Category Archives: Executive

What is content management, and how do we support it?

James Cox
Customer Success Analyst – Web CMS
University of Oxford

Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) 2018

This summer, with the aid of the UCISA bursary scheme, I attended the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) in York. This was my first conference since I started working in HE Digital 16 months ago, when I became part of an in-house software development team in the University of Oxford’s central IT services department.
My team built and develops a University-wide platform which comprises two distinct elements: a ‘toolkit’ to build and host websites; and a service, which responds to queries which users have raised, and provides a set of resources for users, such as live demos, documentation, and how-to guides. Ultimately, our team provides a potential solution to anyone in the university who needs to quickly create engaging web content and to make their administration of their website as painless as possible. No small task when you’re serving a highly-devolved organisation containing a wide array of use cases and user needs!

IWMW17 Ruth Mason, Matthew Castle by Kevin Mears is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
I have the reassuringly positive title of Customer Success Analyst, which situates me somewhere between the developers and business analysts – both of whom work with project partners to move the toolkit forward – and our users, who so far in the platform’s short life (the full service became operational two days after I joined the team) have created almost every kind of website a university could expect to host: from individual academic and research group sites to new web presences for academic faculties and museums.
As a customer-facing person in a technical team, I get to see both sides of the software creation and usage coin. And, as someone new to web management in HE and working on a relatively new service, I’d like to know what challenges similarly-positioned professionals are facing. As a result, IWMW seemed like a convivial space where HE Digital folk could share their experiences wrestling with similar considerations, such as supporting the creation of engaging, on-message content within their organisations, and how to make a technical solution like a CMS useful and usable to people whose day-to-day work includes only peripheral technical engagement with systems.
So, what struck me most from my first conference since working in this new sector? Which messages resonated strongest with me? And what lessons have I tried to put into my work in the four months since?

It was my first conference whilst working in HE Digital; what struck me most?

The balance between content-focused talks and ones centring on the technical parts of institutional web management differed to what I anticipated. Although the technical and management side of maintaining web services within HE was touched upon, there was a strong emphasis on content, and how to create it in a way that strengthens an institution’s brand and ultimately establishes a space for an audience to identify with it – as showcased by this promotional video for ETH Zürich, mentioned in a talk by Dave Musson. Reflecting on this during the conference, it seemed that one reason for this balance might be that technical offerings available to universities now often mean turning to SaaS solutions, which bring with them a reduced need for in-house technical expertise – allowing for greater resource allocation to the parts of web management where demand is now greatest: content and user experience.

Which talks did I enjoy and which prompted some lightbulb moments?

Telling the Birkbeck story: How customer journey mapping helped us develop our new approach to web

  • Brand identity through customer journey mapping: I enjoyed the unpacking of customer journey mapping and how it was used to design the UX of Birkbeck’s new website, and how this approach was undertaken as a foundation in promoting the Birkbeck brand: beginning with understanding the brand you have, and importantly “how your brand is no longer what you say it is, but what your users say it is”. This means you better give them a good experience or else you’re going they’re going to tell you about it – most likely through the amplification of social media.

Old school corporate identity: Blackbeard’s brand promise.
Reproduced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pirate_Flag_of_Blackbeard_(Edward_Teach).svg, CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
  • Mapping customer journeys and where the experience can be improved: The mapping process was presented in detail (key events and stages in the journeys; user feelings; touchpoints, friction, opportunities for improvement), which resonated with work that our team is currently going through, working with our administrative division.
  • Guidelines for the design process: Birkbeck adopted five design guidelines: simplify and clear clutter; push content up within the navigation and reduce user steps; connect content and surface related content on every page; flatten navigation hierarchy; don’t be afraid of long pages. Presenting good web design and information architecture practice is central to our team’s work so it’s interesting to see another institution’s take on what principles to follow.

