Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Merry Christmas

And so another year comes to an end, marked by the annual event which is the famous CiCS Christmas Party.  I hope everyone enjoyed it, and has a good break. Here's some pictures:

Friday, 19 December 2014

December round up

Myself and the Assistant Directors went away for a couple of days last week. to look at two main items. First was an analysis of how we interact with our major stakeholders, whether we have it right, and what can we do to improve it. Before we went we did a survey of some of our senior stakeholders, and their responses were extremely useful. We got some very good feedback, and some that was more constructive :-) What was obvious were some big differences in different parts of the University. We used the following grid to map our stakeholders which plots how much power and influence people have, and how interested they are in our services. It was quite illuminating :-)

I'm not sure I agree with some of the labels, but it did show us where we were not engaging appropriately in some areas. So, we've come up with a plan which we are putting in place in the new year.

The other big discussion we had was about the future shape of the department, something that we've been looking at for a while. I use the phrase shape, rather than structure deliberately. We're looking at how we can improve our planning and architecture, the design and building of services, transitioning them then into delivery. I am keen to get it right rather than do it quickly, so a lot more discussion still to be had.

I also attended an open forum with the Vice Chancellor, other members of UEB and a selection of staff from across the institution. This was one of a series of workshops as part of the consultation on our strategic plan, and was about Our Strategic Partners. Some good presentation and lively discussion about what partnership meant, who we should partner with, and who we shouldn't.

Almost my final meeting was Senate Budget Committee (SBC) where I represent the Professional Services, and we had our annual meeting with the Vice Chancellor. SBC looks at the budgetary processes in the University, and we were discussing with the VC what its future role should be. SBC makes public all of its discussions, and has a webpage of very useful resources about University finances.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Thank you...

Thursday I spent in London at a UCISA executive committee meeting, As well as the normal business, especially looking at what the many UCISA groups have been up to, we had a visit from the Chief Executive of HESA.  HESA is the body that collects and collates data from Universities in many areas - from the student record on how many and what sort of students we have from finance on what we spend our money on, and on HR.  This data is then sent to various agencies - including our funding bodies.  At the moment HESA is undergoing a transformation programme - looking at all of its processes and how it collects this data, and as we are are heavily involved in this, it will affect us. so we will be watching with interest, and taking part in the consultations.

Friday saw our annual thank you party for staff - some drinks and food and what has become a bit of a tradition, the annual charity raffle. Over 130 prizes donated by our staff and our suppliers,

and we raised about £1,000 for two charities - Diabetes UK and Roundabout, a local charity which helps homeless teens in Sheffield. Many thanks to everyone, for your hard work throughout the year, for donating prizes, buying raffle tickets or helping on the day. Much appreciated.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Diamond and MOOC hype

Our new building, The Diamond is really coming along now - it looks fantastic. The base layer of the cladding is on, you can see the pods inside, and the spiral staircase has been installed. hopefully the aluminium cladding will start to go on in the next few days. There's a great webcam of the construction site here. This screenshot taken a couple of minutes ago shows the huge study pod from the east of the building, and the cladding panels stacked up ready to go on the left.

We're on target to open for September 2015, and this week we've been having discussions about commissioning and fitting out the building. There's a lot of work for us to do!  The network to commission - this building will increase the size of our campus network by 10% - the teaching technologies in the pool teaching space to install and commission, over 700 PCs to install, and all of the creative media spaces to be kitted out. We'll be looking to dedicate people to work on this to make sure everything goes to plan.

Also this week we've had an call with a Gartner analyst about the future of technolgies in teaching. Some of the up and coming ones including Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning, and existing ones such as MOOCs. Interestingly Gartners latest education hype cycle have MOOCs heading off into the trough of disillusionment, and disappearing before they ever reach a plateau. That's mainly due to a lack of a sustainable business model for them, and their view is that once the hype surrounding them has gone, they will transform into something different. This year's hype cycle has some interesting stuff on it - must find time to study it in a bit more detail.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Summer of Student Innovation Showcase

Today I'm at the Summer of Student Innovation Showcase at Reading University. This was funded as part of the JISC codesign programme, and it's great to see so many student projects which have been developed as part of it. It's the second year it's run - students suggest projects to improve student life  and JISC fund them to get them into an early stage of development. 18 student teams are presenting what they've developed over the summer. Amazing how much has been done in a short time.  Each project had a stand with a demo, and gave a 5 minute short presentation. Some of the projects are listed below, and I've done some brief notes, and included a link where there is one. They are definitely worth a look, and it is quite illuminating to see what students think is important to them. Most have a prototype, and have done a pilot, and are are looking to extend the pilot to other Universities.

20,000 students made a complaint about their university in 2012. Student expectations are very high, and student satisfaction is critical. Student feedback is key, so this is a way of collecting feedback from students. Unitu is an app which facilitates a collaborative feedback process by creating communities of course reps and staff where issues can be raised and resolved. Being piloted in two Universities already.

Learning and retaining foreign vocabulary can be difficult. This is an app for teachers and students providing tailored support for commonly taught languages, with a vocabulary library and  tests for students and analytics for staff.

Open Access Button
A suite of  apps to help researchers, students and the public get access to scientific and scholarly open access research. There's also functionality  for publishing your own research in an open access way.

This is a peer to peer teaching initiative enabling medical students to deliver regular structured teaching to younger students. Medical students already help each other and there is currently lots of information from students, on Facebook, Dropbox etc, but it is hard to find. This brings it together. Being piloted at Universty of Liverpool and Limerick.
I was really impressed with this - there's some good content there, and I can see its application to other subject areas.

An app for getting someone to proofread work before its handed in. Based on the premise that it is often difficult to spot your own mistakes and it's expensive to employ a proofreader. This development is an online platform so students can swop their work and proof read others for free.  It also aims to improve reading and writing skills as will be building in tips on grammar and spelling.
Impressed with this one as well - they've given a lot of thought to how they might handle plagiarism etc.

Fully functional app which actively solicits feedback from students after every lecture or seminar and feeds it back to teachers. Being piloted at LSE.

An app designed to help students plan and deliver assigments etc on time - a sort of academic to do list. It helps student meet deadlines. Has a lot of tips built in on referencing etc. Gamification is built in so you can see how far along the timeline you've progressing.
I can see the potential for this to all students. but particularly those who have difficulty organising themselves. 

Students are better connected then ever before, not only to each other but to information and resources.
This is an app which allows students to create and share multiple choice tests. To create a test means you have to understand it. A dashboard is being created to allow insitutions to look at what the students are doing.

