Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Customer Service Excellence

A long time ago, about 5 years to be exact, we had a world cafe event and came up with the vision for our department:

“We will be an innovative and influential department, respected by the University and recognised as a leader in the sector, delivering excellent customer-focused services”

For the last few months we've been reviewing whether we achieve some of those aspirations, and concentrating particularly on delivering excellent customer service. We've been carrying our several pieces of work, including facilitated focus groups with a cross section of all staff, and it all came together today in our first Customer Service Conference. Split into two half day sessions it was very well attended, and we'll be looking at the outputs over the next few days with interest. In order to start everyone off thinking, myself and the Assistant Directors gave our view of excellent customer service in the form of an animated video produced by our video intern, Sam.

After some feedback from the focus groups and work on our tables looking at what we could do to deliver excellent customer service, we had a talk from Andy Hanselman. Excellent as always with some great insights into what makes good, and bad, customer experiences. He did a talk at TEDX in Sheffield a few years ago, which you can watch here.

Unfortunately I had to leave to catch a train before the end, so I missed the final discussion on what things we can do in CiCS, and what individuals can do to make our customer service excellent, but if look forward to seeing all of the suggestions.

I'm in Oxford at the moment as I've found myself back on the Executive Committee as I'm now Chair of the conference organising committee. It's our planning meeting for the following year. And, we are thinking of getting up at 5am for Oxford's Mayday celebrations. I have a choice of the choristers on the tower of Magdalen College, Morris Dancers, or John Otway. No contest!

Edit:  Actually there was a contest - I stayed in bed....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 25 April 2014

Catching up

Oh dear - no posts for a while. Well, we did get a few days off over Easter, and this has been a particularly quiet week! Its been good to catch up on things - getting through my inbox and dealing with things that have been sitting there some time. reading reports and networking with colleagues.

I spent an hour last week sitting in on our Helpdesk, watching what happens when calls come through and how they monitor whats happening and deal with everything from minor problems to major incidents. Excellent processes in place, with 3 staff answering the phones and an incident coordinator sitting with them. All calls monitored and recorded, dashboard on a large screen telling them whats happening, how many calls waiting etc, and a warning sound (eerily from Close Encounters...) in all IT support offices when there are calls waiting so that  other staff can immediately log in from their desks. Not fogeting the "boing" when someone wants to live chat. Apparently when there are many calls waiting we get the Knights Who Say Ni!
Very interesting session, I learned a lot about what they do, and how we can help them make their service even better.

I also went to a team meeting for our Learning and Teaching section - again, really enjoyable. Great to get to talk to people, answer questions, and get some feedback on some of the things that are happening.

The other major thing I've been involved in recently is detailed planning for our new building which is going up - currently called the New Engineering Building as a working title, but watch this space ;-).  Although it will house a lot of engineering teaching space, there will be a significant amount of pool teaching space, and student led learning space, or "Information Commons type space". Some really exciting spaces in there, including a lot of creative media production space  for students.  The building is really coming on - you can see the webcam here.

And finally, I was videoed talking about customer service excellence, for a Customer Service Conference we're having next week for the whole department. All of the exec have been filmed, so it will be interesting to see what our video intern manages to make of it. Wonder how much useful footage he got!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Diversity beats Ability

On Friday I took part in "The Big Message" discussion. Along with a number of other Heads of Department, we were talking about Diversity - why it matters, how it can add value to the educational mission of the University, what barriers there are to diversity, and what actions we need to take to overcome them. The conversations had been taking place all week with different groups of staff, facilitated by Simon and Roy from Astar-Fanshawe, and will result in a message about how diversity can help us work more effectively with each other and enhance our teaching and research. Our first question we had to work o was "how can diversity enhance our educational value", and the obvious answer from our group was "how can it not?".  Some great discussions around how diverse teams work better   - "diversity beats ability" - and how being at University is about learning new things, coming into contact with new ideas, new cultures etc, all of which are enhanced if we have a diverse population of staff and students.
Some of the most interesting discussions were around barriers. Recruitment was one which as already been identified, not picking the right person for the job, but recruiting for a team can be difficult.  The tendency for mini-me-ism - recruiting people in our own image, with our own personality and skill set. Lots of talk around diverse meaning a truly integrated polulation - a diverse group of students is not truly diverse if chinese students only talk to each other in chinese, and the UK students stick together for example. Lots of good action plans came out of it - an excellent session.

Today it was our Service Strategy Board where as well as catching up on project progress we talked about how work is requested, how it comes into the department, and how we allocate resources. Also, we had a presentation and approved a way forward to implement Agile Project Management which is going to lead some some big changes in how we run projects. We also approved a new project, to investigate how we store and retrieve digital media.

