write in plain English. Here's a few - see how many you regularly use in web pages or other comms - it's quite scary -  I'm very guilty.....

agenda (unless it is for a meeting)
collaborate (use ‘working with’)
commit/pledge (we need to be more specific – we’re either doing something or we’re not)
deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’)
deploy (unless it is military or software)
dialogue (we speak to people)
disincentivise (and incentivise)
drive (you can only drive vehicles; not schemes or people)
drive out (unless it is cattle)
facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you are helping)
foster (unless it is children)
going forward (unlikely we are giving travel directions)
impact (as a verb)
in order to (superfluous – don’t use it)
key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing isn’t ‘key’ – it’s probably ‘important’)
land (as a verb. Only use if you are talking about aircraft)
leverage (unless in the financial sense)
one-stop shop (we're not a retail outlet)
progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)
promote (unless you are talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)t
slimming down (processes don’t diet – we are probably removing x amount of paperwork, etc)
strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
tackling (unless it is rugby, football or some other sport)
transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Digital design principles

I'm quite impressed with the work of the Government Digital Service, set up by Martha Lane Fox as a team in the Cabinet Office to transform government digital services. I've heard a couple of their key people speak at various conferences, so will have blogged about some of their principles before, especially their tagline  -  Digital by Design.

Today I've been having a look at their  principles for designing digital services - and they are excellent. We certainly adopt some of them to a greater or lesser extent when developing services,  but I think we could do with having a close look at all of them. The website is extremely well set out - very concise descriptions of the principles, and for each one a drop down set of examples of how they've put the principle into practice. In summary they are:

1 Start with needs
  - start by identifying and thinking about real user needs and design around those — not around the way the ‘official process’ is at the moment

2 Do less
 - only do what you can do. If someone else is doing it — link to it.

3 Design with data
 -  learn from real world behaviour and continue this into the build and development process — prototyping and testing with real users on the live web.

4 Do the hard work to make it simple
 - making something look simple is easy; making something simple to use is much harder — especially when the underlying systems are complex — but that’s what we should be doing.

5 Iterate. Then iterate again.
 -  start small and iterate. Release Minimum Viable Products early, test them with real users, move from Alpha to Beta to Launch adding features and refinements based on feedback from real users.

6 Build for inclusion
 -  build a product that’s as inclusive, legible and readable as possible.

7 Understand context
 - don't design for a screen but for people. Think  about the context in which services are used. Are they on a phone? Are they only really familiar with Facebook?

8 Build digital services, not websites
 - services don’t begin and end at websites. Might start with a search engine and end somewhere physical.

9 Be consistent, not uniform
 - wherever possible  use the same language and  design patterns — this helps people be familiar with  services. But, when this isn’t possible,  make sure the underlying approach is consistent.

10 Make things open: it makes things better
 - share code, designs, ideas, intentions, failures,  with colleagues, with users, with the world.  The more eyes there are on a service the better it gets — howlers get spotted, better alternatives get pointed out.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Annual Report

Time to review the past academic year,  take stock of what we've achieved and produce our Annual Report. You can read it here (optimised for tablets), or download a copy as a pdf here. Each year we try and find something new to include, and this year there's a lot more facts and figures, which I hope you all find interesting.

 Thanks to the Comms team for pulling it together and to the Service Managers for the content - as always I'm happy to receive any comments on it.