IT investment | Your questions answered
This is a summary of the questions asked during the IT investment open meetings in May 2021.
The Q&A is split into the following sections:
- Supporting staff and students
- Cloud migration
- Identity management
- Citizen development
- Other University systems
- Programme support
- Next steps
How will this project support hybrid working of staff in the short term?
In the short term, the Transitional Ways Of Working (TWOW) initiative is looking at what needs to be in place to support the return to campus. This includes looking into equipment, such as video conferencing. The Digital Enablement and Be Safe programmes will provide longer-term foundations which will allow us to to grow and develop our services.
How does the team plan to ensure new IT systems and services are designed for the needs of the people who will be using them?
The majority of the work we’re completing is infrastructural/foundational in nature. Where we develop new applications to be used by colleagues and students we will absolutely be looking, as part of development, at the user experience, making sure it is factored into design and that we are engaging with colleagues and students as part of the development activity.
Is the AI (artificial intelligence) chatbot an internal development or are we buying a third party service?
We are working with a third party called ICS.AI. The chatbot is a combination of their intellectual property and specific customisations for the University. The chatbot makes use of the Microsoft Cloud ecosystem, including cognitive services that provide artificial intelligence (AI).
Who can tell me more about the AI chatbot?
Will there be investment at a local faculty / school level to lead and support the migration of content from N and M drives? And when will M and N drives be migrated to the cloud?
We are not expecting people to have to migrate their own content as part of this programme. We will expect people to engage with us to understand what content needs to be migrated. We have some design decisions to make around how we lay out folder structures, security and how SharePoint will look and operate. In terms of the timings, we need to go through a procurement exercise and we will start as soon as this is complete. We’ll post more information in this In Depth section as we go through this process.
There is an identity management issue that particularly affects trans staff and students. Given that this digital transformation will take five years, what work is being done in the interim period?
The system that we use to manage digital identity was implemented more than 20 years ago and is now no longer fit for purpose. We are prioritising the delivery of the replacement system. Given the complexity of the project, we anticipate it will take 18 months to two years to deliver. We continue to work within the limits of the existing system on a case-by-case basis.
Will having the University data backbone mean we lose the ability to update records at a database level?
A well-designed SaaS (Software as a Service) solution needs to have interfaces for making appropriate changes that can be controlled and audited. Directly changing data is always a last resort, once fixing source data and using provided interfaces have been exhausted, and that needs to be part of the overall design.
You have talked about exciting stuff on corporate data – what will researchers see for their work and data?
We have agreed we will put together a similar business case and modernisation proposal for research IT, as we have done for the broader IT services. Mark Conmy, Head of Research IT, and Liz Bailey, a consultant from Microsoft, are working with researchers, RIS and Research Finance on an approach to develop this research IT strategy.
Will IT be supporting ‘citizen development’?
Our intention is to build a citizen developer and low code ecosystem (a software development approach using little or no coding and using visual interfaces with simple logic and drag-and-drop features). This will use a combination of self-help, citizen ideas sharing and support, and IT support. We’ve not yet fully scoped out how this will work, so expect further communications about this later in the year.
Are you aware of all the groundwork that some SES colleagues are doing to use Microsoft Forms and SharePoint (eg the work that Thomas Riley has undertaken with the ID checks system)?
We will make sure that the Digital Enablement implementation team connects with Thomas Riley and the SES team to share knowledge and collaborate. If you have any other examples which could be shared more widely, please contact us.
You mentioned a University-wide CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Will this integrate Raiser’s Edge, MS Dynamics etc. and do you have any timescales?
The University-wide CRM system is likely to be based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 (the cloud version). It is our ambition to consolidate as many CRM systems as possible, however we are not yet in a position to answer the question about which specific CRM systems will be involved. In terms of timescales, our aim is to introduce the foundations in the next 12 months.
We have been talking about replacing SAP for several years. When will we be getting the replacement?
The work-around SAP replacement is included in the CPS (Corporate Processes and Systems) programme, which runs alongside the Digital Enablement and Be Safe programmes. Replacement of SAP is in scope of CPS and is the core element of phase two, the next big phase. The CPS programme is currently doing a market assessment to find the right replacement product and will be looking for an integration partner through the next academic year.
What will replace key teaching systems, such as SIS, essential for academics?
The Digital Enablement and Be Safe programmes are infrastructural/foundational in nature. There are no current plans to replace any teaching systems as part of these programmes of work.
Will IoT devices, such as raspberry Pi, be supported?
We need to understand what might be running on the Raspberry Pi before we can answer this. However, in general, we expect that IoT will play a larger part in the future.
Will IT infrastructure investment in hardware be centrally funded or come from departmental budgets or a combination?
Departments will continue to fund computer replacements. We have agreed a central budget to replace Windows XP and Windows 7-based computers since they are no longer supported and are considered a security risk.
JISC offers a lot of services and advice for HEIs in many of these areas – are they providing support to your team in this transformation project?
We have consulted with a number of third parties and our own IT staff. We meet with JISC on a regular basis, too, but they are not currently providing support to the Digital Enablement and Be Safe programmes. However, we have asked JISC for support for the research work and they are arranging a workshop with peers on some points of strategy.
Will further timelines and project details be outlined somewhere for us to keep up to date with all the projects?
Yes, definitely. We had an initial plan on a page view of when all the projects that make up the two main programmes will be delivered. What we are now looking to do is to produce a roadmap of change and do more frequent communication across the University, so people understand what is coming and when and how it affects them day to day.Posted in: IT Services updates