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Coping with research data access and security challenges

Universities and colleges harbour a great deal of sensitive data which should be protected. But they are also encouraged to be open and make maximum use of the data they hold through personalisation and open access to research data. Here, UCISA’s Executive Director Peter Tinson looks at the issues for institutions in balancing the need to be open and yet secure.

 

 

 

BALANCING AGILITY, OPENNESS AND SECURITY

The challenges of providing effective services for the research community while supporting open access are many and varied. Researchers need access to both short-term storage and computational resources but the requirements of research funders are moving toward long-term preservation and archiving.
There is resistance to openness – researchers see the data as ‘theirs’ and there is a reluctance to place data in institutional repositories until all the research opportunities have been realised and the results published. Open access to research data requires that data to be tagged with appropriate metadata in order to be discoverable. However, few researchers possess the skills to tag their data and there are few incentives for them to do so.
The demand is for easy to access services provided free of charge at the point of use. While a number of institutions are starting to provide high volumes of storage for their researchers, there are few, if any, effective costing models for long-term storage and preservation. The absence of a cost-effective model provides the opportunity for a shared service; it is hoped that Jisc’s embryonic Research Data Shared Service will provide an effective solution for the sector.
Where there are no centrally provided services, or where researchers find those services too difficult or too costly to use, researchers sought alternative solutions. These included free or low-cost cloud services to store and share data, cloud services for computational resource, and the use of ‘personal’ devices such as removable hard disks or memory sticks. Information security rarely features in decisions to use easily accessible cloud services – this is due in part to the ease with which such services can be purchased but is also indicative of a lack of awareness amongst researchers. This challenge has now been recognised by many institutional IT services who are now providing supported access to cloud storage solutions and computation.
Data management is relatively immature within institutions. There is growing recognition that the data and information that an institution holds are assets and poor management of those assets represents an institutional risk. However, a one size fits all approach is not appropriate – information and data needs to be classified to determine the level of security that needs to be applied to it. The HESA Data Futures project, and HEDIIP before it ,has surfaced the lack of maturity in this area. Although there has been some improvement, we are still some way from data management being an established discipline.
Effective support of research and research data management requires a cross-institutional approach yet this is not readily understood by senior university management. This is all the more frustrating given that a briefing paper jointly produced by UCISA, SCONUL, RLUK, RUGIT, ARMA and Jisc highlighted the need for an institutional approach over three years ago.
A lack of understanding is sometimes reflected in diktats being issued and a resultant poor take up of services. Meeting the demands of both researchers and research funders requires resourcing, both in terms of staffing and services, and an understanding of how cloud services can be used effectively to meet the storage and computational demands securely. The planning process needs to be responsive to long-term trends but also to changes in policy, legislation and technological developments that may require quicker response.
The threat of cyber attack is a major concern; there is growing evidence that state-sponsored attacks primarily aimed at accessing research outputs and institutions’ intellectual property are on the rise. Yet the threat often comes from within as a result of a lack of awareness and poorly maintained systems within the institutional perimeter.
It is important that all staff in the institution realise and accept that information security is their responsibility. The institution’s management needs to recognise that information security is an institutional issue and requires a coordinated and risk-based approach. Where there are policies established to mandate information security awareness training for all staff, it may be necessary for senior institutional management to oversee the enforcement of that mandate, although such enforcement may be detrimental to building understanding and acceptance of individual responsibility.
In conclusion, managing the conundrum of being open in a secure environment requires effective governance, and a central coordinated approach that supports both research and information security. There is likely to be no one solution applicable to every research discipline but shared services such as Jisc’s RDSS should have a strong role to play.

Strategic questions to consider:

  • How mature is your institution’s information management capability? Does your institution have a business classification scheme? Are records management processes embedded in normal operations?

  • How influential is your internal audit function in determining or supporting information security policy and implementation?

  • What mechanisms do you have to learn from information security incidents, whether internal to your organisation or external?

  • Do you have an institutional approach to research data management?