Understanding invisible labour: University of Greenwich

  • Think about the cost of the ‘invisible’ work: A huge amount of time is lost during task switching. A Microsoft study of one of its development teams and the effect of task switching found an average increase in the time to complete a task of 226%. Think about the process a user has to undertake to complete a task using the system you support. How many steps are there? How many times does the user encounter ambiguities or increases in cognitive load, where they need to make a decision which could result in an error being made? How likely is a support request going to be raised under these circumstances? Can a change to something within the service remove this problem for the user and reduce the support load?
  • Learn the art of nudging: some users won’t jump; you need to give them a gentle push. Make tutorials (good documentation, videos, how-to docs) so users can easily engage with the system you are supporting but they need to operate. Turn it into a user experience exercise – ‘how would I have wanted to learn about that?’
  • Manage how users interact with your system: provide the basic config options and hide the rest. There is often a lot of advanced functionality in CMSs – features the average content editor isn’t likely to need. Keeping them all on display is at best confusing for users who will never need these features and at worst can result in the web-equivalent of ‘Leeroy Jenkins’, i.e. an editor clicking on the option which makes a major adverse change to the site – our team learnt that this is a thing last week, when a new content editor unfamiliar with the editing options deleted their organisation’s homepage. As a result, we’re going to make a change to prevent homepages from being deleted.
HE Digital is a small community and IWMW does an amazing job of bringing together web management professionals into a supportive community to share experiences and lessons learned. Head over to the IWMW website to see some videos of the plenary talks this year.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Improving focus and productivity with GitKraken and GloBoard

Annet Soos
Senior Web Developer
City, University of London

 

 

Discovering new software development tools at DeveloperWeek 2018, New York

Web development is a constantly evolving discipline. Keeping up to date with current trends and technologies is mandatory and with the help of the UCISA bursary programme, I was able to attend the DeveloperWeek Conference in Brooklyn, New York City. This conference included an expo, a hackathon for seven different challenges, five stages, and company representatives from Silicon Valley, and Japan. I also met developers from around the world, learnt agile team management techniques from people on C-board level, and discovered the latest tools available to improve my own personal and team’s development.
Attending this two-day event has been hugely beneficial for me and I’ve so far shared my new-found knowledge with colleagues and the developer community in London. For example: there are two tools that I came across, which I found exceptionally useful: GitKraken for version control and GloBoard for collaboration. I have integrated them into my team’s workload at City, University of London and noticed the improvement in my team’s focus and productivity.

Why version control?

When multiple developers are working on the same codebase, code-conflicts can happen, bugs can be introduced, wrong files may be accidentally deleted. Version control can help teams to retrieve earlier versions of their working source code.
By using Git as your distributed version control system, you can cover the following areas:
  • Collaboration by allowing developers to work on multiple versions of the same codebase simultaneously
  • Reviewable and restorable previous versions of the same code
  • Test alternative features before production release
  • Back up your code to a remote server.
There are several platforms to make Git work with a web interface and amongst them Github is the web community’s favourite. In 2018, it has 28 million users and 56 million repositories. Github also offers you free public repository hosting, access management, editing tools, issue tracking and more.

What does GitKraken offer?

GitKraken by Axosoft is a Git-client software that has a fun look and its intuitive user interface helps developers and non-developers equally, to understand what is happening with the source code.
As Bruce Bullis, Senior Engineering Manager of Adobe Pro Video Integration, states “software with a personality, makes you want to use it”.
The Web team at City, University of London have started to use GitKraken and have noticed the positive results. Personally, this new tool has helped me to track progress of different feature branches and it saves me time by allowing me to resume back to earlier versions, without looking for abstract commit numbers. It also makes on-boarding quicker, as I have noticed with new developers, who do not know how to use the command line, can start contributing to the codebase straight away and allows them to concentrate on the important work at hand.

Improving collaboration with GloBoard

Axosoft has another product called GloBoard. It is the extension of Gitkraken and it introduces source code workflow by allowing Git-issue synchronisation with their Git-client. My team started to use GloBoard as a scrum board, where we organise our backlog cards into designated columns. It is very similar to how Trello cards work. The benefit of using one integrated system, is that it reduces time loss and there is no context change. Once you make a Git-commit and finish a task, you can move the designated card from the progress queue to a finished status instantly, without logging into a different system.

