Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Cloud, crowd and outsourcing will eat your lunch

Presentation from Cornell University, Enterprise cloud strategists.

Disruptive changes are happening in IT sourcing.

Cloud computing is the obvious one. We can't compete with it. Commoditisation, scale etc. No brainer. Everyone should be doing it for commodity services.

Crowdsourcing will reshape IT staffing. Gartner have predicted that in 15 years the predominant employment relationship for IT staff will be freelance/contract based. Will have to reach outside of our community for some skill sets.
Cornell have done a crowdsourcing pilot with TopCoder. They have a global, talent pool approaching 1m. It's competition based, and Cornell only pay for the best solution. Projects broken down into very small projects which encourages hyper specialisation. The individual solutions then Integrated by specialist integrators.

Outsourcing is rising. Big companies like Accencture, Capgemini offer packages for outsourcing whole services

Disruptive innovation is accelerating. Time between disruptive innovations is decreasing. Foundations are being shaken everywhere. Digital experiences are replacing people experiences. Uber vs yellow cabs. Airbnb vs hotels. Travelocity vs travel agents.

Cloud vendors have the ability to disrupt us, can go to end users and bypass IT departments. They sell above IT directly to business units, and below IT directly to end users. We are no longer necessarily the providers of services.
We want to wrap our services around cloud, but consumers want to just buy products.

Enterprise IT roles are changing.
Oliver Marks from ZDNet quote. "Cloud companies are cost effectively emancipating enterprises from the tyranny of IT, solving lots of problems with tools that are a pleasure to use."

So, campus goes shopping, but the problems will still be ours! We need to change our relationship with our customers. Bridge the gulf between what our current structure/staffing was built to do and what is required of us in the era of post enterprise IT

We need to be a business asset by becoming the following:
Expert advisor for disruptive change
Navigator of procedural barriers
Innovation hunter
Time to market experts
Bridger of gaps (integration, architecture, security etc)
Value added reseller of cloud services, ie wrap our support etc round cloud services
Be or support an IT VMO (Vendor Management Office)
Refocus ourselves on supporting the core mission of teaching and learning and research. Running IT is not the core mission of the University.

Enterprise IT must become the strategic advisors to our customers and our vendors.

Don't be a mere operational function, a follower in a era of disruption and commoditisation
Be a change leader, a business asset, aligned with the core mission.



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Leadership lessons from US presidents

Keynote today from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership Lessons of History from the American Presidents.

A great speaker and very famous historian researching US presidents. Focusing today on Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt. Looked at leadership traits and illustrated them with stories and anecdotes.

Some of the traits she illustrated were
The ability to motivate people
Surrounding yourself with people who will question you, strong people who you trust. Take criticisms with grace.
Acknowledge errors and learn from mistakes. Turn failure into success.
Stay loyal to the constituencies you serve
Understand how to relax and recharge your batteries
Speak to your fellows with language and stories that everyone understands and can connect with. Communication is key.

Fascinating talk, she is a great storyteller, and far too much for me to take notes and record all of the stories she told. The talk was recorded and should be available soon if people want to watch.

The conference centre is huge, and so big that the organisers get around on Segways. I want one!




During the breaks between sessions we spend a lot of time in the very large exhibition, I know I've not been round all of it yet. Talked to a lot of vendors, some of whom we know well and are customers of. Some are ones that are new to me, and they also have a lot of start ups here who are really interesting to talk to. I'm also taking the opportunity to to talk to vendors that might be able to help us with some of our current challenges.





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Top Ten IT Issues for 2015

First session today is on the top ten issues for IT as identified by the EDUCAUSE Issues panel, and then voted on by members.

Three trends:
Inflection point, curve of change has moved from thinking to doing.
From technical to business, the IT organisation is moving to much more delivering business value.
The new normal, we still have to deliver day to day services, but all of the challenges still coming at us.

Top 10 issues, by theme
Theme: Pervasiveness and pace of change reaches an inflection point

1. Hiring and retaining qualified staff and updating the knowledge and skills of existing technology staff

6 Increasing the IT organisation's capacity for managing change, despite differing community needs, priorities and abilities

9 Developing an IT architecture that can respond to changing conditions and new opportunities

10 Balancing agility, openness and security

Theme: from Technical to Business. IT's primary focus moves from the back end to the front end.

