Tag Archives: UCISA

UCISA Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice Start Up Meeting

2nd May 2013: a group convened at Liverpool John Moores University to discuss the setting up of a UCISA Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice (EACP).

Following work by Luke Taylor & the UCISA-CISG, & commissioned by the UCISA Executive, the objective of the meeting: to baseline where we were up to with EA, and work out how this Community of Practice thing was going to operate, as it’s a bit of a new departure for UCISA & those previously involved in the JISC EA Practice Group. Representatives from 8 institutions, JISC InfoNet & the Open Group, and facilitated by Richard Chapman, of Richard Chapman Consulting.

This is a picture of where we started:


I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of the day, as that will come out in due course, but just wanted to highlight a few things that were key or of interest for me.

  • Baselining EA. Various people were not surprisingly at various stages, although there were common themes: how to keep up momentum, how to convince the business, how to get resources. Participants were asked to come up with ‘twEAts’ (140 characters about EA on a postit – thank you David Rose of the Open Group for that one, bit close to our great Prime Minister’s comments about what too many tweets make…). These got quite zen-like in parts – particularly this offering from Patrick O’Reilly/Bolton: ‘the curate has a fresh egg, but no eggcup, spoon and is waiting for a chance to eat’. I thought we might have invented Zen EA – but then discovered this: ‘Zen and The Art of Enterprise Architecture (Open Group Conference Newport Beach 2013)’ – although I may be being a little unfair, having not viewed it in detail, at 83 slides, some of dazzling complexity, I’m not sure this is in the spirit of Zen, or even EA…
  • Building a Community of Practice. Lots of interesting discussion on this, which will be rolled up in a wiki & considered further – but for me, the main issue was around leadership. The key objective of the EACP is to become self-sustaining – to not need a leader, or a Chair, or single person or even small group who keep it all going – leading to the usual leaders/followers scenario. Seems like a kind of variation on situational leadership – the idea that there is no one best leadership style, but that leadership is adaptive to the situation – which in some situations may mean following. So perhaps we have situational leadership & followership as well. For the EACP I would envisage a scenario where individuals would either lead or follow depending on the situation – which I think is what I’ve just said. Or to sum up, ‘We are all leaders now’.

Which is about all for the moment – the EACP is a work in progress & progress on this first day was excellent, we have actions, ideas for how to work, deadlines & all manner of good stuff, including the all important hash tag (#UCISA_EA) – so thanks to all the participants & also Richard Chapman for his great facilitation, kept us almost both on time & under control!

Also worth a look at Dave Berry from Edinburgh’s post on the same event.

& here’s a picture of where we finished:



UCISA Cloud Computing Review – 31/10/12 Nottingham #uccr

Usual random notes that may be of interest…see Programme for access to presentations.

Simon Marsden/Edinburgh: Introduction

What’s in/what is a cloud? Standard definition. Gartner view: high security, privacy or competitive advantage – otherwise outsourced or offsite. But myths abound:

  • Costs will be predictable – not to start with!
  • Costs will be lower – no!
  • More resilient – if you make it so
  • Disaster recovery – as above
  • Assured performance – or noisy neighbours?
  • Don’t know where data is? – probably do

User perspective: I get what I want; it just works.

CIO challenges: not too many – scale, exit strategy, data loss, how to charge, integration. & need to be seen as part of the solution, not an obstruction to be bypassed.

Things to look at: Coursera, learning platform for MOOCS; Office 365; Unidesk shared helpdesk; elastic cloud; trust; app store; reliability; green.

Agility: key issue. Running MOOCS with Coursera for over 100k students, quick deployment. Important to be there at the start, couldn’t have done it themselves.

Technology Enhanced Learning cloud – hybrid of supported through to non-supported, but provided within app store – flexible way of choosing tools.

Resilience – Site24x7, full scale monitoring.

So Cloud enables: swift innovation, reduced costs, greater choice for users. Not an option: can be difficult to understand, needs leadership.

Great start!