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

UCISA bursary leads to new role

Kathryn Woodroof
Business Analyst
University of York

 

 

 

Lessons from the IRM UK Business Analysis Conference Europe 2017

In September 2017, I received a UCISA bursary which enabled me to attend the annual Business Analysis Conference Europe. This conference brings together over 500 Business Analysts from a range of sectors across the continent. At that time I was one year into my first formal BA post and I was excited about an opportunity to fine tune my practice and learn from others. I came back to work with a Padlet board full of conference notes, photos, ideas and contacts. Six months later I’ve been reflecting on the benefits of receiving a UCISA bursary.

For me as an individual, I came away from the conference with a sense of pride in my profession and confidence in the skills and strengths that I can bring to any IT project. I have used new tools and techniques that I learned at the conference, such as systems thinking and prototyping. I’ve also been following my manifesto for fun at work, which I spoke about in my UCISA blog post. Ultimately, the conference motivated me to aim higher and in March 2018, I was appointed to the post of Portfolio Manager for Enterprise Systems. This new role gives me the opportunity to leverage my business analysis skills to facilitate strategic decision-making at the University.

My learning from the conference has also been shared with my immediate team and it’s enabled us to improve our BA practice. We now meet fortnightly to share knowledge and work together on problems. In particular, we’ve been focusing on how we can support agile development practices; this was a hot topic at the conference and the discussions I had with other BAs have informed our thinking here at the University. I’ve also worked with my team to improve the Business Analysis section of our project toolkit, which is a shared resource open to everyone at the University.

I’ve shared my insight from the conference with others outside of our team, for example in a presentation at YO10, our community of practice for staff interested in business change. I’ve also used my conference learning to support Sarah Peace in preparing for a workshop on IT communications with the UCISA Support Services Group.

I also presented my conference takeaways at the Higher Education Business Analyst Forum in London so that my peers in HE could benefit from my experience. I’m still in touch with some of the BAs that I met at the conference via LinkedIn and Twitter and feel that I have a bigger network to tap into than I did before the conference.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.
UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

Learning behaviours and the development of new digital systems

Alice Gallagher
Senior Product Development Manager
The Open University

 

Making the most of the OEB conference


In December I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend OEB in Berlin, Germany. It is a vast, international conference that I would otherwise not have had chance to experience.

What is OEB?

OEB (formerly Online Educa Berlin) is an international learning and technology conference that spans corporate, education and public service sectors. It lasts for three days and attracts more than 2,000 participants and over 100 exhibitors. There are more than 100 sessions across the three days, including hands-on workshops, plenaries, interactive breakout sessions, discussions and debates, labs, demos and performances.
What most attracted me to the 2017 conference was the conference themes of ‘Adapting for Action’, ‘designing to Engage’ and ‘Enhancing New Skills Learning’ and how these relate to the work I am currently involved with. Most notably, research into learning behaviours to inform the development of new digital systems and tools at the Open University.

Where is it?

It is held at the Hotel InterContinental, on the western side of Berlin, around 20 minutes from Tegal Airport. It’s quite a busy area, with shops, restaurants and Berlin tourist attractions not too far away. In December there are also the Christmas markets nearby, which are well worth a visit at the end of a busy day of conferencing.

What’s it like?

In a word, big. It is a packed programme of events, with thousands of delegates descending on the Hotel InterContinental. There’s a great, buzzing atmosphere and loads of opportunities to connect with people who have different perspectives on learning and technology. The sessions are really varied and there are tons of stands to visit. The hardest part is working out where to spend your time.

 

Getting the most out of it

If you can, arrive the day before the main conference starts. You need a bit of time to acclimatise, and read the conference programme in detail. There are also pre-conference events the day before, but you need to pre-book those. Some are free, but most are extra on top of your conference ticket price.
The app is really useful, so download that when you arrive. You can choose your session and create a timetable for yourself. You can also find other delegates on there. Really useful for when you’ve forgotten the name of the person you’ve just been talking to!
I was able to attend on an OEB-plus ticket, which enabled me to attend extra sessions, as well as access to a quieter lounge and restaurant. Perfect for networking opportunities!