A platform for students to submit ideas, discuss them, and have them turned into action by their student union. Ideas can be voted on and have comments on them.
Launched in University of Edinburgh Student Union, and they have built it into their portal so their is single sign on to it.
Free and open source.
I was very interested in this. It looks very much like Ideascale but simpler, and it is free :-)

A murder mystery game as part of student induction. Takes students to places they need to know about, meet people they need to know. Uses a lot of technology including geoloaction maps, virtual reality (aurasma).
This was great, if slightly wacky. Not sure how they would roll it out further as it requires a lot of input form them, but very cool!

A flashcard app for vet students. Lot of content to learn in vet studies they study more species than medical students! Does 3 things. Spaced repetition, a algorithm which schedules a card just before you forget it. Database of 80,000 cards - huge database of vet content. Also uses collaboration - can work with other students.
Saw a demo of this and very impressed, especially with the algorithm which works out when to repeat a card based on when you are going to forget the info.

Project to help students sell themselves. Students undersell themselves through using traditional paper based CVs. Also good way of making better contact with employer at application stage. Biggest problem not technology, but most people don't know what their most sellable skills and assets are. So, as well as making the videos, they run workshops to help students to work out what they should be emphasising.  They've run a pilot scheme at Loughborough University and want to expand. Really good project.

Host and Dine

An app to put students in contact with each other, to cook for and with each other. Encourages
students living in halls to learn, share and cook meals together. For example, you want to cook a Sunday roast. Not practical on your own. So you post it as an event. Others can join, and come over and cook together. Also good for sharing cooking for different cultures. Have run a pilot, and now want to extend it. Also getting in touch with private companies such as Unite.
I though this was great - the pilot has apparently been ery successful.

 Online money saving community which calculates the cheapest prices possible for products and tells you where to get them. Also a crowd sourcing site for people to share information about offers etc.
Developed by a student who was having trouble making ends meet. 

Some of last year's funded projects were also there:

An online noticeboard for students to search, buy and sell at their local university. 
Phase 1 developed and rolled out at Brunel University.
Now looking to roll out phase 2.

Call for Particpants 
This offers tools to researchers to connect them with volunteers to take part in research projects and then for a university to measure public engagement with research

So, a great day, some great projects. Really enjoyed talking to the students.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Research, analytics and ideas

Yesterday I was at a meeting of RUGIT - the Russell Group IT Directors. We meet several times a
year to discuss matters of common interest.  Some interesting topics. Support for research is something a number of us are trying to improve. Teaching and Learning has always been more straightforward to support because it is more generic, but research is more specialised.  We looked at what others are doing, and one University had recently surveyed researchers  to find out what they were using to support their own research, and what they needed. Top of the list was information and support - information on what was available, and support in how to use it.

Another area we looked at was Learner Analytics. Analysing data sets to get more information out of them is a big  thing at the moment, and learner analytics involves pulling together many different data sets to find out more about students. This has a number of applications - spotting students who might be dropping behind for example, and intervening quickly to get them back on track. For students, it can help them track their own progress. There's a JISC project under the Codesign Programme looking at this, and JISC have  just produced a report on the state of Learner Analytic int he sector - makes for very interesting reading.

We also shared experiences yesterday on progress in delivering IT support to faculties and depatmetns by staff based locally, but managed by the central IT department. This is the model in many Universites and has been for some years, and most of the rest are moving towards it. Interesting sharing experiences, and looking at how this model has been implemented in different Universities. General concensus is that the benefits by far outweigh any challenges.

This morning I traveled to Oxford for a meeting about the UCISA conference in March which is shaping up nicely - we now have a full programme and some great speakers confirmed.  This afternoon was the Oxford University IT committee on which I sit as an external representative. Very interested in their pilot of an innovation and ideas platform which is soon to be rolled out across the University. Their pilot has generated 26 ideas with 143 people discussing them. they've set aside a proportion of their budget to fund innovative ideas which come through this process - something I want to introduce this next year.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Purple window

Quick round up of the week that's just gone so fast! Spent half a day working with senior colleagues on 'what makes a good manager, and particularly the issues faced with managing diversity. All part of my work with the Equality and Diversity Board. Some very interesting discussions, and we didn't just talk about the commonly discussed diversity characteristics - gender, race, disability, but many others including faith, sexual orientation, social class. There's a whole body of research showing that diverse temas are more productive and solve problems quicker, so we need to ask ourselves what we can do to increase diversity both in our staff and students.

Also had chance to look at our new mobile apps for our HR and Finance system - looking very good. Much better than the desktop versions. Soon you'll be able to carry out many tasks on the go, without having to log in to the complete systems. Some great work from the team - an agile project that's worked really well.

On Wednesday evening I went to a reception organised by our Alumni Office for students who are
recipients of scholarships from the Alumni fund and those who donate to it. It was really great to talk to the students and see how much they benefit from the scholarships. It was also good to see the newly refurbished Firth Hall, with the exposed North Window which has been covered up by sound insulation for years - it looks great.

Another chunk of the week was spent talking to staff about the recent results of our University wide staff survey. I had two drop in sessions, and was pleased so many people took the time to come and talk to me. very tiring, but well worth it.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Final thoughts...

Home from an excellent Gartner Symposium, hope readers of this blog got a feel for the sessions. Of course, it wasn't all work - we did get an evening out at the National Theatre of Catalonia with some very good food, and an entertainment based on Magical Movie Moments - the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers routine was particularly good ;-)

The networking was excellent, and it was good to mix with CIOs and senior IT managers from all sectors. This year I though the ITExpo was very good, with many vendors to talk to. In the evening receptions, there was some very interesting ways of attracting you to their stands....

The difficulty now is capturing the excitement I feel when I'm there, and translating it into real things we can do back at base. There's a number of things I have taken away and am definitely going to act on:

Digitalisation, Digitisation, Digital Moments. whatever words you use, we need a Digital Strategy and should be working on a Digital First, or Digital by Design strategy. We need to idenitfy those "digital moments' that will improve the student experience, support our researchers better or improve processes and use technology to implement them. Use technology to digitalise our processes, not just digitise them

Look at the top ten business and technology trends -  make a top ten list relevant to the University of Sheffield. To socialise this with stakeholders and CiCS to get some joint ownership. To build the lists into strategic and tactical planning and refer to them frequently. And refresh the list every 6 months

The Internet of Things - what could we use it for? Are there "things" that we could make smart to improve our services to students for example? Could we increase the number of self diagnosing things to reduce our Helpdesk calls? Our printers already do this. What else could we do?