2 Optimising the use of technology in teaching and learning in collaboration with academic leadership including understanding the appropriate level of technology to use

3 Developing IT funding models that sustain core services, support innovation and facilitate growth

4 Improving student outcomes through an institutional approach that strategically leverages technology

5 Demonstrating the business value of IT and how IT can help the institution achieve its goals

Theme: The New Normal

7 Providing user support in the new normal - mobile, online education, cloud and BYOD environment

8 Developing security policies for mobile, cloud and digital resources that work for most of the institutional community


The second theme interested me the most, and is something I have been pushing for a while. It's the reason we've revised our Service Portfolio to demonstrate the range of services we offer, the value we provide and how we can help the university achieve its goals. Someone commented on it that it showed how much we do that isn't core IT. I think they meant it as a criticism, but I take it as a huge compliment! A mature IT department does so much more than keeping the infrastructure working, which is itself extremely important. Technology is pervasive, and touches every person and every area of our organisation. We need to be heavily involved in strategic initiatives, especially in the key areas of teaching and learning and research. It's all about building partnerships.

Interesting point to come out in the discussion, funding has been on the issues list since it began.....




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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Crowdsourcing your IT strategy

University of Michigan.
In 2008 massively decentralised. Had 193 desktop support systems, 125 networks, 44 email systems, 102 helpdesks!! Spending a lot on IT. I'm not really surprised.

So, formed central IT department, appointed a CIO. Had to produce a Campus Wide IT strategy. Had to represent the whole University, including all of their campuses which were relatively independent, all departments and units and all major staff and student roles. It had to provide direction, so chose rolling 5 year window, updated annually. Definitely not a wish list of IT projects. Needed a strategic plan that came with a well thought out and sustainable financial road map. Important that it had buy in.

Original process was to have an IT strategy team, interview people, write a document, take it back and socialise it. So, set off and interviewed the deans and senior staff and distilled notes into themes. But, how to get faculty buy in? So, interviewed and had workshops with 20 senior IT staff. Different needs became apparent. So, central IT senior managers developed the themes into strategies. But that didn't work as academics questioned their authority.

So decided to crowd source it. Faculty staff wrote the strategies, IT people, wrote how they would deliver it. Project team became facilitators and coaches. Used Google docs as the tool. The interviewees became the writers. No need to then socialise it because they had written it.

Took and extra year but was worth it. Process of getting the campus to work together was probably worth as much as the strategy. It was endorsed by Deans, academics, senior managers and students.

Now being reviewed and some parts being rewritten, by the faculty staff. Had become part of the culture.

Lessons learned:
The conversation is at least as important as the strategy. Distribute the ownership.
Get non IT people heavily involved in the process. Central IT need to be in the background.
Get it wrong to get it right. Give the community time to have multiple goes at it. Ask lots of questions. It's all about partnership.
Take advantage of collaboration technology. They used Google docs, and built a culture which accepted commenting on and editing other people's work.
Also used Google hangouts a lot.
You need a really good editor. Mustn't look like it was written by a committee, and be concise. Is a tendency to bloat with crowdsourcing. Need a disinterested third party to edit it. Also brought it into one voice and one writing style.
Have a strong champion at a high level.



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From Chief Information Officer to Chief Digital Officer

Speaker 1 from McGraw Hill
How does the CIO shape the future?
Ask ourselves if we are we realising the maximum potential of our technology investment on our campuses.
Over past 15 years we have looked a lot at infrastructure and commodity services. These matter deeply to the organisation, but we we all have limited managerial time and budget. We need to minimise the cost/time on commodity offerings.

Focus on the learning ecosystem. Make it open, accessible and interoperable. How come we can't share identity easily? And we still buy technologies that are walled gardens. What can we do to make open learning ecosystems happen. We need learning content repositories. Open APIs, personalisation.

Become the Chief Digital Learning Evangelist. Influence future pedagogy. Help academic staff engage with TEL. Make sure your governance model takes into account learning outcomes. Moves budgets from administrative computing to teaching and learning. Speak in the language of learning outcomes. Enable disruption.

Speaker 2 from Notre Dame University

We all need to be digital evangelists. The core of everything we're doing is being disrupted by digital:

The classroom. Students bringing devices in, wireless being strengthened. Better collaboration and versatility.

Libraries are collaboration spaces with wireless and power, places to learn socially. Major changes to design.

