Posts Tagged hbp

Thursday with an 'S'

Almost all the topics today began with an ‘S’ – space, security, surveys, SHU V-Model, etc.

First off was a catchup with Maurice Teasdale on the HBP work and associated moves of staff. There’s nothing particulaly to report at present but there were a couple of loose ends.

Then the IS&T Management Team met. We were discussing our action plan responding to the employee survey. Obviously we are part of the SLS action plan but there are some specific local actions we want to do too, particularly around transparency, honesty, and visibility/ accessibility.

We also talked about future business planning and expectations that we will need to show how we are reducing costs. That won’t be a surprise for people – the VC has been very clear about the need to reduce costs over the next few years.

The team them continued the meeting without me, as I had a security meeting I had to attend. The team continued the discussion on service statements we started a few weeks ago. We will need the statements for a few things including our Annual Quality Review (AQR) in November. It will also allow us to structure how we promote and explain our services across the University.

Lunch and email ahead of the SHU V Model overview briefing. Unfortunately, the other attendees didn’t seem to know about the session so we will have to reshedule. Not ideal but it happens.

Covered some quick things with Laurie Nicholls, which was an unexpected bonus and then free to do some other urgent work. Saves me doing it tomorrow or over the weekend, so I’m happy.

Just time to confirm availability for Graduation platform party next month, and to give availability for YHMAN meeting with JANET about their plans for the services.

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Infrastructure Monday

With discussions on HBP and extended discussions on budgets, strategies, planning and objectives for IT Infrastructure, ITI felt like the dominant theme for the day.

After some time dealing with my email backlog from last week (and even the week before), my 1st real meeting of the day was to meet with Maurice Teasdale, Laurie Nicholls, and Mark Lee to discuss Hallamshire Business Park, and specifically car parking. After using similar criteria to Facilities to allocate parking spots, we were left with unallocated places. Maurice had then been able to negotiate some different conditions for HBP and so as a group we were looking to agree how we could fairly allocate the remaining places and also make provision for people working unsocial hours. I think we reached a good position on that and Maurice is writing it up so we can let staff in ITI and USG know later this week hopefully.

A quick impromptu chat with Laurie following on the HBP meeting meant we caught up on what we need to do to organise the backfill of her substantive post whilst she is acting Head of USG. We plan to make the opportunity available across the University, probably as a secondment. Laurie is going to look at the process suggested by HR, and we have agreed some key dates for shortlisting and interviewing. Hopefully, we’ll be going out with that information in the next 2-3 weeks.

Next was a standard KIT with Mark Lee. He’d left me some light reading last week in terms of planning objectives in his area. We went through that as well as a number of other issues such as the costing work he’s been doing, update on the YHMAN Board meeting and discussions, budgets, etc.

After an extended discussion, we had a quick break to get some lunch before re-convening for Mark’s appraisal. This very neatly followed on from the discussion about objectives and, as with other areas of IS&T, we agreed that ITI would achieve 100% of its appraisals on time. The planning objectives Mark and I discussed, along with the IS&T Annual Operating Plan sets the context for those discussions to happen now of course.

Then catching up on email on the station platform as I set off home. My older son is off on a school visit to Paris this week and I needed to get back in time to wave him off. It will be strange, and no doubt quieter, without him.

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Best laid plans

Despite my best intentions, I’ve not managed to keep to an entry per day this week again. Here’s Wednesday-Friday.

Wednesday

Every meeting I’ve had today seems to have run over, some more badly than others.

Started the day catching up with Matt on diary, planning meetings and workshop dates, emails and papers. Then Sylvia Johnson arrived for our regular KIT. We talked about how to make the work of USG more visible in terms of University Exec understanding the totality of what they are doing and therefore the capacity available to do strategic projects in the time people might wish.

Just time to get up to Collegiate for the Corporate Review meeting with Martin Cooper’s team. Some really interesting questions, and one I need to follow up around people linked to the Nursing and Midwifery contract. Went well but overran and I was late getting back down to City again.

Quick catch-up with Mark Charlesworth around staffing and the Network Refresh. Then an afternoon of KITS. Firstly met with Philip Wain, in one of our regular meetings. We talked about a number of things but he was particularly interested in how the GoogleApps work on student email was going and what our plans are around linking timetable info into Google Calendars. His faculty have a SMS service for student alerts on timetables (not sure if it is used just for that) and he was interested in whether the Google alerts might provide an alternative way to deliver that service. However, as the timetable information will be on on the basis of a calendar students subscribe to it would be at the discretion of the individual, as would the mobile alerts. Philip wants something that all students would get, so this might not give him what he needs. On the other hand, people will probably sign up for  a service if they see the benefits to them in terms of timely information that saved them inconvenience and that was accessible and alerted them to changes. We will need to promote the calendar options once the work’s done of course, and then see what take-up is like.