OEB 2018

The overall theme of the 2018 conference is ‘Learning to Love Learning’, with a focus on its changing role in our future society. Some of the more focused themes include ‘Instilling curiosity’, ‘Dynamic learning, training and future-oriented skills’, ‘Nascent technologies to change learning’, ‘Developing learning professionals’ skills and implementing complex change’ and ‘Measurable results and data collection pay-offs’. The keynote speakers have been announced as Ulrich Boser (The Learning Agency), Geoff Mulgan (NESTA), Ben Williamson (University of Stirling) and Esther Wojcicki (Educator, journalist and IT and OER consultant). It looks a fascinating conference.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.
UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

GDPR and IT support community day

Lots of work has been put in across the sector understanding the impact of GDPR on areas such as staff/student records, alumni relations, fundraising and marketing/communications – but little thought has been put into what it means for the provision of IT support. Gareth Edwards, Head of IT, Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Rachel Fligelstone, Head of Service Strategy and Communications, Lancaster University and Jenny Jordan, Customer Services Manager, Edge Hill University ran a community day for UCISA members.

ROUND UP FROM UCISA-SSG COMMUNITY DAY ON GDPR

GDPR is everywhere at the moment. As we’re now less than a month until the 25th May implementation date the topic is almost inescapable – the dire warnings about fines we’ve been hearing for so long (€20 million or 4% of the company’s global annual turnover!) are now being complimented by a steady stream of emails from suppliers and services informing us about updates to their privacy policies.
Outside of FE/HE much of the focus has been on marketing activity (and perhaps Facebook!) – but inside the sector how much time was being dedicated to understanding and acting on what GDPR means to how we provide IT support in our Universities and Colleges?
On Friday 13th April over 40 IT and Data Governance staff from Universities across the UK gathered at Edge Hill University’s central Manchester campus for a Community Day to explore the topic further, with the goal of taking back a greater understanding of the regulations’ impact and their responsibilities under the new legal framework.
The day featured a number of workshops, first looking at what we already understood about GDPR and its impact through brainstorming Stakeholders, Services, Data and Dangers.

This was an interesting exercise, revealing a good grasp of not just data protection “fundamentals” such as Data Protection Impact Analysis, Consent and Privacy Notices, but also of where this data might exist and the ways in which it could all go horribly wrong.
This was followed by a GDPR Refresher course provided by Alex Daybank of University of Manchester (very kindly stepping in at the last minute), a useful high-level reminder of the fundamentals of GDPR.
Delegates then took part in an affinity mapping exercise – an opportunity to brainstorm their worries, concerns and questions around GDPR and IT Support, followed by discussing and grouping into topics we would vote on and discuss later in the day. James Bull of ITSM tool supplier Wendia then joined us to give a suppliers eye view of the topic.
After lunch we had the opportunity to hear from representatives from Keele University, University of Glasgow and University of Oxford on their preparations for GDPR, giving some useful insight into some of the issues that have already been considered.
For the closing session of the day we returned to the list of questions we came up with earlier in the day, which delegates had voted on over lunch.

We had the time to discuss the top 4 voted topics:
  • Understanding what GDPR might mean for using and retaining data in an ITSM tool;
  • IT’s role in helping with GDPR
  • Staff and Students – New Starters, Moving Around and Leaving
  • Data Management – Retention Policies and Minimising data gathering
The discussions are documented in more detail here, but the two key themes that emerged are listed below
We wrapped up a full but enjoyable day with one last opportunity to catch up with colleagues, before heading home.
We’d like to say a big thank you to the representatives from Keele, Glasgow, Oxford and Manchester Universities who very kindly offered their time and expertise and gave excellent presentations, as well as Wendia for their input.
Thank you also to Edge Hill University for once again hosting a Support Services Community Day and making us feel welcome.
And a final thank you to the delegates, from Strathclyde to London, who took part and made the day a success.
Presentations, photos and notes from the day are available from the resources page.

Key take-outs:

  • The importance of having, understanding and enforcing data retention policies – this came up initially in discussions about ITSM tools, but was a recurring topic.

  • The need to work closely with other parts of the organisation, particularly where they might be sources of information (e.g. identity and access management, staff/student records) for systems like an ITSM tool.

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

The truth about data and analytics

The driver for many institutions’ use of analytics has been improving retention. The worried well, high achievers looking to improve, may also benefit from monitoring their own performance. But is that a lost opportunity? Can improvement be achieved across the board? UCISA Executive Director, Peter Tinson highlights a different approach.

