Friday, 30 November 2012

Thank you and raffles

Last night was our thank you get together - some food and drink to thank everyone for the hard work they put in over the year, especially during the summer when the rest of the world think we're having a rest because the students aren't here!

For the last few years we've combined it with a charity raffle - we collect prizes donated from suppliers, and from ourselves (this year a fair number of small ones were collected from exhibitors at Educause!). This year our star prizes included a Nexus 7 tablet, a chocolate hamper, whisky, wine, a camera and loads of toiletries, food etc. A great collection - thanks to everyone who donated them.

We raised over £520 for The Bluebell Children's Hospice and the Teenage Cancer Care Unit,and I think a good time was had by all. Hopefully even by the people who didn't win anything! Thanks folks.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Talent Management

Yesterday lunchtime I went to the first "Registrar's Event", as part of the launch of our new talent management initiative for Professional Staff. It had about 100 attendees from all areas of professional services from a variety of grades and job areas, and began to explore how we can continue to develop a cohesive, flexible and values team of professional staff. It was acknowledged that behind every outstanding piece of research work which  reaches the national and international press,  every award the university  achieves, and every outstanding piece of teaching, there is a team of professional staff which make this possible. Our aim to to describe the Sheffield Professional, in the same way that we do the Sheffield Academic and the Sheffield Graduate.

It was a good event, lots of networking, opportunities to meet new people, speed dating, spot prizes, and a very uplifting and stimulating talk from the Registrar.  As part of the discussion, attendees were asked to identify the One Big Question. What would they like answered, and my favourite was "what does the Registrar actually do?  I've been asked the same question myself (about me, not him), and that's how this blog started. More to come - watch this space.

Today I've been in the UEB Information Services sub group - a small group who discuss items which might be relevant to our Executive Board. One of the main items from CiCS we discussed today was Information Security, especially in relation to mobile devices. User education is as critical as policies and technical solutions, and we are rolling out an on-line training/awareness programme which we have piloted in one faculty and are about to implement in CiCS.  Our discussion today was how to implement it across the University, and how much should be mandatory.

The other main discussion we had was around open access publishing of research journals. Suffice to say, it's complex!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Chemistry and transformation

Last night I went to a meeting at The Chemistry Club in London, and no I haven't suddenly decided to go back to my science roots, it's Chemistry as in networking. It's a place where IT professionals and CIOs from all sectors can come together in an independent setting and discuss items of shared interest. The discussions are partly facilitated, in that you have an "introducer" with all of your details and of the other attendees on an iPad, and you are introduced to people who've either requested to speak to you, you've requested to speak to them (this is all done in advance), or during the course of the evening mutual interests are uncovered. It's a bit like speed dating.

I love it, suits my shy, introverted nature :-). I get to network with some very interesting people and discuss lots of things that I wouldn't normally get chance to. I'm a great believer in networking and making contacts. It's also a way of getting introductions to people and organisations, which is great for getting people to speak at conferences and events.

Last night I spoke to the CIO of British Airways about the complex nature of their real time IT systems and a senior IT executive from John Lewis about shopping. Well, not really about shopping as such, but of the importance of making the customer experience as similar and seamless as possible no matter what platform customers are using, whether it's a web site, an app or actually being in the store. I also chatted with several people from local authorities about the transformational effect "going digital" can have on the way they do their business and interact with the local population.

The word " transformation" cropped up a lot, especially in people's titles. CIOs have suddenly become Heads of Transformation, signalling a change from IT being systems and infrastructure based, to transforming the business.

The BBC had a lot of people there as the Head of Future Media was the keynote speaker, and I spent some time chatting with one of their senior R and D executives about how they are moving their services forward. They work on the "shape, build, deliver" philosophy, with three separate teams. Shape is the innovation team, Build, the developers, and Deliver an operational team. Something I think we need to get our heads round more.

Much of the keynote speech and the other discussions with the BBC centred on their coverage of the Olympics, the challenges they'd faced, and the huge success it had been. Fascinating to hear it from the technology perspective.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Staying safe on line

A panel discussion now, Cory Doctorow and Matthias Klang discussing staying safe online, the dark side of apps and social networks.

Cory up first. Three ideas about changing the way we look at privacy.

Need to keep kids safe, but should we spy on them, harvest what they're doing? How does that teach them to respect privacy. better to teach them to detect surveillance and become intelligent consumers. Could turn our kids into advocates for their own Internet privacy.
Find out what's over blocked and under blocked. Then gather info about kids get around it. Because they do! Then use FoI laws to find out what schools are doing, what they're paying, and research the companies. Then publish it. Teach kids to think critically about privacy and that they should steps to protect it.

