Monday, 29 March 2010

Britain: The disgrace of the Universities (article)

This was published in the New York Review of Books (March). It was part of a free publicity handout in the weekend papers. For some reason King's is particularly targetted and an unexpected mention for the CIO too.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

UCISA10 Video Presentations

We are pleased to announce that video recordings of all the presentations at UCISA Management Conference in Harrogate are now available. With thanks to Sonic Foundry. If you only have chance to investigate one of these, try Larry Hincker from Virginia Tech - the presentation is worth an hour of your time.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Crossley Heath Rugby Success

Rather an excellent Rugby weekend on the home front with Jacob and Joseph both part of the squads that won the Yorkshire Schools Rugby Cup at Harrogate. Rather cold and wet to be standing in the rain from mid-day to 6pm but worth every minute as the U18s won by one point and now prepare for the Australian Tour in July (as this was last match of the season) and U14s won by a slightly wider margin against excellent opposition and now prepare for the Ireland Tour starting on Thursday this week. The U15s won too for a Crossley Heath clean sweep. Great coaching from the teachers who turned out in force as well as the parents. Happy Days.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Funding and Salaries

This weeks Guardian published an article on the back of a Freedom of Information request to Universities setting out the Vice-Chancellor's pay changes over the last period: Salaries soar for heads of British Universities. Bradford does not appear in the top ten and it's not a league table that many would like to be in perhaps but for those with an eye for Freedom of Information transparency, the figures are available as they always have been in the annual financial report and the detail can also be found on an FoI publication site. This comes in the same week of course as the HEFCE funding letters setting out cuts - today's article is How much will my University be cut by? A nice spoiler by the Funding Council earlier this week maybe (what a cynic). The effect on Bradford appears to be -0.6%.

Megan returns with press cutting

Megan is home for Easter. She brought some dirty washing and two large suitcases with other clothes. And a laptop. And a press cutting. How nice.

It's gone

I now have the Computer Centre letters in a box. Now looking for a suitable anagram or possibly a charity auction a letter at a time? Capitals worth double? If you enter this into the Internet Anagram Server you get 3,566 valid anagrams including concrete pet rum and rectum once pert.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Brave Move?

We are begining to prepare for the re-opening of the space formally known as JB Priestley Library and Communal Building and whose new name has not yet been established (although JBP Priestley will remain for the Library part I imagine). Various discussions taking place about branding and signage. It was agreed that the final known signage relating to "Computer Centre" could be taken down and a job is now in the Estates system. It may or not be replaced with IT Services in some future rebranding exercise external to the building. In the meantime perhaps a charity auction for each of the letters for posterity? Here is the BEFORE picture:

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

UCISA Conference Reflections

Just realised that I haven't posted two works in progress (now done) and haven't put together an overall reflection so here is a short summary of that. It was somewhat hectic and putting notes together became less important than listening and reflecting on the content as we went along. I liked the way that the speakers manage to find connections between their presentations (and this was unplanned and unbriefed) . It meant that I felt we had some coherence across speakers when they referenced something that was coming before or after rather than in isolation. Others have already commented on the programme but I think we tried a few new things we seemed to work quite well like the world cafe session and trying to keep to a "theme" for each day also provided coherence. Tim might have also given us the themes for next year without realising it: know your business, know your numbers, strive to be trusted, empower the team and see over the horizon. I rather like that personally as a simple business plan for anyone in any business. Lots of talk about shared service and collaboration and a real willingness to begin engaging in this over the next year. Perhaps plenty to look back on in a year's time on that topic. There were too many personal highlights including meeting the amazing Larry Hincker who was just amazing and humbling and just a great person. One day I hope to visit Virginia Tech. I really enjoyed the day three double act with Ajay and Andrew which had a lot of resonance for me personally and a really engaging presentation too. Took a string of actions away for back home. Some examples include the laptop loan service (which we ceased a couple of years ago but would like to restart), buying books on Amazon versus inter-library loans (possible money saver), Downloading the VT desktop alerter and all those emenrgency planning things we know we should do, initiate the (non) attendance monitoring focus group etc. Perhaps the final thing is more of a connection suggested after it was all over: How could we (UCISA) do something to (a) collaborate across the sector (b) something Olympian (ahead of 2012) (c) use our expertise in so many different fields. Or maybe combining the messages of Tim Marshall and James Cracknell "it's possible"?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