A quick and final KIT with Gary Maw, who will report to Laurie Nicholls in her acting role now. It was a good meeting, and I’ve really enjoyed working with Gary and the rest of the USG management team. Then one of my regular bi-monthly meetings with Liz Winders. We had quite a long agenda; flu pandemic planning, information security, and a project on supporting disabled students into placements, amongst other things. We overran but with such an amount to get through that’s not really surprising. Useful discussions though and it’s clear that there are a number of linkages between our roles and responsibilities.

Thursday

A couple of cancellations left me with some clear desk time, which inevitably got absorbed by lots of loose ends. Then met with Dave Thornley and Dave Ainscow to talk about the roll-out of the new password policy, part of the Electronic Information Security Framework (EISF). The 1st set of password changes happened last week and went fairly smoothly. There were a few points that need to be worked through to make sure they are resolved before the next set of changes happen but then that’s what we expected and why we planned a phased change as we have. Dave A updated us on his plans for communicating the EISF, including a potential presentation for staff explaining the rationale for the framework and how it affects them. The framework itself is quite long and dense so something that makes it easier for staff to understand what it means for them will be helpful I think.

Then Dave T updated me on the preparations for providing IT business continuity services. Although we are planning the work in support of contingency plans for flu pandemic, it will be a general business continuity provision, allowing the University to have key people working away from their normal locations if needed in the event of some declared major incident. The work involves a number of people from across IS&T and Advisory, and is well in hand I’m told.

Then an hour to finish off the Principles paper and September email update for the Corporate Review of IT. I needed to get it out today as I’d promised I would – it was later than planned even then. The Principles paper is a draft, and I’m asking for comments on it, and specifically the principles in the document, by the end of October. I’ll re-issue the final version after that. The principles are important as they will be what I use to help consider potential proposals and, if those are accepted, any subsequent design and delivery of services.

Then off to Leeds for  YHMAN Board meeting. The meeting had a considerable agenda but really spent almost all its time on two items; the JANET consultation, and the Proof of Concept trial between the University of Leeds and ourselves.

The JANET consultation and proposed change in operating, which effectively appears to remove the role regional network operators (like YHMAN) have in the delivery of network services, is clearly of interest to the board. We had a long conversation about what our obligations were, both to our stakeholder Universities and to those other institutions that receive services from YHMAN. The main action was that the Chair will arrange a meeting with JANET to discuss this and specifically the ‘additional’ services YHMAN provide that are above and beyond those that the JANET contract requires, such as the 2nd campus connection.

The proof of concept trial was a technical mini-project looking at the possibilities of a virtualised data centre service. The report for the Board notes that many of the technical questions were successfully answered but that some questions couldn’t be as they required a real load on services. The proposal was to roll that work into any subsequent project to take the ideas forward into a potential service. Again, there was a considerable discussion, both in relation to the potential impact of the JANET changes and the ability of 2 or 3 Universities to provide resources to support any further work. What’s clear is that we need to see what is proposed in the work, and that any University looking to take part needs to know what will be required before committing to it. At the moment, we don’t have that clarity so can’t make any decisions on taking it forward.

Couldn’t then get back to Sheffield for Carmel Kennedy’s leaving do as although I left the meeting just after 6pm, I got stuck in unusually heavy traffic in Leeds city centre.

Friday

After catching up with Matt, I met Edward Oyston for our regular meeting. It’s one of the few opportunities we get to meet now we’re based in different buildings, as we only really see each other in SLS Exec meetings. We talked about the Corporate Review of IT, as I wanted him to know what was happening given Advisory are within his area, and also the draft Information Management Strategy that I’d like input on from his area. We also talked about the National Student Survey (NSS) results and the breakdown one of his team has done, which he offered to send me. That will be very interesting and I’ll share some of the headlines at least more widely once I’ve had chance to read it.

Then met with Graham Jarman for our bi-monthly scheduled meeting, before catching up on emails. One suggests that we may need to revert to our original planning around flu pandemic contingencies being needed in October rather than later, as had been suggested recently. Emailed the management team to update them and also Dave Thornley, to ensure people pull forward any actions if needed, just so we are prepared.