At the time of the conference this software was not fully developed, and it was very exciting to talk about the product with Axosoft’s founder, Hamid Shojaee.

What is next

CodeStream team at DevelopWeek, NYC 2018

There were lots of other great ideas, for example:
  • code chat and documentation from CodeStream;
  • developer recruitment applications from Codility.
These tools are still in the testing phase in our team but hopefully in the near future, they will make our team’s life easier. We are continuously looking to test and innovate our workflow.
Being on this conference has allowed me to talk to entrepreneurs like Hamid, who are creating these innovative tools. Giving early feedback on beta versions of products makes me feel part of the development project. It was truly a fantastic experience to be part of it.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

We are all human

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

Reflections on mental health from this summer’s conferences

Our users are humans, and so are we.

Inspired by some of the heartbreaking, challenging and thought-provoking stories I read on World Mental Health Day, here’s a breakdown of one of the themes that emerged from the conferences I attended this summer: UX Scotland, IWMW  and UX Week (the latter funded by a UCISA bursary).
These were my takeaways from the talks, case studies and throw-away lines that tugged at my heartstrings, and reminded me that before we can truly take care of our users, we need to take care of ourselves, and each other.

From Kevin Mears’ sketchnote for ‘10 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier (In My Career)’

Know yourself and own it

“Introverts are ace​”

Half way through opening IWMW with her talk ‘10 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier (In My Career)’, blew me away. Her voice cracking, she confessed to just how difficult and uncomfortable it was for her to stand up in front of us and talk. But here she was doing it anyway, and she’d done it hundreds of times before.
Her experiences were so much like mine it was uncanny: she’d faced crippling social anxiety, low self-esteem and depression; she was convinced there was something fundamentally wrong with her, and embarrassed by that, so the whole thing became self-perpetuating. She’d rarely dare speak up in meetings, so how did she transform herself into an articulate public speaker, and become Head of Digital then Head of Marketing?
The answer: someone believed in her enough to send her on a leadership course, where she learned from a speaker she respected and admired that he also struggled with nerves every time: turns out his distinctive relaxed-but-confident pose was actually his way of dealing with the discomfort and getting through his talks.
Alison took this revelation as evidence that, while it wouldn’t get easier, she too could find ways to put herself across clearly and inspire an audience. That self-belief led her to success.
I took three lessons from this:
  1. Believe in your introverted colleagues: shy-and-quiet doesn’t mean nothing-to-say.
  2. There’s value in being able to recognise yourself in others you admire and are inspired by, so look for it and be open to it.
  3. There’s value in openness: share your struggles and you will inspire others.
“For those of you that are introverts, I’ll not see you in the bar later!”

“Humans are cursed with human brains”

When stress overloads the human brain, it can become “deeply focussed, to the point of distraction” and reverts to pattern-seeking behaviour, as Laura E. Hall  explained in her UX Week talk on ‘Caring for Players in Real World Spaces and Beyond’ (which I briefly covered).
As designers, if we observe our users enough we can predict their stressors and mitigate them. And if we listen to them enough we can come to understand their behaviour and design for it.
It’s the same in self-care, with mindfulness — thinking about our thinking — as the key. Whether we’re intro-, extra- or ambiverts, and whether or not we’re also affected by poor mental health, the more we develop our self-awareness, and the more objectively we review and reflect on our actions, their causes and their outcomes, the less our brains can hijack us.

The problem of perfectionism

“It’s good to have ideals, but don’t be an idealist”

This was no. 4 in Alison Kerwin’s ‘10 Things’. Working in digital, we have access to an enormous amount of user data that isn’t available in other areas. Understanding this data helps us identify problems and what we might do to fix them but it’s just as important to understand the politics of our organisations and the interweaving priorities of our stakeholders.
For our sanity’s sake, we have to accept that we can’t fix everything. Instead we must be pragmatic and learn when to push and when to let things go.

