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HE survey on business analysis and making the most of the UCISA bursary

Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

 

As business analysts, we are constantly learning how people perform their jobs roles. Gaining an understanding of how they capture, process and output information in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We capture this information so that we can identify areas of improvement. We also help to implement new ways of working, new software systems or processes that enable our organisations to achieve their strategic goals. As business analysts how often do we take a step back and analyse our own ways of working? Do we stop and benchmark ourselves against other Business Analysts working in the HE community or beyond in the corporate world?

In 2016 as part of my role on the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) committee, I carried out a survey to measure the maturity of the business analysis community within the higher education (HE) sector. This informed our understanding of where we were as a community in terms of maturity.

The survey which was sent out to all members of the PCMG mailing list received a 32% response rate, which falls well within the expected response rate for an email survey. The survey results showed that every responding institution was undertaking business analysis activities, with over 65% having a dedicated business analysis team. This clearly shows that there is a recognised need for business analysis activities in the sector. When we looked at the average size of the business analysis teams, we found that it came in at around five members of staff on average, which shows that it is still considered a relatively small area of operations for most organisations. The majority of business analysis teams had been in existence for less than ten years, however most institutions had been undertaking analysis activities prior to the formation of a dedicated business analysis team. The question that gave us a real insight into the maturity of the business analysis function, showed us that 70% of organisations still see the business analysis function as an IT related one. In a mature organisation, we would expect to see the business analysis function sitting with and supporting the senior management team of the organisation. One may argue that just because they are located in an IT function they still may be closely aligned to senior management.  However, evidence shows that most organisations still consider them to be an IT asset with half of business analysts in the sector only working on IT change projects.

Overall, the survey results show us that as a sector we have not matured enough to be in a position to assist in driving the business strategy. As a sector, we are still working mainly on IT driven change initiatives and are based within the ITS function. The majority of business analysts are not undertaking market and competitor analysis or getting involved in pre-project work, such as feasibility studies and business case development.

In 2011 and 2012, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) undertook a similar survey in the UK. The results showed that the average maturity levels for business analysis functions based in industry matched those found from our 2016 survey of HE institutions. However, as the IIBA survey was four years older than the HE one I carried out, we can hypothesise they have made some progress in maturing as a sector in those intervening years.

The question then arose, how do we as a community compare against business analysts working in the commercial sector?

I wanted to get an understanding of the tools and techniques they were using, to see if they were ahead of the game compared to the HE sector. Do they experience the same issues when undertaking their analysis, did they have the same frustrations as us and encounter the same blockers? What methods did they employ to attempt to overcome obstacles?

Through UCISA’s Groups and Communities of Practice, the HE community is offered an excellent platform to share knowledge, experience and good practice. To step outside this community and gain knowledge of the commercial field, the UCISA bursary scheme allows you the opportunity to attend conferences such as the IIBA conference. This gives you the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand from Business Analysts working outside of the HE sector.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the IIBA conference in London. I found the experience gave me an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge on the role of a business analyst working in the corporate world. Listening to presentations from speakers who came from a mix of corporate backgrounds on the topics that mattered to them, gave me an insight into the issues they faced, the tools they used and solutions that had worked for them.

The main recurring theme of the conference was not one of the newest tools, or methodologies but one of the age old issues that faces every business analyst, one of capturing the requirements effectively. I saw several speakers that presented this topic in unique ways and from different angles but the message boiled down to the same fact. As analysts when capturing requirements, we must listen to what our stakeholders really want and stop trying to solutionize and jump to conclusions without capturing the real facts.

The second topic that seemed to be prevalent at the conference was of course, Agile. I know from personal experience in the HE sector many of us are only just starting to dip our toe into the world of Agile project delivery. I found that while the corporate world had been using Agile for a number of years they were still struggling with the same basic issues of trying to fit Agile into organisational structures that were not designed to support this type of delivery. For example:

  • Off shore development teams supporting project managers and analysts working in the UK.
  • Trying to fit Agile delivery into project management structures where the supporting processes were originally developed to support waterfall delivery of projects.
  • Gaining real buy in from senior management to support Agile delivery and provide the Agile teams with someone from the business that would be not only a dedicated resource to the project, but one with the authority to make the business decisions required by the development teams.

Of course, the conference providers ensured there were lots of chances to network in between sessions and this gave me the perfect opportunity to chat one-to-one with other business analysts and delve a bit deeper into their experiences.

