A comprehensive look at SSG23

08 August 2023 - A comprehensive look at SSG23


Day 1

Newcomers’ session:

Ice breaker session where we were all asked to go around and introduce ourselves to people from other universities, initially going through the itinerary and discussing the topics of the day and who the USCISA members are and the universities that they come from.

Small game of bingo wherein we asked other people questions such as things they are looking forward to today, what they do for a job and fun questions like do they play an instrument.

Apprentices in the workplace:

This area was discussing the benefits of having apprentices in the workplace and what they can offer from a business standpoint. Going over points such as the retention rates and general enthusiasm to learn and the benefits that other non-apprentices can gain from having them in the workplace. Also, de-stigmatisation about what an apprentice is, and that older people can also do them and the differing levels of apprentices that can be found in the workplace.

Kill the carrot, Snap the stick:

This session was regarding motivation and morale within the workplace and what can be done to improve the overall experience within your team, this session I feel catered more towards Team Leaders as opposed to a member of staff like me however I found that there were sections about staff that I can take away and look at for motivation.

Changing the face of IT:

In this topic we went over the differing contact mediums and how as a business we can evolve in the ever-changing IT space to cater for different needs. A lot of statistics were shown regarding the amount of self service can be achieved and how students in general would rather resolve the issue themselves instead of speaking to a member of IT. This is something that at Durham we are trying to complete as we look to implement live chat and the self-service portal more into our day-to-day workload, removing menial tasks such as how to connect to the Wi-Fi and other such problems that front line teams will encounter daily, allowing the time and resources to be best used elsewhere. This was the session I was particularly excited for as it is something that we are doing at Durham, and it gives me an idea of the improvements that Durham university are looking to make regarding IT support. I did want to ask if this could be implemented with 2nd and 3rd line tickets to be auto sent to them via the SSP rather than having service desk vet the call first and I also wanted to ask about if with more and more users using the KB would service desk deal with incoming calls by directing to the KBs rather than do the call there and then taking away first line support for other queries.

The IT service and shared service trends that will improve student support and agent experience:

This section was relating to fresh works and all the different API’s that it can implement into the user experience, be it via teams or WhatsApp. They offer different chatbot functionality and other such services to allow any time anywhere IT support. This isn’t something that we use at Durham University, but it is great to know such a function can exist and be useful and it’s something that we could take away and utilise within our own IT teams.

Northumbria university and ServiceNow:

Service now is a platform like unidesk however it costs a lot more and so we don’t use it at Durham university but it is great to know how it works and a lot of the functionality is the same, one key thing I took away from the ServiceNow talk was they use QR codes to scan and automate tickets so for example if a printer is offline you can scan the QR code and it auto generates a ticket within service now regarding this. I think this could be useful however we also use something similar with our room check application within Teams that we have recently just developed. This is also great but it’s good to know how it’s possible to improve this service for us field team members and see how other teams are using this.

AI with Durham:

This section was around chat e Cathy which is a service that Durham are going to be introducing to staff and students which will hopefully help reduce the number of first line calls that are raised for simple tasks such as software requests and other such services, it will do this by using AI and being fed knowledge base articles which can be presented to the user allowing them to self-serve for menial IT problems that don’t require a front line technician in the first instance.

Autism in the workplace:

In this lecture we discussed about how to work and support people who might be neurodivergent or autistic, this was given to us by a woman who has recently herself been diagnosed with autism and her 2 children also. It detailed different aspects such as some of the struggles that a neurodivergent person may have within the workplace such as noisy environments or struggling with verbal instructions, this topic was extremely interesting and offered some useful insight into a not so spoken about topic of conversation.


Day 2

University of South Wales cyber security

This session was regarding the cyber security struggles that the university of south Wales have encountered and how they must be compliant to get grants for teaching and other such laws, it detailed how they firstly started with an unpatched firewall and using malware bytes into how the entire team are moving to cloud and that cyber essentials has become fundamental within the role.

Removing emails:

Oxford university gave a talk on how they have removed the email channel from IT and the affect this has had and how they achieved this smoothly. They mentioned that they had 68 different emails that would all be directed to the service desk and have now got an all in 1 webpage custom built to help deal with all queries and the priority is based on the response time so firstly it will recommend that you use the knowledge bases then find a local team then phone in and then log a call. Interestingly also they allow users to set their own priority levels on the webform to log a call which I thought would result in everyone raising high priority tickets however the team suggested that this was not the case and instead the users were a lot more reasonable when it comes to priority and still the service desk can also alter the priority at a later time to better reflect the issue at present.

AI for networks:

Sussex and roc technologies and juniper talked about the new system they have that incorporates AI into a networking view allowing for easier diagnosing of issues with a helpful and easy to use GUI, you can ask the AI to pinpoint down issues with MS team calls or diagnose issues with router black spots per user or even all users by asking questions like show me all unhappy users. The issue I have found with this system that they use proprietary hardware such as Aps and Switches to help monitor this and provide full functionality and this is exclusive to the platform.


This talk was regarding how to be resilient in IT, disaster plans and speaking with your colleagues to build better relationships. I think this might have been more for CIOs and Team Leads rather than myself, but it was an interesting insight into the world of. CIO and some of the problems that they may encounter.


Overall, there was a lot of insight into the world of IT that I wasn’t aware of previously, a couple of great points to takeaway and implement into something that Durham university can use hopefully. Looking at other speakers from other universities we are ahead in some parts and behind in others and it’s working out what to keep and what to use in the grand scheme of things.

My top 3 takeaways are that AI is becoming a very useful tool alongside IT and we need not fear that it Is looking to replace our staff and instead work alongside and help staff, another one is that we are moving forward in limiting communication platforms to help manage workflows and this is a great thing to have as it means ticket management is a lot easier. My final takeaway is that we were taught about how to manage working with someone with autism, this was very insightful as it is a topic that is often not discussed around workplace behaviours and how to appropriately help and assist that colleague.

My Recommendation for all new UCISA visitors is just to take it all in, there is not 1 session where you will take nothing away, everything can be useful in 1 way or another. Its best to network and speak with people from all walks of life and all different establishments to better understand how they work and see if that can be something implemented into your workplace where possible.


Adam Hallewell, Durham University