How do we become an intelligent user of services that collect our private information, especially in return for free services? We give up all sorts of information about ourselves, browsing history, location etc. Use technology. Analogous to blocking pop ups. Need to turn off some third party cookies. Cookie blockers or plug ins. Just leave those on that do work for us like keeping us logged in.

Also need to do something about mobile privacy. When you install an app it knows all sorts about you, including who you're speaking to, location etc. Usually have to agree to all Ts and Cs, not some of them, should only send info that's valuable to us. Example, location data is useful to an app for healing cabs, but not to to others.

Now Matthias.
The unexpected depth of shallow media.
The Millennium, the year of the I Love You virus. Lots of rules about using the Internet. Don't give your real names on line, or your age, or your sexual orientation.
Then Mark Zuckerberg came along, and we told him everything.
Then Steve Jobs invented the smartphones.
Then we needed something to do with it, and apps were invented.

Social media timeline, end of the communications monopoly.

Also the end of boredom! We're constantly being entertained, but we want to take part. The performance lifestyle!

I love this:

How do these tools affect society? How are things controlled and why aren't politicians passing laws to protect us? Because they don't want to because at the moment we are under surveillance like never before.
Need to take some of our rights back. Start with End User Licence Agreements. It won't start with technology, will have to start with us.

Lots of interesting questions. How do you keep very young children safe? Don't use blockers they don't work. Be in the room with them. Keep an eye on what they're doing. Be prepared to explain things. Guide their Internet habits.

Also a good discussion about social media around the BBC newsnight story and the incorrect assumption that Lord McAlpine was a child abuser. The Paul Chambers case also got a good airing with everyone in agreement that it should never have been a case. Lots of discussion about freedom of speech on social networks.

Great session.

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The University of Google

Exciting session now, our own Andy Tattersall talking about our move to the cloud (Google) and how he's been using it to aid collaboration in an academic department and the shift from enterprise software to Google Apps.
Popular session, almost standing room only.

Why did we go to Google? Interesting to hear this from one of our users. Luckily, Andy's reasons are exactly the same as I would have given :-)
Because they do it better. Our students and staff demand more than we can give them. Data storage, better ease of access, better communication tools, more resilient systems, social platforms, better interfaces. Students were already using google apps.
Staff were using tools like Dropbox. We had small amounts of storage, and a perceived lack of social collaborative tools. Also propriety tools are expensive.
Moved in two phases, students first. More adaptable than staff.
Then staff, no opt out, all moved across.

Andy's journey began before the University's in 2007 by doing 3D sketch up of the library, and started a ScHARR library blog. Then YouTube Channel. In 2010 moved the enquiry desk form to Google Forms. By 2011 when everyone moved he had a lot of experience.

Encouraged department to start to build web sites, more staff can use google sites and blogs for creating small bits of content. A lot of integrated functionality in google apps, - can easily embed docs, calendars, videos etc. into sites.
University still at stage of early adopters, but in front of many. On Gartner hype cycle, we have people on all parts of it, some have reached plateau, some hurtling to trough of disillusionment. Need champions, (nice picture of Graham McElearney there).

Awareness raising sessions in SCHARR include 2 hour hands on workshops, 20 minute bite size sessions, screencasts, webinars and hangouts. Also university wide events such a Making the Most of Google Day.

Need to change old habits, such as moving away from client to Google interface, using Google hangouts for meetings, presenting sessions. Sharing ideas is happening, lots of collaboration going on.
Doing things differently. Will get different results, will make mistakes, but will get better. And as Google moves forward, so will the University.

Interesting in the Q and A, Andy got asked a lot more questions about the use of the apps, different sorts of apps, what happened if apps get withdrawn etc. When I talk about our move, I tend to get asked about the technology aspects, and that old chestnut, security and privacy. A different audience I suppose, and also a very different presentation.

Excellent talk, and it generated a lot of interest.

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Platform Wars

Next up a session on Platform Wars, someone else I follow on twitter, Charles Arthur Technology Editor from The Guardian.

Written a book, "Digital Wars, Apple, Microsoft, Google and the battle for the Internet"
We've had the digital wars, Google vs Microsoft in search, Google won but may be anti-trust issues.