“You will make mistakes”

And that’s fine, as Andrew Millar made clear in his IWMW talk ‘Stress…and what to do when everything starts falling apart. He pointed out that, whether the drive to achieve perfection is internally generated or the result of external pressure, the very concept of perfection is an illusion anyway.
Book-ending his moving personal story of learning to cope with a panic disorder, Andrew called for a culture change. There’s a lot we can do for ourselves, and for each other as teammates and managers, but employers must also take active steps to tackle work-related stress and its underlying causes.

One of many zingers from Steve Jobs’ 1997 WWDC talk

Beating imposter syndrome

Award-winning Hollywood Production Designer Hannah Beachler gave the opening keynote at UX Week. Hannah was headhunted by director Ryan Coogler to bring to life the Afro-futuristic nation of Wakanda for Marvel’s Black Panther. The $200 million movie was of course wildly successful, not least because of the entire civilisation she built, that persists in imagination beyond the edge of the screen.
How could someone who moves in those kinds of circles, and whose work is sought after and celebrated by so many people possibly doubt herself? But she did, and she talked inspiringly about faking it ’til she made it.
Meanwhile, another great point from Andrew Millar’s IWMW talk on stress highlighted the importance of both getting and giving an outside perspective: so that’s another vote for keeping yourself open to favourable comparison with your heroes, and for sharing your truth.

Possibly my favourite slide of the summer, from Andrew Millar’s talk on stress.
As for me, I’ve previously written about my in-the-moment tactics for beating imposter syndrome. I’m less affected by that now but still an introvert so, while keeping an eye on my energy levels and letting myself flop when necessary, I actively look for ways to trick myself into socialising.
For example at UX Week, where delegates get a notebook with a blank cover and there are prizes for the best designs, I decided to crowd-source mine by asking at least 20 random people to draw me a dog 🐕 It was a great conversation starter and I ended up with 27 dogs, a load more friends and contacts, and a runner’s-up prize — woot!
If you please, draw me a dog!

In summary

  • Know yourself and own it
  • Accept that perfection doesn’t exist
  • Share and share and keep sharing
  • We are all human.
This blog post first appeared on the UofG UX blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The best of resources and tools at ALTC 2018

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

As Doug Belshaw, Moodlenet’s Lead, put it in his MoodleNet session – “We don’t have a problem with a lack of resources. We have a problem with the curation of those resources.” ALT shines a light on the best, some of the most useful resources I came across while attending the conference through a UCISA bursary include:

TEL Family Fortunes

Tools are always a big part of any tech event and hearing what is actually being used at the coal face is always a huge help. The UCISA TEL family fortunes session was a fun look at the UCISA Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL). Did you know that a quarter of institutions have a distance learning unit and over half of them now run a hosted VLE? UCISA digital education is currently producing a VLE review toolkit.
Julie Voce, Head of Educational Technology Learning Enhancement and Development, City, University of London UCISA leads the TEL Family Fortunes
Other interesting tools I came across while at ALT include:
Trends in tools is something picked up in the Jisc Digital tracker and new insights project.
I also really enjoyed the exciting Gasta session, which combined Irish counting, personal experiences and huge amounts of enthusiasm.
More to follow on the noticeable themes and favourite moments at ALTC.
This blog first appeared in the ‘Digital Transformation at RAU’ blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Customer focus (and a little magic)

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

In September, I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
Following on from my earlier posts about convergence and creativity this blog briefly looks at another of the themes which was prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018.

