Posts Tagged business continuity

Thursday Sessions @ Educause 2009

Well, after an excellent keynote, not all of the sessions today lived up to expectations unfortunately.

An interesting sounding session on the use of Social Media in Learning and Teaching could be best summed up as – used a wiki, students hated it at 1st but grew to like it!

Not the most insightful session. One interesting piece of info from it through, was the feedback from students that they liked the use of a wiki for group work as it allowed them to discuss their thinking, and they felt that the marks were more fairly given as everyone could see exactly who had contributed what. Remembering my own days of University group work, I think I can see their point!

After sorting emails and related over lunch, I went to the session on Business Continuity and Campus Security. It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected but it was very interesting. The BC stuff was certainly very relevant and the emphasis on taking a stakeholder-focused approach to an integral communications plan as part of your BC plans made a lot of sense.

The aspects on campus safety were interesting but not as immediately relevant. It is however quite sobering to hear some of the kinds of challenges facing Universities in the USA in terms of highly public and unfortunately not so rare extreme instances of violence. Not to suggest we don’t have our own problems in the UK too (especially with a city centre-based campus) but not to the extent being discussed here.

Definitely feeling the intensity of the conference now, and whilst it has been really interesting, I am pleased I’ll be flying home tomorrow.

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A Long Tuesday

My morning was spent at Collegiate in staff meetings before walking to HBP to for lunchtime meeting to talk to USG staff about the Head of USG role. Then I caught the free city bus back to City with Laurie Nicholls, grabbed lunch and then straight into a special agenda IS&T Management Team meeting.

Rachel Mellalieu from Secretariat and Chris Walton were there. Chris of course has business continuity responsibilities across SLS and Rachel wanted to specifically talk about the flu pandemic contingency plans from across the University and to understand any dependencies on our services. We covered quite a lot but the conversation threw up some questions too about relative priorities across the University and assumptions people might have used to plan their contingencies.

The meeting finished a little earlier than planned so I was able to catch up on a few things before I went to meet Chris Care. Chris wanted to discuss how changes in budget authorisation and planning might affect his area. Although I think he was reassured at least in the immediate term, clearly there is a need to make sure any future planning process we might devise takes account of the needs of research and consultancy work as well as teaching, and this can be much more fluid.

Just time for a couple of phone calls then, the 1st to Danny Hannah to catchup on the Corporate Review workshops. We’ve agreed that we will schedule some more of these for October and we are planning to have something available that people can use outside the workshops if they can’t attend or prefer not to. We need to ensure that the documents work in terms of enabling people to provide useful information though so we’ll think about that on Wednesday once I’ve seen the kinds of feedback we’ve received since the format of the workshops was changed. If the revised forms have worked then these can simply be posted on the IS site for use. If not, we may need to modify them. All that means that the monthly email update will be a little later out than I’d planned, either the end of Wednesday or 1st thing Thursday perhaps.

Then Mark Lee and I were off out to Meadowhall to meet a company we do quite a lot of work with, who were introducing us to a potential supplier. A very interesting discussion, which somewhat overran making it a very long day.

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Of Car Parking and Flu

Two dominant themes today, both of which related to things that I spent some time on a few weeks ago. Flu Planning (now that the various plans from around the University are largely in) and Car Parking at Hallamshire Business Park.

The first of these, Flu Planning, was a request from Rachel Mellalieu to check the plans we had submitted for IS&T. Rachel has the unenviable task of pulling all the information together from across the University, checking assumptions, queries, etc. and trying to piece together where the risks and gaps are. It was also a chance for me to understand what assumptions had been made by other parts of the University in relation to what IT services they felt would be a high priority. What comes out strongly is that the core University corporate applications (mostly SI, probably due to the time of year we’re looking at) and SharePoint are viewed as amongst the highest priority areas for us.

The car parking issue was simply about getting agreement on how to allocate parking passes at Hallamshire Business Park, and how many passes we could have. Thankfully, Maurice Teasdale has done a superb job pulling a proposal together and then getting all the necessary agreements. This should be going out to staff shortly, so people have time to apply for a pass. And apply it will have to be as we are unlikely to have sufficient passes for all who may want one.

