Tag Archives: software

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.

Identifying common points of failure in technology implementation

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

The Service Desk and IT Support Show, June 2018

Attending SITS18 in June, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, has helped me learn about the most common points of failure in an implementation programme. These include:
  • Ineffective coaching program
  • Management not taking ownership
  • No workflow or content standard
  • Wrong metrics
  • Seeing it as just a project.
From one of the SITS sessions, I learnt that Eptica had compiled some interesting stats together this year from customers which are useful to be aware of:
91% of customers report that they become frustrated if they are not able to find answers they are looking for online quickly
75% of customers report incidents where agents haven’t had the right or sufficient information to be able to answer their question
70% say that they often experience inconsistent answers between channels
94% of customers say a high-quality response makes them loyal.
By looking at these statistics, it looks as if communication is the key factor which makes and breaks a successful service.

The role of AI

We must adapt to change and the change in how early/what technology people are introduced to. There were a number of different sessions which looked at AI over the course of the conference including: ‘The role of AI and the automation in the rebirth of IT’ and ‘What AI will mean for ITSM and you’. AI is now a key component in many households, which the newest generations are now experiencing at a very early stage. However, there is still an audience that has not had the same experience and may struggle to adjust. One of the speakers stated that in 2011 it had been predicted that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of its relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. It is quite noticeable today that it is in fact quite close to that already. So with AI, how can it be harnessed as a tool to make an efficient service for the customer?

The importance of individuals

This follows a point on performance of individuals. Although we are human and not robots we should have a uniform/quite identical approach and knowledge database when assisting a customer so that we can provide an effective and positive service. We can all be guilty of cherry picking who we want to deal with to get the satisfaction we need, but all involved should be able to provide that; behaviour and knowledge are very important factors in providing good customer experience. ‘Shift left’ is a great example of this as it reduces the time a customer has to spare to receive a resolution, but also helps the person/people providing the support to be more efficient and productive in their work. This may possibly save time from unnecessary escalation and provide more time on tasks that may require additional focus.
Other points noted regarding what makes a service/tool run well are as follows:
Consolidation, Compliance, Security, Adoption, Optimisation, Integration, Mobilisation, Collaboration, Collaboration, Efficiency, Productivity.
To elaborate on a couple, Adoption is a key element on both user and support side. The service/tool needs to be adopted as smoothly as possible to enable the service overall to be at its constant prime, so that it can resume or start as expected to complete its duties. Mobilisation is also another factor which relates to availability. In order to achieve the optimal service for a customer, such as online remote support, mobility plays an important part providing support no matter where the customer is.

I met with Sally Bogg for a short while on the first day who is the head of our end services at Leeds Beckett and was also talking at SITS on career development for women in IT.  We attended a keynote session on Women in Technology lead by Dr Sue Black OBE. It was quite inspiring and Dr Black had some amazing stories which she kindly shared with us all.

Conclusion

Although my role is not a managerial one and I cannot make decisions regarding the take-up of tools, it was a pleasure to learn about them. It has been a great experience to take this information back for research purposes and also to document in these blogs how we can improve our attitude and processes. I also spoke to the vendors about how colleagues and I have utilised these tools. The vendors were glad to receive feedback at the event which they could take back to improve their provision to us all.
I spoke to many individuals at this event and it has not only been beneficial for my role but also for my own confidence. Thank you very much to UCISA for the opportunity to attend this event – it is one that I’ll keep with me.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Learning about the importance of customer feedback at SITS18

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

The Service Desk and IT Support Show, June 2018

The seminars at SITS2018, which I was able to attend courtesy of a UCISA bursary, consisted of hour long talks. I have condensed here and in my next blog, information that was mentioned in the talks, which I believe may be helpful to colleagues.

Key points included learning that:
A vision for a project should be: Direct, clear, brief, achievable, believable
The mission for a project should include: What, how, from whom, why
In order to understand requirements, it is important to look at: processes, strategy, functionality, output, future
Future requirements for IT services are likely to include: Shift left testing, self-service/help/healing, AI/chatbots, business relationship management, predictive analytics
Effective research should include: Engaging with experts, engaging with community, demo, SDI intelligence, seminars, software showcase
The following inputs provide opportunities to improve: Customer satisfaction surveys, complaints/compliments and suggestions, management reports, major incident and quality reviews, cross-functional meetings, corridor conversations, social media.
These foundations should help create and sustain success if applied correctly and should continue to be focused on even after the initial launch date. For instance, if maintained, regular performance reviews will help improve services. Another factor that is sometimes overlooked, is when a small and quick addition or change is made. These play a big part in improvement and promotion of the tool.
Other areas that are important to consider include the fact that customers do not necessary want a silent switch out and may like to be informed of improvements being made to the system they use. It is important to advertise the product/tool that is being put in place, inform users why there is an improvement but also underline how it should not be problematic for the users to get the service they require. Customer experience is a huge factor in whether something fails and this should be constantly monitored.
Pictured here is a cycle of processes that I was shown at the conference, which I believe are important from the presentation by Matt Greening, ‘The Naked Service Desk’. It is a good way to further understand satisfaction levels. Correspondingly, another speaker that day underlined that ‘user experience drives improvement’ so keeping, observing and collating this useful data, can help lead to improvements.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

 

Getting the best out of the Service Desk and IT Support Show

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

SITS, June 2018

My name is Mia Campbell and I have been working in IT support services at Leeds Beckett University for nine months. I applied for the UCISA bursary in order to attend SITS18, to not only help others by providing insights from this event but also for my own development in my early journey in IT. Hopefully, you will find some helpful pieces of knowledge I gathered from this event in my blogs.