Creating and managing learning materials. Digital learning materials are being built and delivered.

Enabling digital publishing. Digital publishing needs to carry same weight as traditional ways.

Orchestrating the mobile ecosystem. Students want to do everything on their devices. Not just academic. Whens the next bus, how long is the line in the cafe.

Enhancing campus life for students, whilst the campus is their home, we have to provide the services they want, even if it has detrimental effect on our networks.

Producing and managing video. Being produced at exponential rate, needs storage and curating.

Building new production facilities. Creative media suites for audio, video, editing.

Archiving, curating and preserving digital assets. The digital archive. Opens up data and information for all to use

Supporting research and analytics.

Delivering a demanding fan experience. Build a relationship with community who come to our campuses, no matter who they are. They have to leave with a positive experience.

We need to become evangelists for the next thing in education. We won't be calling it digital for long!

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Less is More

Next session is about making the best use of analytics form your wireless implementation. Interesting that there's a baseball cap on each seat....

Two Dutch presenters one from Fontys University, one from Parantion. So, the session started with a theory that student are often, lazy, unprepared listeners when they turn up for lectures. To test this out we played a well known Dutch game called cap on, cap off. Suddenly the caps seem significant. How much had we prepared, and how much did we know about the presenters and the presentation. Good game. Most of us were LULs....

Big wireless network, trying to optimise it, but only time users cared was when it didn't work. Inspired by big data movement, so took a look at the data being collected. Realised it was a diamond mine of data.
Presented the data to the students and asked them to look at it.
First thing they built were visualisations. Could see how busy the new outwork was.
Urged students to be creative with it. They built infographics.
Compared OS and devices being used. Looked at trends. Apple going up, windows down.
Android up, iOS down.
Girls more active
Students more active than teachers
Hipsters more than nerds




Students built a where's my device app, and an absent /present app for buildings, ie a who's in board based on devices going in and out.

Killer app was measuring who much you were moving ina building. Points awarded for how much you were moving. Useless but a huge success.

Then used data from other sources eg timetable. Looked at attendance based on wireless activity and compared with schedule.
Also built attendance app for lectures based on wireless data.

Built app to monitor whether a room was in use, so could compare timetable data with whether anyone was actually in a room.

We have lots of data on campus. Added to every day. We can even see how interesting a lecture is by looking at log files to see how much social media is used in it!

Project to look at Student Evaluation, use just in time evaluation, whilst they are in class or on campus. Use wireless data to send it only to students who are in that class.
Teacher gets result immediately, and student can see how their response compares to peers.
First results are good, high response rate.

We have lots of valuable data. What questions do we needed to answer? Tools and apps can be built, but we need the right questions.
Use your golden pick on the diamond mine of data!









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EDUCAUSE kicks off with Disruptive Innovation

Well we're off at EDUCAUSE, after various preconference sessions and workshops, the opening keynote is here. Highlights so far for me have been a tropical storm yesterday which drenched us, and a mirror in my bathroom with a TV embedded in it!
Huge aircraft hanger like space for this talk, 7300 attendees is a lot! From over 50 countries, it's becoming a much more international conference.
Opening keynote is on Disruptive Innovation and the Future of Higher Education and is delivered by Clayton Christenen from Harvard Business School. Following post, like most of them from here, will be in note form as I jot down the key messages.

Decentralisation is disruptive and is hard to catch.
Services and products have to improve to stay competitive. The trajectory of innovation and technology improvements is almost always outstrips the customers ability to use the improvements.
Disruptive innovation transforms a complicated expensive product into something affordable and accessible so that large populations have access to use it. Makes things more affordable. Small companies often win with disruptive innovation. Better products are dominated by existing players, disruptive ones by young entrants. Often not seen by people running existing companies.
Good example of rise of personal computers in 90s and effect it had on big mainframe companies. Just thought they could keep making better mainframes.
Successful disruptive innovators compete against non consumption. ie don't go for better products for people already using them, but a product that is better than nothing! Go for product that will get non users using it.
So, for good new services, try to go for non consumers.
Will electric cars disrupt gasoline cars?
Tesla competing head on against big car companies. To make the cars competitive, have to have really good technology, so are really expensive.
Would be better competing at bottom of market. Golf carts, industrial cars, small cars. ie competing against non consumption. Eventually will reach the top.
On line learning. Harvard business school safe from it because need interactive discussions guided by professors on cases which can't be done on line. Or can it? Yes it can with appropriate technology. Remote discussion can be orchestrated by skilled teachers on line. Lovely picture of an iPad on a robot, complete with bow tie running a course remotely.