The key learning point for me from the whole experience is that there are very little differences between our worlds. Yes, our products or services may differ but the challenges we face as business analysts remain the same. We all struggle to get recognition for the importance of the analyst’s role, we are all bought in too late to projects to have a real impact on the outcome, and we are all given too little resource to undertake the analysis effectively. The funding from the UCISA bursary to attend the conference informed my knowledge of the business analysis sector outside of the HE environment. I believe this knowledge is invaluable to business analyst working in HE as it enables us to mature and grow beyond the confines of our own sector.

 

Learning, networking and discussing

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University 

EUNIS 2017 overall reflections

I feel highly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend EUNIS17 through the success of my bursary application to UCISA and will be forever grateful for this opportunity. The conference has been a great place to not only learn new technologies and techniques that can be implemented to benefit our home institutions, but also a fantastic opportunity to network with a broad range of IT professionals working in higher education throughout Europe. I have personally found it very interesting to share stories of our own successes and challenges which encourage further discussion amongst peers from their own perspective. It has been comforting to see that a range of challenges are shared by many of us and also to see where we at Leeds Beckett University are working at the forefront in HE. Everyone that I met through attendance at the keynotes and parallel sessions as well as the social opportunities, were fantastically welcoming and open to honest discussion around their own institution’s IT implementations. It has proven to be eye opening and given me plenty of food for thought to bring back and discuss further within my own institution.

It was my first time visiting Munster and my experience in Germany has been entirely positive. Munster is a very beautiful city with plenty of interesting historical architecture. However, my first impression which struck me on my first night of arrival was that is seem to be a bit of a ghost town. Having arrived after 10 pm and walked from the train station to my hotel there was next to nobody around, which is very different in my experiences elsewhere. Thankfully the next morning demonstrated the natural hustle and bustle of busy city life. The main difference I witnessed immediately from my experiences back home was simply the thousands of cyclists buzzing around the streets at some speed, it felt like being in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

The conference felt well organised and the flow from session to session worked very well. It was clear that plenty of planning had been conducted to ensure that we delegates got the best experience from the three days (four for some who attended the pre-conference sessions). Reviewing it from my professional perspective, there were no obvious technical issues experienced throughout the sessions I attended and any minor glitches were proactively picked up by the local support team, which I thought was impressive. Overall, it has been a very enjoyable conference experience and one that I would highly recommend to others in the future. Given that next year’s conference is due to take place in Paris, I would imagine that there may be more UK representation in the delegation as I was the only one (at least that I encountered) representing a UK university. This primarily had a number of benefits however, with a range of questions from European peer institutions directed towards me, and equally allowed me a cross-European perspective on topics of interest.

All relevant information relating to EUNIS 17 can be found on the official site here.

… and a book of all EUNIS 2017 proceedings including all papers can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/

 

Bitcoin: trust and technology


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University 

EUNIS 2017

The final keynote session of the EUNIS 2017 conference from Nikolas Guggenberger, RWTÜV Foundation Assistant Professor of IT Law at University of Münster School of Law, took on an interesting look at ‘Trust by technology from a legal perspective’ in the form of a deeper investigation into public Blockchain, the technology behind crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin. Very early in the presentation, Nikolas had us asking ourselves “what causes us to trust something or someone?” which seemed quite an intriguing question as it isn’t one that I had particularly spent time thinking about before. My initial thought was simply that it is something I personally build through experience but is that really an option in the anonymous world of virtual currencies?

Nikolas gave a number of us less educated on the workings of public Blockchain, an insight into what it is and how it functions. Blockchain is a distributed, decentralised database, which particularly came into the public domain since the origin of the most successful crypto-currency, Bitcoin. It uses maths, cryptography and a network of distributed users (PCs) to ensure the authenticity of a transaction that can be verified by the whole community. The members of the community that verify this authenticity can take a small transaction fee for playing their part in the process (this is known as mining).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The huge potential of a public Blockchain is yet to be fully unlocked but the principle in use removes the need to trust third parties such as banks during transactions and instead relies on the trust of the Blockchain itself. The scope of trust by Blockchain was illustrated by Nikolas in the diagram below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikolas offered us a very interesting insight into the potential of Blockchain and some of the legal considerations from his professional view point. It became evidently clear that there is a huge scope for benefits to be realised beyond that currently using Blockchain and that these could become a standard in our future. I found it a highly interesting keynote and one to investigate further in the coming weeks and months.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

 

Everything starts with a Project Initiation Document…!