Think about implementing Bimodel IT

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Shadow IT

Final session of the conference was a workshop looking at Shadow IT. Lovely defined as investment in acquiring, developing or operating IT solutions outside the control of a formal IT organisation. If nothing else we were clearly told to take away the message that Resistance is futile! IT is now son engrained in everything we do, and the consumer IT space so pervasive, then "IT" is going to happen everywhere. And given that many sessions I've been have been about digitalising the business, we are actively encouraging it. That's not to say that there should be controls in place, and many business critical systems, support and infrastructure should still rest with the central IT department.
So how do we adapt our role to cope with it?
First thing we need to do is take it out of the shadows. Enter a discovery phase, find out what is going on. Then have a plan.

We had a group discussion on our tables, and I was sitting between the CIO of
the European Parliament and the CIO of Europol. We had some interesting debates about what was appropriate. They couldn't really get their heads around our very open attitude!

Then we looked at some examples of good practice, summarised below:

Need to engage. Will change the role of the IT department.
Get some visibility, find out how much is going on. Share it .

Redefine accountability.
If people are developing or implementing shadow IT they have to be accountable for it. For support, security etc. Put in place processes to do this.

Provide guidance to the organisation

Establish boundaries
What areas is it legitable and sensible to allow end user development. What areas are no go areas.
Use this 2 by 2 grid

Things can start in one quadrant and move. Need to keep under review.

Create red lines.
Privacy, security and compliance. Lines which must not be crossed, and there must be consequences.
Requires clarity, training and education.

Exploit Bimodal IT
Become more agile and flexible.

Offer services
Eg vendor and contract management. Hosting. Project management.

Offer tiered support.
Different levels of support for different systems.

Consider accreditation
Train staff, bring them into central organisation and teach them. Then might trust them more.

Have an end user board.
Not just IT department policing things. Let a board come up with polices etc. are risks though!

Use Audit!
Get them on board. Put the policing action on audit, not us.

All very interesting and useful. And reflects closely what we're trying to do in our IT as a shared service project.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Art of Innovation

Today's keynote was from Guy Kawasaki, the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple.

He talked about the art of innovation, from his perspective of working with innovative companies such as Apple and Google, and as a venture capitalist. It was an excellent talk, the best so far at the conference, and I wouldn't do justice to it by blogging about it in detail. It was recorded, and hopefully will be on line soon so I'll post a link to it. He gave us top ten lessons to be successful in innovation, and illustrated each one with beautiful stories. Sometimes moving, sometimes funny. I'll just list the lessons so you get a feel for what he spoke about.

1 Make meaning, not just money.
Desire to make the world a better place. You'll probably also then make money.

2 Make mantra
Not a mission statement!
Two or three words.
What is it you deliver. Describe your innovation in 3 words that everyone understands.

3 Jump to the next curve,
Innovation is always at the next curve, not the one you're on.
Step back and define yourself not by what you do, but by the benefit you provide. Example of ice factory. Non of them became refrigerator factories.
Good example of curve jumping companies, Uber, airbnb, task rabbit

4 Make great products.
great products are smart, intelligent,complete, empowering and elegant.

5 Don't worry, be crappy
It's ok to ship a product if there's element of crappiness in it, if it's still better than what was before

6 Let 100 flowers blossom
See what happens.
Example of Apple with the Macintosh. It was including desktop publishing which made it a success, not the standard software on offer on PCs.
Or Avon and their Skin so soft product, designed to moisturise skin, but now sold mainly as an insect repellent
Let the market decide.

7 Polarise people
Some people will hate things, whilst others love them.
Great products polarise people. Apple good example. Great products produce emotions

8 Churn baby churn
To be an innovator you have to be in denial. Ignore people who tell you it won't work. Then flip to listen to people when you have a product. And then improve it

9 Niche thyself
Need to be unique and high value.

10 Perfect your pitch
Innovators have to pitch, for funding, partnerships,
Customise your introduction. Show you know your audience.

Follow the Kawasaki rule of PowerPoint
Limit slides to 10.
Talk for no more than 20 mins
Optimal point size is 30

11 Don't let the Bozos grind you down
If someone tells you you'll fail, you might. But if you don't try, you'll never know.

As I said, great talk, and I was lucky enough to meet him afterwards and get a signed copy of his book.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Embracing eccentric executives...

.... and that really is the title of this session.

Senior executives may not be normal! Research shows that there's a larger proportion of eccentric behaviour in senior executive teams. May be related to common undiagnosed, mild or hidden mental disorders.
Statistics show that we are probably working with or for someone who exhibits eccentric behaviours.

Three categories of eccentricity: impulsive, egotistical, compulsive.

Very high energy
Difficulty saying on task, exited by certain stimuli
Or extreme risk takers. Extremely innovative. Have lots of ideas
Tendency to not believe that anything takes any time. Find us obstructive.
Also forget about ideas they've had.
Not operationally focussed and maybe reckless

Tend to fixate on details. Extreme micro managers
Require huge volumes of data.
Often give impression that they don't trust you.
Low risk takers
Treat minor issues the same as major ones
Extremely consistent and reliable

Highly motivated to achieve goals
Very competitive
Low degree of empathy.
Can be aggressive or bullying. No sense of the effect they're having on others.
Psychopathic tendencies
Very focused. Not distracted by normal distractions.

Also can have combinations of above.
As you become more senior in n organisation, behaviour often becomes exacerbated.
Are we eccentric? If we believe that everyone around us is behaving strangely, it's probably us!

So how do we embrace the wonderful aspects of eccentricity, and deal with the more difficult ones?

Some organisations surround eccentrics with "handlers" ie people who've learned to deal with them.
Or contain them.
Also compensate with different characteristics. Surround impulsives with doers
Need to set boundaries, can be much more effective than trying to reason with them. If they are unreasonable by normal definitions, no point in trying to reason with them.
Don't pander to the eccentricity.

Really interesting talk, and of course we all played the game of spotting people in each category. None in our senior management team obviously!

I've got a copy of the full research paper, and there are some detail on coping strategies, embracing the positive aspects of eccentricity and dealing with some of the challenges it can create.

I'm off to study it.....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Making good decisions

Today's talk at the CIO lunch was from Noreena Hertz who was described as a decision making guru. Her book, Eyes Wide Open, is the conclusions from her research into how we can make better decisions in these complex, challenging times.

These were her tips:

Don't blindly follow experts. They get things wrong.
The IBM president who in 1948 said there's room in the world for 5 computers
Or Bill Gates, who said in 2004 spam will be solved in 2 years.
Experts no better than a monkey throwing a dart at a board.