Apple vs MS in digital music. Apple won with iPod. Zune never took off. Came in far too late, just as iPhone coming in.

Google vs Apple vs MS in smartphones. Apple initially won, but huge growth in Android.

Google vs Apple vs MS in tablets. Too early to say who's won because a young market. Changed the way people thought about mobile computing. Tablets will overtake desktops soon, and eventually maybe laptops.

The next war is a Platform War.
Windows used to be only platform that mattered. Apple used to be an also ran. But apple hugely changed what it does and has expanded.
Smartphone will pass PC installed base in 2013.
Platform is a matrix, not just about OS. What about google+, twitter, Facebook, Skype, 3rd party apps. These all want to be on as many things as possible.
Success depends on users, how many, and how many £s per user you get.
Few users, more £s. Niche quadrant. Eg Windows phone
More users, less £s. Commoditised quadrant eg android
Few users, less £s Quadrant of doom eg RIM?
More users, more £s, Quadrant of Dominance eg Apple

Good picture of different apps and platforms

Monetization is a complicate interplay between desktop and mobile. Need to monetise at scale, but hard to do.

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Copyright Law doesn't work

I'm at the On-Line Information Conference in London today. It's primarily for Information specialists and librarians, but I spoke at it last year and enjoyed a lot of the presentations, so thought I would come down this year for just one day of it.

Opening session is someone I follow on twitter and read a lot of what he writes, Cory Doctorow. His title, "There is no copyright policy, there is only Internet policy, there is not Internet policy, only policy" looks interesting!

Copyright is a regulatory framework for the entertainment industry who have also been responsible for laws, writing them etc. Nothing wrong with a big industry being regulated, but has to have some sort of test to see if you are within the regulatory framework. In copyright, this is handling a copy of a piece of work. OK when dealing with some media eg print, but does not work now. In the past, observance of the rule was as much a technological thing as legal ie difficult to copy a movie or a book. But now, we have computers and the internet. All computers do is make copies. Look at how many copies are made in buffers and caches everytime you click a mouse.

We talk about a difference between streaming and downloading. But only way for a file to render on your computer is for a copy to be made. The only difference is that streaming doesn't have a save button. Still a copy.
Need to come up with another test to see if we are within the law, but entertainment industry haven't done that. Still use the arcane "copy" rule. But internet and computers are vital to everything we do, so this is ridiculous.

Martha Lane Fox and PWC did research looking at benefits of internet by using communities in socially deprived areas where some had free access to the internet, some didn't. They found that every aspect of life is enhanced. Better grades at school, better jobs, health outcomes. More civically engaged, better informed about current affairs, more likely to vote.

Soon, all services will by default be delivered on Internet including benefits etc. Policy has to be changed, currently there is no public interest, policy is ONLY made to benefit the entertainment industry.

Digital locks cannot be removed or disabled. But they stop us doing things. So, we remove them. So they are hidden. So they can't be removed. So we can't see all files on our PCs. This is a bad thing. Good example Orwellian. Amazon recently removed copies of 1984 book from all Kindles because it was an unauthorised copy. Orwellian or what? If you work in a bookstore, can't go into someone's house and remove books.

1995 Sony sold 50 audio CDs with root kits on- some files on which watched what you did and if you copied music, would shut down. Owners couldn't see them, great opportunity for virus writers. Many hundreds thousands of computers infected.

2 yrs ago MacBooks given to kids in US school with camera able to be turned on remotely without green light on. School in effect spying on student.
This year leasing company installed software on loan laptops which could be used to record everything, what they did, where they were, videos of them etc. In theory to recover computers if payment stopped. Scary.

In future we will have computers in our bodies, eg if we lose our hearing. We must not have things in them hidden from the owners. We have to trust them. Also in planes, cars.

Entertainment industry has called for easy censorship of networked material. They want "notice and take down". Not just used by entertainment industry but by others, eg Middle East dictators, Church of Scientology. No judicial review or oversight.

Viacom has taken a case out against YouTube. YouTube get 72 hours of video uploaded every minute. Not enough copyright lawyer hours remaining between now and the end of the universe to examine every bit of video uploaded. Viacom have said YouTube are acting illegally by not having every minute of video reviewed before it goes live! Also saying YT is a party to infringement because it allows private videos, ie ones that can only be seen by friends and family, and therefore Viacom can't police them.

Three strikes is even worse. If you are accused of three acts of copyright infringement, you and your family lose your Internet access. Has been passed too quickly and badly in many countries including this one where is was passed without proper debate in the "wash up" before the election.