Customer Focus

The importance of focusing on the customer journey and customer experience of a system and indeed the wider organisation was mentioned in almost every session at #BA2018 . For a while there has been a palpable shift towards genuinely building and designing systems by solving customer problems and meeting their needs. Andrej Gustin (CREA Plus) and Igor Smirnov (NETICA) opened their excellent half-day ‘Digital Customer Journeys’ workshop by stating that in 90% of cases a customer who has had a bad experience will not return, however a customer who has had a good experience has a good chance of becoming an advocate. As such it is imperative that we get those customer touchpoints – both system and people-based – right. As Clay Shirky discusses in his book Cognitive Surplus, in a world of social media and digital communities, customer advocacy is worth its weight in gold – prospective customers are significantly more likely to buy your product or service if someone in their network recommends it.
But for us Business Analysts, it’s not just about the end customer when it comes to considering customer focus. We have other customers, namely senior sponsors, the business, our stakeholders or perhaps a client. We need to be customer-focused in the ways we deal with these individuals and groups and we also need to think about their needs and expectations when developing our products – the deliverables – for them.
A number of speakers touched on the importance of avoiding ‘analysis for analysts’. Adrian Reed, in his highly entertaining ‘And Then the Magic Happens – What BAs Can Learn from the World of Magic’ session gave an excellent analogy drawing on the magician community. To be taken seriously by their peers in the field, a magician must use Bicycle-branded playing cards and Sharpie branded pens. However, the audience almost certainly doesn’t notice, or care, what brand of materials are used during the trick. What they care about is the experience of the trick itself and the outcome – ideally the trick working smoothly and a sense of awe, wonder and entertainment. Ironically, Bicycle-branded cards are slippery and not optimal for use in tricks and as such in seeking to impress other magicians, the magician is actually reducing the odds of meeting their customer – the audience’s – needs, as there is a risk he or she will slip and accidentally shower the audience in playing cards! Mapping this to the world of Business Analysis, it is important to remember why we are doing analysis and for whom. Nottingham Trent University’s Suzi Jobe advised delegates to accept that in many cases, business stakeholders are not interested in business analysis and our various tools and techniques – they just want to see the outcome and how it affects them. As such we may need to trade ‘perfect’ analysis models and techniques in favour of producing a deliverable that is of value and use to our end customer.
Finally, Reed advised BAs to be service-focused and to aim to make customers feel understood and cared for. Although the outcome and outputs of a project are important, the lasting memory will be of how the customer felt when dealing with you. As a magician once said, “It’s not just the effect, what they see, it’s also what they experience during the trick – and the way they feel when the trick is over.”

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, creativity and customer focus, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Lessons learnt from US institutions at Educause 2018

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Manager
Loughborough University

 

 

Educause 2018 – day zero

As I mentioned in my opening post, this year, I was one of the very lucky recipients of the UCISA bursary scheme, which has allowed me to be in Denver for the 2018 Educause conference.
Today is the day before Educause 2018 gets underway in earnest. The Tuesday is characterised by a mixture of pre-conference workshops (additional registration required) and user group meetings. The workshops cover a diverse range of topics such as GDPR, digital storytelling, procurement, portfolio management and many more.
My day began with attending a CampusM user group meeting. CampusM are one of Loughborough University’s educational technology partners, supplying the Loughborough University mobile app to give students access to key information on their mobile, including the University VLE, lecture capture, digital registers and mobile timetables.
It was interesting to compare and contrast approaches to the mobile app with universities in the US who were in attendance, and the different drivers for using a mobile app with students. The supplier also shared some highlights from the product roadmap, and the audience were discussing some of the potential uses for the new features, as well as sharing stories and experiences from our implementations of the product. A very useful session and I hope that all of the international attendees found the unique chance to share experiences with very different institutions as useful as I did.
Following on from that I attended the Oracle Executive Summit. Oracle powers some of our key corporate systems, and this panel session featured experiences from a range of US universities, telling the story of how IT and business leadership collaborated to leverage the process of migrating key enterprise applications to the cloud to build their overall capacity for innovation and achieve substantive change. We heard what prompted the innovation, how they transformed their institutions, and some of the benefits that they have achieved so far. A number of US institutions appear to be moving away from on premise computing, so it was interesting to hear their cloud migration stories.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about that photo above, one of the meetings was held in a Denver hotel that was built inside the former Colorado National Bank. During the renovation, they added two new floors to the building, whilst retaining most of its features, including the three-story atrium with classical marble colonnades and 16 large murals depicting the life of Native Americans on the plains. Three of the bank’s massive vaults were also retained, including the basement meeting room where we spent some of the day. The thought of doing some kind of Ocean’s 11 re-enactment did cross our mind.
Tomorrow, the conference begins, with over 8,000 people here in Denver ready to attend. That number is just a little bit mind boggling, and it has increased by 1,000 since my estimate yesterday, as the official figures have become available…
This first appeared on the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

