News from IT Services: Trinity 2014
Focus on: Strategy
The University of Oxford IT Strategic Plan (2013 – 2018) has been published. The development of this strategy has been a two-way exchange. Following an intense period of consultation in Michaelmas with staff and committees around the University, 70 pages of feedback have been used to revise the document, and of the 240 individual points extracted for consideration, 60 were from IT Services staff, 55 of which resulted in a change to the Plan.
The University IT Strategic Plan has nine sections; Vision, Research, Education, Widening Engagement (reflecting the University Strategic Plan), Enterprise Administrative Information Systems, Infrastructure, Cybersecurity, IT Service Excellence and IT Staff and Skills.
Each area sets out objectives and accompanying activities which will be reviewed and adapted through consultation with the collegiate University. Progress will be monitored using relevant performance indicators, benchmarks, and targets. This will ensure we maintain focus on the Strategic Plan so that it continues to meet academic needs, enables us to respond to the external environment, and is updated as appropriate.
The Plan also addresses the need to increase the effectiveness of IT investments. It will be supported by a long-term University Capital Renewal Plan that identifies capital investment needs and a timeframe for implementation over 10 years. The aim is to improve planning, implementation and governance of IT projects and services across the collegiate University. Ultimately, the IT Strategic Plan should both realise the potential and reflect the everyday needs of individuals in departments and colleges.
Alongside the existing University Strategic Plan and the IT Strategic Plan, the University has a new Digital Strategy undergoing consultation. The Digital Strategy is intended to guide delivery of the University Strategic Plan in an increasingly digital environment. It provides a set of aims and the broad outline of an implementation plan to meet them, as well as a framework for activities across the collegiate University.
Comments on the draft Digital Strategy, whether from collective bodies or from individuals, are welcome and should be submitted to Charles Shaw (email@example.com) no later than Tuesday 27 May 2014.
The Integrated Communications Project (ICP) was initiated because support for the current collegiate University’s telecommunications system will be withdrawn in 2017. The new service, however, will do much more than simply replace the phone system – it has the potential to transform communications and collaboration for everyone at Oxford, linking directly to the IT Strategic Plan vision “to achieve the maximum benefit from information technology innovations”.
Key aspects of this modernisation include:
- enabling users to communicate across a range of devices, including smartphones, desktop computers, laptops, tablets and fixed handsets
- providing features such as instant messaging, display of availability, and audio and video conferencing
- allowing for integration with other communications technologies (including voice, video, email and calendaring systems).
A pilot with a cross-section of users to test all aspects of the new system is expected to take place from December 2014 to February 2015. Thereafter, the ‘unified communications’ (UC) technology will start to become available, and the deployment of any new telephones required will take place during 2015–2017.
Departments, colleges and units across the collegiate University will need to decide their approach to the new services. If you need assistance with this or would like to be invited to a demonstration, please email the project team.
The Oxford Network Evolution (TONE) project continues to progress in its review and redesign of the existing backbone network provision. It has been decided that the new network will be called Odin, to clearly distinguish the new system from the old. This new name will underline the scope of the new network, which will be more than just a backbone.
Phase 2 of the project started at the beginning of April. As part of this, we are looking to augment the Project Board with some ‘non-technical’ representation. The invitations to tender were returned on 29th April, after which a full-scale evaluation process began, with more than 20 people involved in a detailed evaluation of the tenders. Those shortlisted will be invited back for a further day of discussion and examination. A final selection is expected by late September.
The project team are also renewing and redeveloping the University’s extensive fibre and duct networks in order to facilitate a modern network architecture in line with the Infrastructure objectives of the IT Strategic Plan. TONE is on target to replace the core network by Summer 2015.
For further information, please email the TONE project.
Intensive Windows 7 Upgrade
IT Services has supported the University in response to the end of support for Microsoft® Windows XP, which happened on 8th April. Our direct involvement is the upgrade of some 2,748 PCs in University Administration Services (UAS) and the Bodleian Libraries to Windows 7. The team has also been gathering information to determine what additional support is required by IT support staff (ITSS) across the University with any remaining local upgrades.