Become a smarter information hunter gatherer
Today, knowledge has been democratised. We can all gather it.
Local knowledge is very valuable.
Listen to the wisdom within an organisation
Also, information widely available of people's own experiences in many areas.
Old fashioned cooperation and collaboration very important.
Gratuitous clip of baby pandas collaborating to avoid taking medicine.
Use Google trends, look at what search terms are being used. All as valuable as published data.
Apparently the PMs office tracks certain search terms and there was chaos in number 10 on 6 October 2011 when there was a huge peak in the search for "Jobs." Work it out :-)

Seek out divergent points of view.
We tend to like getting information that confirms what we believe. Yet innovation is not just about creation of ideas but about their destruction.
Need to seek out people who disagree with us.
Who's our challenger in chief, and are listening to them?

Create teams based on difference
Vast body of evidence that diverse teams solve problems better and are more innovative.
Bletchley park employed diverse teams. Not just mathematicians, but philosophers, Egyptian scholars, classicists. Critical to them cracking enigma code.

Get into decision making shape
Emotions affect decision making.
Stock markets react to how national football teams perform.
Moods affect decisions. Notice what mood you're in.
Physical shape also important. Worst decisions often made when you're tired.
Also, hunger, thirst.

Be careful of the stories you tell yourself
We're not unique.
Even selfies were around in the twenties

And finally, carve out time to think. Every day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Why is the CFO on the executive board and the CIO not?

Interesting session about why the CFO is usually on the executive board, and the CIO isn't. Why we should be, and what we should do about it.

Lot of comparison with the CFO :-). So, if someone in your organisation decided they didn't want to use the central finance system and went and opened a Swiss bank account, the CFO would soon stop them. So why do we let people do the same with IT? And why is there reluctance when we say we should have oversight of it all?

What should we do to improve our visibility and get our organisations to understand the strategic importance of IT?

Clarify and communicate business value of IT operations. Expand the CIOs operational responsibilities
Ensure that the CIO addresses full end to end business risks of IT and that the Board recognises their impact.
Expose total technology spend across whole enterprise including shadow IT. Show value of CIOs oversight of it all.
Communicate CIOs strategic value. Join major non IT projects. Talk about strategic impact of IT and digital revolution.
Build board members understanding and confidence about ambiguities and risks the CIO controls. Link digital business issues to enterprise success and survival
Assess and understand the issues. Build valued partner relationships with board members.
Use coaching, mentoring to identify personal development goals. Concentrate on business credibility. Demonstrate personal maturity in your enterprise. Build CEOs trust.

Really interesting session, and lead to lots of discussion afterwards with colleagues, about whether we really wanted to be on the Executive Board.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Banks, vendors and networking

This afternoon's keynote is an interview with Oliver Bussmann, the Group CIO of UBS, a global financial services company. Cue another huge attendance in the auditorium, loud music, flashing lights and a fancy stage setting.

Interesting hearing someone for the banking sector talking about some of the pressures they face, especially around risk management and security. They have to spend a lot on regulatory compliance.
They are also facing a number of disruptive influences, eg ApplePay which are taking advantage of new technologies. Even the underlying technology supporting Bitcoin is making the banks change the way they work.
He confirmed that the role of the CIO is changing, away from the back office function, to a digital leader. Working with the business to drive innovation forward. Something I often bang on about, when people think of us as just the IT department....
The other interesting part of the discussion was the fact that he tweets, apparently this is unheard of from a CIO. He was quite laid back about it, but most of audience horrified.

I also took some time this afternoon to walk round the exhibition. Last night there was a fairly mad reception in there, where I spent most of my time collecting cocktails and freebies! Today I had a much more leisurely stroll round and had some interesting conversations with vendors. There's a lot here, some familiar to us, and some new. This picture shows only about half of the exhibition floor.

Also spent some time in the EXP Lounge ( Gartner equivalent of VIP) networking with colleagues from other institutions, and from other sectors. It's a very pleasant place to spend the breaks, good wifi, lots of power points, a juice bar, and a balcony overlooking the sea. You can even get a massage if sitting in too many sessions gets to you! As there are many sessions running at the same time, you can also catch up with those you've missed as they are all recorded and available in the lounge on demand.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Digitalising processes

Now a session on digitalising processes. I'm not sure that digitalising is a word, but we'll see....

Moving from paper based process to mobile device is a great advance, but it's not enough value. Can get more value by adding other technologies.

First step on journey is atoms to bits, paper to device
Then human to machine. What work can a machine do that a human does now.
Rethink the work itself. What's the right resource to do it. Human, machine or joint?
Then enable more variable handling of work. So, not about standardisation. If you are a global company, need to take account of differences in culture, in law, in products. Need to scale and keep consistency and manageability

Atoms to bits. Digitising processes. Some examples:
Pay cheque in by taking a picture of it on a mobile phone.
ApplePay. Credit card stored in mobile phone.
Huge improvement in convenience for customer.

Good example of difference between digitising a process and digitalising one of a nurse in a hospital. Give them a tablet to do data entry....
Illustrated in five slides below.

Utilising the Internet of things, adapters, sensors etc. Everything relating to the patients care is instrumented. So everything nurse used to collect, and a lot more, is now collected by machines. Because so much data being collected, can analyse and look for patterns. Eg by instrumenting the bed can monitor how much sunlight the patient is getting and adjust so that patient gets more.

Use technology to transform work, not just digitise it.
Does take some investment, but paybacks will be significant.

Automation for years has meant replacing physical labour with machines. In IT context it's been about standardising work and reducing paper handling. But, is that enough of an improvement?
We should be digitalising processes to transform people's working lives.

Some more examples...

The quantified self. Wearables, constantly monitoring ourselves. Lots of opportunities to use that data. Who would you share it with and why? Personal trainer? Your doctor? Your insurance company....

Jetdry, make mobile heaters for working in arctic conditions. If they break, they use a mobile machine to heat up the local area and the equipment so it can be repaired. Used to fly a technician out to do repair. Now use a pair of glasses on local field worker to give remote technician a video view so local worker can do the fix. Man/machine cooperation.

Get customers to do the work for you. Report things like broken traffic lights, potholes through a mobile app.

John Dere Combine Harvester, cost about $0.5m. If it breaks down, can miss the harvest. They have instrumented the equipment with sensors, and set up remote service to monitor the data coming in, analyse it, and predict problems and provide guidance about preventative maintenance.

Not just about reducing paper and standardising. Go beyond this. It's about augmenting work or replacing it.
Race with the machines, not against them.

Think about automation and digitalisation

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Mobile Scenario

First session this morning is from Nick Jones again, looks at what's happening in the mobile area.