Most of the rest of the day was sorting out last minute things before I go on leave. One of the biggest was getting the information for recruiting the ASIS Systems Manager post in USG sorted out and ready to go. When I’m back I’ll be meeting with the recruitment lead from the agency we’re using to help us recruit. We had some problems initially filling posts in USG and the agency we’re using has been very helpful so far. With this post so key to USG its important we get the right appointment.

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Crystal Ball Gazing

Another day where there seemed to be some space but it quickly fills up just managing email and ad hoc discussions.

However, the main discussion today was about contingency planning for IS&T in the event of there being a serious flu outbreak in the autumn. This relates to the University’s Flu Pandemic Action Plan requiring “Faculties and Departments planning for significant staff absence” (the Flu Pandemic site can be found here).

The IS&T Management team and the USG Senior team had a joint meeting to begin to flesh out and share thinking on planning for this. As well as the planning we’ve been doing for how we will support the University in terms of systems and services available on a contingency basis, we need to plan for how we will continue to deliver the same services we usually do in the face of potentially significant levels of absence.

At present, I’m told by Secretariat that the advice is that we should plan for the University to be working as normal. However, if some predictions of the current flu situation are correct we may be looking at very high levels of infection and illness coinciding with autumn, peaking around mid/late October and then tailing off as winter sets in. This isn’t particularly surprising as this is the usual cold/flu period anyway but the concern is about whether this particular flu strain will be more widespread in terms of infection rate and more severe than the flu viruses around every year.

So, we’re planning on the assumption that the University will be open and working as usual. We’re considering worst case sickness absence levels and the advice that people will, on average, be ill and absent for between 5-10 days. Anything else is crystal-ball gazing; are there areas/activities that are likely to be more affected than others, how likely is it that we will have a severe systems/technical problem at the same time as we may have key individuals ill, what if the advice changes and we have to deliver services differently?

We’ve started pulling together a plan of where we think the areas are where there may be problems delivering services, or in delivering services to the current standards, or where we may have problems if key people are away at particular points. We’ve identified some mitigating actions we can plan to put in place or undertake now so that we minimise the impacts of absence on the services and work we deliver. Some things we simply can’t do much about and so these are flagged as risks, for example high levels of absence in very small teams or where there are just one or two specialists where their absence isn’t easily covered. We’ve also started to identify the risks relating to other parts of the University  or our suppliers (for example, in terms of contractors working on Hallamshire Business Park).

Once we’ve pulled all our planning information together it needs to be incorporated into the plans for other areas of SLS, some of which are clearly linked to our plans either in terms of them being reliant on our contingencies or vice versa, such as SIP and Learning and Information Services. These will then need to be collated at the University level to create a whole University view of contingencies and risks. Clearly, other parts of the University are reliant on us putting in place the best contingencies possible or at least they need to understand what the potential risks to services are.

Of course, none of this planning may really be needed and all the scary predictions may prove to be groundless. However, failing to plan now really would be a risk.

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If it's Wednesday, it must be the Cutting Edge

Spent most of the morning in the alternative office – the Cutting Edge. At least it makes it feel a little more social and you get a coffee with your meeting.

Been a busy week so far, so here’s a summary:

Monday

Met the new Head of Business Services in D&S. Michelle Nolan has only been here a few weeks and has been meeting people across the University. As well as a useful introduction it was nice to share a few things in common. Michelle used to work for the University of Bradford and so knows my home city, and of course I used to work just down the road from the University myself.

Then an hour to really get on top of my email, all those outstanding things I’d not been able to respond to before. I always feel so guilty about not responding quickly, particularly if people are waiting for information or an answer from me. However, it simply isn’t always possible to respond as quickly as I’d wish.

Next, my regular meeting with Alan Frost. He was telling me about the case law from the EU in relation to procurement and how that might affect the University in terms of how it tenders work. It’s clear that we need to brief people who may be responsible for purchasing so they know what they should be taking into account when deciding on going to tender.