UCISA Conference Day Two

Stewart Buchanan Gartner Group

Began by using the Gartner Hype Cycle to link the relationship that you have with suppliers with the four stages trigger (roses), peak of inflated expectation (the wedding/contract), trough of disillusionment (toddler) and plateau of productivity (cash cow). Most of us still concentrate on the tip of the iceberg (the visible budget costs) rather than the total cost of ownership. There is a need to look at the cost structure - take a look at Gartner Paper: IT Spending Cuts Don't Always Reduce Costs. The funding that has been channelled into public sector/HE by suppliers to lower costs may have evaporated. Indeed seeing more audits by vendors which may have a cost impact. There is a research paper called Top 10 Extreme Negotiation Tactics. There are 5 things that you can do at fairly low risk and then 5 things that need to be handled more carefully. Suggestion that you need to know how the sales people are being trained and keep current with that. Question about whether procurement should be IT or Purchasing and that it should be both but more "in breach than observance". Wonder what role that UCISA could play in delivering sector information perhaps even via Freedom of Information. IT Asset Management is a key function to manage the total costs on a day to day basis like software compliance - not sure we have that role currently.

Lynn Tucker Kings College London

Put together a "connected campus program" with a relatively new management team. A lean organisation (less than 70 FTEs) and originally half of these were contract staff. This has remained the same over the transition period. At that time, there was a competitive london jobs market 2-3 years ago probably would be less of a factor now. High risk location of data centre without generators, below water line (next to Thames) and quite a lot of power interruptions. Took a multiple partner approach using network and web. Don't underestimate what is involved in managing all of this including vendor management this is very significant - may even need a post to manage, escalate and change management processes. Transition is from capital to revenue budget for quarterly charges to external suppliers and that is also a change but it included an uplift to the IT budgets. Sapient have introduced a bespoke admissions for UG and PG developed - averaging 250k hits a day. Need to look closely at the exit strategy and also covering the routine software upgrade strategies where there is a financial risk. Might not be financially viable in the current economic situation.

Monday, 1 March 2010

IT Services Newsletter #17

Here is the February newsletter. As usual, it only highlights a few things which I hope are of general interest. February has felt a bit of a dark and dismal month down here where the natural light rarely shines in Winter. It feels like Spring has arrived which is welcome. I am away for the latter half of this week involved with the Annual UCISA Management Conference which is at Harrogate this year in the National Exhibition Centre. Our involvement has ensured some inward investment in the Region and that the University of Bradford has a high profile including Prof. Mark Cleary opening the event, a poster presentation on “Develop Me!” and support for the World Cafe session on the hot topic of student attendance monitoring.

Online Applications on the increase
As reported last month new online application processes have been launched in eVISION. Richard Davis has provided the following statistics:
• 32 of the 75 agent login accounts created have logged in at some point.
• 33 new course applications accounts have been generated.
On the non-agent side (standard applications using the same process), we have had 1627 application records created in total (including the 33 Agent ones) since 26th Jan , when we launched the new process. 444 of these have been transferred.

Sunrays in the Estates Rest Room
IT support team has installed and launched six sunrays in the newly refurbished Phoenix North East Building for use by a wide range of Estates and Ancillary staff so that they can access University information simply and easily – including the on-line payslip system in MyView. This new system has been well received by staff in Estates.

Update on Printer Maintenance Protocols
Shukhrat is already fulfilling duties relating to early morning PC/Printer checking and paper filling of printers – this covers all IT Services owned cluster areas. All faults are reported to ICT Servicedesk and routed to the appropriate team. First level printer support processes will change from Monday 1st March. JBP will be covered by Library Assistants and Library Stewards; Shukhrat will still provide printer checking and filling duties for clusters external to JBP. Level one jobs (paper filling and basic faults) will be logged in RMS and passed to the LSC team who will liaise with Library Assistants and Stewards to get these jobs completed.

