Yearly Archives: 2013

Review of UCISA activity in 2013

2013 saw something of a recovery following the disruption resulting from the increase in undergraduate fees. There remain challenges with continued investment in the student experience being delivered within increasingly tight budgets. UCISA, through the work of its Executive, its Groups and the central office, has sought to address the needs of our community in these difficult times. Brief highlights of this work are given below.

It was also a year of transition for UCISA. It became clear at the AGM held in March in Liverpool, that the Association’s constitution as it stood, prevented UCISA from delivering the value added services you, our members, were seeking. The advice we were given was that a trading company would provide a suitable vehicle for such activities and would also address a number of potential risks for the Association and its Trustees. The Special General Meeting held in November unanimously approved the constitutional changes required and I am pleased to advise that a trading company has now been incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary of the charity. 2014 will see further changes with the Association likely to become a charitable incorporated organisation or charitable company limited by guarantee. I am confident that this will allow us to strengthen the UCISA offering and allow the Association to provide more for our members in the coming years.

In 2013 we have:

  • Run ten events on a range of topics, including the inaugural Infrastructure Group conference, plus three other multi-day conferences with exhibitions;
  • Published Strategic Challenges for IT Services, the successor to the Top Concerns survey, to promote discussion within institutions around IT service departments’ contribution;
  • Made submissions to the Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with Janet, on the implications for educational institutions as web providers within the terms of the Defamation Act;
  • Represented the IT community on the UCAS Council;
  • Launched a new group to promote best practice in Project and Change Management and established communities of practice for Enterprise Architecture and Benchmarking;
  • Represent our members’ views in discussions with Jisc to inform its transition;
  • Responded to a consultation on the National Student Survey and began discussions with other sector bodies on potential changes;
  • Published case studies on the use of SharePoint;
  • Responded to consultations on network domains for Wales and the UK as a whole;
  • Established with BUFDG and UHR, our sister organisations for Finance and HR Directors, action learning sets for those at deputy director level;
  • Published a best practice guide on Delivering business benefits from IT infrastructure projects;
  • Continued to work with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education on leadership development and improving management skills;
  • Worked with Universities UK on cyber security and benchmarking initiatives;
  • Continued to foster strong relationships with suppliers to the sector, growing the corporate membership 90 in 2012 to 105 in 2013.
  • The list above highlights just some of the work that UCISA has carried out on behalf of our members. A more formal annual report will be published in the New Year and presented at the Association’s AGM at the Management Conference in Brighton on 27 March. We will seek to continue to deliver value for money for our members and already have a number of activities in train that will deliver resources in 2014.

    I should like to take this opportunity to remind you that bookings are open for the UCISA14 Conference in March and three other events taking place in January and February, and that entries are open for both the UCISA Award for Excellence and the Amber Miro Memorial Award for Innovation. Finally, thank you for your support in 2013. I wish you, on behalf of the UCISA staff, all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

    Peter Tinson

    20 December 2013

    Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice

    This post will introduce you to Enterprise Architecture (EA) and the new UCISA Community of Practice to support the collaboration  around EA practices across the sector.

    What is Enterprise Architecture?

    Enterprise Architecture is a broad term that focuses on strategy related to a holistic approach to organisation, process, data, applications and infrastructure change. Where the change reflects the integration and standardisation requirements for a University’s operating model, and where the operating model is defined as a University’s desired state of process integration and process standardisation for delivering its core activities – education and research, as well as planning and administration.

    Enterprise Architecture activities include:

    • IT Governance
    • Alignment of IT strategy with university strategy
    • IT and data integration and standardisation strategies
    • Models that articulate the change from as is to to be
    • Practical modelling
    • A series of architectural activities − a continuum − rather than a single grand plan

    ea changeEnterprise Architecture is about change

    What are the benefits of Enterprise Architecture?