Mobile impacting our businesses on process level. Very good way of improving efficiency and effectiveness. Also the business methods dimension eg Uber, matching supply and demand and using dynamic pricing. Business moment opportunuities, eg in marketing using location based services.
Can use mobile to change business in novel ways.

Android dominates in handset world and will continue to do so. iOS still very strong. Windows still very niche, struggling to get customer acceptance.
In tablets, android dominating again because of price. iOS still strong. But windows just not there
Laptop market is going down, people buying tablets instead.
Blackberry almost non existent now. Under 0.5% of market share.

The smartphone will be the universal link to the Internet of things. In three ways:
Personal networks, eg wearables
Personal bubbles - devices close by using proximity services, eg smart TVs etc
Cloud connected devices, using smart phones to monitor what's going on in cloud.

By end of 2015 will be 7bn connections in the world.
Major players are Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung (especially in smart home area).

Technology trends. In short term: more sensors eg for biometrics, curved and flexible devices, wireless video, accelerometers, new blue tooth and wifi standards
Medium term: personal biometric sensing, new display technologies, new UXs for wearables, increased use of 3D, rich touch

On network front, LTE rollout is continuing, faster in Japan that Europe. 5G total hype at the moment, could be 2020 before deployed. IoT driving new types of networks, new versions of Bluetooth.

Privacy an important issue. Mobile devices are collecting lots of personal data, where we are, what we're doing, how healthy we are. Can be analysed, correlated etc. Need to design in privacy to mobile apps, and may drive change in legislation.

Major challenges facing CIOs in the mobile area:
Skills shortages
New working practices and devices
Making mobile innovation safe and secure
Communication and collaboration tools on devices
Mobile app development and testing
Consumer facing apps coming into the enterprise.

We should be aiming for a future workplace with ubiquitous mobility. People will own multiple devices to which apps will be delivered to. Wearables, BYOD will be ubiquitous and there will be employee autonomy in processes, apps and devices. Employees will innovate. Continual loss of IT control.

In this area, everything moves fast. Need to adopt agile strategies. Focus on managing risk, using agile methods, working with innovative partners, lightweight governance. Bimodal IT fits well. Small, multidisciplinary innovation team using iterative, fast development processes.

Different types of apps:
Convenience, commodity apps eg approving leave. Have to have them, but not exciting!
Process support eg supporting sales force
Process transformation, developing innovative processes, changing the way we work.

Will need multiple app development tools, no one tool will provide everything.

Big challenge is user experience. Because of quality of consumer apps, expectation is higher for enterprise apps. Need to design in user experience.

In security terms, moving away from protecting the device, locking it down, to risk based security. Making innovation safe on untreated devices. Using contextual security, will be more fine grained.

Consumer applications are leading the way in innovation.
Smart spaces eg in retail. Proximity beacons will track where you are in shop, assistant will know who you are and what you've bought. Scary :-)

In app development, need to get these things right:
Deliver business vale
Unlock innovation
Create a user experience with the wow factor
Business processes have to be in place to support the app
Quality, bug free, resilient, scalable
Diversity, on device and platforms.

Things to so:
Sponsor ideation exercises, the mobile, future will be stranger than your current strategy imagines
Stop managing devices, manage data and apps
Adopt Bimodal IT
Pay attention to privacy and security

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 10 November 2014

The network always wins

Every day there is a special lunch for CIOs with an invited speaker. Today was the author Pete Hinssen and he was fantastic! His latest book, The Network Always Wins I supposed to be very good, but I shall let you know as we were given a copy!

His topic was disruption and he gave a fascinating, entertaining and humourous talk. I hope it was recorded as I'd like to show it to colleagues. I took some notes of the key points he made which are below, might be a bit disjointed but should give you a flavour of what he was talking about.

Technology has never been more interesting, and has never been more disruptive. Technology has become normal.
For example, in July 1980 10 megabyte hard drive was on sale for $4000.
Today you can buy a bracelet which turns into a drone which flies out and takes the perfect selfie, then turns back into a bracelet again. ( note to self. I want

Technology is addictive today. The world is hooked.
Technology is relevant today.
In the old world, technology was special. Not any more.
Impact on society huge.
Huge changes in technology trigger changes in society.
Media, marketing and advertising, and retail have been disrupted.
Even software has, it used to be expensive and difficult now it's cheap and easy.

Information is core to everything we do. Information behaviour changes faster than information systems. It isn't static anymore. It flows.
We are all now connected.
But, networks run on platforms, and there are only five key ones, known as GAFAA they are:
Google; Apple; Facebook; Amazon; Alibaba

Key question for us - in this age of disruption are we going to be active or passive?

Cloud companies are springing up all ver. There's a new "sharing" economy with more than 7000 new platforms in last year. Some examples:
Rent the runway. Rent an expensive bag or dress for an evening.
Trunk club - for men who hate to shop. Get a box of stuff a month. Keep what you like, send back what you don't.

Airbandb Is enormous but it has an IT dept of 3 people. They do everything with Amazon web services

Everything is a network. Not about technology anymore. Networks are being fuelled with information.
Linear thinking is gone.
Organisations have to become networks.

Silicon Valley is changing. Because the role of technology is changing. A 26 year old in a hoodie could be the next big player.

We are in the age of disruption. Radical innovation is here. Look at the driverless car. Google have started delivering shopping in California. Why? Because they have Google maps, lots of algorithms, drones, driverless cars and robots. Soon a driverless car will deliver your shopping and a robot bring it to the door.

Watch the documentary called "Humans need not apply" about machines taking over jobs currently done by humans.

This year a robot built out of lego and a smartphone broke the world record for solving a solve a rubrics cube.

Summary - Technology is changing society and economics. Innovation is non linear.
Can we as CIOs reinvent ourselves to be active and not passive in this era?

Great talk, and my favourite slide was this one to illustrate a particular organisational culture....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


In a session now on Gamification or :

Gamification is about engaging and motivating people, not about making them more efficient.
It is the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.

Three broad categories:
Changing behaviours
Developing skills
Driving innovation

Three target audiences:

Good examples of changing behaviour:
Nike+. Uses number of devices and sensors eg fuelband to measure progress eg for running. Gives you feedback, points and badges. Can connect to friends, integrate with facebook etc. 28m users. Has helped millions of individuals to achieve their goals. No direct selling.

Khan academy. Focuses on flipping the classroom. Do the learning and lecturing at home. Watch videos etc. time in classroom is higher quality time working through problems and issues.
10m students a month and 350,000 registered teachers.
Have demonstrated n improvement in learning.

Example of driving innovation:
Quirky. Founded in 2009, is a community of inventors. Anyone can submit an idea, and best ideas get voted up. If decide to make it, market research, detailed design etc. all done by the community. Rewarded by influence, a point system which is related to the royalties for the product.
334 products developed and have community of 970,000 inventors.