‘Braindates’ at Educause 2018

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Team Manager
Loughborough University

Educause 2018 – Day Minus One

This year, I was one of the very lucky recipients of the UCISA bursary scheme, which has allowed me to be in Denver for the 2018 Educause conference. The Educause conference is something that has been on my radar for 20 years, and it’s no coincidence that it is celebrating 20 years this year. 
It is an absolutely enormous event, with around 7,000 attendees registered this year. That’s over 10 times larger than our very own ALTC, which is why they need a venue the size of the Colorado Convention Centre to host it. I’ve been seeking out advice from past attendees, and one common theme is “don’t be overwhelmed” as well as being prepared for very long days.
I’ve been in the city for a couple of days now, acclimatising (quite literally as the city is a mile above sea level) and combating jet lag by getting sunshine and fresh air. During this time I’ve been finalising my conference schedule, setting up ‘braindates‘ (a new feature at Educause this year), and getting ready for user group meetings with the suppliers that we work with at Loughborough University. Going back to that theme of long days, my first ‘braindate’ is at 7:30am on Wednesday morning. I’ve usually not left the house at that time of day on a normal working day.
Denver is a beautiful city with so much to see and do. Today, after doing the day job from my hotel room all morning, I was out exploring the city, and just happened to bump into this wonderful specimen down by the South Platte River, in beautiful October sunshine.
I’ve called today “day minus one” as registration has opened (handily in the hotel lobby) and the #edu18 hashtag has exploded on Twitter with lots of pre-conference networking happening and hints and tips being shared. The weather is currently a hot topic, as it was 25 degrees today, but will be closer to 0 tomorrow with snow in the forecast!
Tomorrow is day zero, with user group events and briefing sessions for first time attendees. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to my biggest conference event ever. Look out for the next post tomorrow, and tweet me @Bulgenen if you have anything that you would like me to find out for you at Educause.
This first appeared on the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

From the old to the new in tackling information security

Haydn Tarr
IT Service Development Manager
The University of Chichester
Report provided to colleagues at the University of Chichester’s IT, Library and Customer Service departments

InfoSecurity Europe Conference 2018

Overview

UCISA offer a bursary to attend conferences in fields relevant to HEI support staff. I have always held a strong interest in attending InfoSec Europe and the bursary presented a perfect opportunity to attend this year. InfoSec Europe is an annual conference which holds a strong focus on cyber security technology developments. This report will disseminate my findings from the conference and draw relevance to the University of Chichester.
InfoSec was split into two formats:
My visit to InfoSec Europe focussed on the sessions it offered and discussing these topics with other visitors concerned with cyber security. There were a number of themes which were touched on regularly.

Theme 1: Cyber security prevention and training

There are varying techniques used for protecting company data from cyber-attacks. I found at the conference that commercial organisations have mainly focussed on preventative measures, e.g. firewalls, email protection, blocking users, etc. These measures do help to mitigate the risk of data breach and infection, but paradoxically reduces this workforce’s awareness of the type of threats and techniques used by attackers to exfiltrate sensitive data.
Organisations are now becoming increasingly aware that this is no longer enough, and the focus is now on training and building awareness amongst the workforce in a bid to reduce the likelihood of a data breach by exposing potential threats to staff. A general message surfaced from the seminars I attended, which was that the workforce can be the biggest asset in preventing cyber-attacks. Some organisations harness this by raising awareness and sustaining a culture where staff are encouraged to report breaches. From the opposite end of this view, other antiquated strategies are in place to prevent the workforce from even coming into contact with potential viruses and untrusted emails in the first place.
A personal takeaway is that a balance needs to be struck between the two, in which I personally feel that the University has an advantage. I observed in other organisations that training initiatives tend to be a temporary notion. Both prevention and training are a continuous development, which will adapt with emerging security vulnerabilities.