The Windows 7 upgrade project for UAS and the Bodleian Libraries received funding in January 2014, and has upgraded 2,646 PCs over an intensive 10-week deployment. Work is now underway on the remaining 102 PCs that had to be withdrawn from the original schedule or have applications for which it is hardest to find Windows 7 compatible solutions. Where Windows XP cannot be removed (e.g. needed to support specific hardware or software), a series of extra security measures are being deployed to limit the exposure of these systems, and longer-term migration plans will be agreed with the relevant units. Work is expected to be completed by the end of July.
This will leave a small number of systems with Embedded Windows XP (supported until 12th January 2016). These also will have additional security measures deployed to limit their exposure, along with agreed longer-term migration plans.
Feedback from users who have been upgraded reflects a generally smooth and successful experience. Inevitably, there have been some glitches; these typically relate to long-standing problems coming to the surface, the need for additional applications to be installed, or re-instating access to printers. The support team has been working hard to pick up these post-migration issues, and are grateful to everyone involved for bearing with them at this very busy time.
If you have a managed desktop or laptop provided by IT Services and haven’t yet been upgraded or contacted to arrange your upgrade, then please contact the project team.
Service Desk Consolidation Project Update
The Service Desk Consolidation Project (SDCP) is a strategy to bring together the service desks of IT Services into an amalgamated service used across the whole department and is one of the activities specified in the IT Strategic Plan.
Since the last newsletter, there has been considerable progress on the SDCP. The contract with Frontrange Solutions for their HEAT product (Software as a Service) has been formally agreed and signed. Members of the project team have completed fundamentals training and a scoping workshop with Frontrange, which aims at ensuring the two sides better understand what work is required to implement the HEAT toolset, and how we shall work together to bring IT Services existing service desks into a consolidated service.
Project team members who are also Process Managers or Systems Administrators have also undertaken advanced training. The process team has been busy talking to different groups across IT Services and our IT service management processes have been documented.
A project re-planning exercise is currently underway to reassess the project milestones and timescales. Part of this, and the next key task, is to determine how and when the transition process will take place.
For further information contact the project team.
Improved Maillist Management
The planned migration to the new mailing list service is progressing well. The new service will use Sympa software, be hosted by IT Services and retain key features of the current service together with some improvements, both user-visible and behind the scenes. The new features include:
- Predefined list configurations
- Searchable web archives with flexible access controls
- Optional listing in a public 'list of lists'
- Web interface for (Oxford-based) list members.
The address for sending messages to the list will not change and, in the majority of cases, no manual configuration changes will be required after the migration. The migrations are scheduled to happen over several weeks from 16th June until 22nd July, in the early morning, where possible on Tuesdays. The migration of each list will result in a short period (of minutes, not hours) when messages posted to that list will be delayed and access to the management interface will not be available. No messages will be lost.
All college and/or department IT Staff will be fully briefed in the new system prior to go-live, and help guides for the new system will be available both from the service web pages and from within the new system.
If you have any queries, please get in touch either directly by email to the Maillist Upgrade team or via your local IT Support.
Prioritising the Project Pipeline
IT Services currently has a portfolio of over 60 active projects with a pipeline of over 101 requests. As part of the introduction of new governance process for IT Services, a new strategy for project prioritisation is being developed.
In future, when resource constraints arise, the IT Planning and Resource Allocation Group (IT PRAG, an advisory board to the IT Committee) will confirm priorities. In assessing the relative priority of proposals, the factors described below will be considered, as a broad guide to help facilitate debate between IT PRAG and the sponsoring groups.
- Alignment to the University’s strategy. Proposals that are either explicitly mentioned in the University’s Strategic Plan and/or the IT Strategic Plan, or can demonstrate stronger alignment would be given higher priority.
- Legal / regulatory compliance. Proposals to ensure legal or regulatory compliance would be assigned highest priority. Failure to do so would put the University at reputational or financial risk.
- Benefits in relation to cost. The full range of benefits, not just financial, need to be balanced against the cost of delivering those benefits.
- Overall portfolio risk. Each proposal will have a documented assessment of complexity and risk.
As an aid to decision making, the IT Services Portfolio Office have developed a matrix plotting the benefits/risk/size profile of all projects underway, as illustrated. This will aid in avoiding multiple major, complex, high risk projects.
For further information, please contact the Portfolio Office.