    • Lower costs for business operation, change management and IT
    • Investments which are more focused on university strategic change priorities
    • More effective dialogue between senior management, users and IT staff
    • Greater business and IT agility
    • Improved IT interoperability
    • Reduced complexity in IT

    UCISA has published the sector’s Strategic challenges for IT Services, which is the successor to UCISA’s biannual Top Concerns Survey, and is the output of a facilitated workshop attended by senior IT staff from across the UCISA membership. Enterprise Architecture practices can help support the reaction to such strategic challenges, such as:

    “Supporting students and staff in the effective use of technology for teaching, learning and assessment”

    – Aligning IT strategy with the institutions Education Strategy. Showing where IT change is influenced by University strategy, and where University strategy may be influenced by changes in technology

    “Facilitating institutional efficiencies and modernisation”

    – Strategies to deliver a standardised, well integrated, set of core systems, and recognise the costs of diversity.

    “Supporting the trends toward IT consumerisation and Bring Your Own Device”

    – Helping to assess the holistic fit of Cloud services and BYOD with the existing IT landscape

    What is a community of practice?

    A group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or interest in a topic and who come together to fulfil both individual and community goals. They often focus on sharing best practices to advance a professional practice.

    Interaction on an ongoing basis is an important part of a community of practice.

    Why is a community of practice important?

    Universities have a long history of inter-organisation collaboration. This has sometimes been referred to as ‘co-op-etition’ (cooperation whilst in competition). A community of practice provides a model for inter-organisation collaboration, by helping to: Connect people; Focus on a specific domain of professional practice (in this case Enterprise Architecture); Enable dialogue; Stimulate learning; Generate capture and share knowledge; Introduce collaborative processes; Deliver tangible results

    How will this Community of Practice operate?

    This needs to be decided by the community of practice as it forms. However, it will be important to create a regular rhythm of communication in order to establish some momentum. This could be achieved through regular on-line conference calls (via Skype or other).

    Other ideas include:

    • Initiate new discussions via a mailing list
    • Regional face-to-face events
    • Streams of activity focused around specific areas (IT governance, SOA, modelling, etc.)
    • Knowledge sharing workshops
    • At least one national face-to-face event per year
    • Generate good practice guidance
    • Curate outputs and knowledge on a collaborative wiki

    Aims and objectives

    The UCISA Enterprise Architecture (EA) community of practice will promote the sharing of information, good practice, tools and technologies amongst those interested or engaged in the use of EA and SOA approaches in Higher Education.

    The Enterprise Architecture community of practice has the following aims and objectives:

    • Develop EA and SOA approaches for HE
    • Support for those who are new to EA
    • Share good practice/explore areas of interest
    • Online resources and face to face events
    • Be a highly collaborative community
    • Develop relationships with sector/industry groups
    • Develop the business case for EA
    • Promote EA and SOA approaches

    The community will report to UCISA Corporate Information Systems Group (CISG) committee.

    How do I get involved?

    Find out more at:

    http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/bestpractice/cop/ea

    Select the ‘Get involved‘ link to express your interest.

    About me

    Luke_Taylor_v3My name is Luke Taylor. I have the role of Assistant IT Director at University of Bristol, and also Chair of UCISA CISG Committee.

    My normal day job involves taking responsibility for working with senior management to help them understand the opportunities IT can bring; Working with project sponsors to identify solutions for specific projects, within a context of an overall IT systems strategy (Enterprise Architecture); Taking the PRINCE2 role Senior Supplier on project boards; Leading and developing a team of circa 30 staff.

    My role at UCISA involves leading the CISG Committee and its activities, liaising with sector-specific organisations, and contributing to the UCISA Executive Committee.

    Support Services Conference Planning for 2014

    Crewe HallThis week I have been back to the lovely and awe-inspiring Crewe Hall Hotel with some of my UCISA colleagues to plan the next Support Services Conference scheduled for 2-4 July 2014.

    It really doesn’t seem so long since July when we were enjoying ourselves in Edinburgh both on campus at the John McIntyre Centre and off campus (climbing Arthur’s Seat) but time marches on and following a couple of years contributing to this annual event, namely by delivering a Pecha Kucha session, facilitating a couple of discussion sessions and talking about our Edge Hill experience obtaining the Customer Services Excellence award (with five Compliance Plus elements), it’s time for a different challenge: Joining the Conference Committee.