Gamification is not like a video game or rewards system. It is about motivation, not entertainment or compensation.

Motivation is driven by autonomy, mastery and purpose. To contribute to where we're going, to get better at things and to deliver a result that's larger than ourselves.

Gamification uses a digital engagement model. Solves a number of problems:
Scale: digital interactions can connect to audiences of any size
Time: digital interactions are asynchronous
Distance: digital interactions are available anywhere
Connectedness: friends are always close
Cost: digital interactions are lower cost than traditional face to face ones

Need to decide if you want to use gamification, what are you trying to achieve? Need to define what are the business objectives we're trying to achieve. Then who is the target audience and what are their goals. Need to align, ie business objectives have to be met by individuals achieving their goals.

If you can design a gamified solution for use in the workplace it can boost employee agility and engagement, enable different ways of working and exploit consumer oriented solutions.

Most common use cases include innovation management, crowdsourcing solutions, product development process improvement and health/wellbeing.
Employee performance has interesting benefits, but not mature yet, mainly used for sales and Helpdesk teams.

We should be looking to see if gamification could be used anywhere in our organisation, maybe put together a small interest group to research it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Internet of things

Next session is from Nick Jones about the Internet of Things (IoT).

Lots of different types of things:
Identifiable things. Tell you what they are but not much else. Eg RFID tag
Sensing things eg weighing scales
Controllable sensing things eg drones
Complex autonomous things eg high end BMW
Complex webs of things. Collections of collaborating things. Eg smart city. Controlling traffic and parking

All driving business innovation.

What technologies will be used to implement IoT?
There will be new architectures. Gateways to allow connection between things. IoT middleware.
Also need new networking and communication technologies. Wireless will be key, but different wireless needed. Needs to be scaleable, different ranges, capacity, good battery life ( up to 5-10 years)
Are new networks emerging which are optimised for IoT.
No single technology will satisfy all requirements. Could be at least 10 networks used.
Cellular networks will be important because they have wide area coverage. But are challenges including data subscription models, difficult to do multinational contracts, often locked to single carrier. Cellular operators will have to make changes before they play a major role in IoT.
Cost of component technologies used to build IoT is dropping rapidly eg sensors, GPS, accelerometers, chips. More things will be made intelligent.
Operating systems and programming techniques will change.
Big data and analytics will be key capability, especially real time stream analytics.

What will IoT mean for us as CIOs?
It will affect all of us. Need to take it seriously, soon.
Need to look at new skills needed to master embedded software development, platforms and cloud services, integration with our ERP systems, mobile apps.
Need a skills strategy - what will we do in house, what will we outsource and what partners will we work with. Are vendors with specialist skills who we could partner with eg systems integrators. Don't do everything in house.

What is our IoT strategy? How can we improve current services or develop new ones? Analysing data might suggest new products or services. Think about how making things more intelligent might improve our relationship with customers. Use intelligence in something to improve it. Understand where IoT might fit in our business.

Are lots of challenges in IoT. Standards are very immature, lots of them and battlegrounds emerging. Objects could be long lived. Consumer privacy and trust.

Think about privacy and security from day 1.
Smart objects know sensitive information eg is your house occupied, are you sick?
"Things" use platforms that can't be secured.
Hijacking things has value eg door locks.
Wireless is ubiquitous but insecure.
Many new things are being developed by innovators with weak security understanding eg on Kickstarter by tiny companies
Ancillary platforms and services pose security risks, eg android.
Need to do full comprehensive security and privacy analysis.

So, what could we use IoT for? Are there "things" that we could make smart to improve our services to students for example? Could we increase the number of self diagnosing things to reduce our Helpdesk calls? Our printers already do this. What else could we do?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Opening Keynote

The opening keynote at Symposium is always a spectacular affair. Huge auditorium with about 5,000 attendees. Very loud music, lights, camera, action....

Mind you, I wasn't over impressed with this instruction!

Opening remarks from Gene Hall covering some of the things coming up over the next few years - robotics, sensors, smart machines. More intelligent things than ever before, giving us challenges around privacy, security and infrastructure. Enterprises that can't keep up with the pace of change will become obsolete, as will leaders! Technology leaders have to guide our management teams into the new digital age. Every budget is an IT budget. Every company is an IT company. Smart leaders are listening!

Now onto nexus of forces which has changed our technology platforms and changed digital business, cloud, mobile, social and information. Next big thing is going to be the Internet of things. Practically everything that can have, will have, embedded sensors.

Another big impact will be human behaviour. Ownership of multiple devices, constant experience of digital moments. Also a growing sharing economy, eg not owning cars but renting or sharing one. But not same for your screen!

CIOs need to build for Digital First. New digital business models will require new digital processes. Three things must change.

1. Power. Change how the power in technology in distributed, 38% of IT spend is already outside of the central IT departments. Look at where the innovations are in our business units. People close to the customers and services can innovate digitally. We need to embrace this.

2. Technology investments. Change approach to sourcing. Take advantage of cloud market place. Can't base a digital business on slow moving software, hard to change. Need innovative, agile software which can react quickly. Why buy hardware? Use cloud.

3 People. Rethink approach to talent. Reduce numbers of people supporting infrastructure and legacy applications. Move these to cloud. Invest in innovation and supplier management. Run as lean as possible. Invest in digital business managers. Use DevOpps. Invest in customer experience. Crowdsource innovation. Be willing to fail, learn and try again.
Focus on the new talent needs - mobile, user experience and data sciences.
By 2017, talent needs will be in smart machines, Internet of things, robotics, automated judgement.

Become a bimodal IT organisation. Need to run safe, reliable services. But, need an innovative, agile section as well. Incubate our own start ups. Embrace outside change!

Hey, a drone just flew past the speaker!

Smart machines are new technology building blocks. Drones, wearables, robots, cognitive machines.
Smart machines will augment our decision making. Can make sense of information faster than we can.

Final point from this speaker, if the pace of change outside the organisation is faster than on the inside, then the end is near!

Next speaker talking about bimodal IT. All need a rock solid half. But need a creative, innovative half as well. Think about having 100 sensors. What you would you do with them. Gartner asked attendees. See results here.

New digital developments have increased the risks. Illustrated by a shark! Always sharks in the water, have to learn to swim with them. In digital business have to trust the untrustworthy. Need to create a calculated risk approach, decide which risks are worth taking and which aren't. Need a risk plan.
There's that drone again! This time I got a picture.

Digital business allows more about us to be known and recorded. Is this creepy?