Richard Maccabee/ULCC: Delivering cloud services to the sector: ULCC’s experience of the range of options

Is it good use of public money for every HEI to have its own data centre? (or two…) – probably not, but is it public money anymore? All about services to paying customers, perhaps, perhaps sadly.

Approach: OS; shared services; vendor partnerships; evolutionary; hybrid: supplier, based in the community.

Service portfolio includes middleware & applications: ESB; Digitary (DARE!); Agresso Finance System, for about 10 institutions.

About 300 customers, across the sector & significant number of FE.

Issue: single data centre, in London – not good choice. So second site commissioned for 12/13, & looking at partner for Cloud IaaS. ULCC data centre will become point of presence for the Cloud. First bid submitted for provision of full IaaS for FE college.

MMU: very good student-focused VLE built around Moodle but including distributed services.

Drivers: mobile; BYOD/DIY; increased customer expectations; SOA ref Nexus ESB/DARE/Digitary, important for SaaS. Looking into Student Systems. <oh right, hosted then?>

Good that SOA – & to my mind hence EA – still seen as key component.

Ed Carter/Leeds: YHMAN – A Data Centre Without Walls!

Not Ed’s fault, but have a feeling I may have heard this before!

8 Universities collaborating in shared virtual data centres: enable economies of scale, balance asset utilisation, meet carbon reduction commitments, enable growth, enhance service standards, adhere to stringent security arrangements. Built on JANET/YHMAN network. Not that far away! & JANET6 increases potential reach/scalability. Storage for research, big data; HPC capability.

So essentially, promise of Cloud = ‘EaaS’: Everything as a Service. The Virtual University – the ‘University In A Box’?

Pleasantly surprised, if I’ve understood this right, by transition of technical/network staff into service support. Backed up by supplier support – HP.

It works!

Shan Rahulan/janet: Janet Brokerage

Set up to: promote cloud; reduce hurdles to adoption; create efficiencies. Like YHMAN, applying network approaches to data centres/services.

Usual drivers as previously referenced; also noted that adoption/governance is formative, & integrating clouds not straightforward. Customers are in the Cloud space, institutions/IT depts aren’t (entirely, yet).

Cost savings: not proven; current costs not understood, so savings hard to define. Hard to compare like with like.

Working with BUFDG, UCISA, JISC & UUK on modelling costs – which should be helpful!

Also looking at Amazon & Dropbox to establish a sector offer.

Olly Butters/Leicester: Building BRISSkit on the Eduserv Cloud

BRISSkit – Biomedical Research Infrastructure Software Service kit. Funded by UMF Cloud initiative to deliver in the Eduserv Cloud.

Good practical example of delivery of a service in the Cloud.

Cloud challenges – like ‘Hard to give up hardware – I can’t go and kick it’. Interesting thought – can you kick a cloud?

Working through governance issues/toolkits.

Mini Panel Session: Shan Rahulan; Ed Carter; Olly Butters: Matt Johnson/Eduserv

What are the barriers? People still want their servers on their site (‘Can you kick it?’ ref A Tribe Called Quest, perhaps). Again, internal services not fully costed/full costs not understood.

Simon Marsden: you need a burning platform – agree entirely. For Edinburgh, this is agility. Must be a real business/service driver because otherwise won’t want to meet the costs of change – cost saving not enough.

Stephen Booth/Coventry: A Managed Storage Service on a Hybrid Cloud

Can no longer do ‘just an IT project’ – I thought it was quite a while since you ever could? Business not IT initiative. Business drivers: cost reduction; flexibility; enhanced support; DR. Importance of supplier/partner relationship – joint customer/partner management of project & service delivery – partner will not let it fail: so have to make sure they have some skin in the game.

John Waters/University of West London: The North Face of Office 365

The University formerly known as TVU. 12 years on the HEFCE at-risk register. Rebranded as UWL April 2011. Bit of a mess of overlapping/inconsistent systems for student services.

Wanted to move to functional Cloud-based Student Portal & facilities, rich use, back end integration, SSO, IDM etc.

