Posts Tagged change

Datacentre redesign

Today marks the end of planning and the start of a major overhaul of the design of our datacentres.

The work will be highly disruptive with all IT services out of action over the long weekend. However, the changes we are making are fundamental to how our datacentres are configured and managed.

We are doing this because we need to make a step-change in how we manage the security of our systems and infrastructure. When complete it shouldn’t look or feel any different to users, it won’t provide new features or performance improvements that you’ll notice. However, it will allow us to manage security to and between systems and infrastructural elements at a more granular level.

This is a significant piece of work but there’s been an even more significant amount of designing and planning to get us to this point.

As well as the work itself we’re trying out something a little different – a first for us – by live-tweeting the work over this weekend. Follow @ITStatusSHU for live updates and the hashtag #shunet

Good luck to everyone working this weekend!

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All change

The Senior Management Team met today to share good practice around Change Management.

With some mature processes in parts of IS&T but some less so elsewhere, it’s valuable to review what is happening so we can use the experience to move everyone along more quickly – there’s little point reinventing what’s already there in part if it could do the job for everyone.

We also considered the register of planned changes that we now collate and keep. Whilst this might have been done locally previously, we now have all planned changes documented in one place and reviewed by the whole senior team. As well as giving us an opportunity to check that approved changes are happening as they should, it also gives better visibility of changes that might impinge on each other’s areas.

A useful and constructive discussion with some concrete things each area is going to adopt to raise our game in this area.

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Looking outside

A beautiful day outside, feels quite spring-like.

One of my meetings today was with IT Director colleagues from two other Yorkshire universities. It was a great chance to share what our challenges are, and to reflect on those that are common.

All three of us are looking at how IT can best deliver our university’s requirements, with a common agenda around bringing IT together to create greater benefits for the institution. Here, we are further along in terms of some of the changes we’ve made structurally and in terms of service delivery but in their own universities similar conversations are well underway and looking at the detail. Similar issues to those we dealt with here about where IT starts and ends are cropping up in both and it was interesting hearing how they are going about resolving those questions.

Very interesting to reflect on their experience as we work to deliver the benefits around service improvement and transparency that were a key part of the change here.

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Risk and audit

The last few days have had a definite theme – risk management and audit, two faces of the same coin in some ways.

The Risk Management Group is due to meet next week and we have to report on the IT Risk Register. Phil George and his team spend a lot of time behind the scenes pulling the information together anyway but have also been honing the documentation so there’s better presentation of the current level of risk and how it is being managed as well as some indicators of ‘near misses’.

We’re also preparing for audit on our IT controls, which gives us a good way to check h0w we are doing in managing certain kinds of IT risks. That audit visit will take place next month and will look at Change Management as well as controls for a sample of systems. We know there are some improvements needed on the change side of things so it should be helpful in showing us where to focus first.

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A testing time

It’s been a challenging time this last week or so as we’ve had a number of IT issues to contend with.

We, like any other IT service provider, can never guarantee there won’t be issues though we work hard to minimise them and to minimise their impact of course.

What was frustrating was that we did relatively well at minimising one set of issues with a complex hardware failure that had been creating largely unnoticed (by most users) performance problems, and not so well with another that should have been a relatively straightforward change.

The result is that the focus then is all on that situation rather than all the very many changes we make seamlessly and quietly alongside the many things we pick up and fix before they have any serious impact.

I guess that’s not too surprising. We’re expected to be able to provide a professional service and we do so well at managing it quietly that nobody knows we’ve done it. What they do notice is when we can’t prevent the impacts of a significant failure, or where something doesn’t go as it should.

I’ve spent some time this week talking to various people to explain the kinds of changes we have had to make over the last 6 months or so – why we had to do them, why we did them when we did and what we did to manage the impacts of such changes.

It can be quite uncomfortable to have those kinds of conversations, especially when people are annoyed when things haven’t been available or we’ve unintentionally caused them problems. It is part of being accountable though, being more transparent and open and in accepting that as I lead that service I have to account for what we do to those we provide the service to and for.

What was good about those conversations was that, in the main, people could understand that things will happen, and that even with the best processes in place we may not be able to prevent problems occurring. People were also genuinely interested in why we do certain things and the background to them.

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What's happening

By conincidence, a lot of today’s discussions were about things that other change programmes are doing or need assistance from us with. Interesting to hear what’s happening elsewhere.

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Preparing a presentation for the Corporate Systems Management Team today, for a meeting on Monday. With Laurie Nicholls away, it’s important that they are thinking about the new service and what it means for their areas. They need to be talking to their teams, getting ready for August if they aren’t already.

The presentation is really aimed at starting a discussion – about how the management team wants to work, how they will work with one another and other parts of IS&T to deliver services. It sets some context about Laurie’s vision for Corporate Systems but is a start rather than a completed picture.

In the afternoon I was able to check whether the presentation capture what Laurie would want as I met her to update her on work as well as to hear how things were going for her. That meant Laurie was able to add important elements and stress certain points in the presentation, which will make it much more useful I think.

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Reviewing the JISC

Been interesting seeing what changes are afoot on the broader stage. News today – – of a review of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee.

Following on from the changes to services by Janet it starts to show a shift perhaps in how IS/IT projects and cross-sector activities are led. Some interesting context for us to get our heads around.

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Attention to detail

The final steps on a journey towards Monday and publication of our new final structure and all the process things associated with moving from old to new.

Ever since we returned after the New Year, the IS&T Senior Management Team has been focused on everything we need to have done and ready for 24 January.

On Friday we went through almost all the documentation we will be releasing on Monday, for one last check and edit. Then there were individual tasks needed ready for Monday. Lots of detail to check and re-check so we make sure what goes out is accurate and complete.

It felt almost impossible that we would be able to get through everything in time but we knew people were waiting now on this stage. All the management team, colleagues in HR and Finance working with us, were committed to getting everything done and ready for Monday.

That common goal of getting to the 24th has been a great way to build us as a team. It seems incredible to me that we’ve only been working together a relatively small number of months. Just the way people fill in for one another when needed, or willingly take on work when someone else has more to do, all without waiting to be asked or needing to be thanked.

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Remember me?

Oh dear. It’s been some time since I last blogged.

The last few weeks have been a blur of writing, reading, reviewing, amending, talking about and revising documents. Mostly.

Post-Christmas, it has almost entirely been a focus on getting things pulled together for implementing the new IT service structures.

The whole management team has been writing role profiles, job descriptions, person specifications. We’ve debated structure changes taking account of consultation feedback. We’ve picked apart possible implementation processes, amended and revised, over multiple discussions. After multiple hours talking about and refining the process I can describe it in my sleep.

This week in particular has been about process and timescales, with us having the first fully detailed plan of implementation timescales to date. The next however-many-months mapped out in daily or weekly detail.

All this is in preparation for the start of implementation, which begins with the issuing of the final structure and the implementation paper. With just over a week to go before that’s released, there is still a lot to do, to check and re-check.


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