    Now then, in the past I have enjoyed contributing to the fringes of the conference discussions from the security of the UCISA group, suggesting various ideas ranging from discussion topics to vegetarian menu options safe in the knowledge that they were only ideas. This time it’s different – and it includes responsibility for delivery. In my normal role, as IT Customer Services Manager at Edge Hill, I am comfortable with both aspects of delivery and responsibility – delivery of a service and taking responsibility for the same. But conference organisation … that’s definitely well outside of my comfort zone.

    I learned that we have to identify potential speakers and balance them with break-out sessions, sponsors’ showcases, comfort breaks, lunch menus, networking opportunities, pecha kucha sessions, after dinner speakers and discussion groups. On top of that there are the session chairs to sort out, the meet-and-greeters, the room planning the housekeeping and the AV. Phew!

    Crewe Hall is an unusual and beautiful venue for a conference. The feedback from the last time we visited in 2012 was superb. All the facilities are close together in a wonderfully historic and atmospheric building. There is the luxury of the leisure centre facilities for the energetic amongst us and the fabulous revolving cocktail bar for the adventurous (I highly recommend their Chocolate Orange Cocktail). The Great Hall where the drinks reception before the conference dinner is held is a truly remarkable room and as for the old bedrooms … Wow!

    There are many things that we need to plan over the next few months. Today we left with an idea of the structure and the timings of each event and a pretty good idea of who we would be inviting to speak. This time we are going to be seeking potential attendees views before the event – we want to know what you’d like to discuss; what entertainment you would enjoy after the conference dinner and we’ll be looking for questions and topics for some of the discussion sessions we are planning. We really want it to be YOUR conference so that you get the most from it. So if you haven’t done so before, please think about participating whether it be suggesting a discussion topic or delivering a fully-fledged pecha kucha session which really and truly is great fun despite what you might think 

    Of course, we’ve all been to these kind of events before and when they run smoothly and to plan it seems like they are effortless. Please spare a thought for the people who devote their time and effort into the planning. I know I will.

    Jenny Jordan
    Customer Services Manager
    IT Services
    Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire

    A bit about me:

    Jenny JordanAs part of my role, I manage the IT Service Desk where we focus on resident students IT enquiries (other than first line enquiries which are generally directed to the library), 2nd line student enquiries and staff IT issues. We support BYOD and will help any authorised users connect their device to the wireless. We use RMS as our Service Management tool and we are doing our best to increase our profile and, therefore, promote our service portfolio to the business which consists of Faculties and Support Departments. I have been a member of UCISA since 2010. My first language is English and my second is IT Speak. You can contact me on the comments form below.

    Educause 2013

    Educause 2013

    Educause 2013 was held in Anaheim, California, and I am very grateful to Regent’s University London to have been able to attend. It was held at the Anaheim convention centre almost opposite the first Disney, so as you would expect quite busy. Not exactly my destination of choice but the mountains in the far distance at least lent some exotica to the event. I was told that about 4,100 delegates attended so yes it was busy albeit I understand attendance was slightly down on previous years.

    The Hall set aside for trade exhibitors was huge and some of the ‘big hitters’ had massive stands, I must congratulate the UK based CampusM (a mobile app for Universities) with whom I’ve worked with in past did a very good job on the conference app, I really hope it results in some North American customers.

    I attended a few really good sessions and a few that made me seriously think if the world had turned since the last time I went to Educause. Sometimes it takes a while for concepts to evolve but I was rather surprised that some were still thinking about service structures and values.

    I also personally found the conference to be less relevant to the role that I currently have. In North American Higher Education a CIO in the majority of cases is the highest ranking IT officer, it is not someone who has management responsibility for other key Departments such as the Library, E- Learning, Media & AV sSupport, Students records, MIS/Bi and all IT Staff Development.

    I enjoyed meeting some old acquaintances from the USA and colleagues from the UK, it was useful to exchange stories and experiences about the conference. Towards the end of the conference I was asked to participate in ‘The CIO minute’, which was basically a short video cast about ‘burning issues’ in a very brief Q&A session.

    Here’s a brief rundown of some of (in my opinion) the best sessions;

    Sir Tim Robinson (Keynote)
    Funny, engaging and in part quite serious especially the issues around world population growth, a cause of great concern for our children’s children.Will we all have to become like the Culture Citizens in the late Iain M Banks Books and ‘store’ ourselves so we can be backed up and restored as needed. How will we find several new Earths so that in 4 or 5 generations time we will have room to grow.