Higher education historically has acted using the visible hand of managerial capitalism. I was so entranced by the explanation of this I forget to make notes. Google it :-)
In the future, will move to the invisible hand of informed capitalism.
Modularity will make HE less integrated.
Has happened in technology, you can compete on functionality and reliability by using a propriety independent architecture.
To compete on speed, responsiveness and and customisation need a modular, open architecture,
Good examples from smartphone. Eg Palm vs RIM early on, pAlm were modular but RIM won because v closed therefore more reliable. Too early for open.
Then Apple vs RIM, Apple won, half way between propriety and open.
The android, completely modular.

So many tech companies gone, eg Silicon graphics, SUN, DEC, Wang. All made better and better products, that no-one wanted.
The companies that win are the ones that differentiate their products, eg Apple.

In Higher Education, same thing happening.
Historically how courses interact with each other is unfashionable, but little by little standards are starting to emerge for on line course. Accreditations are being established. Moving towards a module architecture.

Outsourcing often sets in motion disruptive business model liquidation.
Example of Dell gradually outsourcing different components to AsusTek until they didn't exist.


Disruption is always a great opportunity before it becomes a threat because it competes with non consumption

Remember modularity. Where you make the money in the future isn't where you make the money in the last.

Higher Education needs to look at different models for delivering teaching. Don't go head to head with traditional models.











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Friday, 26 September 2014

Quick round up before EDUCAUSE

Quick round up before going off to EDUCAUSE at the weekend.  Monday myself and the Assistant Directors went on a visit to another Universityto look at how they organise themselves to deliver services. We talked a lot about service management, service portfolios and IT support structures. Always good to learn from others.

I've also been to Oxford for a conference organising meeting, and we're getting very close to having a full programme. In fact, by biggest worry now is that we'll have too many speakers.

Another meeting was looking at the resources we'll need to run the new Diamond building, which is coming on apace. Great to see the cladding going on it now.

Finally a meeting about our review of our student system, where we spent some time discussing the relative merits of buying a package, or writing our own. Writing our own comes in many flavours, ranging from starting again from scratch, redeveloping the one we've got, working with a consortium such as Kuali, or implementing a hybrid solution where we use modules from suppliers and integrate with in-house modules.

Now I'm off to EDUCAUSE for the annual conference - will try and blog about as many sessions as possible!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Registration and DNA Torpedoes

So our new students have arrived, and so much goes on behind the scenes to make sure they are registered correctly, have everything they need to start their studies, have access to the right services etc. We have a team of people in our sports halls working alongside colleagues from across the University supporting online registration. Module loading, identity checking, fee paying and Ucard distribution. The sports halls are transformed by our voice and data and IT support teams. And everything will be taken down and things made back to normal this weekend. Everything seems to be going very smoothly at the moment, great team work again.



Have managed to get another couple of nights in the Spiegel Tent this week for our X lectures- reseach that we thought might be better presented to a more adult audience! Monday was Tim Birkhead talking about sex in the animal kingdom. Absolutely fascinating. Learned a lot! Last night was my old friend Allan Pacey on the secret life of sperm. Again brilliantly presented, very interesting and very funny. And just a little bit rude....
It was preceded my a short film made by Human Studios especially for Festival of the Mind. Lovely graphics, and worth a watch.

DNA Torpedoes from Humanstudio on Vimeo.




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Monday, 22 September 2014

You put your left leg in....

A quick post about today - another day for the CiCS team welcoming new students. It's much quieter than it used to be for us as we create student accounts before they arrive, fewer students have problems connecting and our networks are much more resilient. All good stuff. Interesting to note that on the wireless network, we have twice as many devices connected as students, So, most people have two devices, some will have more, some only one. Going up year on year.

Festival of the Mind is still going on, and this afternoon I spent some more time in the Spiegel Tent watching The Great Sheffield Mash Up with Ida Barr.  Not quite sure how to describe this music hall/hiphop/rap crossover, apart to say it was great fun. Lots of community singing, a gospel choir, hankie waving. Not forgetting 150 people doing a Conga/Lambeth Walk through John Lewis, which I suspect wasn't in the original risk assessment....