Improving Project Methodology
The Project Methodology will provide the formal framework for a project once it has been approved through the project pipeline. As a key activity in the University IT Strategic Plan, this on-going project will implement a standard project management methodology to ensure that projects run within IT Services are managed in a consistent way: ensuring project objectives are met; risks are controlled; budgets are managed; and that proposed benefits can be achieved. The project will also raise awareness of the new methodology through training activities and awareness campaigns within and outside of IT Services.
The project management methodology will:
- Support best practice governance for an individual project. Guidance will be provided to assist the Project Board in directing and controlling the project through a standard set of management stages. Training for Project Boards will be delivered as part of the roll-out of the methodology.
- Provide a key foundation for the management of the entire portfolio of IT Services projects. This will include supporting the prioritisation and approvals process and in managing IT Services’ resources.
The improved project management methodology is planned to be implemented in September 2014, although it is expected that elements will be introduced earlier, enabling benefits to be delivered prior to the formal roll-out. It is anticipated to be suitable for IT projects running across the University.
For further information contact the Portfolio Office.
OxCERT, Infosec and IT staff across the University actively and promptly responded to the recent “heartbleed” bug. Described by renowned security expert, Bruce Schneier, as an “11” on a scale of 1 to 10, this serious security bug has had a significant impact both within the University and across the Internet. In response there has been ongoing work both within IT Services and with IT staff across the University to ensure that any vulnerable systems are identified and updated as soon as possible.
We believe the risk to University data and accounts has been low. Nonetheless we are ensuring that any account passwords that may have been exposed are changed, so look out for emails asking you to change your password. Of course this is a prime opportunity for scammers to “phish” your password so do treat all such emails with suspicion. If you have any doubt about the authenticity of an email then please ask for help from your local IT support staff or the IT Services Help Centre.
You can find much more information about this bug and how it affects you at https://blogs.it.ox.ac.uk/oxcert/2014/04/14/open-heartbleed-surgery/
Starting this term, we will be coming to different parts of the University to provide cybersecurity briefings on a range of information security topics aimed at all staff. Cybersecurity is a key area of the IT Strategic Plan and this is one of the ways which we are promoting the message to staff.
The largest series of briefings will be every Thursday at the Old Road Campus Research Building. Each Thursday lunchtime we will talk about how ‘You are the target!’ and then focus specifically on, for example, how criminals could:
- get access to your email account to read or delete your emails, or use your University account to send thousands of spam emails
- log into other online accounts and steal your money
- steal your credit card details and buy things online with them
- take control of your computer to record everything you do, hold you to ransom, attack other computers on the Internet or send spam
- use your personal details to commit fraud using your identity.
But don't panic if Thursday's not your day, or if you can't easily get to Old Road. We will be at Wellington Square, Hythe Bridge Street and Banbury Road too - on a range of days. And, with the new Online Information Security awareness module you can learn about Information Security from the comfort of your own desk.
Learning, Teaching and Research
Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School
Each year IT Services, in collaboration with stakeholders from around the University, organises a week-long Digital Humanities training event. The Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School (DHOxSS) is one of the leading DH training events in the world and has a strong international attendance. It has five parallel workshops running all week as well as keynote and additional parallel lectures in the mornings, and a variety of social events in the evenings. IT Services donates the time of the Director of DHOxSS (Dr James Cummings) and the Courses and Events team in Academic IT to work on it because of the many benefits it brings the University. The speakers (from Oxford and elsewhere) and organisational committee donate their time to the event, with the registration fees paid by the delegates covering the costs of the event and each speaker's travel. This year our week-long workshops are:
- Introduction to Digital Humanities
- Taking Control: Practical Scripting for Digital Humanities Projects
- Data Curation and Access for the Digital Humanities
- A Humanities Web of Data: Publishing, Linking and Querying on the Semantic Web
- Using the Text Encoding Initiative for Digital Scholarly Editions
OxTALENT 2014: “Celebrating the Digital”
The OxTALENT (Oxford Teaching and Learning Enhanced by New Technology) awards have been held annually for more than a decade and contribute to IT Services engagement objectives. As well as teaching and learning, OxTALENT also rewards innovation in the use of digital technologies for disseminating research and public engagement. Entry is open to both students and staff, and we also encourage people to nominate colleagues whom they think have used technology in a particularly creative way. Some of our OxTALENT award winners then go on to be part of the University Teaching Awards ceremony.