A small number of quick meetings then; two with Faculty senior managers to look at the proposed processes for purchasing IT capital, and software revenue items for Faculties. It’s important that I check the proposals with all four Faculties in case there are specific local needs that require a tweak in the process. So far, the process seems OK although as people have said we may need to tweak things as the year goes along. The main thing is that we do what’s needed by working cooperatively to make it work for all parties.

A quick update from Maurice Teasdale on HBP and queries from FD on the spec. We have a meeting with them tomorrow to see if there are areas where we can possibly reduce costs. This would help with some of the contingency and also we have a small number of areas where requests weren’t included in the original budget and are therefore not covered. If we can reduce costs where they aren’t vital we should be able to cover those additional areas.

Then hot-footed it up to Collegiate to meet Philip Wain. We discussed flu pandemic planning, the professional services review, and the IS&T strategy.

Spent most of the morning in the alternative office – the Cutting Edge. At least it makes it feel a little more social and you get a coffee with your meeting.

Been a busy week so far, so here’s a summary:

Monday

Met the new Head of Business Services in D&S. Michelle Nolan has only been here a few weeks and has been meeting people across the University. As well as a useful introduction it was nice to share a few things in common. Michelle used to work for the University of Bradford and so knows my home city, and of course I used to work just down the road from the University myself.

Then an hour to really get on top of my email, all those outstanding things I’d not been able to respond to before. I always feel so guilty about not responding quickly, particularly if people are waiting for information or an answer from me. However, it simply isn’t always possible to respond as quickly as I’d wish.

Next, my regular meeting with Alan Frost. He was telling me about the case law from the EU in relation to procurement and how that might affect the University in terms of how it tenders work. It’s clear that we need to brief people who may be responsible for purchasing so they know what they should be taking into account when deciding on going to tender.

A small number of quick meetings then; two with senior Faculty Technical Services managers to look at the proposed processes for purchasing IT capital, and software revenue items for Faculties. It’s important that I check the proposals with all four Faculties in case there are specific local needs that require a change in the process. So far, the process seems OK although as people have said we may need to tweak things as the year goes along. The main thing is that we do what’s needed by working cooperatively to make it work for all parties.

A quick update from Maurice Teasdale on HBP about queries from FD on the spec. We have a meeting with them tomorrow to see if there are areas where we can possibly reduce costs. This would help with some of the contingency and also we have a small number of areas where requests weren’t included in the original budget and are therefore not covered. If we can reduce costs where they aren’t vital we should be able to cover those additional areas.

Then hot-footed it up to Collegiate to meet Philip Wain. We discussed flu pandemic planning, the professional services review, and the IS&T strategy.

Tuesday morning at Collegiate, including a meeting with some of IT and Media Services team with Martin Cooper. The meeting was to present and discuss the IS&T Annual Operating Plan. I think it is really important that people understand what the whole of IS&T will be doing in terms of objectives, not just their own area and team objectives and this was a good opportunity to explain each objective and answer questions rather than just circulating a document that might lack the explanation and detail. It was also good to see some of the team, as it’s been a while since I’ve been up at Collegiate and been able to talk to people there.

Back at City, main meeting was the FD meeting re HBP. Luckily, my next meeting had been cancelled, which was good as we needed longer than we’d thought. We went through the spreadsheet I’d originally pulled together line by line identifying where we needed more information or to check things. As the final spec is needed shortly, we have until this time next week to clarify all these and check we are still within the budget figure FD are working to. It’s been remarkably complex trying to bottom all the elements of the project, much more so than I’d expected it to be but with the help of Steve Ward, Jonathan Telling, Clive Booth, Maurice Teasale, and others in IS&T getting detailed information, it finally feels like we’re getting to the bottom of it all.

Final meeting with Kay Burnett to talk about plans in ACES for a resource to act as a central point for all information for staff. There’s clear overlap with what Kay and colleagues want to provide and where we’re going with document management and the web strategy and Kay was very interested to hear about those projects.

Wednesday morning was largely spent at the Cutting Edge in one to one meetings.

Met with Lynne Pendreigh, to discuss Flu Pandemic planning (bit of deja vue here – not surprisingly, as all Faculties and Departments have been asked to come up with local contingency plans) and the IS&T Strategy, amongst other topics.

