Continue or not

So it has been some considerable time since I last updated here. Mostly I have to say because of annual planning and work on the budgets.

Doing small updates via Twitter is easy but you need a disciplined soul to blog regularly. And that discipline fails quite quickly when there are other pressures on your time, or at least it does for me.

So – can I ask you for an honest opinion? Should I carry on, perhaps with a more realistic view on frequency, or recognise that the blog has had its time and stop beating myself up about how long it’s been since I last posted? I’ll decide whether to continue after the Easter Break.

Hope you enjoy time in the sunshine and get chance to eat some chocolate in any event.

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Now with added value

An interesting conversation today with a faculty colleague about how to make better use of some of the excellent supplier relationships we have.

The conversation came about because I’d expressed some frustration in a meeting that we have all these external organisations (mostly suppliers but not all) wanting to engage more with the University and it can sometimes feel like pushing the proverbial stone uphill getting the links to work internally.

We’ve moved on a lot from the days when we simply bought ‘stuff’ from companies and didn’t really want anything from them beyond the best price and delivery when we wanted. Now we have a more mature view of our suppliers and some certainly fall more into the category of strategic supplier partners, miles away from ‘box shifting’.

Some of the ways our suppliers can work with us is in the academic area. There are loads of ways this can happen, from really quite small things to massive projects and research link-ups. What suits depends on the supplier partner in question, what they hope to achieve from doing the additional things (could be reputation, a pipeline for potential future staff, simply to get their name out there). It also depends on the quality of relationship we’ve built with them. What isn’t in the equation – ever – is that it links to contract opportunities. We’ve rejected deals in the past that looked attractive until you realise that it required us to effectively sign a blank cheque for them to supply on the back of getting the ‘added extras’.

So I’m hoping that today’s conversation will help make it easier to make the right connections internally when we next get to the point of a supplier or other interested IT organiser wanting to do more with us.

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Looking Higher

A day out at the Guardian HE Forum event in London. You can read a good summary here and I live tweeted throughout if  that’s of interest.

Mostly excellent speakers, one or two that raised some hackles but then it’s not really a learning experience if all you do is hear an echo, I guess.

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Short week, virtual futures

A short week this week as I’ve taken some leave. However, one of today’s meetings was with another key supplier talking about visualisation futures.

When we are thinking about the implementation of the digital strategy we’re putting a lot of time into thinking about the apparently shifting paradigm between PC-based delivery and a much more fluid mobile and device agnostic future. Last week we were talking about the options for SaaS and cloud solutions in helping with that future. Today it was about visualisation as another facet of that same future service design. The two aren’t mutually exclusive in my view and we will probably need both to meet all our aims.

What was clear from the discussion today was that we may be thinking quite differently from other organisations (perhaps) and there was interest therefore on the supplier’s part in what we’re seeking to achieve in terms of it helping their strategic thinking for their products.

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Ending in a cloud

An upbeat end to the week with one of our strategic suppliers talking about how SaaS/Cloud and hybrid on/off premises applications might help us deliver some of the aims of the digital strategy.

It was an informal workshop and open discussion and was a refreshing change from the kind of sales pitch kind of approach suppliers sometimes take.

Really enjoyed the afternoon and it’s given us plenty to think about.

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Lunchtime learning

Our last lunchtime lecture yesterday and we ended on a high note. Florian Wulfert from HWB talked about his pilot work with students using Nexus 7 tablets to support teaching and learning.

If you’re within the university you will be able to see a recording of the session shortly and you can read his research report on the Digital Strategy web pages.

It was a really interesting session and Florian is quite clear about the importance of a) thinking about what the tablets add to the teaching (they aren’t a magic bullet) and b) that there’s a degree of work needed in advance to make best use of them so that needs to be factored in (again, they aren’t, in and of themselves, a magic bullet).

I might have picked a different analogy about the deployment of devices but it makes the point perfectly. Rather than just pushing them out wholesale, target their deployment and make sure the resources are there to support their use.

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Hardhat lineup

An unusual sort of day today. Having a photograph taken in a muddy building site whilst wearing a fetching assortment of PPE garments.

It was all about the ‘ground breaking’ for the new university building, which will also house our datacentre.

I was however disappointed to find that I couldn’t stand in the intended datacentre space itself!

The visualisation fly-throughs look great and it’s going to be exciting watching the building come on over the next however many months.

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Still waiting firm news on the strategy but we need to move on with planning.

The Digital Strategy will set the high level objectives for IS&T for the next 5 years, so that’s a key part of planning. However, it is still quite uncertain in terms of specifics.

The senior team have started by identifying high level programmes of work and identifying when they might fall in the 5 years. Some naturally are multi-year and we’ve tried to identify what’s happening in each year for such examples.

Once we’ve got a first cut we need to overlay known and expected programme work from PIP and other major university projects (the delivery of the new datacente, delivery of unified comms, etc). Then the known ‘business as usual’ work. Finally, in discussion with colleagues across the University, the requests coming from faculties and directorates.

Finally, we need to cost that, sense check it (i.e. is it deliverable) and present it in an accessible format.

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All Change

The senior team are on a three day Change Management course at the moment, aimed at improving change practice and ensuring Change board members have a consistent understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

It’s been interesting and fun (no, really) and we’ve even come out with a 20 point improvement plan…

Some of the key points:
We need to make change management more visible outside IT so people understand what we do, why we do it and how we manage change
We need change boards to operate better in terms of assessing Requests for Change before the boards meet
We need to have non-IT input into that assessment (which would be helped by the 1st point re awareness and understanding)
You can’t beat forward planning – the good practice requires enough time for people to assess the request and that’s plainly not possible if requests are only presented shortly before the board meets

Lastly, we need to do better at measuring our change management performance, initially to get a baseline and then to see if our improvement plans actually so lead to better outcomes.

The new single online process for managing RFCs should help and Phil George has identified a number of improvements we can make. Those plus the additional from our list (many are already included in Phil’s proposals) will help us make the next step forward in managing change.

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Waiting for news

Well, it’s back to work and waiting to hear what’s happening next with the strategy. At present all work is paused because we need to know what makes the 1st cut and what doesn’t.

The conversation – begun in earnest in August last year but really a series of discussions going back 12 or months before that – has clearly indicated a strong demand for digital innovation, improvement and new ways to do things across all activities.

For now, we wait.

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