Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Bradford Student (newspaper)

Three articles scanned from the new paper.  All relate to work that we are involved with.  It's good to see our work picked up in the student union's own publicity stuff.  The e-voting system has made a big difference to the turnout and the 24x7 nature of the service.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Eddie Obeng

Speaker at UCISA12 conference showed this video.  Take a look - it's worth 9 minutes of your valuable time:

Friday, 16 March 2012

Green IT - managed PC shutdown

IT Services launching new power saving initiative on Monday 19 March – Managed PC shutdown

Starting on Monday, any staff desktop computers that are not in use after 19:00 will be automatically shutdown to save energy. Any Microsoft Office ® documents left open and unsaved on your PC will be automatically saved for you to continue working with when you re-start your PC. Other documents will not be saved, and we would therefore remind you to save your work regularly, and certainly before you leave your PC unattended.

A new piece of software, which has been deployed on all University computers, will start checking for any user activity on your PC from 18:30, and if no keyboard or mouse usage is detected will shutdown the computer at 19:00. The process will be repeated at 19:30 and 20:30.

The user guide for the system can be found here.

Why is this being launched?

During the last three months, our monitoring has indicated that a significant number of computers are left on and unused for long periods of time. Preliminary analysis of the data shows that we can save around £29,000 per year by shutting down PCs that are not in use. This equates to 315MWh of electricity and 171 metric tonnes of CO2 which is the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 31 buses.

More information

We have consulted with pilot areas, and staff feedback has been positive, but if you experience any difficulties then ICT Service Desk is always on hand to help on ext. 3333 or email

Friday, 9 March 2012

IT Services Newsletter #34

Trying to keep up with sending these newsletters out is always a bit of a challenge as there is a long list of other things on the “to do” list.

One of the things that I have been doing since the start of this calendar year is monitoring my own “work/life” balance so it does mean that I’m trying to prioritise some of the time I spend on different things each week. I’m sure that we all do similar sorts of things whether we call it monitoring or not, but I’ve found it quite interesting to just be more aware of this one a week-by-week basis.

The following is a fairly random selection so apologies if your own news is not here.

JBP Building Level 1 and 2 Changes
You should be aware now of the £1.5 Million investment plan to make the next phase of major changes to these levels of the JBP Building to improve energy assessments and also deliver a major change to the student experience. These will be starting shortly in terms of enabling works and will be ready for some time around the beginning of the new academic session. The impact on the floor that we occupy is significant during the building works. There has been quite a bit of fluidity to the plans which is why I am circulating the latest known information on the project although it is subject to change. It appears that the start date for building works proper will be after exams i.e. end of May, but the enabling works will continue at pace until then.

The following rooms will have a change of use as follows:

  • The Student PC Clinic – will be shelved for books moving from other floors. The clinic will be re-located to JBP Building Level Zero (Group study room 4)
  • The meeting room (01.4) – will also be shelved for books.
  • The “old” machine room (01.42/01.13) and adjoining space (01.8) will be shelved for books.
  • Some of the space that is currently in the staff “access” zone will also be shelved for books (01.17, 01.22. 01.35) – this will be a service that is provided on a “fetch” basis
  • Library Systems Team will be relocating to 01.26, 01.26 and using 01.27 for storage for the duration of the building works - likely moving date towards end May
  • It is possible that some of the walls/doors around the machine room area (01.8/01.42) will be demolished. Hence printing services currently located in the Level 01 lobby will be moving to 01.44 and 01.53 (one printer and release station in each room).

Consultation on IT “at risk” periods
The IT Board is currently consulting on IT “at risk” periods and there is a document on the department web pages seeking views and feedback on the proposed options and any other alternative that might emerge. The closing date is March 16th. We will decide at the next IT Board. The link is here

Clearing “embargo”
We are also recommending a change to the Clearing “Embargo”. In recent years, Estates and IT Services have been instructed via the Confirmation and Clearing Working Group to suspend infrastructure (voice and data related) activity for an extended period up to ten days before “A” Level results Sunday until the last day of Clearing operations. Any changes to the SAINT system are approved by the Director of Academic Administration. The IT management team have debated the pros and cons of this approach with respect to risk management and concluded that, although a Clearing “embargo period” could remain, all work should not be affected by it. Go ahead/completion of jobs during this period should be considered on a case-by-case basis, via a Change Management approval process. Approval for this recommendation will be sought at the next Clearing and Confirmation Working Group meeting (April 2012) and is going to next week’s Information Systems Committee (ISC).

Emergency Contact Details
There will shortly be a mini-campaign by the HR team to try and improve the quality of the contact information held on the HR system and accessible self-service through MyView. It has been trialled and it means that some basic personal details can be updated and saved directly to the HR system. The driver for this partly relates to meeting obligations around data protection (keeping personal data accurate) but also for emergency purposes if necessary. You may spot a change to the MyView interface when this is launched.

Benchmarking Updates (Tribal)
Still nothing to report on this which might lead you to conclude that the results were not quite as expected i.e. we perhaps benchmark better against the selected “aspirational” peer group than had been expected. Briefing sessions have been going on with Deans and Directors on a one-to-one basis and the one for LSS is scheduled for late March. There will be more detail to report after that.

Reminder: Green IT Nightwatchman launch
This energy saving initiative is due to launch in the week commencing March 19th. There will be marketing information circulating shortly. The impact on us should be none or minimal. However, although the system has been running in the background for some months the actual “policies” for hibernating and suspending monitors and PCs has not been implemented. If you are interested in more information on this then please ask Dave Ewen. It would be helpful for all of us to be aware of this high impact change in case it has unintended consequences. The service will save around £30k per annum in electricity costs.

Performance Recognition and Re-Grading

LSS has set a date for the next performance recognition process in mid May, and HR has also informed us that the University has moved to a quarterly re-grading process on a rolling basis. The latter process used to be annual I think, but has recently been somewhat ad hoc. These are the more formal ways that the University recognises our performance and contributions. On a day to day basis lots of people do great things for the department, for LSS and for the University and quite often these are directly for our students, academics or administrators. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the last few weeks in upgrading the payroll and HR system and servers so that we are ready for the April tax year-end and to pay our wages! It has been a team effort across IT services involving at least some of the following people and I apologise if you have had some involvement and are not mentioned here: . Our colleagues in other areas may not realise how much impact a service upgrade can have, and perhaps that is how it should be. Thank you for making this happen.

Smaller Successes

We now start our monthly IT Board meetings with an agenda item celebrating some small (and it turns out not so small) successes. This idea was shamelessly borrowed from the CED team:

  •  Replacement air conditioning unit now installed in E60 – there have been intermittent failures since Summer 2011 – it’s now “cold” (even though the weather is also “cold”!)
  • The presentation to ISC on “student feedback and future landscapes” was well received and is now being repeated at Learning and Teaching committee.
  • Housekeeping tour of all server rooms had taken place – the rooms are in a good state
  • Seven systems are in the process of being switched off: Powersolve, ICON, Research Grants, ORBIT purchasing, Business Objects v5 and v6, INGRES Data warehouse.
  • There had been over 2,500 RMS “quick” jobs entered by the LSS customer services team in the last month as a result of the enabling work by the continual improvement team.
  • There had been a very successful day long IT and Estates “working together” event using web/video streaming technologies (UCISA event was running in parallel in Birmingham).