OxTALENT showcases the diversity of innovation in Oxford. Previous entrants have created their own websites or apps: for example, Oxford Talks, which was developed by a postgraduate student, Richard Hills, and is now hosted by IT Services. Others have applied existing everyday technologies in enterprising ways, including Jamie Miles and Simon Clarke, the brains behind OxTweet, which uses Twitter to inform potential applicants about life as an Oxford undergraduate. Indeed, OxTweet is set to become a sustainable service with funding from OUSU. Classroom technologies feature too, with Thomas Jellis winning in 2013 for a WebLearn site to support geography students on field trips to Copenhagen. Some of the most eye-catching entries are found in the research poster category, which have often been designed after a poster workshop run by our IT Learning Programme.
Entries for the 2014 competition closed in mid-May and we are now preparing for our annual ‘Red Carpet’ awards ceremony in June. Nonetheless, it’s never too early to start thinking about 2015, so visit the OxTALENT website to find out what’s involved, and to draw inspiration from other previous winners!
iTunes U: Making Learning Available for Everyone
The University of Oxford’s iTunes U site goes from strength to strength, making sure that learning has a real impact in society.
The site was launched in October 2008 and now, as it approaches its sixth anniversary, it can celebrate a remarkable landmark of more than 22.5 million downloads. Access to the lectures, teaching materials and interviews with leading academics on iTunes U is completely free, opening Oxford’s virtual doors to everyone.
The project had its roots in 2008 when the University entered into a partnership with Apple. By 2010, some 60% of freshers revealed that they had viewed material via what became known as ‘the University of iPod’ before beginning their degrees.
Today, the statistics speak for themselves. Over 6,400 podcast items have been processed via iTunes U. The site has a worldwide audience in 185 countries and boasts over 5,500 hours of material from 4,000 academic speakers and contributors. Other universities, colleges and schools can also use the online lectures in their own lessons at no cost. The material can be downloaded from iTunes or the parallel University web site.
Supporting the Bodleian First Folio Project
The Research Support team has been working to help the Bodleian Libraries and the University of Oxford e-Research Centre with a new phase of the Bodleian First Folio Project. This is publishing new digital editions of Shakespeare's plays from the Bodleian's copy of the First Folio. To mark Shakespeare's 450th birthday (around 23 April) the Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services (BDLSS) released the first in a series of these editions: Henry V.
This first phase of the project drew on the expertise of colleagues across the Bodleian Libraries and the University. Crowd-funded public support enabled the Bodleian Libraries to conserve, digitise and publish the digital facsimile online in 2013. Drawing on the research of Emma Smith (Hertford College) the digital facsimile is being enriched by the serial publication of digital editions of each play, by creating richly marked up XML following the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) P5 Guidelines. For help with this and other digital research email the Research Support team.
This second, textual phase with a newly redeveloped website was brought about by BDLSS and Oxford e-Research Centre, with TEI XML consultation from the Research Support team at IT Services.
As with the facsimile images of the First Folio, the XML text can be reused and adapted by anyone, under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.
To find out more go to http://firstfolio.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/.
Engagement and Global Reach
The First World War Centenary at IT Services
The Education Enhancement Team, via a joint bid with the Public Affairs Directorate, has been granted strategic funding from the Van Houten Bequest to support the University in its First World War Centenary activities. The funding will be used to support two main activities:
- A central centenary portal showcasing relevant events, activities, research and resources from within the University.
- The Oxford at War 1914-1918 Community Collection. Crowdsourcing the history of Oxford in the First World War, this specially built web site will allow colleges, museums, archives and members of the public to upload stories and digitised material relating to town and gown during the war.
With a global reputation from over 20 years of experience in developing First World War digital collections and engagement models, IT Services are well placed to share experiences and offer information or support. We support a number of international, national, and local initiatives such as Europeana 1914-1918, Children at War at Age Exchange, and Poetry by Heart. We also look after our digital First World War collections, including the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, The Great War Archive, and Continuations and Beginnings.
For more information about our centenary activities, see:
- Education Enhancement blog
- University First World War Centenary portal (in beta)
- Oxford World War I Centenary Programme blog
Supporting Inductions across the University
With so much of everyday University life using IT in some way, and IT Services providing over 250 services, it is vital to have a strategy that ensures new staff and students understand the services they need do their work effectively and efficiently.