 

 

STUDENT SUPPORT – THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL ANALYTICS

The recent report from UCISA and Sero HE, The truth about data and analytics notes that institutions’ primary aim of investing in learning analytics is to improve retention. Interventions triggered as a result of students failing to meet prescribed checkpoints lead to a discussion with the student as to the reasons for their lack of engagement and, generally, a subsequent improvement in student performance. But is an interventionist approach the only way? Are there ways to improve the performance of all students rather than focus on those at risk of failing?
Temple University in Philadelphia takes a different approach. Their Fly in 4 programme was devised to improve both retention and the number of students graduating in the minimum four years. The drive for the programme came from the top – Temple’s President wanted an initiative that focused on affordability as a result of on time graduation.
A cross-campus partnership was formed to deliver the initiative including staff from the student admissions, finance, student support, marketing and IT departments. The partnership first considered student behaviours and institutional barriers to progression and on time graduation. This review led to some process improvements and eradication of inconsistencies in the application of policies across the institution. With regard to student behaviour, it was recognised that it was relatively easy for students to drift; those who made a commitment to their studies were more likely to graduate on time.
The result was effectively a contract between the student and the institution. Each student makes a number of commitments to study and check in at key stages. This clearly places a high demand on advising staff and requires an investment in those resources to ensure that the programme is going to be effective. Advising staff were engaged in the programme at an early stage and throughout its development to shape messages and identify strategies to monitor checkpoints. On the other side of the contract, the institution commits to providing the necessary academic programmes and advice and support.
Fly in 4 has been a success with retention rates improving and numbers graduating in four years increasing. The initiative is not compulsory but over 90% of first year students signed up and are achieving demonstrably better results. It caters for all students and not just those at risk of failing or dropping out. The Fly in 4 agreement heightens student awareness of their responsibilities as well as identifying how the University will support them through the process.
Although data underpins the initiative, it is clear that student support is the key element in the programme. Without that support, the initiative would founder and the advising staff were engaged at all stages of the project to help drive success. Senior executive support led to a coordinated programme with the necessary resources for support.
The Truth about data and analytics report identified the need for senior leadership and recognised that the deployment of analytics required much more than deploying a technical solution. The Fly in 4 initiative shows how a data approach, underpinned by strong support, can deliver improvements across the piece.

Key take-outs:

  • Senior executive support is essential in developing data driven approaches to student performance

  • Data driven approaches need to be underpinned by quality support mechanisms

  • A ‘contract’ between the student and the institution improves student understanding of their responsibilities

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

Interviews: How AV developments in Melbourne’s universities are helping students

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

AETM Conference 2017 and university visits, Melbourne, Australia

Prior to attending the Audiovisual and Education Technology Management (AETM) Conference (AETM conference) at the University of the Sunshine Coast, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, I spent a week visiting five universities in Melbourne.  At each of the universities, I was taken on a tour of their teaching and learning spaces by the audio visual teams, and then interviewed a member of the team at each university to talk about what I had seen.

I have already shared interviews with Jeremy West, Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution Team at Deakin University, where we discussed the range of AV technologies at Deakin and these can be seen in my previous blog posts. One of the particular areas we discussed related to the support of hearing impaired users in teaching and learning spaces – this was also an area that I discussed with other university AV teams when touring their facilities.

Monash University

The first university I visited was Monash University where I met Matt Crawford, Audio Visual Operations and Service Delivery Manager in the eSolutions Team. Matt showed me around the teaching and learning spaces and answered some questions about what I saw on the tour.

We also talked about the current hearing-impaired AV solutions at Monash University and about new technologies and the legal requirements in Australian buildings to acquire a certificate of occupancy. Currently, Monash have various technologies, such as hearing loops and infra-red (IR), in place due to the age of their buildings but they are aiming to move to a consolidated solution.

University of Melbourne

The second tour of teaching and learning spaces took place at The University of Melbourne. Here Carlo Sgro, Senior Technical Specialist in Audio Visual Service and Strategy Infrastructure Services, gave me a tour and discussed the university’s AV solutions.

When talking about hearing impaired AV solutions, Carlo said that a high proportion of the systems are hearing loops; they have tried to stay away from infra-red and radio frequency (RF) solutions so are currently investigating wifi solutions as an alternative.