Some technologies have unintended consequences. A man gets beaten up in a bar for wearing Google glass. Facebook experimented with order of results. Tell Siri you want to rob a bank and it will give you nearest banks!

Need to look at humanist or ethical effect of our new services. Don't just take a machine view, ie automate everything in sight without thinking of consequences.

Digital manifesto. 3 key principles:

1 Put people at the centre. All design should look at human requirements. Observe what people do, don't ask them for requirements.

2 Embrace unpredictably.
Bubble wrap originally designed as wallpaper! Then saw potential of wrapping when IBM needed to transport a computer. Hashtag not invented by Twitter, but by a user. Technology affects users behaviour. Welcome it.

3 Create, respect and protect personal space. Take privacy into account. Privacy by design.
Everything is opt in
Profiles open to the customer
Be careful with personalisations
Identify sensitive situations.
Apply rule of " how would I like to be treated?"

Be a Digital Humanist!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Top ten business trends and strategic technologies in education

Next session is looking at business trends in education and what strategic technologies we should be implementing to support them.

The goal: scaleable, affordable, quality education.
More people will need more skills
More people will need to re-skill more often
More people are more mobile

Also, cognitive machines will start to take over some jobs. Back in 2004 it was still accepted that a computer would never drive a car. Will be need for massive education and reskilling programme.

So, what are the top ten business trends?

Even prestigious research institutions are realising the importance of student success. Taking care of whole student cycle from recruitment to getting them into the right job.

The top technologies we should be concentrating on are:

Most self explanatory. Adaptive learning, when student and teacher discuss how learning can be made better. Exostructure is SOA by another name. ie not just infrastructure. Services are connected to from outside.
Digital assessment. If we do more online learning, which we will have to do for scale, will need to have way of assessing, and to know who we're assessing, and to trust them to be not cheating.

Then can start to match them up. Not a one to one relationship.

Gartner have provided us with a toolkit to look in more depth at the trends and technologies, to put them in an order relevant to us, and to add new ones.
So my action plan is to make a top ten list relevant to the University of Sheffield. To socialise this with stakeholders and CiCS to get some joint ownership. To build the lists into strategic and tactical planning and refer to hem frequently. And to refresh the list every 6 months.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Digital education moments

So I'm at the big European Gartner Conference at the moment - Symposium. One of the the things I like about the Gartner events is that they cover every sector so I mix with CIOs from all sectors. However, this afternoon is a sector specific forum, so just education and kicking off with a session on digital education moments.

First question we're asked is what sort of leader we are?

Looking at the difference between digitisation and digitalisation and its relevance to education.

Ebooks are digitised, ie a first order effect, but adaptive etext books are more towards digitalisation, ie realising second order effects. It's about realising benefits, changing the way we do things, transformational.

What about MOOCs? Interesting discussion about whether they are really transformational, still based on old structure of timed assignments, have to be there at a given time. As they move more towards social learning and peer assessment, will be more about digitalisation.
On hype cycle, MOOCs look like they will be obsolete before they plateau because they're not sustainable at the moment, no business model. Coursera does not yet have sustainable business model, relying on venture capital. But, lots of technologies that are being developed and used in MOOCs will be important including gamification and social and adaptive learning.

Will be different models coming up for education based around digital technology and personalisation. Anytime, anywhere, any pace learning will become the norm. Need to consider what technologies will be strategically important in delivering

Three examples of a digital education moment, well worth a read, and helped me understand what it means.
Teaching and learning:

Nearly everything in above scenario already exists. Much of it is in consumer space. Only thing that doesn't is the augmented reality encyclopaedia.

Turn this into a strategic technology map

Another example from administration:

Is number 4 a bit creepy? Interesting debate about whether it is as the information is out there.
More technologies aren't there in this scenario, but still a lot in consumer space.

Final example is about research, making sure researchers have computational and storage capacity they need as an event develops.

Again, almost everything in above scenario exists, even smoke dust. Still a lot of building on consumer apps, but also a lot of reliance on cloud storage and HPC.

So, our job for next week when we get back is too look at how we can support our institutions business model by implementing new technologies to transform value, performance and funding. Identify our Digital Education moments, and look at what technologies we need to implement them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Catch up...

Sorry folks - been really busy this week, and sometimes it gets in the way of blogging!  Quick summary of the week so far....

A visit to Oxford for a conference organising committee meeting  - still trying to finalise the speaker programme, and balance the budget. I have a very big speaker up my sleeve, which would be a real coup if we could get him. More news if he says yes....

Another meeting in Oxford as I am on the University IT committee as an external rep. Always interesting to see how another university does things, and I hope they find my input useful. Engagement with the academic community was a key part of the the discussion, and they had some good ideas about how to improve it.

In Sheffield I've had some good catch up meetings with colleagues and talked about all manner of things, unfortunately most of them I can't write about :-)

And finally, our latest student newsletter has just gone out, with articles about our new fantastic facilities in The Diamond, and asking for student involvement in designing them.

There's also articles about  how to look after files, iTuneU on managed desktops, and the software we provide for students.

We send a monthly email out to all staff and students instead of ad-hoc emails, and if you're interested in what we say, you can find back copies of all of them here.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Anonymous hack, or do they?

Yesterday I took part in some training for University Incident Managers in how to handle the media if you're in the middle of an incident. I'm one of about 10 people who are trained to handle a University major incident, and although we wouldn't expect to be key spokespeople, we might be expected to give some sort of interview, and there's always the chance we could be "doorstepped".

Although the day was fun, and we had lots of laughs in our small group of 5, it was also very scary, mainly because it was so realistic! It was run by two professional broadcast journalists, and we had to take part in interviews which were recorded and then played back and pulled apart. It didn't help that the "incident" was an IT security one, so I got very special treatment!  First up we were given a briefing that there were reports that "Anonymous" had hacked our system and published lots of data - usernames and passwords, sensitive research information, credit card details - anything you could think of that you wouldn't want published. With only a small amount of information we had to do a TV interview where we were asked very probing questions.  We all did it and it was then played back and we analysed how we'd all done. As the IT Director, to the opening question 'this is a very worrying situation isn't it?", I answered "Yes, it is a very worrying situation". Of course it would have been for me (in real life I would have been considering whether to resign or not....), but it was completely the wrong answer. I'm pleased to say I recovered eventually. After lots of discussion we did two more interviews - a "down the line" one, where you are in one studio and the interviewer is somewhere else. And a simulated live radio interview on BBC Figve live with a very aggressive presenter which was really tough. My opening question was "are you going to resign?"