Then met with Mark Lee and Lee Bower to talk about timescales and planning for the move of the secondary data centre. Looks like, assuming the contractors don’t overrun, that we will have a reasonable period in which to do the move that shouldn’t cause problems for services. There will be some ‘at risk’ periods but the impacts should be relatively small. The real risk is if the contractors overrun as we are then faced with either doing the move (which isn’t risk-free) during term or waiting until Easter. I need to write this up and alert Liz Winders given the potential business continuity risks too. However, the plans Mark and Lee have put together with their team sound well thought out and should allow us to take advantage of one of the only 2 ‘quiet’ spells we have in the year to do something like this.

Then, a short meeting with Clive to talk about a report he’s asked me to provide. Final email flurry before heading home for the weekend. Unfortunately, I’ll have to do some work on flu pandemic planning and data security for Monday though.

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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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End of the Week

Back from Cardiff and a varied mix of stuff for the rest of the week.

Thursday

A quick catch-up with Edward Oyston, amongst other things discussing how people in his area might contribute to the draft Information Management paper (and implementation). Then we went on to the SLS Exec, with a mix of items including Clive’s report back from University Exec, which is helpful in understanding what’s happening there and how it might then affect us. Chris presented the final version of the SLS People Principles, and also the action plan. We will need to look at what we need to do in IS&T to implement this and whether there are specific local actions we need to take specifically in relation to the Employee Wellbeing survey.

Straight from there into a meeting with Denise Nelson and the consultant working with her on pulling together a business case/strategy for IP Telephony. It was a broad discussion but useful in terms of getting some key queries out of the table on both parts I think.

Mark Lee grabbed me on my way to buy a sandwich, to catch up on a couple of things including a possible meeting with a potential supplier next week. Just as he was finishing, Sylvia Johnson caught me to ask for a nominee from USG to contribute to some of the thinking for the Employability and Graduate Employment work that Sylvia is leading on behalf of the Exec.

Just time to eat the sandwich and check in on a few emails before a KIT with Gary Maw, mostly discussing his objectives for the next few months. Then Laurie Nicholls and the consultants from Hays arrived to go through the planned recruitment to the Systems Manager ASIS post. Hays do quite a lot of the early legwork on the recruitment campaign but they were also advising us on possible activities to test the candidates who get shortlisted.

That meeting overran somewhat and I had to apologise to the person I was due to meet. I hate being late or missing scheduled meetings like this, it’s something I find quite rude but sometimes it is impossible to avoid.

Last meeting of the day, a catchup with Maurice Teasdale on the HBP tenders. All seems to be progressing OK at this stage, with tenders back and (I believe) within the budget set. Hopefully, we’ll now be able to get down to some proper planning for the moves.

Friday

Had some clear time 1st thing Friday morning so used it to prepare an exercise for my management team in the afternoon looking at how we might express our services and get a sense of the perceptions of value, effectiveness and efficiency of them.

Rich Nelms called in to update me on some IT arrangements for a member of staff that I’m involved in. Then I headed over to Adsetts for a meeting with Dave Thornley’s team (mostly, plus a guest from ACES). The meeting was one of a series small team meetings updating people on the Corporate Review of IT. I’m holding quite a lot of these this month. So far, the two I’ve done seem to have gone quite well but it would be useful to get any feedback.

Met with Kay Higgins, a scheduled monthly meeting, and we spent most of the time discussing how to make the HR policies, procedures, and other information more accessible to staff and to better support managers.

Another grabbed lunch before meeting with Maurice Teasdale, Mark Lee, and Laurie Nicholls to discuss car parking at HBP. Some progress but we need to sort out whether we can operate some form of system to allow ad hoc parking (for example, where someone is going to be working late because of a systems change but who wouldn’t normally want a parking spot).

The bulk of the afternoon was then with my management team, looking at how to describe our services in a meaningful but concise way. That’s harder than it sounds when you’re trying to articulate the breadth of what we do in only 10-20 individual services. It was a healthy discussion with some strong opinions and some different views but as a 1st attempt I think it was very productive. We ended up with a candidate list of about 15 services to review. Then, using a simple method, we had a go at rating one of the services. That threw up some interesting views and thoughts as well (despite us thinking we’d picked one of the easy services to look at). In the course of it we decided that 2 of the services shouldn’t be included. Whilst the activity does happen, the services were more about how we’ve chosen to do the activity and we didn’t think an audience outside IS&T would possibly recognise them as services at all.