Background to SITS

SITS @SITS_UK – The Service Desk and IT support show – is a major event, taking place over two days, which almost four thousand people attend. The intention in attending the event, is to meet with other professionals and companies to learn about best practice, about software/hardware change, and for personal development. The event consists of vendor stands and seminars.

 

How to get the most out of the event

When attending a conference, I would say early is not early enough to arrive, especially if it is on a first come first served basis. Thousands of professionals attend the SITS event #SITS18 , with the same intention as yourself but only a few will be selected to attend the seminars. If you can pay in advance to secure places at the seminars, I would greatly advise doing so. While I attended some interesting seminars, there were a few I could not attend due to capacity. It did give me more time to talk and network, which is just as beneficial.
Some of the interesting talks that I attended at SITS included: Matt Greening’s ‘The Naked Service Desk’; Karl Lankford’s ‘Unlock the power of remote support’; Per Strand’s ‘How to capitalise on the knowledge revolution’; Sue Black talking about her journey to success.   I will be blogging further about what I learnt.
There was also another event/conference in the same building, InfoSecurity, Europe and I was fortunate enough to be allowed access to this with my pass. When I had covered most of the SITS conference, between gaps in my seminars, I had a look at what InfoSecurity had to offer, as security is also a huge part of the IT framework. This was a very informative event and I also met some of the companies that have reached out to us before and some others to potentially, keep in mind for the future. Furthermore, since my event consisted of two days I also had time to attend a few of their short talks, which was helpful.

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

What is the value of video use in education?

Matt Goral
Educational Technologist
City, University of London

Media and Learning Conference 2018 – Leuven, Belgium

Video assessment, video quality and lecturer performance

Courtesy of a 2018 UCISA Bursary, I was able to travel to Leuven in Belgium for this year’s Media and Learning Conference.  Among the conference’s discussions and presentations, there were several which explored the nature and purpose of video in education and assessment.
A long discussion ensued on why we might use video assessment, why ask students to make videos. There was a general consensus that the main reason is that digital literacy is becoming more important all the time. Tools to produce video are widely available and just as essay writing asks students to think critically, engage with existing literature, etc., in addition to the actual content, video format asks them to learn new software, think about data and formats, consider storage and sharing, etc. The speciality of video is providing an opportunity to learn the many digital skills in an authentic context.

Due to the variety of formats and styles, using rubrics to mark is very important to achieve consistency. Getting students to submit a storyboard or script beforehand that’s graded is also very useful, to help them with planning as the temptation is just to start shooting, and we all know how important pre-production is.

Jeanine Reutemann from Leiden University talked about quality of video. She mentioned it’s quite a hard thing to talk about, that we like watching some people and not others. Performance in front of camera really matters and is a bit unpredictable. It’s a skill. Also clearly there is a close relationship between someone’s performance and the way we shoot, communicate, and direct them. We should be mindful that the speaker will be influenced and potentially thrown by the setup. Bright lights, microphones, potentially many people hanging around. There is an intensity that doesn’t suit everyone. We should be mindful and consider how we can get the most out of someone’s style.
Also, let’s not put PowerPoint slides into VR.

Conference format

A few words on the organisation of the conference as I found it interesting. There were several formats running in parallel. First, is the familiar presentation with questions at the end. Those were limited to about 20 minutes each which was great for concentration. Secondly, there was a cinema which screened educational movies and projects at several points. Next, were the small workshops which focused on specific pieces of software that let you try them out with an expert. Finally, there were the discussion groups. Those were great in theory as the room was setup in a big circle, and the facilitators encouraged discussions between participants. However there were a few people introduced as “experts” who framed the discussion by talking about a few projects of their own. This changed the focus of the room from an open discussion between peers, to a panel session with unusual sitting. It was a wasted opportunity in my opinion, especially as only one facilitator had an activity planned and the rest of the sessions were unstructured. I see a lot of educational conferences falling back on lectures, and ignoring our own advice and not taking enough risks with formats, activities and approaches.
Overall, I think the conference was great. It allowed many new ideas and successes to be shared, but also allowed us to see that we are struggling with very similar issues (such as lecture capture adoption, see this paper ‘Tune up, tune in, don’t drop out by Emily Nordman et al.).

What next?

Please feel free to leave a comment, or email me (matt.goral@city.ac.uk), about anything that resonated with you.
I would also like to ask if you’d be interested in a webinar where you are able to ask me about the conference in more detail. If so, please leave a short comment, or email me saying you would be interested, and what you would like to talk about.

P.S. The featured picture is a photo of an untitled sculpture by Gregg Louis shown as part of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour which happened to coincide with the conference.

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

Cloud services mini-toolkits

There is increasing use of cloud-based services in Project and Change management, such as Trello, Skype and Doodle, often in conjunction with Google Apps. The PCMG Committee has developed a range of mini-toolkits to help people use these services more effectively:

These have been made available through Google docs to allow downloading for local use and for colleagues to suggest improvements and so keep the documents current and relevant. Our thanks to the University of Sheffield for their initial work in developing these documents.

Posted on behalf of Simon Geller, Joint Vice-Chair UCISA Project and Change Management Group