    CIO Constituent Group Session
    Good opportunity to just sit and discuss the Top Ten issues as determined by the Top Ten survey that Educause carries out annually. I enjoyed a discussion on funding and strategy, which in turn led to a lively debate.

    Campus Computing IT Campus Survey 2013
    Very useful session on general IT computing from across the USA, over 3400 institutions took part so some comprehensive views and indications of direction of travel.

    Jane McGonigal (Keynote)
    A brilliant keynote, which examined the role of gaming and how that influences lives and how in turn ‘gamiification’ could be used in Higher Education. Fascinating statistics such as the time playing World of Warcraft (over 6 million years).

    The State of E-Learning in Higher Ed
    The results of another very comprehensive survey, this time focusing on E-Learning, all good stuff, some stats reflecting exactly what I expected some not.

    Disaggregation & Innovation in Higher Education; Charting a Course through Turbulent Times (Keynote)
    A really interesting keynote on the power of Higher Education to change lives mostly through a competency based style on-line degree courses that also relied on Apel to get learners onto the courses, not unlike some of the great work done by IWBL. This to me is one of the great game changers in Higher Education in order to create social mobility then Higher Education has to create accessibility. Its how you make the opportunity available and affordable with great peer support that matters. Interesting use of sales force in managing the programmes rather than a traditional LMS.

    All in all it’s always good to get out there and get to meet other colleagues from around the world and Educause is great for that, using those conversations and reflections is a key part of personal and professional growth. It also draws in alternative views and aspects that perhaps hadn’t been considered before and questions previously held views.

    Communications, Students & Videos

    Here at The University of Sheffield, IT is centrally managed by CiCS (Corporate Information and Computing Studies), and within CiCS we have a comms team dealing with internal and external comms relating to all the services we provide.

    For a while we had wanted to make steps into creating comms through videos, but due to a number of factors the furthest we had got, was to produce screencasts.

    We wanted to try and bring skills and fresh ideas into the team to help and so we put a bid in for a 100 hour student intern place being funded centrally within the University.

    It was partly experimental but also a planned journey into getting students involved in helping create comms that were hopefully more relevant to other students than we would have created.

    So with one first year Chemistry student recruited, the launch of our new portal imminent (which was conceptually hard to describe in words) and we released the following

    Over the duration of the 100 hour placement a number of videos were created to deal with subjects such as printing:

    …and staying safe on line:

    You can find more of our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/CiCSComms/videos and we are also experimenting with Vine with short videos such as this one on connecting to Eduroam on a Mac

    The experience of having a student working within our comms team brought so many benefits, not just in the finished articles but also in bringing new perspectives and understanding to the team as a whole.

    We were sad to see our student intern leave us, however building on the success we have had approval for a further 2 intern posts, one to carry on working on creating video and the other to help us generate images for our website and publications.

    We can’t wait for them to join the team!

    Post by Rob Needham,
    Head of Customer Service
    and Communication
    University of Sheffield

    Disruptive Engagement

    Disruptive Engagement

    I was recently lucky enough to be able to attend (& present a paper) at the Designs in E-Learning conference hosted by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and organised by The University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Center for Teaching Excellence with Penn State University and the University of the Arts London. What attracted me to the conference was the theme; ‘The Art Disruptive Engagement’

    The conference was small and in some ways that made it a better experience, I enjoyed being able to talk to practioneers in disciplines who bought to the conference some really interesting aspects of ‘disruptive engagement’. It seemed to me to have been some time since I was able to reflect on what happens to the ‘rules and technologies’ we collectively introduce and maintain within our institutions, it caused me some some pause for thought.

    My session was in partnership with a Programme Leader from another UK university where we ‘posited’ on the role of the CIO and the ‘lowly academic’ who just wanted to use some of these great tools ‘out there’. I’m not sure we reached a consensus but it was none the less a good debate, what was clear was that the distance we believe there is between our Academic colleagues views about technology and ‘managements’ is far greater than I imagined.