Graham Francis
Director of Continuous Improvement
Havering Sixth Form College

In the first part of this blog , we looked at the reasons why projects fail and the process that we have adopted to try and ensure that this did not happen with our own projects at Havering Sixth Form College. In this blog, we will look at the process that we go through to get a project from an idea to being agreed and adopted by the College Executive.

Often projects will start with a senior member of college management identifying a need such as “we must have a better Asset Management system” or “wouldn’t it be great if we could see our data visually”. Just how these projects would come to fruition was not really considered. In the past, these projects (if adopted) would remain with the originator and would often result in a project, which ultimately exceeded all forms of whatever controls may have been thought to have been put in place in terms of time, cost, resources and staffing, or any possible combination thereof.

In an effort to end this, we have adopted an approach that specifies that no project can proceed before it had been thoroughly researched and a Project Initiation Document had been produced (well that was the theory!).

But what is a Project Initiation Document (or PID for short)? Wikipedia describes its purpose is to capture and record basic information needed to correctly define and plan the project and that it provides “a reference point throughout the project for both the customer and the Project team”. But what does a PID look like? Well, if I’m honest I had no idea and attempts to create one proved frustrating so after much searching of the Internet, which housed many examples, none really suitable to a college environment, I discovered Susanne Madsen’s website and adopted the Blank PID 2016 that she had developed, customising it as necessary.

This document consisted of a number of sections:
• Executive Summary (at the beginning but completed last)
• Project Definition
• Business Case
• Project Planning
• Risks and Issues (an invaluable tool to assist in developing this is the 130 Project Risks (List) created by Anna Mar)
• Project Organisation and Communication
• Project Controls
• Project Acceptance Sign-Off.

By completing each of these sections (in detail), a tightly prescribed understanding of each project is developed. An example of a PID for a recent website redevelopment project that we have undertaken can be found here Website PID.

Whilst considering the purpose of the PID, it was at this point that we started to think quite radically about why previous projects had failed and how we could avoid this in the future. As part of the development of the PID itself, it is necessary to define who the Executive Sponsor is and who is going to manage the project team. This caused us to consider two further questions: ‘How could we get effective Senior Management (Executive) buy-in into the project?’ and ‘How could we ensure that the project meets the needs of the (internal) customer?’.

One requirement of any project managed in this way is to nominate an Executive Sponsor and an Internal Project Team Leader. This again gave us an opportunity for some radical thinking:

• What if (with their agreement) the member of Executive in whose area of responsibility the project would have the most impact, became the Executive Sponsor?
• What if (again with their agreement) we were to make the member of staff who would ultimately be most affected by the changes that the project was envisaged to have, became the Project Team Leader?

We adopted this approach considering that it would ensure Senior Management buy-in whilst also reducing any impact that change would have as the Project Team leader was fully involved with the project itself.

During the process of developing the PID, it is reviewed by a small team of reviewers to ensure clarity and completeness. Once this group have agreed that the PID is complete, then it is passed to the Executive Sponsor for confirmation and signature. Until such time as it is agreed by the executive Sponsor, no work on the project itself is undertaken.

With the PID formally agreed then it is used as the basis for the Terms of Reference (TOR). The TOR for the Website Redevelopment project can be found here Website TOR . This document acts as a synopsis of the project requirements themselves and is given to prospective suppliers along with the Invitation To Tender/Quotation (ITT/ITQ), an example of which is located ITQ Website. The Terms of Reference is written in such a way that it can be used as a basis for evaluating the project when it has been completed/reached its completion date.

In the next blog, I will focus on monitoring the live project and the evaluation process undertaken when it has been completed.

Consequences for an IT Department of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University
 

EUNIS 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During his EUNIS 2017 keynote ‘General Data Protection Regulation – Consequences for an IT Department’, Rainer W. Gerling, CISO of the Max Planck Society & Honorary professor for IT Security in the department of Computer Science and Mathematics at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, took us on a journey to better understand the soon to be fully in force General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) within the European Union. In 2012, the European Commission tabled an initial proposal to regulate data protection within the EU and by the end of 2015, the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament had come to an agreement to take it forward. At this point in 2017, we are currently residing within the grace period before it formally comes into full force on 25th May 2018… this leaves all of us with not a lot of time to get our houses in order!