Tonight I went to the opening of one of our new buildings - The Pam Liversage Building  - great to see an engineering building named after a women engineer! It's a stunning seven storey building, and has been designed to join an existing building, with an atrium containing the external wall of the original building. It will be the home to our engineering graduate school, and there's more information about it here.

You can also explore the building using Google Streetview here.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Innovation and ideas

Yesterday I was at a workshop run by JISC as part of their Co-Design programme, which involves a number of stakeholders working in partnership with JISC to agree on priorities and projects for innovation funding.

Our job yesterday was to come up with ideas - a very well run day, and a lot of good ideas came out of it. We started with challenges that we thought technology could solve, grouped them into themes, and then spent some time working on them in groups, refining and defining them.  In the end we had to produce elevator pitches for each, and pitch to the rest of the group - we came up with about 15 challenges, with defined outcomes and benefits - which finally we voted on. JISC will now work on them and come up with some suggested projects to take forward. The main themes in the groups I was involved in were around Digital Literacy and the Student Experience

Digital Literacy is vital for all staff. Academics need to feel comfortable with new technologies and the best pedagogic way to use them in their teaching. Professional support staff need to know how to use technologies to make processes and procedures more efficient, and all staff need to feel part of the community and conversation which takes place on social media. There's a wide range of digital literacy out there, with different skill levels, and there is a lot of work to do to ensure that everyone has the skills they need.

The student experience is important for so many reasons - for student satisfaction, for league tables such as those based on the NSS, to make students feel connected with the University. We need a digital environment that is fit for the 21st century which covers the whole student lifecycle from enquiry to graduation and employment. this is a huge project which could take in many things, including some of the issues around identity which I posted about after Tuesdays meeting.
Quite intense hard work,  but the view made up for it!

Today I was in Oxford for the Organising Committee of the UCISA Conference. UCISA14 only finished a couple of weeks ago, and we're already planning UCISA15 - and I'm now Chair of the group. The feedback from delegates which we got today confirms that is was very successful, and many said it was one of the best. So, we've got to follow it next year in Edinburgh.  No pressure there!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Which Identity?

I'm in London today and tomorrow for a couple of JISC meetings. Today was the Identity Management Task Force, set up as part of the co-design process last year to look at the polices, processes and people issues around identity management. Not technical ones!

Some interesting discussion around what we mean by Identity Management. Does anyone really understand the phrase other than IT people and Librarians? Is it any wonder we can't get anyone else in our institutions to be interested in it if they don't know what it means? The simplest definition we could come up with is "access to stuff". Stuff that you need to do your job, or be a student. It could be an IT service, an electronic journal, a building, an email account, the Finance system, the VLE......

Part of the discussion was where we want to take the project now. We have lots of outputs from phase 1 although not necessarily disseminated yet to the wider community but that's another story....

One area we're already looking at in Sheffield which seemed to get a lot of support, was the whole question of identity. For example, students come to us with an identity, or multiple ones, and we give them another. Why not trust one of their other identities and let them use their Facebook authentication for example to get access to our services? I get access to many web based services using my google account, or my Facebook account, or another account, and we need to be looking at how we make things as easy as possible for our users. The world has changed since students came to us without even an email address and were hugely excited when we gave them one, and we need to change with it.

Tomorrow I'm at a workshop looking at what sort of innovative ideas JISC ought to be funding over the next year or two. I'm open to suggestions!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 4 April 2014

Building bridges...

Varsity - something I've not really taken much notice of until last year. Then I realised how important it is to many people- the two Sheffield Universities competing against each other in a week of sports competitions. Last night I was lucky enough to go to the Ice Hockey event in the Arena which was the final. Sometimes the winners are decided at the final event, but this year we'd won before it started. That didn't stop the excitement though! 8,000 students in the Arena - half in red and white and half in black and gold (us), cheering the sides on. Never seen an ice hockey game before - would love to know if there are actually any rules :-) The noise, the excitement was fantastic.

We lost the ice hockey.  But, we won Varsity!

Great celebrations all round. Getting my black and gold scarf ready for next year....

Today we had a "Meet the Department Event" as part of our CUP (Centre of the University Programme), aimed at bringing Professional Services and Academic Departments closer together.  The last one we took part in was with the Faculty of Arts, and this one was with the Faculty of Engineering. about 100 staff attended - 50 from CiCS and 50 from the Faculty, and we began with an overview of the Faculty  - what the departments did, and where it was going.

Then - we tried some engineering!! With a small box of Lego, the different tables had to build a bridge that two people could get under. There's nothing like Lego to get people talking to each other and bringing a room to life.

Our bridge was fab!