    This led me to think more about the role that we play in supporting learning & teaching, are we ‘my way or the highway’ and ‘holding academics to ransom’ or do we re-think the academy and release aspects of ‘control’ and fully embrace the almost limitless options for digital literacy. This I believe is a key debate.

    I attended a session with a group of students from the University of North Carolina, and their views about social media, the boundaries between the University and their personal life were clearly delineated…i.e. would you mind if your Professor followed you on Facebook answer;

    ‘No — but it would be a bit creepy and I would adjust my FB settings so they couldn’t see much’. Which led to the inevitable question; ‘do you worry about what you put on Facebook?’, ‘no we don’t and besides you shouldn’t be using Facebook if you don’t know how to use the privacy settings’

    …another questioner then asked ‘do you use other sites?’, they all used Linked in as their ‘professional contact site’. I asked about the use of portals and virtual one stop shops, they all stated they used it at UNC and it was a great idea, however they also hated using the UNC internal file storage (which they did not trust) and wished the UNC system would just use drop box…which they fully trusted.

    I asked about their Professors and how they used digital tools, they said some good some bad but believed the generation gap had allot to do with adoption of digital skills, they used the examples of software they just pick up and use without any training such as slide share and felt the intuitive process they go through when faced with new software was a direct result of the exposure they had to digital tools.

    It was interesting to debate with other delegates what services ‘e’ Universities should offer and what services should be allowed to happed externally, my own view is by all means use freely available tools if you like but return to the University systems when needing to interact formally with the University. In response some delegates asked for a set of guidelines to be developed not only for Directors of Services but also for our Academic colleagues, this is something that UCISA are hoping to produce by mid 2014.

    I would urge colleagues to consider the forthcoming Changing Landscapes event as a useful forum to listen and discuss current trends ‘of best practice in approaching the challenges of IT and digital skills training in the changing HE landscape’

    Jim Nottingham Chair DSDG

    UCISA
    http://www.ucisa.ac.uk

    Changing Landscapes
    http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/dsdg/Events/2014/changing.aspx

    Designs on E Learning
    http://www.designsonelearning.net/2013/content/welcome

    New Shree Publication
    Literacy in the Digital University: Critical perspectives on learning, scholarship and technology July 2013

    Confidence, community, camaraderie… I *will* not cry!

    July 2008 – Carla Thornley Application for Joining the UCISA TLIG – Advisory Services Working Group

    “I am passionate about providing high quality, relevant support… and equally passionate about the need to develop helpdesk/first and second line support roles which are attractive, interesting and highly valued to the organisation. My own personal goal within this role here at SHU is to ensure that we develop and deliver a professional, proactive service which meets the changing needs of our users. I do feel sure that being part of the work of this UCISA group will assist me in achieving this goal. I would like to meet and share best practice with like-minded colleagues across the sector, and gain more experience to help ensure that here at SHU we are doing the best for both our users and our staff.
    I have the full backing and support of both my Service Manager in wishing to become a member of your working group. I do hope that you may feel that I have the relevant skills mix and that I can perhaps bring something of value to your group.”

    Gulp!

    Sat here today sorting through 13 ½ years of paperwork, files and documents as I prepare to take up a new post, I have just come across my application to join what we now know as the UCISA Support Services Group.

    In a bittersweet occasion last month, I attended my final SSG meeting up at Leeds University – where I felt a mixture of pride for the work that I’ve been part of, alongside a huge pang of jealousy with the realisation that I’d no longer be a part of the events and activities we were discussing and planning as we went through our business plan.

    Back in 2008 as I stepped in to a new role with responsibility for managing our Helpdesk services, finding ways to connect with external networks was one of the very first things I sought to do. This stemmed in part from a lack of personal confidence, but mostly from a desire to avoid becoming too insular; focussing too intently on what was, or had always been here at this University. Knowing, understanding and responding to the foibles of own unique user community is truly a great strength within HE support departments…but sometimes in responding so faithfully to our internal stakeholders, we might perhaps forget that the activities and tasks we engage in are far from particular to our sector or our home institution. We all have similar stories and common goals. Absolutely NO point in reinventing the wheel.