 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft within the development of their Windows 10 operating system now offer more than 50 native data protection settings within the ‘Privacy Settings’ however, Rainer stressed that it is highly important that we in HE review these settings to adjust from defaults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given the serious nature of the proposed fines, which can be as much as €20 million if found in breach of the regulations, it is certainly worth taking the new legislation very, very seriously. Encryption is paramount in accordance with GDPR Article 32 and what needs to be encrypted? Well, pretty much everything!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technically, standards which are considered ‘state of the art’ only remain so for a limited lifespan as new and improved solutions are developed, as is demonstrated in the below in relation to cryptographic protocols. It is therefore, important that we continually review to ensure that we are meeting legislative requirements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what should we be doing now? We should be:

  • Contacting our relevant data protection officers to discuss the implications of the legislation in line with our own institutions technical configuration.
  • Acknowledging that it is not simply the IT departments’ responsibility to ensure that we meet the relevant legislative needs but that the University as a whole is responsible.
  • Documenting our technical measures in line with ISO27000.
  • Collaborating with other HE institutions.

And we should be…

  • Improving our technical measures and accepting that state of the art is a moving target.

Rainer suggests that the current technical recommendations are:

(Click on photo to expand)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

New ideas and innovative concepts

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University
 

EUNIS 2017 Day 3 Reflections

Day 3 was a shorter day at EUNIS17 with an early afternoon closing to allow for everyone to travel home.  In contrast to the previous two days, it started with a number of optional parallel sessions to choose from in place of early morning keynotes. This morning I chose to mix-and-match with parallel sessions, starting off in a session on the “New Ideas & Innovative Concepts” track and following on to 2 sessions on “Learning, Teaching & Student Experience”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mikko Mäkelä and his colleagues at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland are required like many of us to have to optimise their estate and within that their technology offerings. This was discussed in Mikko’s session ‘New Ideas & Innovative Concepts: Laptop Lending, with Zero Effort?

Additionally, the BYOD world in which we are now living is having an effect on our students’ expectations and the way in which they learn both on and off campus. Mikko identified that this change in technology provision should not simply be driven by the IT department but also by the changes in teaching styles within the business. It was highlighted that a key factor in deciding what we need to provide is to better understand how our students are currently working and indeed how they would like to learn and work in the future.

By comparison to some other universities having presented at EUNIS17, Metropolia University is a relatively modestly sized university with just over 16,000 students and around 1,000 staff.  They identified that the classroom PCs were not utilised enough and that they may be in the wrong locations. Additionally, they were commonly not available at peak times between 10:00 and 14:00. It was therefore decided that a new approach had to be adopted to enable increased flexibility whilst offering a service that was of high-quality, available where and when required, and inclusive of all appropriate software. Metropolia investigated a variety of the lending options that were on the market including those from Posti, Redbox, D-Tech International and Ergotron. Following this, a number of their students undertook projects to design and develop a suitable laptop loans offering and created a new solution they named “LaptopLender”. Their resultant theses can be found link below: (please note they are in Finnish)

Theses 1

Theses 2

A link to Mikko’s presentation slides can be found: Eunis2017: Laptop lending, with zero-effort?

A link to Mikko’s “Laptop lending, with zero-effort?” paper can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

 

 

AETM Conference 2017, Melbourne, Australia


 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

This November I will be attending the Audiovisual and Education Technology Management (AETM) Conference held at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, along with visits to five universities in Melbourne as part of the UCISA bursary award scheme.

Details of the AETM Conference can be found here.

Universities I will be visiting are:

I will be making blog posts here on the UCISA blog and on a number of social media sites throughout my trip and I hope to produce some interesting vlogs during my time in Australia. The links for the various social media sites can be found below.

Social media site addresses:

Facebook

Twitter

LinkedIn.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask – implementing a Learning Management System


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

Mike Thomas Floejborg from the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) ran an interesting Parallel Session on Day Two of the EUNIS conference, ‘Leadership and Management – Don’t be Afraid to Ask: Implementing “New Absalon”’. The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is the oldest university in Denmark and has four primary campuses in the capital city. The university has around 40,000 students and around 10,000 staff and is divided into six faculties. In 2014, UCPH committed to a project to replace their existing Learning Management System (LMS) named Absalon, running on ItsLearning with a new system running on Canvas LMS, to retain the name “Absalon” (a reference to a former Danish Archbishop).  They went into the project with a commitment to organise it with three key elements in mind: involvement, dialogue, and transparency.

It was clarified that this was an ambitious project with a tight time schedule:

  • December 2014 – Decision made to procure and implement new LMS
  • June 2015 – Project initiated
  • May 2016 – Go live (Autumn courses)
  • Jan 2017 – Expiration of contract with current supplier (ItsLearning).

