Friday, 30 May 2014

What you looking at?

Nice long weekend away to start the week - camping. And yes, it did rain.

We've been thinking about Business Continuity Planning this week, and what it means to CiCS. Normally as Chair of the University Business Continuity Operations Group I think about what it means to the University, but this time we were thinking much closer to home. For the major systems we provide to the University its something we do as a matter of course, we build resilience, reliability, duplication, mirroring, failover, data storage and back up into almost everything we do. But there's a lot of other services we provide to the University, and other functions involved in keeping us as a department running that we need take another look at.

Yesterday I was at a UCISA Executive meeting where we talked a lot about the changes that are happening to UCISA  including changes to its charitable status and the establishment of a trading company. All very complex and I'm glad there are people on the committee who understand it!  A lot of other topics discussed, including a joint initiative between ourselves and Educause to look at the skills needed for a moden day CIO, and the continuation of our initiative on Action Learning Sets for Deputy and Assistant Directors. We also touched on our relationship with JISC and some of the changes happening there. The JISC funded Summer of Student Innovation, has been a success again with nearly 40 ideas  submitted, and voting on them is still open - get over there and vote for your favourite project.  UCISA are looking at doing something similar for staff which I'm sure will be equally as successful. I was also able to report that planning for the next UCISA Conference is going well, with 4 top class speakers already confirmed, and I'm awaiting responses from others.

In other news, our peregrine falcon chicks continue to grow, and have started to balance precariously on the edge of the nest and flap their wings. They're starting to look a little cuter now they're preending the scraggly down away. They're also rather curious!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Lupins and Interns

This week so far has been a mixture of meetings, catch ups and Chelsea Flower Show - my annual pilgrimage. So, here's a picture of the Best in Show Laurent Perrier garden with smashing yellow lupins:

Right, that's out of the way, (although I have several hundred more if anyone wants to see them....) Now to work.

Today I was privileged to go to an event celebrating our graduate interns. This is the second year of the scheme, and the  interns are about to finish their placements. We have been lucky to have one for the last two years working on our comms team mainly producing videos and other multimedia materials. Who can forget fileman, one of our more successful student campaigns, and I was pleased to see that he made it on to the poster:

Each intern had produced a poster, and then there was a presentation about the projects they had undertaken - extremely wide ranging. As well as ours, they included:
ONlone module choice
How we buy
Cntral post franking
Staff Survey
Women in HE
Web design and development
In The City - Public Engagement events
Student projects including weareinternational and standbyme and the Sprint programme

A fascinating set of projects, and some very professional presentations

As part of the programme they all felt they had acquired a number of transferable skills - the key ones being professionalism, communication and problem solving. 

In the discussion afterwards they identified some of the key challenges they had had to face, and as well as understanding how the university works, the biggest was resistance to change. Now there's a surprise ;-)

Great event - and very well done to all of the interns.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Planning, stakeholders and Netflix

For the last couple of days I've been on an awayday with the rest of my colleagues in our executive team. once or twice a year we try and get away from the campus to have a look at various strategic things which need some quality time, away from interruptions. This year we looked at several themes.
The first was how we plan and how we might develop Strategic Themes to help us focus on what our objectives are in each area. We looked at a number of themes we might want to adopt including:
Achieving operational excellence
Delivering an excellent customer experience
Working in partnership with the University to ensure it meets its strategic objectives
Implementing innovative solutions
When we've identified what our themes are, we could draw up a strategy map for each of our service areas, which should make defining our objectives much easier. It is definitely something to consider.

Another area we looked at was stakeholder management. Stakeholders are anyone who is affected by our work, anyone who contributes to our work, any entity which can affect our work, anyone working internally contributing to the delivery of our work.  We have a lot!  We tried looking at them from a number of different angles, including using a couple of matrices. I blogged about one a couple of weeks ago:
 Which had the interesting conclusion that you should not waste time on "enemies" - merely neutralise the damage they can do and ignore them. That's sort of counter intuitive, as you would think that you need to put more effort into them.  The one we worked on was this one:

 where we mapped groups of people and individuals according to how much power they had, and the degree of interest they had in us or individual projects. Some very interesting results, and a list of actions about how we might put a plan in place to move people more towards the top right.

The  third thing we looked at was our service portfolio, where we've been doing some work on how we might realign some of our services to make them more readily understandable to our customers, especially senior ones. This led to discussions on how it fitted with the broader themes of service management, especially service design and service delivery, and we have a number of actions and consultations there.

Finally, we looked at customer service, including the output and feedback from our recent customer service conference. One of the things we want to do is walk the customer journey for a few services, and identify customer touch points. then identify what excellence would look like at each touch point and whether we're delivering it or not.

As usual, a lot of work, and a lot of actions, which we're busy writing up and allocating at the moment.