We all agreed that the exercise had been useful, even though of course simply rating services ourselves isn’t sufficiently robust to use as evidence of the relative value or importance of particular services. I think we’ll return to the list in the short-term though, to see if continuing the rating weeds out any more of the candidate services (or indeed highlights some ones we’ve missed).

Finally, a quick discussion with Mark Lee and Mark Charlesworth about options for maintenance contracts for the network infrastructure. We’re being offered some reasonably attractive pricing over more than one year but we need to be sure that (particularly in the current climate) the service we might pay for today is still honoured and delivered in 1 or more years time. It’s probably not something we would have been as worried about in the past, depending on the history of the supplier, but with even blue chips vulnerable it’s a risk we need to consider fully.

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Unable to think of interesting title

Sorry about that – it’s one of the hardest things about this blog, trying to find interesting or informative titles for posts.

Anyway, a day in thirds; ISMG, PSR and saying goodbye to a colleague.

After my morning catch-up with Matt on diary and other stuff, I met with Maurice Teasdale to pick up where we are with the HBP and other accommodation plans. There’s nothing new to report other than we’re nearly at the deadline for staff wanting to apply for a car parking pass for HBP. We’re meeting next week to look at the applications that have come in.

Then straight into the Information Services Management Group meeting. A quiet-looking agenda didn’t materialise into the short meeting I’d expected and there was a lot of updates from people on the notes. Dave Thornley joined the meeting to brief us on the plans to move to enforced password changes (part of the required changes under the Electronic Information Security Framework agreed by the University Executive last year). We had a detailed discussion on some scenarios and the possible impacts on staff. These clearly need to be thought through but we need to strike a balance between likely and pretty unlikely situations.

We also discussed where we need to get to in terms of the use of staff personal mobile devices connecting to email (or other data) being encrypted or not. Having thrashed that through and previously having had views from Liz Winders and colleagues in Secretariat, it’s clear we need to do more on advice and guidance to enable people to make sensible choices. There will be more on that in the next couple of weeks, as I think it makes sense to join up a number of information security-related issues all together so people don’t become confused or bombarded with different elements of what is effectively the same issue.

A passing chat with a colleague took my lunch break (so I’m pretty hungry as I sit here typing this) and then it was straight into the Professional Services Review Board. There was a good discussion on where we’ve got to and next steps including letting people know where there are concrete things we can tell them, or where we are looking for their input to firm up proposals, etc.

Back in my office, a 1st chance to pick up emails from today. Carmel Kennedy arrived to collect her personal papers and drop off any remaining SHU equipment, as today is her last day. We had a good chat about some of her possible future plans and options before she headed off to Laurie Nicholls’ after work birthday drinks.

This weekend I’ll be finalising the draft paper principles for the Corporate Review of IT, ahead of circulating that draft for comment to a few people next people. I’m aiming to get that out to staff as soon as possible the week after that. I’ll also be writing up a briefing note for Clive about data security. Other than that I’m looking forward to nice restful weekend, hopefully.

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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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Monday at Manchester Met

A trip out today, for a planned meeting with Phil Range at Manchester Metropolitan University.

I was able to use the journey to catch up on a few things I need to be ready for when I’m back from leave, which was a good use of the time.

Phil was very kind and had arranged to give me quite a bit of time. We talked about a number of things, mostly comparing notes in terms of where our respective organisations were in relation to the ‘big’ issues troubling many University IT Directors (systems development, infrastructure, costs, the longer term financial position of institutions, etc.). It was particularly interesting hearing Phil talk about his early experiences at MMU, and his previous experience at a number of other Universities in the UK.

As I’m finding is often the case, it isn’t as simple as any one University being ahead on all fronts; what you actually see is a mix of areas within a University that are in advance or not of where we are. There are some areas where we are definitely ahead of most of the sector I think (server virtualisation springs to mind) and others where we are in that middle pack, not quite leading but not lagging either (such as with so-called ‘cloud’ email).

It was an interesting 1st meeting and we both felt there was value in meeting again and sharing information (informally benchmarking) our IT operations.

I’m hoping to get out to see other Universities more as they are a useful way to keep track of potential future development options and also to get a sense of perspective about what we are trying to do. There’s usually someone who has either already done/tried whatever it is, or is planning to do so, that we can learn from.

Even on a grey day, the return journey along the Hope Valley line was lovely though the Pennines appeared very autumnal-looking; mist at the summits and flecked with purple heather.

Then back to AGC, for what is probably going to be my last working afternoon in that building, as the move to HBP should have happened whilst I’m away. It’s been a pleasure working here and thanks to all those who helped make me feel welcome.