Mike continued to reinforce the fact that the stakeholders’ engagement was integral to the success of the project:

  • Organisation provided inputs for the system requirements.
  • Expert group organised, prioritised and qualified the inputs.
  • Teachers, students and members of the expert group tested the systems and chose a winner.
  • The project (including chairman of the steering committee) visited the local management of all six faculties.
    • The faculty reps were worried if the project was realistic.
    • This tour helped produce a supportive and calm stakeholder community.

The benefits of such an engaging approach were clearly evident. There was significant goodwill from management, teachers and students to the delivery of the project and subsequent use. All project participants were dedicated to the end goal. The faculties took responsibility for the local implementation of “New Absalon” and the consistent transparency and engagement are believed to have increased the recorded user satisfaction.

A link to Mike’s “Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: Implementing “New Absalon” paper can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

 

 

Next generation Digital Learning Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive Officer of IMS Global Learning Consortium, came across from the USA to talk us through his thoughts on the future of Digital Learning Architecture in Higher Education at EUNIS 2017. He very quickly put strong emphasis on the importance of a digital transformation strategy within HE institutions and outlined that IT should be an enabler to teaching and learning innovation. Dr. Abel’s presentation had so much content, in truth it was difficult to keep up. He gave us an overview of the tools and technology in place within the HE market for teaching and learning as outlined in the photo below: (apologies for poor image quality)


 

 

 

 

 

 

An outdated architecture for learning had different systems uniquely silo-ed with little to no interoperability:


 

 

 

 

 

 

What if now it was quicker and easier to make systems work in harmony, to benefit the connected learner? Well, Dr. Abel, in collaboration with Malcolm Brown (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) and Jack Suess (University of Maryland), had previously written a paper in 2013 analysing “A New Architecture for Learning” which highlights the need for an IT department to be agile, flexible and allow for personalisation when integrating new innovative learning technologies. Seamless interoperability between both current and future developed systems is the key to success; not simply an over-reliance on a current Learning Management System (LMS), but an ecosystem developed beyond it. Dr Abel referenced a very useful paper produced by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative in 2015 entitled “The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” which is worth your time to read and is available here

Dr. Abel then took the opportunity to take us on a high-speed tour of the benefits and impact of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), which include:

  • Reduced integration time and cost by a factor of 100-1000x
  • Ubiquitous across 70+ learning platforms
  • Hundreds of certified LTI apps of varying types
  • Foundation of interoperable edtech ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMS Global have publicly released Caliper, a learning analytics interoperability framework that enables the collection, storage and transportation of data about learning. The Caliper framework removes the limitations of a single LMS system and opens up a broad range of benefits to be realised through the integration and interoperability of multiple systems. It is worth noting that it is being taken seriously by many HE institutions and partners, so is not one to simply toss aside without further investigation.

Seven things you should know about Caliper

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

Open Education

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017


 

 

 

Sheila MacNeill, Senior Lecturer in Digital Learning at Glasgow Calendonian University and Vice-Chair of ALT, led a very interesting keynote ‘Open Education – the Never Ending Story‘ at EUNIS 2017 with a discussion around what “Open” meant to us. We were all invited to submit the first word that came to our mind related to our understanding of what “Open” meant within an interactive Menti word-cloud. It very quickly became apparent that there is a very broad range of thoughts on the matter and that is was a very personal view.

 


 

 

 

 

 

In January 2017, the Open Education Consortium announced 2017 to be the “Year of Open”. Open Education has been progressing positively since the Budapest Open Access Initiative was  formed in 2002 and benefited from the Cape Town Open Education Declaration of 2007 and the Paris Open Education Resources Declaration in 2012. The underlying principles of Open Education are the beliefs that “everyone has the right to education” and that “education is a public good”.

We are seeing a continually increasing number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered since their inception at Stanford University in 2011 covering a wide variety of courses. Sheila suggests that Open online learning does have a role to play within our educational landscape and that these courses are having an impact.


 

 

 

 

Shelia spoke about David Wiley’s 5Rs of Openness with Open Educational Resources (OER).

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend).

A particularly pertinent closing to Sheila’s keynote speech related to an entity she refers to as “the Nothing”. “The Nothing” is a suitable metaphor for our current society and the problems which we face in it. Coincidentally, Sheila was giving her keynote on the day of the UK election and with that outcome now known, alongside the current climate of politics within the US (with its fake news/alternative facts) and recent questionable election outcomes including that of Brexit and Trump, I can’t help but feel aligned with Sheila’s concerns.

Sheila has kindly made a number of relevant and related resources available as below:


 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/