Approach: generated SMT buy-in through Microsoft-led activities at TVP. Project team. Focus groups. Piloting & proofs of concept. Got some help! (Fulcrum). 3 parallel work streams: infrastructure; IDM & data migration; portal design & back-end integration, Agile/Scrum, .net into O365 Sharepoint.

How does it work? Create accounts in Cloud (SIS = Capita Unit-e) along with authentication. FIM & ADFS. Systems Integration – .net to Sharepoint. Some use of Lync.

What’s in it? See presentation.

Content & administration issues ref content from Schools. Feedback from students – overlap with groups in Facebook. Systems integration: interestingly, no harder than doing on-site.

We did it (within 5 weeks) & students like it. Say no more. & next Phase 2 – mobile, Lync, staff email, SSO for VLE & SIS, distance learning, etc. Phase 3 – August 2013 – further data integration, social features, business portals.

Fulcrum Worldwide for site customisations & systems integration.

Useful day – & now, publish & be damned, & out of here to catch that slow train to Southport…

#SCONUL12 Summer Conference 14th June 2012

Made a brief appearance on behalf of UCISA at the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) Summer Conference, held at the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool, for a panel session on sharing best practice in evaluation strategies – along with Kitty Inglis, University Librarian at Sussex, and Karel Thomas, Executive Director of the British Universities Finance Director’s Group (BUFDG). Plus a surprisingly large – standing room only – and vocal audience, and great chairing from Sara Marsh, SCONUL Vice Chair and Director of Learner Support Services at the University of Bradford.

I expected a rather dry session on what looked like a rather dry subject, but far from it! Each panel member gave their 5 minute view of the area, followed by a surprisingly lively discussion. Following bullet points are the usual vague, inaccurate and repositioned recollection of some of what was said:

  • Kicked off talking about ITIL for Service Management/Evaluation & Programme Management/Benefits Realisation for evaluation of development
  • Projects deliver the capability to do things differently; benefits management tries to make sure that we do do things differently
  • Particular challenge when the benefits have to be realised in changes in ways of working in areas outside of the management control of the project/programme – even more of a problem for JISC programmes where the benefits have to be realised in a different organisation
  • Information services need to be useful, usable and used (thank you JISC) – benefits are in the used part, needs more focus
  • UCISA/SCONUL collect a lot of statistics, but are they the right ones/much use?
  • When we evaluate, are we hard enough on ourselves?
  • Need to look at LEAN – being looked at more in the sector
  • Benchmarking – not enough effort goes into establishing where we’re starting from, which makes it hard to evaluate how far we’ve travelled
  • Strategy maps – important to make sure we retain the connection between institutional level objectives and project/programme outputs (benefits mapping could also be applicable here)
  • Need to get closer to our Finance colleagues – our Finance colleagues need to get out more – investment appraisal, cost benefit analysis and all that stuff needs to be shared venture between Finance, supplier departments and stakeholders
  • Do we make enough use of our suppliers, for their strategic input rather than just the functionality of their products?
  • & finally, pointer to what looks like a very useful report from the US Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) – Value of Academic Libraries Summit White Paper – which I shall read when I get the chance.

So – great session, poor summary from me, looked like a really good conference, and wish I could have stayed…

Shared Services, the Cloud, the Future?

UCISA Shared Services Manager’s Forum in Birmingham today – & curiously apt timing given HEFCE’s Shared services in cloud computing funding announcement yesterday – http://www.hefce.ac.uk/news/hefce/2011/cloud.htm.

HEFCE announcement now lets the cat out of the bag about a lot of stuff that the JISC Flexible Services Delivery Programme Steering Group – & others – have been discussing for some time but not out in the open. Mostly what was expected – Data Centres & HE Cloud with JANET & Eduserv, Research Data Management, procurement services for admin apps – but good to see the Digital Curation Centre in there. Also good that secure electronic documents/the Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) has made it in.