Copyright not fit for purpose for regulating the internet. But not good for regulating the entertainment industry either! DRM is a disaster for writers and creators of content. Lots of authors etc now avoiding big players and using open ways of publishing. Using PayPal, twitter, blogger, youtube, etc. Free stuff available to all which copyright law would kill.

Copyright law must be changed. It must not be used to rule the Internet. The Internet is so much more than the entertainment industry.

Absolutely excellent talk. Sorry if notes are a little disjointed, so much excellent content in it.

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Monday, 19 November 2012

Getting to know you, incidents and blogs

Last week we had an awayday for our Executive team - me and the Assistant Directors, including our new one, Dave, who starts with us in January. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other, our preference styles for working, and how we might work together as a team, identifying where we had common strengths and weaknesses, and where they might complement each other. We also had a look at some of the feedback we've had on the results of our recent staff satisfaction survey. We'll be drawing up a staff engagement strategy and implementation plan over the next few weeks to address some of the areas we need to improve.

Today I've been at a major incident exercise. I could be called upon to be University Incident Manager or on the Incident Management Team if we had a major incident, and today we had three teams of people playing a variety of roles ( for example Incident Manager, Gold Liaison Officer, Duty Manager, communications officer) managing three different incidents. These were not purely table top exercises, but done in real time, with real time information provided, and real communications and actions being drawn up. Our incident involved an unexploded bomb, a very large exclusion zone, evacuation of buildings, disruption to exams, and the threat of a power shutdown to a major science block. All quite tiring and stressful to deal with, especially as more and more information hits you, which it would do in real life. Essential that we keep testing and refine our plans, and our ability to use them, even though we hope we don't have to use them!

I was also sent this link to a list of HE technical blogs by the Guardian Higher Education Network on twitter, and although I'm quite chuffed to be included, it's worth a look to see some excellent resources there for the community.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

SSB, PSE and other acronyms

One of the penalties of being away is coming back to a diary full of meetings and the last two days have been very busy. Monday was our Service Strategy Board which began with a presentation from our Problem Manager on where we are with problem management and how he is taking it forward. He now maintains ownership of active problems which has improved the monitoring of them, and he is working with our helpdesk to achieve a more consistent service catalogue and logging against problems. We are also trying to be more proactive about problems, reducing their impact where possible, and this was used in our recent release of our new student desktop where known issues where flagged in advance and publicised. This will involve close working with our release manager.

We had our usual look at progress of projects and other ongoing work in the service areas. It was good to see that our mobile app, iSheffield is proving very popular with students. We approved two new projects, a review of our Student System which is just getting underway, and a new way of looking at recruitment and outreach data. We also had for information a document of lessons learned from projects over the years - really interesting to see how things have changed.

Yesterday we had our Professional Services Executive which opened with a presentation on the impact on us of The Bribery Act. Expect more training and awareness raising sessions if you are in a high risk group. We had an interesting debate on whether me and Kath should have accepted a car that one of the exhibitors was giving away in a raffle at Educause last week! Other items covered included an update on the planning process and review of the University Strategic Plan, and I did a presentation on how the consumerisation of IT is affecting us, challenges and solutions.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Back home...

Back home after another great Educause. The sessions were mainly excellent, and if they don't come up to expectations,  you can easily pop out and find another - there's about 15 happening at any one time. The final session was from Edward Ayers, President of Richmond University who spoke passionately about the important of technology to the Humanities - the digital humanities are as important as STEM subjects. He gave some great examples of projects he has been involved in, including The Valley of the Shadow - a digital history of Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War which was put together from scanned newspapers from the time. He's also been involved with a similar project looking at the emancipation from slavery in the US.

Other highlights for me were seeing Clay Shirky, networking and exchanging ideas with colleagues from the UK and US, and of course the now traditional (well I've done it for two years), Segway tour. You never know, one day the UK will actually come into this century and follow the rest of the world in allowing their use! But the best was being in the US for the presidential election, and sitting in a bar watching Obama be re-elected.

Friday, 9 November 2012

What makes a great conference session?

First session this morning is how to write a good conference presentation. It had better be good. Started with a slide of how most of us are too busy to think about presenting at conferences. Had a cat on it so good for me.

The notes from the presentation are here if anyone wants to see more detail. There's also links to some good resources.