RMIT

The third university visit was with RMIT. I was taken around RMIT’s teaching and learning spaces by Adam Attana, Team Lead, AV Design, Technology – Learning, Teaching and Research, and Nikesh Kapadia, AV Delivery Manager, Information Technology Services.  After the tour I interviewed Nikesh, who explained how the flat floor teaching spaces have the IR systems in place while the lecture theatres have induction loops. With the IR systems, the receivers are managed by the student facing RMIT connect department, which allows the receivers to be lent out to students with hearing impairments.


 

 

Swinburne University

My fourth visit was to Swinburne University where I met with Robert Cameron, Technical Manager – Audio-Visual, Infrastructure Group, Information Technology. Most of the hearing-impaired solutions at Swinburne have historically been induction loops but they have recently moved to IR solutions.



Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

SharePoint migration from MySites to OneDrive for Business

Tristian O’Brien
SharePoint Technical Specialist
University of Brighton

Blog entry syndicated from my other blog that runs on GHOST.

I maintain a set of PowerShell scripts and processes to migrate many MySites from SharePoint 2010 to OneDrive for business.

As we know, PowerShell can automate many processes that you could perform using the user interfaces of SharePoint on premise or in the cloud.

So the general idea is to:

  • use a mapping file, where we have at least two columns. Column A in the windows on-premise username. Column B is the Office 365 (O365) login. I do have a third column, which is the destination OneDrive, but since this is almost usually the OneDrive logon, where any ‘@’ or ‘.’ are escaped as ‘_’
  • populate this file or database table with the users that you want to migrate
  • using PowerShell iterate through this list and
  • set users on-premise MySite to read only – I upload a separate master page and change the page status for this
  • in O365, assume the user is setup, licensed and provisioned. We use an account that has global admin rights in O365.
  • in O365, make sure that the global admin has access to the users OneDrive by adding it as a secondary admin
  • use ShareGate PowerShell to migrate the data. I know this is a cheat, but there are many reasons to use ShareGate such as insane mode, using Azure Storage and logging. Here are some other thoughts on Azure Storage.
  • when content has migrated successfully, timestamp the user profile on-premise with a date migrated value – later on we deploy some timer jobs to with delete or recycle after a specified time period.

Take a sneak peek at the https://github.com/devacuk/UoBMigration.  This is some code that I prepared for the dev.ac.uk event co-hosted by UCISA and JISC in February 2018. Slides are available here.  Much of the knowledge I accrued in order to do this are as a result of being awarded a UCISA bursary that paid the costs of travel, conference entrance fee and accommodation to MicroSoft IGNITE 2017.  For blogs on Microsoft Ignite, click here

I strongly suggest that if you do work in IT for a UK Higher Education institution, that you apply for the bursary yourself. Where this particularly helped is that I attended sessions about the latest developments in PowerShell, the tooling and Office 365. I found it particularly valuable to meets engineers from Microsoft Azure, ShareGate, MetaLogix and other vendors of migration products.

The only downside is that it is a corporate event, so one particular query about how and when any throttling of content into and out of Office 365 may occur, didn’t really get any answers from Microsoft, as I guess this kind of detail is a trade secret, I get that.

ShareGate offered some good advice on their experience with organisations way bigger than my institution, in that if you use their tools to manually migrate, use different tabs for different migration tasks. If using it in its PowerShell guise, then split the job up. Although managing that particular task would be a challenge in terms of organisation. I guess you could containerise the server using say Docker but ShareGate licenses would be needed for those individual containers I guess.

Another aspect of IGNITE is the sheer scale if it. I had planned to attend various sessions, but this wasn’t always possible due to sessions being placed far apart, overcrowding at some times and the warm weather. If I went again, I would be prepared for that though.

This blog post also appears on http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/tristianobrien/

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

Everyone has a voice

One of the key aims of UCISA’s strategic plan for the next five years is to provide members with more opportunities to express and share insights and views. UCISA’s blog pages are one such forum. Here UCISA Marketing Manager, Manjit Ghattaura offers an open invite for blog contributions along with a few tips on writing your posts.

 

THINKING OF WRITING A UCISA BLOG POST?