So looks like a very positive move, although introduces a bit of a planning conundrum for institutions – if, say, you were planning on developing the HEAR in-house, do the plans now change? Should you wait for a shared service offering? Who, what, how, when, where? Needs a bit more detail, & needs it now – hopefully this will all become clearer soon…


General unfocussed rambling thoughts, whilst buffeted by the winds of Brighton.

Overall elephant in the conference clearly exposed as the financial situation – so a lot of talk about ‘more with less’, ‘cheaper & better’ etc. Sussex FD/Allan Spencer – Funding in Turbulent Times. Conclusions: need to undertake a really hard examination of delivery, explore new models: key to success is understanding where to invest & where to commoditise. Sussex VC/Professor Michael Farthing. 8 objectives – probably the same as a lot of others – all very commendable, but if everybody does the same, all end up in the same place – which may not be a sustainable position.

Interesting statistics from UCAS on the ‘move to mobile’: 36.9% of applicants have smart phones. 39% use social networking on same. 90% using social networking on something (Facebook). But email is not dead! – just one of a mix of tools. By 2014 mobile devices surpass PCs/laptops for Internet access.

Eduserv/Cloud. Benefits of moving Data Centre to the cloud – probably none if recent refit/up to date, but should consider when refitting, & does move all costs of keeping up to date to the supplier including skills – but of course all needs to be paid for. What wasn’t mentioned was the benefit of 24/7 cover.

Very useful panel session on moving email to the Cloud: key points:
– Students wanted it/wanted storage space
– Google because students didn’t like Microsoft
– Excellent student experience, seamless migration, reduction in Helpdesk calls

But – cheaper &/or better can be only justification, & case not proven. Also – if (anecdotally) 40% of our students don’t use University email, would they use University-provided outsourced email? Or would a better solution be to simply collect student’s own email addresses & not provide email at all? & did institutions that have gone to the Cloud have a quality student email service in the first place? This will need a little (?) more thought…

Heidi Fraser-Krauss: entertaining trip through past present & future. Interesting point on increasing number of moves from Blackboardc to Moodle – because institutions haven’t got value from the former; but is this because of something inherent in the product, or the way that it’s used? Also good point that the focus should be on new/alternative methods of delivery, not just shared services, which are simply one approach; & referenced again that Robert Gordon University are looking at outsourcing everything. Intrigued that focus on business processes seen as recent, not on the agenda ten years ago…my job description when I started at LJMU in 1998 included responsibility for business process review…we’ve been focussing on business processes forever.

& last but not least, Flexible Service Delivery! Wilbert Kraan/JISC -CETIS. Good analysis of Enterprise Architecture – the thing (organisational structure, business processes, information systems & infrastructure), everyone’s got one even if they don’t give it much thought; & the practice – principles, methods, & modelling, a structure for thinking about the thing. Excellent session, guess I’m a bit close to the whole thing to get much out of it….having run two 45 minute birds of a feather slots on FSD yesterday, I think I’ve temporarily lost my capacity for rational thought in relation to the subject.

& then a rapid exit before the motivational final, not wanting to destroy what has been overall a very pleasant & useful event.

UCISA Director’s Forum – Leadership 27-28th April 2010

In the Radisson Blu Hotel at Manchester Airport. Just seems wrong going to an airport and then staying there – kept thinking I’d forgotten something, like say my passport…

Anyway 30+ IT Directors & associated types gathered together for an evening & the day after to consider where we are, what we’re here for, where we’re going, & what it might be like when we get there. Health warning: this blog is absolutely not a report on the Forum, rather the usual collection of snippets, tweets, comments & random thoughts catalysed by the occasion.