What makes a great conference session? Quick survey round attendees came up with 11 terms:
New take
Great graphics
Clear message
Though provoking
Matches title
Uses humour

Avoid death by PowerPoint. Most people tend to put everything they want to say on the slide and just read it out. You lose the audience immediately doing this. Another common mistake:

Think of presentation as a story, and you as the storyteller.
Work out what your one big idea is, who your audience is, and deliver with authenticity - bring a human touch to it, a little bit of who you are. Bring yourself into the sessions.

Blueprint your session. Define and thoroughly understand your audience. You need to focus on what matters to them.

One big idea. The one key message you must focus on. Make sure everything you say relates back to it.

To get to give a presentation you have to write a winning proposal, at EDUCAUSE it goes to a programme committee.
Need to research and understand the CFP (Call for proposal). Understand themes and tracks. Connect your one big idea to the conference theme. Have a catchy title and abstract. There's some resources on how to do it in the link above.
Make sure the abstract whets the appetite, make it intriguing and interesting, but has to represent what you'll actually be talking about.

Then you have to design your presentation. Use your one big idea as a filter, and keep the audience in mind. Outline the pretension using story boarding. PowerPoint very linear, prezi makes you think in a different way. Lots of other tools - Google docs can be very powerful. Think about design, very important.

Think about how you might use social media, twitter hashtag, Facebook etc.

Delivering session. Prepare and practice. Memorise as much as possible. Engage with your audience. Read and abide by the TED 10 commandments that all TED presenters get sent to them!

Good session, and the resources are definitely worth looking at.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Today's Modern Music Marketplace

A conversation with Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO of Recording Industry Association of America.

I should preface this, with these are his opinions, not necessarily mine!

Bottom line is that music industry has transformed how it does business.
The music industry is now primarily digital. Way ahead of other industries including movies and newspapers
There's new business models, subscription models, free streaming, music bundled with mobile phones, music in the cloud. All types of digital business models are now embraced and licensed by the major music labels.
A major RIAA priority is to make it easier for new services to be licensed.
Historically very few albums have represented majority of sales. Not so any more.
Illegal downloading has hurt the music industry. Vast majority of downloads are illegal. Fewer people today trying to make a living from music. Piracy is a problem for our economy and our culture. Protecting rights can stimulate sales. If you close illegal sites down, users go to legal ones. Also if you go after illegal sites like Megaupload, other illegal sites close down.
Music industry going forward with innovative ideas. Collaborations with ISPs, payment processers, advertisers, search engines. Internet should be open and free but not lawless. (Most of these "innovations" seem to be about closing things down).

DMCA notices to Universities are dropping so they must be taking action. Lot of education of students, policies about file sharing etc.

I'm afraid the cynic in me came out in me during this talk. The music industry was very slow in adopting new technologies, almost to the extent that it put its fingers in its ears and hummed for years, and it could be this that has caused the fall in revenue. He admitted that more music is being consumed now than ever before. Of course, I recognise the need to stay within the law (I'm an IT Director, I have to say that :-)), their criminalisation of some of our young people and their inability to recognise that current copyright law is not fit for purpose in this digital age really annoys me.
Someone from the floor who is a musician said that the decline in the number of musicians is related to many things, including the increase in DJs and electronic music and the decrease in the number of venues and is not necessarily related to digital rights.
Another audience member pointing out that there is something wrong with their business model if more music is being consumed, yet their revenue is going down.

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Innovation Station

Fostering Innovation and a culture of openness through crowd sourced idea generation. Davenport University, Michigan.

What is innovation and why do it?
The act of introducing something new. New services or repurposing existing things to provide new and better services. Continuous improvement to services. Can be big changes, or small changes which have a big impact.
Continuous improvements over time give big strategic benefits.

In Davenport's mission statement it says " we will develop a culture that encourages innovation from all employees and will implement a process that allows all ideas to be vetted so the best ones become reality".

They needed a system which could harness the features of social media, including community based discussions.
Used a tool called Ideascale. Allows rating and ranking of ideas, comments and discussion, different communities ( eg staff and students) and collaboration.
Called Innovation Station. People can vote on ideas, comment on them etc.
But this is only part of a larger process.
From the ideas you have to research and experiment possible solutions. Report progress back to the community through Ideascale.

To keep discussions focused they have campaigns, eg how we can improve x. Also moderated to close questions that have already been answered, reply to off topic questions etc.

Need a culture of innovation to make it work. "If you build it they will come". No, they won't . They use gamification, scores, badges etc. You can see most popular ideas, and the people who've contributed most.
There is an innovation fund for new ideas to be experimented.
Provides visibility and openness on how things work. Has increased synergy between academics, professional services and IT.
Also visibility on why things are stopped or not taken forward.

