Monthly Archives: August 2013

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 )

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