  • evening of the 27th excellent dinner & lots of chat with an after dinner speech from Chris Cobb, PVC Roehampton, on how to go to hell in a handbasket – oops sorry, I meant to say on the future of the sector & how IT Directors will (won’t?) figure in it – actually really good analysis, insightful & pointers to where we should be looking to do something about it
  • reinforced by Peter Tinson, UCISA Executive Secretary, in his introduction to the main event the next day, with the in my view conservative (would be worse with a big C) estimate of 25% cuts over the next three years
  • referenced the need to do a full service analysis – keep, drop, reposition, share, outsource etc – definitely a key activity
  • also mentioned the need to line up technology/processes & people – I tweeted at the time “If we didn’t already know that we have to line up technology/process/people to be effective/efficient, might be a bit bloody late!” & now make no apologies. I’m sure I’m not the only one around with slides from 10 years ago representing this requirement – but unfortunately Peter’s comment was still valid, which could be a problem
  • Bit of commentary on the new £20m for Shared Services coming from HEFCE under the Modernisation Fund – this was discussed at the JISC Flexible Service Delivery Programme Virtual Town Meeting on April 22nd. Possible projects – an HE Enterprise Service Bus run through the cloud? (I knew the forecast was cloudy); suggested by Chris Cobb, an evaluation of Kuali to test for fit & see if OS solutions were applicable for shared services, as opposed to the big suppliers carving the whole piece up between them
  • Collaboration collaboration collaboration: very much needed but in a context of increasing competition & where institutions may in whole or part have inward looking cultures, not-invented-here syndrome etc. May be less of a problem than I imagine – may be more
  • Next up Chris Yapp, an independent consultant with years of experience in futures & technology. This is all my paraphrasing, but he talked about IT being part of everything, something you just do, a tool you use to do something else – which all seems pretty on the button to me – leading me to the perhaps slightly facetious conclusion that having an IT Department is a bit like having a Departmentof Reading & Writing (maybe we do?)
  • Does innovation equal loss of control? Referenced local departments doing it themselves because when they ask the central IT department then overheads, best practise etc mean that something they can do themselves in four weeks becomes a six month project – which incidentally can’t take place until next year due to other conflicting/existing priorities.
  • Reminds me of the description of IT maturity that I picked up years ago, keep referencing, & can’t remember for the life of me who I nicked it off – the one that goes from end users having it done to them, to for them, to with them, & finally to having them doing it to themselves. Certainly a way of shifting cost out of the central department!
  • Perhaps the end goal of an IT department should be to make itself redundant by empowering (horrible word I know but best I can think of) the business, & projects/programmes etc should be treated like interventions in social/community etc work – go in there, get it going & then leave them to it. But isn’t that the idea already?
  • Semantic vs. Bayesian statistical analysis – or something like that – look it up. I did, & discovered that my brain isn’t big enough – yours may be
  • VPEC-T. Lost In Translation. Picked up through approaches to EA, focus on the soft skills, trust etc & well worth a look.
  • The afternoon was a session run by David Chan from the Centre for Information Leadership at City University. Introduced their Master of Information Leadership programme, & then took us through an interactive role-playing session about customer-supplier relationships. Barring some logistical difficulties – the teams were too big! – it was an entertaining exercise, but the main thing I took away from the afternoon was that IT leaders need to be business-focused, not technocratic, & that soft skills are more important than technical skills. Which I think we knew already. Which I hope we knew already. Perhaps what we need is less on what we need to do & why we need to do it, & more on how to go about it.

& then I pretty much had to leave. So – overall an interesting/stimulating event with lots of opportunities to network & that kind of stuff – but still disappointing, going to an airport & never getting on a plane.

UCISA Management Conference 2010

It’s March, so it must be the UCISA Management Conference, which this year means Harrogate.

For various reasons, arrived late, so  can’t comment on first days content although I do hear that Larry Hinckner from Virginia Tech was rather good. To reiterate what one of the later speakers  said – I think it was Andrew Abboud – great thing about people tweeting on the conference & using the hashtag is that you can get a feel for what’s going on/tune in when you’re not there yet, which is really useful.

So what  did I think of what I did attend? – only commenting on the good/useful bits here. The rest will go unremarked.