They pick pick top 5 ideas to fund each cycle. Ideas which are not funded are often taken forward in other ways, for example using systems and processes already in place, coming up with cost neutral solution or finding other funding.

I really like this idea. I can see it promoting discussions across the University, especially been central staff and those in academic departments.

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Changing models of education

Keynote session now. Blueprint for change in an area of rapid reinvention.
Great opening video about how higher education is critical to economic development, but that one size of education cannot fit all. Different models can serve different needs.
Then video from Student Experience Lab about student experiences. Some key points they've found:
Many students unprepared for University experience.
Drowning in bureaucracy
Pressures of HE can be daunting
Want to work on their own
Learners want more than a piece of paper at the end, they want to achieve something outside of the classroom.

Director of Student Experience Lab talking about new models of education.
Not all students are the same.
Competency based learning. Task based. They are piloting an online system where students perform a series of tasks and demonstrate a set of competencies.
Service based learning. Students need to get credit for some of the work based learning they do.
Put students at heart of the redesign of education. Involve them in the R and D process, that's what the Student Experience Lab is doing.

Now Elliott Maisie. Apparently he invented the phrase eLearning.
We're in the world of personalisation. Look at how TV has developed, most of us watch it on demand, with tablet on knee. Music personalisation was a game changer.
People want to learn in a very personal way. Learn what they want, when they want, how they want, where they want.
Social and collaborative learning important to some people, but not everyone is social.
Need real research and evidence base to design different education models.

Now talking about MOOCs. Most too easy. Everyone passes. No credentials attached to them.
They will develop.

e in eLearning is for experience

Collaboration will be key to developing different models.
We will be operating in a global society. Need to understand how that affects how we operate.

Never been a better time to rethink the rules.

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Helpdesk FAQs

A very practical session now, from the University of Maryland (UMBC) about how good Helpdesk FAQs can change the culture of IT support. Obviously popular, the room is packed, and people stating at the back!

Problem: not enough self support. Knowledge base used infrequently, too much pressure on Helpdesk staff. Most vendors encourage self support before calling support desk. Users want a consistent, high quality support environment available 24/7.

So, they decided to revamp their FAQs. They analysed common requests.
Used "show and tell" screencasts of key IT tasks.
Prominently displayed FAQs on portal
Encouraged users to suggest and correct FAQs
Identify and eliminate dead wood
Created an FAQ on FAQs
All support staff encouraged to recommend FAQs

Their site is here
Is a wiki.
Good example here.

Show first, tell later. Encourage comments, can email page to a friend, rate page etc. Can see date it was updated and by whom.

Visits to site in 2011 were 1100, in 2012 45,000. More queries are resolved, and quicker. Number of calls to Helpdesk has reduced.
Helpdesk manager grades all "tickets" every week. To get an A you have to have either referred to an FAQ or written/suggested one.
Have implemented self reset of passwords with a security question.

Now mining search terms customers are using on web site. Top term is "meal plan" , not an IT term. Students searching it for other things. So, now going to other departments eg student services, to get their information into knowledge base. That's where the FAQ on FAQs is useful, tells staff how to create the content.

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From IT Silos to IT Alliance

Despite the free beer and cocktails last night, I'm in the 8am session. It's from the University of Minnesota about a training programme they have run for IT leaders. It's a very distributed University with 5 campuses and many research centres spread across the state. They have a highly distributed IT structure, with about about a third of IT staff in a central IT department, a third in colleges and campuses and a third in admin offices.

They wanted to build a community of leaders, and implemented a leadership programme. Took 30 people from across all IT departments for a couple of days a month for 8 months. They used active learning concepts and applied their learning to real issues. They spent a lot of time investing in relationships to build trust across the institution and developing personal networks.

Taught to look at issues through three lenses, strategic, political and cultural. Consider that feedback is a gift. Get rid of defensiveness, and thank people for it.
Develop leadership skills, important to coach staff. Don't solve their problems but get them to a stage where they can solve their own problems.

Programme was a success, and led to real initiatives, including development of a service catalogue, consolidating Helpdesks ( they had 73!), virtualising servers and implementing Google Apps across the whole University.

Trust has been established, and there's a shared commitment to the institutions goals. Formal and informal communities of practice have been established.