Want to know a secret….? You don’t have to be a word wizard to contribute a post to UCISA’s blog pages – just someone with a view or insight to share.
You may want to see if other members are experiencing the same issue. You may want to celebrate and share a success. You might simply want to get something off your chest.
Whatever your reason, by contributing a short post to UCISA’s blog pages you have the opportunity to share ideas with peers, spark new conversations and provide colleagues across the country with the kind of tips that make the working day that much easier.
We want to hear from you. We want you to have your say. So where to start?
We’ve just produced a helpful guide to writing a UCISA blog post that you can download here. As you see, it’s much more about overall format and feel than writing tips – and that’s because what really matters is being engaging, being informative and offering your unique personal perspective.
If you strike when the inspiration hits you, writing a post can be very easy. Next time something is on your mind, take a moment to make a note and let that idea leap onto the page.
To create your post, just take those notes and build on them. It shouldn’t take long. We recommend a post runs to a maximum of only 500 words. 
You could start with a story or a personal reflection. You might give your take on a thought-provoking question. A new statistic, survey or media comment might have set your thoughts running.
Whatever muse has spurred you into action, just take to the keyboard and send it through to me, Manjit Ghattaura at UCISA Marketing. We will consider each blog carefully and notify you if and when it is likely to be published.  Whatever your topic, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of other members who will really appreciate and value what you have to say.

 

Key take-outs:

  • Any member can put forward a post for consideration for publication

  • A new guide to writing blog posts for publication on UCISA’s website is now available here

  • Be informative, be engaging. Offer a personal perspective

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

The beast from the East

Lisa McDonald, User Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh and UCISA Support Services Group Committee Member, offers tips on service continuity and lessons learned after ‘Beast from The East’ snow caused widespread travel-to-work disruption.

HOW OUR BCP BEAT THE BEAST FROM THE EAST

“We’ve all heard the terms Business Continuity and Service Continuity and you likely all have business continuity plans you hope you never to have to use,” writes Lisa McDonald, User Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh.
Recently, the University of Edinburgh IT Service Desk had to become far more familiar with their BCP plans than anyone would want to.
In late February and early March 2018, the central belt of Scotland was hit by what the media termed “The Beast from the East”. And a beast it was, causing widespread chaos which unfortunately included the complete closure of the University of Edinburgh for nearly three days — a nightmare scenario for any Service Desk manager.
But we got through those three days and managed to keep our IS Helpline Service running throughout — handling 352 calls and resolving all bar four second line calls. We did this while spread geographically over an area covering a 127km radius of Central Scotland.

Figure 1: User Support team home locations (Argyle House in red)

We were organised, made the most of the tools we had and showed amazing team spirit. We learned many lessons on the way and this post is a “Top Five Tips for Service Continuity”
  1. Preparation 
    Have a Working from Home policy for all users. Create an Adverse Weather register showing team ability to travel in adverse weather and their ability to work from home. Ensure your key services like VPN have capacity to cope with an increased load from off-campus connections
  2. Communication
    Ensure your users understand the level of service to expect during this period. Set communication times in the day so staff and users know when to expect updates. Communicate with other first and second line teams so that you’re all aware of the level of underpinning support available.Your team might have tasks they need to see to at home during a weather emergency (playing in the snow doesn’t count!). They might face connection issues or find it hard to keep focus in a home environment. Make sure you continue to communicate to the team on a regular basis but don’t be tempted to micromanage.
  3. Tools
    Use Skype to hold meetings. Use chat tools to keep everyone focussed as a team while they’re geographically spread. Group chat is also a great morale booster ­– my team co-wrote a Helpline theme tune: “The Helpline Blues (I’ve got snow in my shoes)”. If you have out-of-hours cover from a 3rd party, ensure you use it as much as possible.
  4. Time Management
    You may not need as many staff on duty as usual. Review and revise your rotas so the team know when you expect them to be handling support calls. Have other tasks for them to do such as updating documentation, reviewing your website or completing their personal development paperwork.
  5. Review
    Ensure you review the event afterwards and discuss successes and learning points — not just within your own team but across the wider university or college.
No Business Continuity will ever be perfect, but with a good team and some organisation you can turn a Snowpocalypse into a Winter Wonderland!