    “Goal” appears to have been a much overused word in my application – but upon reflection I have to say that my 5 year tenure on this group has delivered in every way. Hard to believe it has been 5 years! And in all fairness it is probably true to say that leaving the University…and indeed the HE sector might well have been the only way I would have relinquished my place on the group, given that it has – as with so many other things in life, very much been a case of getting back much, much more than I put in.

    I am not the only one to be leaving either….and so we at an interesting point in our history where things are changing and we are now looking for people to fill a number our vacancies.

    If you are considering taking that same step that I did back in 2008, and planning on putting forward an application to join then you will have perhaps taken a look at the website and reviewed our goals and mission here: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/ssg.aspx

    But what might you really be letting yourself in for….??

    A quick snapshot of my last 5 years reveals:

    1. Light-hearted geekery and ribbing at each and every committee meeting (around four each year) as group members consistently turn up with – and struggle to use, a procession of the latest gadgets.
    2. Hosting meetings at your home institution – showcasing your services, discussing your plans (and comparing in-house catering)
    3. Earnest deliberation and debate (…often not without disagreement) around hot topics or future plans
    4. Detailed planning for the delivery of a range of events which might strike a chord with our community – Developing A Service Desk Good Practice Guide at LSE memorably being my first ever one-day event (apologies to you if you attended and were subject to my rookie facilitation!) 
    5. Devising, surveys and compiling reports such as the 2012 Service Desk Group Benchmarking Survey 
    6. And the big one… planning for, and playing your part in the success of our fantastic (now annual) Support Services Conference – when it comes to these – well there, the world is your oyster! Even if like me you shudder to think of standing up to speak to 120+ of your peers, there are a multitude of ways you can make a difference. So across my time, I have enjoyed facilitating World Café’s; being a speaker in a conference debate; volunteering to be a “speaker meeter/greater”; dashing around with flipchart paper, post-its and pens, tweeting; retweeting; tweeting some more…mopping brows and generally offering any support I can to the committee, UCISA admin or those brave enough to speak (note to self: one day I will present at a conference!) .

    And in return, what might you get out of it?

    During my time we’ve hosted conferences in Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Crewe..and Edinburgh – fantastic places all! Through these and other events and communication channels, many UCISA delegates and members have become familiar faces, trusted colleagues, sounding boards and dare I say it …friends! Connecting with professionals in similar roles has given me the personal confidence to push ahead with changes and cope with challenges within my own job. If I need help or advice, a sanity check or completely a new perspective, then I know where to go. I have been lucky enough to meet and connect with people I truly admire and respect – and these people have been generous enough to delight in my successes and share the burden when times have been tough.

    All in all, a pretty good deal!

    One final note has to be to say that my employer Sheffield Hallam University, my manager and other senior staff here have been very generous and supportive in allowing me to pick up what is in essence a voluntary role. All members of our group are busy, busy people and have challenging day-jobs, and yet the success of UCISA depends in part upon the effort we put in. But then once again, I’d say I strongly believe that you get out more than you put in…

    So here is a personal account of my own UCISA journey. I wish those of you lucky enough to go on to become members of SSG all the very, very best – now get on with submitting your application form!

    As for my fellow group members…hmmmm….another gulp….

    Well, I may be leaving HE but I can promise you I will be keeping in touch! People keep telling me that I will be shocked by the differences in the Corporate Sector. I’m throwing that back to say that actually I reckon “hashtag UCISA SSG-HE-Posse” has plenty to offer, plenty to give and loads that others can learn from.

    Sob.

    x

    [This post written by Carla Thornley as she prepared to leave the HE Sector and leave the Support Services Group]

     

    Oxford University ICT Forum Conference 2013

    11th July saw the annual ICT Forum conference for Oxford’s IT Staff with some from Cambridge, and a few others including Birmingham, Cardiff and Southampton too.  It was held at the Kassam Stadium as usual and started with an introduction from Anne Trefethen, our CIO, reminding people how far the IT Services formation had come in the last year and expressing her gratitude for all that Oxford’s distributed IT Staff do for the University in delivering a coherent and joined up service.  I was touched that she thanked my team, IT Support Staff Services (ITS3), for all we do too.  It is really good that IT Services is continuing to support the ICTF conference by allowing lots of resources (not least ITS3’s time) to be put towards it.  It must be remembered that the ICTF Conference Committee also does a huge amount of work to make the conference happen, particularly its leader Sarah Lawson.