Interesting session, and a good example of how disparate groups were brought together. Hopefully our own leadership programme is having the same effect,

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Obama, light sabres and podcasts

Spent lunch in the exhibition area talking to suppliers, and catching up on some new technologies. Suspect I've also ended up on lots of mailing lists. Of course, we also collected one or two (a bagful) of freebies, the best so far being a light sabre! The exhibition is enormous, and I think I've only seen about a third of it so far. Lots of technologies around wireless, social networking, and managing iPads and other mobile devices. Some exhibitors have certainly scaled down, others have grown. Lots of our suppliers here, and it's good to chat with them.

It was interesting to be over here during the election. The Brit crowd spent last night in a bar watching the results come in, and luckily we had someone with us who understood it, and had a map which he coloured in as states were "called". So much is done on the basis of predictions, states can be called when as few as 29% of votes have been counted. Because of the time difference, some East Coast states were called before West Coast ones had finished voting. Obama was declared president very early, just after 9pm I think, to much cheering in the bar.

This afternoon I went to a panel session on eLearning and Distance Learning which wasn't really relevant to a UK audience, but reasonably interesting.

I was also interviewed for a podcast, EDUCAUSE is making a series of them during the conference. I talked about our values and mission in CiCS, what challenges we face, what I could see coming up in the future, and what I thought the US could learn for the UK in HE IT. I'll post a link when it's up.

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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Next session is from Kansas University and is about a change programme they've just run. They have a ten year strategic plan, and they're two years in. Lots of change, including in the curriculum, in research and has an efficiency agenda. 70 different initiatives, many involve IT.

Used experts in change management from across the University, many in academic departments. Developed an organisational change workshop for all staff, everyone from Deans to cleaners went on it, delivered 40 times. So, everyone on campus understood why the changes were being made, and how it was being done. Very important to understand the campus culture and climate.
Workshops looked at the different stages of change, and categorised people into 3 categories:
Denial. Not going to happen to me. Left out of workshop.
Judgement. Why are we doing this, not a good idea. 44%
Acceptance. Ok, it's going to affect me, better see how. Not necessarily agreement. 36%
Transformation. Hey, this is exciting, it's going to be great. 20%.
Most in this latter stage had been involved in planning the changes and were usually in leadership roles. So, lot of work to do in bringing everyone forward.

Task, Relationship, Identity are all important components of change. Lot of effort normally put into task, ie what is the change, implementing it. But, relationships and identity are just as important.

Resistance from three main places:
Thought based resistance, do people understand the change
Fear based, understand it but fearful of impact
Capacity based resistance. People worried that they might not have skills to to cope with new regime.
Good leaders understand these, and recognise that resistance can be positive.

Framework for communicating:
Initiative, explaining change
Understanding, make sure everyone understands it
Performance, where does everyone fit
Closure, celebrating success.

KU trained 15 volunteers from across academic and professional staff to act as facilitators to groups discussing the changes and implementing them. They helped the change leaders plan meetings, anticipate problems, have a clear focus, and held debriefings. Lot of good feedback from all areas.

Change doesn't happen by itself. Change needs to be facilitated. Change can be managed by acquiring skills and using a common language across campus. Change must fit the culture.

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Location:Managing change

Square One

Next session, Square One: a prescription for operational excellence. Just took a few notes, but the presentation is here.

Institution's success and reputation is built on operational excellence, and our credibility within the University is built on it. Your never going to have a strategic conversation with your VC, if your talking about why a system isn't working.

Most outages caused by either systems and hardware failures, or people and process issues. 80% caused by people and processes. 50% of these are specific to change processes. Concentrating on hardware/systems only gives you the opportunity to improve 20% . Need to get your processes right, and invest in people.

Most of our budget is on staff. We need to invest in them, training etc.

Need to deal with negative reaction avoidance, fear of doing something and getting a negative reaction.

Fear of failure is high. People respond to positive rather than negative. Need a space where it's safe to say I can't do this, or I don't know how to.

Leadership sets the tone. The team needs to be in control with management as coach. Teams and individuals can increase their skills and ability to expand their capacity to think and solve problems as they arise. Catch people doing something right, spotlight it and reward it. "Right" can be as simple as someone documenting a process.

Managing change has the biggest impact on improving the reliability of a service. A change request process, Change Advisory Board and Change Window are the foundation of operational excellence. The default position for a CAB is that changes are not approved.

We have regular progress meetings etc during projects, but what about services that are in production? An operational planning meeting focused on only the health of a service needs to happen regularly for critical services even when there is no change planned.