And a community Hokey Cokey. Fab.



What the team are doing is great, and a huge collaborative effort between many departments. And although it's great fun, it's really bringing the University into the City and engaging with local people. As it should do. Another week to go, and still some great events lined up. Full programme here.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

A great day in Sheffield

Those of you who know me well will know that I'm very proud of both the City I live in, and the University at which I work. Today has been a wonderful day, celebrating both. So, a bit of a different blog post - what I did today, in pictures.

Started off up at the Student village where our new students are arriving, and we put on a great event to welcome them and their parents and families. The sun didn't actually shine, but it did stop raining, and the helpful staff even mind the students' suitcases so they don't have to carry them upstairs to get their keys.


 Our team were out in force helping students connect to our network, and with any other IT problem they might have. Here's them at the start, waiting for the students to arrive.


As we make our systems easier to use and more resilient, the less we have to deal with problems, and the more we can help them get the best out of our services.

After spending soe time at both villages, I walked into the City Centre, mainly to see what was going on with the Festival of the Mind.  Saw the pop up gardens:



and went into the Spiegel Tent to see the CiCS team who are handling all of the technical support, including the AV and filming the talks.


Then went to the Cathedral where there was another pop up garden


and I got a chance to see the remodelling of some of the interior, including a new lantern in the ceiling


I really went in to see the Loomery Scrolls which is an exhibition of drawings by the artist Chris Wallbank documenting life in the guillemot breeding colonies of Skomer Island, based on the research of our own Professor Tim Birkhead.



These were really stunning, and I was lucky enough to bump into the artist, and had a really interesting chat about how he'd done them.
 I took the opportunity to have a really good look round the cathedral, which is spectacular, and had a good look at the candlesticks in the crypt made by my neighbour and good friend, Keith Tyssen.


Then it was down to Castle House, which used to house the Co-Op, but the University has taken it over and transformed it as part of Festival of the Mind into an Artspace. There was a display from the National Fairground archive, including the greatest photobooth in the world, which of course we had to have a picture taken in - the Clown, the Ringmaster and the Bearded Lady!


There were some great art installations in the building - here's a couple:



As well as a demonstration of how hot we are, and how hot buildings are demonstrating heat loss and thermal energy



The building is a fantastic example of  1920's architecture, including a cantilevered spiral staircase


It was great to see it being used in this way - it lends itself to pop up shops and art installations - hope for the future?
After all of that walking it was time to meet some friends for a sit down and well earned drink, and then it was back to the Spiegel Tent for Man vs Machine  - a great show looking at whether fMRI scanning can get the same result in judging what we are thinking about as a mind reader. Without giving too much away, the answer is yes.


Very entertaining show from Dr Aneurin Kennerley from our Dept of Psychology and an exceptional mind reader/mentalist/magician called Looch. I loved him!

After that it was wine, pizza, home, more wine.

Friday, 19 September 2014

New students on their way

Of course, the other exciting thing happening at the moment is our students are coming back. Tomorrow and Sunday thousands of first years will arrive to collect their keys for their accommodation and start a new part of their life.  We'll have staff in the student villages and on campus all over the weekend to help them get started with us, and get connected. We've produced a new set of web pages, and a new publication to help them.


We've also worked with International Student Support office to make a video about IT services aimed at prospective international students.



So we're all set for our new students, let's just hope the sun comes out!

Sounds of the Cosmos

So much going on at the moment!!  Happening for the next 10 days is Festival of the Mind  -  an extraordinary celebration of research here at the University presented in partnership with professionals from Sheffield creative, cultural and media industries.  The Spiegel tent is again on Barkers Pool, with a fantastic programme of events - the full listing is here


Last night I was privileged to be at The Sounds of The Cosmos. A collaborative event betwwen a number of different departments. The Department of Music organised the concert of Gustav' Holst's The Planets by the Sheffield Rep Orchestra, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy provided talk on the cosmos which interspesed the movements. Outstanding graphics and images produced by Human Studio were shown on 8 screens around the room.  We provided all of the technical and operational support which included installing all of the screens and projection gear, and filming the event. An inspirational event, and great team work. Unfortunately the only picture I've got was taken on my phone and isn't great quality, but gives you an idea of what it was like. It also demonstrated what a great venue we have in the Octagon Centre, and we should use it more for events like this.