IT Services has created an informative website called Welcome to IT. Whilst originally written for students, the information and advice is also relevant to new staff. The Welcome to IT website is supported by a leaflet given to all new students at Freshers’ Fair.
During the first few weeks of Michaelmas term, IT Services staff present at over 40 departmental induction sessions. We also provide resources for unit IT managers and research officers to include in their own inductions and run an information stand at Open Days to meet prospective students and their parents.
For new staff, IT Services run “Breakfast at IT” each term, an informal presentation and chat over coffee and pastries. We attend Oxford Learning Institute (OLI) and UAS induction events to introduce new staff to our services and answer any questions. For college or departmental IT staff, we run specialist induction courses covering more technical information and how IT is managed within the wider University. Very often, these distributed IT staff are the first point of contact for IT queries so IT Services have a dedicated team, IT Support Staff Services (ITS3) to ensure they are informed and kept up to date on all our activities.
To find out more about IT Services, have a look at our web pages and Welcome to IT. If you would be interested in an induction session for your new staff or students, please contact the Courses team. Research data management induction information, slides for IT staff to use at their induction talks and the slides used at IT staff inductions are all available online. To read about our objectives and activities related to widening engagement, see the IT Strategic Plan.
Aligning Services with Customer Needs
The IT Services Portfolio Review aims to better align our services with the needs of the University, ensuring not only good value for money but also a more rational funding model. It is an opportunity to understand the specific needs of our customers and how our services are being used, and to market our lesser-known but potentially high-value services.
Conversations with a range of stakeholders in the form of workshops and interviews, in small groups and one-to-one sessions, are taking place and will continue through Trinity Term. The feedback received will build on existing insights from previous consultations and surveys including DIGE, OUCS Survey, Freshers' Survey, Staff Survey and the IT Strategic Plan.
In addition, the senior managers of IT Services have recently produced a list of changes that we could make to our services which will be combined with the suggestions from stakeholders. We will develop options for changing the way some services are delivered, identify which services could be retired, and what new services might be introduced.
Benchmarking of our services against other HE institutions has already been undertaken in the Value IT report. This work will be updated and used to inform the Portfolio Review and discussions about funding models and service levels.
This initiative, like other complementary projects underway, is an enabling component of the IT Strategic Plan. The work is being led by Darrell Sturley and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. A draft report is expected in Summer 2014.
Things to do with Data
A series of lunchtime talks are occurring throughout Trinity term on a wide variety of research data topics. ‘Things to do With Data’ is hosted by the Research Support team , in collaboration with the IT Learning Programme, and looks at some of the interesting things researchers do with their data to unlock its potential and realise its value. Aimed at research staff and postgraduate researchers, the talks cover aspects of data management from planning to re-use whilst considering the practical requirements of research funders with issues surrounding data sharing. For the full programme please visit the Things to do With Data blog post.
WebLearn User Group
This is an invitation for WebLearn users to meet with members of the IT Services WebLearn team to give feedback and share ideas and practices regarding the use of WebLearn. In order to inform the ongoing development and support of the system ensure that your voice and ideas are heard and shared. The meeting will combine short user presentations of Weblearn and tool usage with an overview of system updates. The next meeting is Monday 7 July at 13 Banbury Road. For more information please visit the course catalogue.
Nexus: Sharepoint User Group
The next Sharepoint User Group meeting is Thursday 3 July at 13 Banbury Road. This is an opportunity for SharePoint users to meet with members of the IT Services SharePoint team to discuss ideas regarding their use of SharePoint. Members are encouraged to give feedback, guide the ongoing development of the system and hear how others in the University have been using SharePoint. Lunch and networking opportunities will be provided prior to the session. For more information please visit the course catalogue.
Keep in touch
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- The Heartbleed image is licensed for re-use under creative commons via openclipart.org -- http://openclipart.org/detail/192604/heartbleed-patch-needed-by-rejon-192604
- Centenary image http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Romagne-sous-Montfaucon_-_crosses.jpg
Published on May 2014. © University of Oxford.
Credit: Alexandra Paddock, commissioned by IT Services as Article Writer for this edition.