Use RASCI charts when decisions made. Responsible, Accountable, Support, Consulted, Informed.

Then we went through a plan for looking at a service and delivering operational excellence. The plan is here.
We chose email on our table. Interesting discussion about different way of achieving operational excellence and different risks with in house vs outsourced services.

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EDUCAUSE opening, Clay Shirky

So EDUCAUSE proper is about to start. Huge theatre, about 6,000 delegates and many thousands of wireless connections. Eduroam coping quite well! Opening remarks as usual from Diana Oblinger, introducing EDUCAUSE as Uncommon Thinking for the Common Good.

Then it's the opening keynote, Clay Shirky on "IT as a Core Academic Competence"

Degree of connectivity we now have is so large that we can make impossible problems trivial. It changes how we approach our jobs. IT is increasingly the place where we collaborate, research etc.

Used the DARPA network challenge as an example. 10 weather balloons put up in different locations in US. Had 30 days to find them to win $40,000. MIT found them in 9 hours using social media. Read about it here.

There's a new resource we can take advantage of, the cognitive surplus. Made up of two things: the free time and talent of every one In world, and a communications infrastructure which is based on collaboration and groups.
To take advantage of this means doing more sharing, being more open.

For example, Smithsonian Institute took several thousand of their photos and put them on Flikr. Users tagged them, thousands of different free-form tags. Tags that professional catalogers would never have used, eg moustache, steampunk. Made the collection so much more valuable.
Photos were also put into different databases.
Only done by opening it up to see what people will do with it. Don't need to know what will happen to data sets before you open them up. Need to see what users will do. This collection had been sitting in the institute for years, and is now being used.

Experiment in openness in academic mathematical community, the polymath blog. Problems posted, community throw out ideas about how it might be tackled. One such problem solved, submitted to journal, but journal wanted list of authors! But it wasn't clear who authors were, it was so large and so collaborative. So they put up a wiki page and said add your name if you think you were an author! The old system has to change to adapt to new ways.

Music industry in 2000 was selling playback quality. Then MP3 came up. Music industry laughed at it because of quality. Then Napster became fastest selling piece of software in history. They sued them, closed them down. But still lost, didn't take control. They couldn't kill the story that Napster told, that the user is in charge. Now hundreds of legal music distribution channels. Music industry didn't see the changed paradigm.

Student set up Facebook group to study chemistry, college charged him with cheating. They said all collaborative study is cheating. He said if this is, then so are tutorials. Google Chris Avenir, Clay has a couple of YouTube videos talking about this case.

Journal Register Company, newspaper chain. Struggling with transition from paper to digital. CEO said everyone has to publish something digitally in their town. No budget. Can't buy new tools etc. We've all sat in meetings talking about whether something might be a good idea, and it's cost more than just trying it. So, they used YouTube, etc. It hugely improved the level of communication by staff between departments and different papers. This was the big win, collaboration.

Rapgenius web page, page for annotating rap lyrics. Someone noticed that it was just an annotating tool and posted a paper on the Mayflower project. Which was promptly annotated. This morning Obama's acceptance speech was there and being annotated.

Big change is openness. If you want to do something, don't put a multidisciplinary team of 20 together with a budget of 200k and a 6 month timescale. Ask 5 people what they can do in a month, for free.

Great opening talk by Clay. Lots of him on YouTube and TED, he's worth a look.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Things to do in Denver...

Hello folks - I am still here. In case you're wondering about the long lack of blog posts, there's a number of reasons. I went off for a long holiday - not something we usually do in October but there were a couple of personal reasons for doing it. Got caught up in Hurricane Sandy whilst we were there, but otherwise it was great. I only had a few days back at work then, during which I dealt with 1,200 emails and tried to catch up with everything I've missed. Luckily I had few meetings so was able to do it.

Now I'm in Denver for Educause, the big HE IT conference held in the States every year. It's a great opportunity for networking, meeting suppliers and listening to some great talks. I'll try and blog the sessions as they happen, but a lot depends on what the wireless network is like  - there's about 6,000 delegates and that's a lot of pressure on the network in one room during the keynotes.  There's also a 7 hour time difference, so they'll appear at funny times. The timings of the conference have been changed to accommodate the presidential election, so although I have some meetings tomorrow, you'll see real posts appearing from Wednesday.  We're hoping to find a bar tomorrow night to watch the election results coming in - should be interesting - Colarado is a swing state.