    Following the introduction we heard two plenaries, one about a robotic car by Prof Paul Newman and one about cyber security and insider threats, by Prof Sadie Creese.  We had the usual 24 workshops running in four parallel sessions of six and there were some fascinating topics and a great variety of technical and less technical subjects.  Five were by Cambridge people and we had an IT director (Séan Duffy) from Birmingham talking about informations security as well as James Davis from Janet CSIRT on evidence-based security.  Following all that we normally have a plenary session but this year opted to get everyone together in the last hour for a Pecha-Kucha session.  The format is that each speaker has 20 slides to talk about their topic and each slide lasts 20 seconds so the talk is over in 400 seconds, i.e. 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  I was really delighted that 9 people came forward to give sessions and that they all went extremely well with people rising incredibly well to the challenge.  They were so good that I list them all here, note also the gratuitous cupcakes picture, another new innovation for this year.

    Pecha Kucha
    20 slides, 20 seconds each. The Pecha Kucha format ensures a fast moving and invigorating pace as we take a brief look at:

    • Tom Anstey: One year in – where are we with information security?
    • Carl Marshall: Rapidly developing a secure data collection environment.
    • Penny Schenk: Using Creative Commons images.
    • Lyn Waddington: eSSO and other IAM developments. The current IAM strategy and the road map and projects for the next three years.
    • Jeremy Rowntree: A novel remote live lecture broadcast technique.
    • David King: Building the new mobile Oxford.
    • Sarah Lawson: Stuffing your Digital Safe.
    • Peter Smith: Using telecommunications data to fight crime legally and effectively.
    • Mark Duller: OpenBSD Desktop: More than a firewall, OpenBSD as a secure Desktop.

    Pecha Kucha is a real joy at the end of the day as it completely re-invigorates everyone and gets a huge amount of information across in a very short time.

    Following announcement of the ICTF election results by me (Riaz Khimji – IT Services, and Ross Wackett – Linacre College, were elected) and general thanks by Jeremy Worth, the ICTF chair, we moved out to the football stadium for another group photo (as we did last year) and then there was the pre-dinner drinks reception.  It would be fair to say the Kassam Stadium staff did a quick and efficient job of turning round the main plenary session room and turning it into a dining room this year.  Dinner was good and served efficiently.  Our after-dinner speaker this year was Tomasz Schafernaker – BBC weatherman and meteorologist.  He shared some interesting anecdotes and facts about the new BBC centre on Oxford Street.  He kindly drew the prize draw for us  to round off the evening.  This year’s prize draw money is going to Sobell House, an Oxford hospice for adults.

    The could-do-better points of the day for me were the lunch – it’s very hard to get that right for so many people but the food was not great (soggy rolls) and it was not ready when it should have been. That isn’t good when 300+ people are waiting.  The other problem was the Wi-Fi – last year the issue was lack of address space and that was fixed this year but the underlying network was just not coping properly with so many people even though we’d made it clear that it needed to cater for 500 concurrent users.  Many people however experienced not being able to connect at all and those that could connect were experiencing slow connections with regular drop-out.  This is not the service I want to be delivering to Oxford and Cambridge’s  IT Staff.  I hope we can use eduroam next year.

    There were around 330 delegates and six companies sponsored the event and had exhibition stands – they were Dell, Nouveau Solutions, CAE, Misco, Khipu and OCF.  I am very grateful to all of the sponsors because the event wouldn’t be able to happen without them.  Do visit their sites and have look – they’ll love us if you do!

    (Post by Tony Brett, originally appeared in http://blogs.it.ox.ac.uk/tony/ )

    Support Services Conference 2013 – Takeaways

    group discussion

    Picture thanks to Paul Mazumdar

    (A post from James Woodward, chair of the Support Services Group)

    Once again the Support Services Group put on a topical and interesting programme for this year’s conference. A review of the conference will be published in the University Business publication (link to this once its up), but I wanted to share some specifics with you.