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A Mixture of A Day

A mixed day, with lots of smaller meetings but lots of change of conversation.

A 1st thing phone call to our internal auditors chasing updates on previous audit management actions tied up some loose ends and hopefully allowed them to complete their report. This will come into the University via Liz Winders as a draft and I’ll have a 2nd chance to review my responses to check they’re captured accurately.

Then, my daily catch-up with Matt to check diary things, papers for meetings, things I’ve asked him to sort out for me. At the moment, my diary changes rapidly and there is quite a lot of work for Matt in managing it and dealing with clashes etc. When something comes out of left-field he’s having to prioritise and reschedule to fit things in. It looks like September to November are similarly heavily committed already too, including some external visits I can’t rearrange.

Next a meeting with Simeon Yates, wanting to discuss the changes in authorisation for capital IT expenditure. We had an informative discussion about how he feels planning works for his area and how some of the things we’re discussing with Finance (such as multi-year capital planning) might help in the future.

Then a rather snatched accommodation catch-up with Maurice Teasdale. Maurice is continuing to support us with the HBP move, even though Chris Walton’s area is now responsible for accommodation issues across SLS. There’s nothing major happening with HBP, as the specifications are still out to tender, however we needed to pick up the discussions he’s been having with FD about car parking. Whilst this isn’t as yet resolved, I think we’re a lot closer than we were at the start of the week.

One of my next meetings was to discuss some feedback given previously that the individual wanted to explore further. Whilst this discussion was straightforward enough, it reminded me that giving (and receiving) feedback is not always easy; getting the balance right, seeing it as a gift not an imposition, are all tough sometimes.

Some of the most profound learning I’ve done is as a result of understanding how others perceive me and my behaviour. Sometimes though, it’s hard to persuade other people to give you honest, constructive feedback. 360-degree appraisal is great but not something that you can do every day. I’ve used “Stop, Start, Continue” for the last couple of years, alongside having a few people I know I can ask for the honest unvarnished truth.

Finally, it was off to Collegiate Crescent to meet Philip Wain’s senior team, who wanted to discuss a number of issues related to the ‘IS&T Stratgey’, specifically around Governance, and other related things. I’d not met some of the team before and I got some useful feedback on how they are viewing the governance process so far. There was also a little confusion around how the IS&T governance process relates to the Business Case work being done by BIS in Secretariat, which was quite simply cleared up. Nicola Haywood-Alexander and I have been talking about both processes for some time in order to try ensure there’s clarity around the two, though obviously we still have some work to do there.

Now off to think about packing for my holidays as I won’t have time during the week next week.

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Preparing for the Weekend

And what a weekend it is, so important to the University.

With A Level Sundaalmost upon us, some of the worries from earlier in the week are a little lessened. There were concerns about the stability of our student information system ahead of Sunday but we now have a stable system (not problem free but at least stable). We do still need to apply another hotfix from the software company but we will have time to test that properly before we have to apply it. It is still tight as it is needed for Clearing but it is not a dire as we feared when we thought we might get it Friday and have to have it applied by Sunday.

Similar problems have also been reported across the UK, which is cold comfort of course but it is helpful to know as if it is that widespread the supplier will be more likely to be focused on resolving the problems than they might if it was just something we were struggling with.

We will have staff in on the day so everything should work OK. I’ll be on phone standby as well in case there are problems, or hopefully to get some updates that things have gone to plan.

Other things from today, the Systems Manager ASIS role profile was graded and now all I need to do is ensure the job description and person specification are updated/revised so we can plan to go out to advert in September.

I started to draft the next ‘Corporate Review of IT’ monthly email update. I’m aiming to get that out midweek next week. It will have more concrete information this time as we are closer to having clarity on process, timings, etc.

I caught up with Maurice Teasdale about Hallamshire Business Park (I spoke too soon when I thought I’d seen the last of HBP for a while) though really only to check he knew about the specification that I signed off yesterday.

I also finally (i.e. late) got around to updating the response to the Information Security audit report. I have to do these every few months and they are reported to the Audit Committee. We are about to implement and communicate the Electronic Information Security Framework, on a phased basis and this is somewhat overdue for lots of reasons. The main change for most staff will be the move to enforced password changes. The current arrangements were criticised in the audit and it is considered pretty poor practice. University Exec agreed the change some time ago and we now need to get on with making it happen.

And finally, its preparing for ISMG tomorrow and a very full agenda.

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