Of course, the scenario eventually played out to reveal that there had been no major security breach, and that what had happened was that a departmental site developed by an academic, outside of our central systems had been compromised. There had been a data breach, but it had been contained and our central systems had remained secure. Totally fictitious of course...
An excellent day, and I do feel better prepared to face the media. As long as I can remember to slow down, and not say "Absolutely"

Thursday, 16 October 2014

You're fired....

First thing we did this week was have a review meeting of how we had handled the major incident last week when we lost our network connection. We do this after all of our incidents, looking at what we did well, and where we can learn and improve things. Although this wasn't actually our issue, we did review how we communicated internally and externally, and whether there were any measures we could put in pace to mitigate against the effect of any similar incidents in the future. We identified several things which we'll be putting into effect over the coming weeks.

I went with an Assistant Director on a visit to  Newcastle University on Tuesday to look at how they handle IT Support in their Faculties. They are a very similar University to us, and it was good to see how they do it, and what we can learn from them.

Yesterday I spent some time in a workshop looking at equality and diversity issues - if you're a long time reader of this blog you'll know I've been a member of the University Equality and Diversity Board for some time, and have been working for the last couple of years on objectives for the University. I firmly believe that diversity is extremely important, and its not just about box ticking and achieving targets - it's about embedding the culture in everything we do.  We discussed so much yesterday - including what is the education rationale for diversity? Why should we do it? Will it make a difference to our students and staff?  How can we recruit staff differently to ensure that we appoint from a diverse pool - something that I fear we don't do well at the moment for staff on grades one to five. there was lots of energy in the discussion, lots of ideas, and lots of things to take forward. For me, one of the key rationales for diversity, is that a diverse team is more creative, solves problems quicker, gets the right answers and is much more successful. You've only got to watch The Apprentice to see what happens when you put a group of similar people into a team....

Friday, 10 October 2014

Incidents are like buses.....

...they all come at once. Problem early Tuesday morning, then the major network incident on Tuesday - which we found out the primary cause of:

That's the reason we are so nervous of any building work around our campus!

Then today we woke up to discover we had no incoming or outgoing phone lines! Our supplier had suffered a major power outage which was affecting most of Sheffield. So, in early for another incident team meeting.  Not a lot we could do apart from get the message out, although we did make sure our control centre had a couple of working lines. All back on now, but apparently still at risk. Now where have I heard that recently?

In between incident teams, I have managed to get to some other meetings, including our Professional Service executive where we had a great presetnation from our Student sabbatical officers about their priorities for the year. Some really great ones including:
looking at the attainment gap for BME students (very appropriate for our diversity agenda)
looking at different methods of teaching and learning - reimagining education
creating more opportunities for students to take part in sport, especially as part of treatment for stress related illnesses
creating a sustainable campus. Building on initiatives such as Sheffield on a plate, the local fruit and veg market now held in the student union, and the student allotment society. They have ideas for more food growing areas around campus.

Of course we have our own new garden at the back of our offices which this year has yielded potatoes, runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes, peas, herbs and hopefully some pumpkins. Next year we're aiming for much more, including strawberries.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A good read...

Welcome to the latest version of our Newsletter - MyCiCSNews.
Download it and read about  engaging your students with new improved MOLE, Sheffield on iTunesU, supporting research and big data, and the review of our student information system.

There's an article on identity and why it is so strategically important to the University, as well as one on our staff creative media suite. Find out about our new, longer, stronger passwords, and things to do with Google groups.

We tell you about work we've been doing in CiCS looking at providing excellent customer service, and there's a timeline of when all of our projects should hit your desktop.

Good bedtime reading :-)

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

You don't know what you got till it's gone...

Interesting day today which really confirmed Cory Doctorow's assertion last night that "everything we do today involves the internet".  You don't know how much you need something till it's gone. At about 1020 this morning we lost our internet connection. Part of a much wider outage affecting all Yorkshire and Humberside Universites, caused by an issue at our ISP. I'm not blaming them at all - things go wrong and as yet we don't know what caused it. There will be a full investigation I am sure, and measures will be put in place to reduce the risk of it happening again. In fact, up until today we have had an excellent service, and none of us can remember an outage like it. But, it really made us realise how dependent on it we are - for everything.

No-one could contact us - our website and all of the services it gives access to was unavailable. We couldn't receive or send email. We had no ourgoing connectivity, so we couldn't see the web. Our library system which is in the cloud was unavailable. And our VLE, which we have just outsourced to make it more resilient, was inaccessible. Oh the irony.

Comms was hard, but Twitter and Facebook were our saviours, as was a message on our Helpdesk phone line telling everyone to look at our status page.

We started seeing it come back about 1400, and it has remained up, but it's probably still at risk till they diagnose the cause. We coped, but there was lots of disruption, especially  for teaching and learning. The thought of the impact if this had happened at a different time of year - confirmation and clearing for example - doesn't bear thinking about.

So thanks to everyone in CiCS who pulled together, for our users who remained calm and understanding, and the Janet engineers who drove  to Leeds to fix it. Hope tomorrow is nice and quiet....

Monday, 6 October 2014

Information doesn't want to be free

Back to work, with only a touch of jet lag. Spent the morning in interviews using an interesting interactive panel discussion between the candidates and stakeholders. Then this afternoon we had a visitor from another University interested in our ideas on organisational change. Always a pleasure talking to visitors, and we learn a lot from each other. Also had the opportunity to show him our Helpdesk operates, which of course he was very impressed with, and around the Information Commons.

This evening I went to a meeting of the Open Rights Group, an organisation set up to protect and promote our rights in this digital age. We were privileged to hear Cory Doctorow, a founder member of ORG and all round good internet guy and sci-fi writer, talk to us about "Information doesn't want to be Free". He covered many topics including  Digital Rights Management, monitoring, copyright and how important free and universal access to the internet is. Always interesting and entertaining, sometimes scary.

He suggested that everything we do today involves the internet. Everything we do in the future will require the internet. It is the nervous system of the 21st century. He explained how DRM does not stop people making copies of work (as he put it, most DRM systems can be broken by a bored Norwegian teenager in an afternoon), but they do make it very difficult to get your content back from a publisher as you lose all negotiating rights. Interesting case in the news at the moment illustrating this between Hatchette and Amazon.

He also talked about competition between indie channels and the big publishers, and the laws preventing you revealing flaws in software and devices, because they could lead to DRM being compromised. I was pleased he covered our own awful Digital economy Act, ruched through in the "wash up" before the last parliament was dissolved which gives the potential for a whole family's access to the internet to be removed if someone in their household has infringed copyright. Or as he put it - we can take away a family's access to free speech, information and public services just because someone has entertained themselves in the wrong way.

Great talk as always.