    An emphasis was put on ‘Takeaways’. Over the last year or so more justification has been put on attending conferences so this year, as I had a slot on day one I thought I would encourage people to think about what they were going to take away from the conference by putting a competitive element on it. Delegates were asked to submit different takeaways throughout the conference and a judging panel picked the best.

    Some of the takeaways included:

    • That St Andrews have a customer satisfaction return rate if 30%. If they can do it so can we. I’m going to be working hard to improve our return rates
    • For all the technology we have available to connect to our users, the most basic is the most innovative – it’s good to talk face to face to get your message across!
    • Manchester Metropolitan University. Recognising achieving celebrating successes. Appreciate the staff you have.
    • my best take away from the conference is a little piece of rock I’ve just picked up and will put on my desk at work to remind me to S.U.M.O – as Paul inspired me to stop thinking about whether to do the climb or not and just go and do it (even wearing the most inappropriate footwear possible as I only brought one pair!)!  If I ever find myself wearing a victim tshirt at work or wallowing in hippotime for too long I’ll look at my little friend “Rocky” (yes he has a name) and he’ll inspire me to just crack on and make a difference! 🙂
    • 1 minute survey – a simple 4 question survey (one of which is the users name). Great idea, I don’t know why we gave never thought of systemising user feedback before…
    • Have a MAD day
    • When looking at developing a self service portal, remember the “self service” breakfast bar downstairs – busy, confusing, difficult to navigate, lots of repetition – person a thinks “ahhh hash browns, now I wonder what’s over here? Hash browns eh?”. Don’t overcomplicate the user experience under the guise of efficiency.
    • I will make sure that I give people personal positive feedback for jobs well done.  We need to ensure that people are recognised for making a difference.
    • Communication is the key to get together People, IT staff and Library Staff and be seen to the end user as a point of Help, support and advice!
    • Culture and change have been a big theme – need to reflect on our culture

    I instigated the idea of culture change to the conference on day one, explaining that it is possible to change the culture of an organisation, but it does take time and hard work. The benefits that MMU have had by doing this have been immense. Staff have wanted to be apart of the change, wanted to be recognised for helping with the culture change and have helped instil the ‘can do attitude’, the ability to move forward and put IT Service back on the university agenda. The theme continued with Paul McGee (the SUMO man). Paul made us think about how we approach certain things, how we think about our work and how, if we change our approach the difference it can make to both our work and lives in general.

    Overall, there was a good buzz around the conference, delegates we using the important free time to network with other colleagues, sharing ideas and looking for ways of improving the services they offer. The twitter hash tag #ussc13 was full of traffic before, during and after the conference and we look forward to recreating this again next year.

    James Woodward

    HEDIIP – changing the information landscape

    The Government White Paper Students at the heart of the system (published June 2011) emphasised the need to improve the quality and timeliness of data provided by the sector and sought to reduce the data burden on institutions. Specifically, paragraph 6.22 of the Paper called for the Higher Education information landscape to be redesigned in order to arrive at a new system that meets the needs of a wider group of users; reduces the duplication that currently exists, and results in timelier and more relevant data.

    The Regulatory Partnership Group was formed to advise Government and other national agencies on issues arising from the development of the new funding and regulatory regime for higher education in England. The Group commissioned a feasibility study into redesigning the information landscape. The report A pathway to reform made a number of recommendations including that the key stakeholders should establish a collective oversight of the information landscape to achieve a more efficient and effective system of governance. The report called for programme of work to be established to create a more coherent set of arrangements for the collection, sharing and dissemination of data and information about the HE system. The Regulatory Partnership Group accepted the recommendations in the report and commissioned a series of projects to carry them forward.

    The Higher Education Data and Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP) is being established to manage this work. The first outputs from the projects, roadmaps to a new Joint Academic Coding System and implementation of the Unique Learner Number, have now been published on the HEDIIP website. As HEDIIP evolves, it is likely that new interfaces between institutional systems and the new information landscape will have to be developed. UCISA will seek to ensure that these are specified in a timely manner to allow systems suppliers to be able to plan the development, testing and roll out to their customers.

    Andy Youell, HEDIIP Director, is speaking on the Programme at the CISG Conference in Brighton in November.