Followed by some great talks on the student experience - drawing out where things work well and where they don't - and the research lifecycle. I presented about CiCS services and our priorities and we had roundtable discussions on several topics including support for teaching and learning, research,  social media and security. Then we went for some tours to see some of Engineering's interesting stuff - 3D printing, Robotics, and my favourite, the flight simulator.

Great session - organised brilliantly, and I hope it has helped to bring us and the Faculty together. Here's to many more such sessions.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

UCISA14 part 2

You may have noticed a distinct lack of blogposts from UCISA last week - truth is, I was either too busy, too enthralled, or sitting on the stage chairing sessions - to take notes and post. So here's a summary of what I got from each sessions, as well as links to some of the talks which were recorded. This year we made a real effort to "up the game" of the conference, bringing in outside speakers and moving away from technology and towards leadership.

Clay Shirky is a very well respected american writer, educator and consultant on the social and economic effects of internet technologies - I've heard him speak a couple of times, and there are some excellent talks on the TED website of his.  Clay flew in to give his talk, and it was extremely thought provoking. He talked about IT becoming the central function in the HE enterpise as it already embedded in the way we live. IT is not just being asked to do more, but different things, and we may have to lead change without buy in from our senior managers.
Watch the talk - you'll enjoy it.

Simon Fanshawe is a writer, broadcaster, stand up comedian, founder of Stonewall and describes himself as a Provocateur with a Purpose. He's been working with us here in Sheffield on our equality objectives, and dos a lot of work with organisations on why diversity matters, and how it produces better performing teams. It was an entertaining talk - getting your lovers knickers off in the first few
minutes - but full of really good content. My take home moment, possibly of the conference was - "don't appoint the best person for the job". In fact, never appoint the best person for the job. Appoint the best person for the team. Some interesting HR issues around this one, especially with job specs etc.
Again, the talk was recorded and its well worth a watch.

Vorsprung durcht Technik was the unusual title of a talk given by our own Heidi Fraser-Krauss,
Director of IT Services at York University, and Professor Thomas Krauss, Professor of Photonics at York University. Think it was the first married couple double act we've had at UCISA, and I was hoping that we didn't witness another conscious uncoupling. Luckily we didn't, but we did see a great role play of an IT director trying to deal with a very excited research professor. Anyone who has to deal with academics should watch this!

The final talk on Thursday was from Professor Sue Black, Computer Scientist, founder of the campaign to save Bletchley Park, recently voted Inspirational Woman of the year, and a champion for women in computing. She gave a potted life history, from leaving school and 16, through being a watch here. One of my favourite bits was about her campaign to save Bletchley Park, where Stephen Fry retweeted one of her tweets really showing the power of social media.
single mum of three children, to getting back into education and becoming an academic. Truly inspiring. She's recently formed Savvify, a social enterprise which is currently running techmums - a programme to get mums to be more tech savvy. Another great talk which you can watch here.

Thursday night was the conference dinner, where I had the honour of sitting with John Lloyd who was our after dinner speaker. John was the producer of Spitting Image, Blackadder and QI to name
just a few. Fascinating chatting to him about possibly bringing Spitting Image back - can you imagine Boris's puppet? he gave a great afterdinner talk - so funny, and quoting some great bits from the meaning of Lif, which he co wrote with Douglas Adams. Of course, there was the obligatory selfie.....

Friday morning strarted with Simon Mingay from Gartner talking about Service Porfolios. I've heard Simon to do this talk before, and blogged about it - excellent talk as alwyas, but not recorded.

Next up was Dave Coplin from Microsoft talking about the Future World of Work - excellent presenter and thought provoking talk about how our working lives and environments might look in the future. Also what skills our students and children might need to succeed. He's written a book - Business Reimagined - which is free to download for the kindle edition.A good soundbite from this - its not emails fault we get too many emails. It's ours for not using it properly. Do watch the talk if you get chance - there's lots of really good stuff in it.

Final two talks of the day weren't recorded so you can't watch them - first was from Linda Davidson, now a Global CIO but started life as an actress (you might remember her as Mary the Punk from Eastenders) who had some fascinatng insights into leadership:
She started with a great video predicting what technology might look like from the 1960s - love the bit about the husband paying!

Finally, we closed the conference with a talk from Alex Hunter who was responsible for getting Virgin America off the ground and then became head of Virgin Online talking about how to engage with customers, how to build a relationship with them, how to create a fantastic use experience with the wow factor. Couldn't record this, but there's a number of clips on YouTube of him speaking if you want to look him up, and his website has one of his good examples of customer service and how he fell in love with Pact Coffee.

Though I say it myself, it was one of the best UCISA conferences, and the difficult part starts now - how do we follow it next year?