Repainting parts of level zero one
We have been negotiating a minor works project on Level Zero One in conjunction with Caroline Hicks our Fellow in Arts. We are pleased to report that this has now been agreed and attached to this email is the painting plan. Painting will hopefully start week commencing 29th March. Picture hanging will then commence from week 7th April. We will be placing some of the art exhibition that was recently displayed in the Richmond Atrium (photographs of our own students on campus) and it is the intention to create an art space along the corridors that can be used for exhibitions and displays. I am very grateful to Liz Mortimer who has made all this happen.

“Account Management” Meetings continue
A previous newsletter announced a new account management process. We have continued to meet the School IT Manager’s (and/or nominees) every month since the start of this Session and we are also meeting Academic Schools and Corporate Services teams in regular review meeting including Deans and Directors. We are also getting some excellent feedback from the LSS representatives on the Staff Student Liaison Committees which we are using to follow up and improve services. This process will evolve over the next year but appears to have got off to a good start.

Flexible Working?
The flexible working page is ready to launch. This was first initiated by the emergency project board and prioritised as a result of the adverse weather in December and January. A number of staff and student sabatticals have already been trialling the service. It can be found here and will be launched shortly. You may be interested in having a go with the branded Sun Global Desktop service which provides staff with a remote PC through a web browser. If you haven’t tried this before it is fairly impressive. If you have been using it for a while then you may have just gotten used to it (like me). The service should allow for up to 100 concurrent PC sessions but that is something that hasn’t yet been fully tested so I expect colleagues in the Infrastructure Team would be pleased to have some feedback on how it works including performance before it gets wider publicity.

Green Impact initiatives
Following up the recent energy carbon conference held in February, IT Services will be carrying out a national student initiative called the Green Impact assessment. There is help and assistance provided by the Ecoversity Office. It is something that was also raised through the internal “JAM” sessions run by Jason Maher in LSS. Initially we will involve three colleagues from each of the three IT Teams in this assessment work and (Andy Walmsley, Christine Thacker, Dave Ewen). More information is available here. In the conference we awarded ourselves a silver (for the mini survey) and won a used google Frisbee. Please do not get too excited about the chances of further exciting prizes (but jam may be involved). There have been other “green” goings on this month including our involvement in the User Group for the Sustainable Enterprise Centre building project, and launching a procurement process for sustainable desktop IT in this new building. We have also been invited to participate in a national Sustainable ICT project sponsored by the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC), and we are currently finding out what that might involve.

For those with an iPod Touch or an iPhone the suppliers of our Campus M solution have launched an App for the UCISA Management Conference 2010. It is free to install and demonstrates the technology. Just go to the App Store and search UCISA. The App will be made available on other smartphone platforms in the future, and it was a demonstrator for this particular event sponsored by Apple and OmBiel. You may be able to imagine how such an App might be used for internal conference events or Open Days etc. The speed and quality of development and delivery provides reassurance for Bradford’s own Mobile App which is in development.

Further Award Submissions
We have followed up the submission to the Times Higher Award reported last month, with submissions to the UCISA Award for Excellence and the Green Gown Awards (first stage submission for outstanding ICT initiative). We were unsuccessful in the UCISA submission which has been awarded to Canterbury Christ Church with its iBorrow project. Given that there was an iTunes submission from Oxford, I wonder if everything is now “i” instead of “e”. Full details of the UCISA submission and awards can be found here.

IT Services Monthly Customer Survey continues
We continue to provide mechanism for the users of our services to provide feedback both as a result of specific “logged jobs” and also through the general feedback forms. This month wanted to mention just one bit of feedback which simply said: “Just received some excellent help on Meeting Maker, from Alastair Wills, benefiting the whole Team”. As a new innovation, we are now including comments on our services which fairly reflect the feedback we receive both good and not so good, in the monthly IT servicedesk reports which can be found here.