Pictured: Lisa working from home during the ‘snowpocalypse’

Key take-outs:

  • Be prepared – Have policies guiding your users on working from home and ensure you do regular checks on your team’s ability to travel or work from home in adverse weather

  • Set expectations – Use automatic replies or standard solutions to explain to your users that service quality and speed will differ from normal running. Distance learners may not be impacted by the weather

  • Use the tools available to you – Cloud services, VPN, Chat tools and Remote Assistance tools

  • Communicate – make sure you clearly communicate at all stages of the event

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

Marketing and the digital generation – Part three of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is creating ever-greater collaboration between education’s marketing and digital technology services teams.

In the final blog in a trio of posts UCISA Executive member Paul Butler, Director of Information & Library Services at the University of Greenwich, predicts the next big game changers and expands on some of the insight on partnership offered in a related post by Greenwich University’s Chief Marketing Officer Iain Morrison.

THE RACE TO PERSONALISED DIGITAL ENVIRONMENTS HOTS UP

 

“We have a really good working relationship with marketing at Greenwich. We share, we trust and we work alongside each other from the top down,” says Paul.
“Web teams traditionally sit in marketing and there’s often a kind of a grey area in who owns the visual identity, the brand, the words. At Greenwich, the line in the sand is well-understood. The website and web team are part of both IT and marketing, which is unusual. Though the web team, Information & Library Services are the custodians, across the piste, of the platform, the brand and the visual identity. The content and its management, while policed by the central web team, is devolved and distributed into the faculties.”
“It took quite some time to achieve but there is now no mud-slinging about content or its quality. Everyone is essentially comfortable with what we have because everyone is pushing it in the same direction.”
“From a marketing perspective, there are three or four big areas of change in how we use digital communications and the technology we employ compared to even five years ago. It all starts with the student life-cycle journey and the decision to apply and come here.”
“These days it is like a sports car race between leading marques — we are ahead of some universities in some elements but we know others will catch up quickly.
“Yes, we provide printed prospectuses and technology has enabled us to provide contextualised print. But the reality is that online technology has made researching universities through the printed page an irrelevant past-time.
“Instead, we’re using data to understand where our students come to us and using analytics and business intelligence to concentrate our student recruitment resources around a prioritised and ordered schools and location list.”
“In terms of the website, analytics have enabled us to present and re-order content based on explicit knowledge of how our students and the applicant demographic are consuming information — they are butterfly-like and want it fairly thin and fairly high level.”
“While the call to action techniques we use might be cruder than Amazon in technical terms, we are using analytics to inform how we pull people in and contextualise information in ways meaningful to prospective students.  Five years ago, the job of doing this simply didn’t exist. Now it’s part of my head digital manager’s role. This goes back to why there’s an effective relationship between marketing and IT. It’s not just between directors, it spans the teams across every level.”
“Again, the job of search optimisation didn’t exist two years ago, let alone five. Being visible is vital because marketing starts, and sometimes finishes, in that twinkling moment of the prospective student’s first Google search.”
“Visibility across social media is also hugely important and while our social media team is not within IT, we obviously support them because they are using platform’s we’ve provided and everything we do is tracked, assessed and measured. We’ve seen phenomenal growth in the amount of online chat with our recruitment team — particularly during clearing. While phone calls have decreased, we’ve gone from one person manning the chat system to 10.”
“One of the most important things in this space is customer relationship management (CRM) and we now have a full end-to-end system from first enquiry to registration — and with automated campaign management workflows.
“For the future, I think information from our web interaction tracking activity could be used to inform, on the fly, how and what information is presented to provide a highly personalised user experience based on matching small pieces of provided information to past profiles that then opitimise interaction to get to a particular goal.
“That’s something, at a student recruitment level, I think we’re on the cusp of being able to do and we may even be experimenting with it at Greenwich next year.
“Something else that could also be here in five years’ or so time is the concept of truly personalised learning. We’re nowhere near it yet but if a lot of learning involves digital systems, digital content, online lectures and journals and the like then student learning styles can be tracked and analysed. Certain traits may indicate a particular kind of learner and you can then optimise their journey through their learning experience.
“I think some interesting examples of this are not that far off.  The necessary big data analytics are certainly getting there — although I’ve yet to see the data science tools that will allow the kind of interpretation you need. It will also take some time for data to go through a number of cycles to identify the patterns of success needed for personalisation.”

Key take-outs:

  • Use analytics and business intelligence to focus communication and resources

  • Consider how CRM can support effective processes end-to-end

  • Digital technology can support a personalised user experience

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.