Finally, during the awayday we looked at a presentation from Netflix which their HR director gave to their staff about their  attitude to talent and culture. If you search around on the web you'll find the video, but the slide deck is here, and that's all you really need.
I like how they reward adequate performance....

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Number One

Wasn't it great to wake up today and find out the we had been voted Number One for Student Experience in the THE survey.

Articles in the Guardian and on the BBC about what a wonderful place Sheffield is, the campus covered in the rainbow number one, a great video dedicated to our students and staff:

and our VC and Student Union President talking about the partnership between the staff and students which makes it such a great place:

Very proud to work here!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Mystery of the Bicycle Book..

Yesterday was our Service Strategy Board, where we covered a lot of business in a couple of hours. Looked over the objectives for each Service Area for next year, which will form the basis of all of our operational plans and objective setting in our SRDS process which is about to start.  We also looked at a new Service portfolio which changes our service headings, and consists of a description and value statement  - hopefully to make it easier to communicate our value to our senior management.

This morning I went to a presentation from one of our Sheffield Leader cohorts at the end of their project work. Very interesting analysis of how we can improve communication and collaboration across the University in order to work more productively together. For example, analysis of the work shadowing programme had shown how valuable it was in increasing understanding of what different work areas do. During one of the discussions we were talking about barriers to improving processes through working together, and we touched on the importance of the question "why". Why are we doing this, why are we doing it like this, etc.  An amazing story came out, which hope is true.  It goes like this.  During some process improvement work on a reception desk at a hospital, it was noticed that everyone who cycled to work signed a book - the bicycle book. When asked why, the reception staff admitted they didn't know, it had always been done, and books were sent to HR. HR admitted they didn't know why reception sent the books to them when they were full, but they carefully boxed them up and stored them. After much investigation, the signing of the bicycle book was traced back to the introduction of rationing during the second world war, when people who cycled to work were entitled to extra rations. And so it had carried on, for nearly 60 years!! That little question, "why?" is so important.

This afternoon I've been in a long meeting of the SMG for The Diamond. We're approaching the design freeze in only a couple of weeks, and everything has to be finalised by then. By the end of May, the whole design must be agreed, with only the interior finishes and some fit-out subject to
further discussion. Getting really exciting now - great to see it going up, the concrete slabs are being poured, the cores built, and a section of the facade has been built and tested successfully.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

IC in The Diamond

The hoardings have been revealed, and our new building at the heart of the campus has been officially named The Diamond. As well as providing excellent facilities for Engineering teaching, we'll also be bringing our experience with the Information Commons into it  -  IC in The Diamond.

A fantastic facility for all students, with 1,000 study spaces, 16 group rooms, 8 media editing booths, 2 rooms with a total of 30 high-end media editing machines, 1 recording studio and 4 computing teaching labs with more than 400 computers. In addition, there'll be many more informal meeting and collaboration spaces ranging from soft furniture to study booths. We're really excited by it. Loads of information here, including a link to facts and figures and the webcam. Many of have been involved in the planning and design for the last two years, and it's great to see it come to fruition.

The spaces are really exciting - like the atrium with its study pods and balconies:

There'll even be a jet engine in it somewhere!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Back on the UCISA Exec...

Last Thursday I was in Oxford for a meeting of the UCISA Executive Committee. After 3 years absence, it was good to be back :-)

We kicked off with a good session about our relationship with JISC, how we might work with them in the future, and what projects we will be involved in. It was an interesting discussion, and covered many areas. JISC has been restructured in the light of the Wilson Report, and funding arrangements have also changed. All Universities now have to pay a subscription for JISC services which is mandatory for three years. After that Universities will be able to decide what they subscribe to. Lots of discussion about the business model, and how services will be costed.  The major part of the discussion was about JISC's innovation funding which is now all being channeled through the co-design process. I've blogged before about the pilot which took place and the workshops which happened recently to come up with themes for the next round of co-design projects. The JISC Baord have now agreed which of these will be funded, but I'm not sure I can release details yet - will let you know as soon as I can.

Another major discussion was the changes being made to the structure and governance UCISA, which involves setting up a separate trading company, UCISA Services Ltd (USL), and changing the charitable status of UCISA from a charitable trust to a charitable company limited by guarantee (CCLG). All very complicated, but it will allow us to expand our range of services we can offer to members.

New projects coming up for the future include a revamp of the Security Information Toolkit, a Learning Space Toolkit, a Social Media toolkit, and possibly, a Staff Summer of Ideas, similar to the Student Summer of Innovation.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

More on customer service..

Following on from the theme of Customer Service in yesterday's post, I'm really pleased that we've been able to make Alex Hunter's talk from the last UCISA conference available. Alex used to be global Head of On-line Marketing for the Virgin Group, and is a great speaker about - customer service. Defintely worth a watch if you want to follow up on some of the things we've been discussing recently, or if you're interested in customer service.