Theme 2: Blockchain

Many tech vendors in attendance at InfoSec Europe are associating themselves with Blockchain, and building this into their research and development plans for future protection technologies. In recent months we have witnessed the rise and fall in media coverage (and value!) of Bitcoin. Blockchain, which Bitcoin transactions operate upon, is a transferrable technology which can be adapted to other types of digital transactions in making them more secure.
One technology I found interesting and could offer some value in the future was the use of Blockchain to provide an improved assurance of personal identity. By using Blockchain as a way of decentralising identity, more control can be put into the hands of the individual in how they share their information with other individuals and organisations. These parties can then have more confidence that the holder of this identity, is who they say they are. This could also offer the individual complete power in what specific information that they share throughout various online services, institutions, government portals, etc.

Theme 3: The old tricks still work

Traditional exploitation techniques such as email phishing, SQL Injection and other attacks have been used for almost two decades and are continuing to grow in adoption by adversaries. The rise of IoT (Internet of Things) is partially to blame for this as the surface area of potential vulnerabilities continues to grow. These vulnerabilities could be considered as older consumer electronics, connected to the internet but using old software and firmware, are unlikely to be updated. This becomes particularly problematic in the critical infrastructure industry where I witnessed a live hack on a maritime GPS navigation system. Bringing this back to the local environment, the necessity to maintain a patching programme across the University estate with a growing number of connected devices, has never been more critical.

The University is protected in every area on the network by various prevention solutions. Despite these, there is still a risk of infection or data loss due to persistent attacks which could circumnavigate these techniques such as email phishing or social engineering. These methods are still the oldest trick in the book, and at the University with a growing number of staff, this problem continues and is generally acknowledged throughout commercial and other organisations.

Theme 4: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

These terminologies are often used to describe the next generation of learning ability in computer software. We are yet to reach the state where artificial intelligence achieves its true meaning. Machine learning, however has a big part to play in some of the advances in cyber security. Vast amounts of logging data is collected on a daily basis at the University and throughout other organisations. This logging data can be used for troubleshooting isolated technical issues and security events. Cyber security vendors are beginning to respond to this accumulation of logging data positively, by investing in machine learning R&D. Future developments could enable security technologies to learn behaviours and trends from the accumulation of collected logging data. This could help an organisation’s security posture to evolve in a more effective way to prevent and mitigate cyber-attacks. Vendors are advising that the sheer volume of data that is collected now, can be useful in the future – however, everyone needs to be mindful of GDPR.
Interviews with the keynote speakers from the conference are available along with presentations from the event.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Creativity at Business Analysis Europe

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Europe Conference in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s annual personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
Following on from my post about convergence, this article briefly looks at the second of the themes which were prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018.

Creativity

Perhaps due to the paradigm shift towards convergence, we may now be working with a different, more creative type of stakeholders: marketers, brand specialists and brand designers and within the technical fields, UX designers and app developers. Perhaps because of a focus on our customers and their journeys and experiences with our systems or the trend towards story-telling, we have a need to be more visionary in our approach to our roles as BAs. Perhaps it is a mix of the above, but it certainly seemed that exploring creative and innovative ways of eliciting requirements, solutionising and design thinking were rife across the sessions.
This was particularly illustrated in the Gamestorming session led by The Home Office’s Amy Morrell and Business Analyst Hub’s Rohela Raouf, in which delegates created concepts for systems solutions to case study problems using Lego, Playdoh and assorted craft materials. The working groups then went on to create a pitch for a branded box which represented the final system as a physical product. Whilst this was quite an extreme use of creativity for identifying areas for improvement and eliciting requirements and one that may require caution before unleashing upon more traditional business stakeholders, it certainly encouraged different, innovative and creative ways of approaching the problem. It was also an excellent opening session to energise the conference delegates and break some of the metaphorical ice!
In addition to these creative approaches, creativity in leadership, in stakeholder management and employing innovative mind-sets to disrupt your organisation and industry were discussed at length. Certainly today’s big players such as Amazon, Google, Uber and Facebook, enjoy their success in part due to the creative approach and innovative mind-set that they have applied to the industry in which they want to operate and in doing so have identified ways to exploit and disrupt the existing industry and its market environment.

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence and creativity, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Customer focus
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
This blog was originally published at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-creativity-rachel-drinkwater/
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