Then, my monthly meeting with Chris Sexton from University of Sheffield, who is on the countdown to her holiday (lucky her). Again, planning for flu was a major topic and I’m going to organise a meeting of SHU and UoS staff to look at joining up planning where it makes sense or where we can hopefully support each other. We also talked about YHMAN and discussions at the board about proposals on changes to services being made by JANET. Chris is Chair of UCISA at present so has been informally gathering views on the proposals to inform any response UCISA may make.

Next up a meeting with Kay Higgins to discuss a whole range of HR-related things. I meet Kay on a monthly basis so we can check on any staff issues and so Kay can brief me on HR policy or changes to procedures.

This afternoon I was reading the transcript of the IT@SHU Q&A session I did in June. Hazel Scott kindly did the transcript for me so we can use it as the foundation of FAQs on the IS&T Strategy. I’m very grateful to her for doing this. I also talked to Mike Smith about EGIS and caught up with a member of staff who’s off ill at present.

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Money and Flu

A day dominated by budget discussions – both the current years and also the IS&T budget for next year.

We are still managing out the LITS budget until the end of the month and today we were getting the period 11 reports (they are always a couple of weeks after the end of the month). I was a little worried after some discussions with USG that we might be overspent there and it cause problems for the LITS bottom line. This matters especially as Clive has been managing the old SAS and LITS budgets towards a combined bottom line. As it appears from the forecast, which has been consistent throughout, we look like we are going to have an underspend. Largely this is because of the vacancy situation in USG. Although they now only have 2 posts vacant, it has taken a long time (most of this financial year) to fill the posts.

After that, it was the 1st meeting of the WRAPP project board. This project is looking to simplify how people make requests through the Governance process, and how the various governance groups receive information in a common format. At the moment, all this is being done manually by the Planning Support Office in USG and is highly time consuming. This 1st meeting concentrated on the project definition document and getting the scope right. The board is made up of Terri Gibson (representing the interests of departmental staff using the process), Philip Wain (representing Faculty staff using the process, and also as a member of one of the Portfolio Strategy Groups), Nigel Williamson (representing the lead suppliers to the project, and also a member of one of the Portfolio Strategy Group. I’m the sponsor of the work, and of course interested in the work both as a Chair of the IS&T Portfolio Strategy Group and a member of EGIS. Keith McCormac is project managing the work. One of the key outcomes from today was to agree that we need a common communication with key staff about the project, so they know it is happening and what it aims to deliver. We will need a wider communications plan once the work gets underway but at present the work is simply at the stage of investigating options.

In the afternoon, Kath Burgess (our Management Accountant) took Chris Walton, Nigel Williamson and myself through the IS&T revenue budget for next year. Unfortunately, the rest of the IS&T Management team are on leave but it all seems quite straightforward and shouldn’t be a particular surprise to anyone. Kath promised to look into some ‘miscellaneous’ items on one part of the budget to see what these were though they appear to be routine subscriptions.

Then, a meeting with Rachel Mellaileu to discuss how we might put contingency plans in place to deal with the potential impact of pandemic flu. A lot of work has been done in IS&T to look at what services might be available from off-site, if needed, and what the constraints might be. It looks surprisingly positive actually and should also help departments and Faculties with some of their planning. One of the harder areas to plan for is where we may have key staff off ill, even if it is potentially a relatively short period (guidance from the NHS suggests it would be 5-10 days with 10 days being unusually long). I’m already talking to the University of Sheffield about some joint Business Continuity arrangements we might plan for, though it may not encompass this, and I’ve raised it tentatively through YHMAN as something the 8 Universities might want to do on a reciprocal basis. The alternatives are considering the risks and balancing them against the heavy costs of buying in some kind of call-off outside support.

Last meeting of the day was my regular KIT with Terry Gaunt and we discussed a range of issues including priorities for ACES, and how we want to work together in the future. We also talked about the Faculties planning for Pandemic Flu and I was able to update him on my discussions with Rachel, which will hopefully be helpful to them.

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