World Cafe. Enjoyed this – very interesting discussion on Organisational Change & Process Improvement led by John Cartwright from Liverpool. I’ve been in a similar event as part of the HEA Change Academy stuff – what was different there was that the tables had paper tablecloths, the idea being that as well as discussing the theme on a particular table, you can write down ideas/draw pictures etc. Worked well for moving around between tables – I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of that  – as it minimised the risk of coming in half way through a discussion as you could just read some of what had been going on. Also meant you could do a whistle stop tour & just write stuff down as you went around, if you felt like it. Good session though, should be repeated.

Tim Marshall/JANET -“The difficult is done at once…the impossible takes a little longer!”. Certainly entertaining, which was only to be expected. Most interesting thing for me was the discussion afterwards which suggested that thinking around shared/flexible services has moved on which can only be a good thing – seems to have gone from ‘this is bad, we must stop it’ through ‘if we ignore it it’ll go away’ & ended up at ‘we know we’ve got to do it, now we want to know how’. Good news for the JISC Flexible Services Delivery Programme –  will we need to hire bigger venues? – but does mean that what is now needed – & needed now, before the head of steam evaporates – is a tangible, significant & visible demonstration of an actual shared service involving HEIs & suppliers – could be a tricky one to pull off, but if this stuff is real, it has to be done. Quite liked the idea tweeted by Ajay Burlingham-Bohr (I quote) “So come on #ucisa10 let’s have an HE shared services summit, invite HEFCE, and together commit to some real shared services targets”.

The Leadership and Management Award Winner 2009 Outstanding ICT Team. What we did to win to it Paul Dean, Edinburgh Napier University. Excellent articulation of a whole team approach to delivering a comprehensive service to a high standard of quality. Interesting comment from Paul (something like, I think I’ve got the gist) – we’d rather be consistently number 2 at everything, than number 1 at only some things – & the value of this approach was evidenced by the customer feedback.

Reaching out and reaching in: Examples of using IT for both at the University of Oxford – Stuart Lee, University of Oxford. Outreach & inreach – using IT to engage externally & internally. Very interesting stuff, around iTunes U, the Oxford mobile application, & using social networking to promote external engagement in research projects – Galaxy Zoo/crowdsourcing type approach. Most significant comment – Oxford Computer Services now seen as leading light in outreach/inreach activities – which is quite a result!

Professionalising university IT – Ajay Burlingham-Bohr, Director of Information Systems and Media Services, Anglia Ruskin University, & Andrew Abboud, CIO, City University London. Another excellent presentation, not bad for 09:30 on a Friday morning after the night before. Both relatively new to HE – Ajay 4 years, Andrew 17 months (I think he said). Ajay gave a very  comprehensive articulation of practical approaches to change, including references to some useful tools/approaches like using timesheets to find out what your people are doing (I wonder if we know what our people are doing?); using the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) for skills analysis; cost benefit analysis of the services delivered. Very useful analysis of services/systems as to whether – in each specific area – you needed to be pioneer, mainstream or follower; then added an extra column = cloud. Andrew also gave comprehensive coverage of approaches to change, was particularly struck by articulation of their Goverance structure – quite similar to the one we’ve put in at LJMU – with the rider that it didn’t all necessarily work quite as it should, but it was better to have imperfect governance than none at all.

Hot leadership & chilled relationships: lessons for IS leaders – Linda Carter, the Leadership Foundation, & Susannah Quinsee, City University. Final session for me. Very reminiscent of some of the content in the HEA Change Academy process, which is hardly surprising. Suggested that needed to change the negative to positive – back to the Change Academy again, Appreciative Inquiry could be a good approach to this – Edinburgh University have done some very good work using the approach in relation to restructuring the IS function. Interesting incorporation of Twitter into the session – could probably have made more of this/structured it a bit better – wasn’t sure whether it was meant to be a presentation or an interaction, latter part was better.

Final session was to be a motivational speech from James Cracknell – sure he was very good, but I skipped it – motivational speakers tend to demotivate me.

So – overall great conference as almost always – & I’ve made no mention of the really important part which is the opportunity to talk to a lot of great people about all kinds of interesting/important stuff, an opportunity that doesn’t arise that often – thanks to UCISA, the conference organisers, everybody else involved, & looking forward to next year.