IT open meeting | Your questions answered
A summary of questions and answers from the open meeting with the IT Executive Leadership Team held in November 2022.
1. Recent challenges with IT infrastructure have undermined confidence in new approaches, and colleagues feel IT has so many issues they do not have the capacity to listen. When will tickets be answered promptly rather than it taking months for them to be completed?
We understand that recent issues have had a big impact across the University. We are investing a large amount to modernise our IT infrastructure and foundations. That work has been ongoing over the last year, and we have made a lot of progress.
We are also taking a business case to Council this month to request another £27million to modernize research IT. This was not included in our original business case last year, and we know that research is vitally important for the University. We have been very transparent about the issues we face, particularly in the context of research, and the report we commissioned, in consultation with over 100 academics is available on the IT website.
Many years of historical underinvestment have led to a lot of technical debt, with systems that haven't been upgraded for a long time. In addition, we have a lot of different systems. For example we have something like 280 different storage systems around the University and multiple data centres. Not all systems fall under the remit of IT services, some fall within the Facilities Directorate and the Digital Education Systems team. So we need to come together as a whole community to improve our service.
At the moment we have over 150 temporary staff working with us to drive the change to modernise IT, remediate the technical debt and lay the right foundations for the future. Although from the outside it appears to be slow, we are making good progress, but it will take a long time to resolve all the issues, so please be patient with us.
We acknowledge that some tickets are not being resolved quickly enough and the investment outlined above will help us to do this in the future. However, please be assured that thousands of tickets are resolved promptly each month.
We are very interested in hearing your feedback, which you can give through the Business Relationship Managers as well as members of the Exec Leadership team.
2. What is the balance between technical project delivery and rebuilding stakeholder confidence?
We don’t see a huge distinction between these activities. Until we can resolve the technical debt it will be very difficult to deliver a great service and rebuild confidence.
For example, currently when a new computer is ordered, it is very time-consuming to build it and requires a lot of steps, including needing the customer to log on to the computer before it can be fully provisioned. We are moving towards a process where the computer will be shipped directly to the customer from the supplier, which will greatly improve this service.
In order to deliver a great service, we have to have better tools, processes and ways of working and remove the technical debt. We are committed to doing this, but it will take some time. Please be patient with us as we deliver these improvements.
3. Is there any update on laptop ordering timescales? It still seems to be taking longer than two months to get a laptop.
We recognise this is an important issue and we are not providing the service you need. We know how important it is for example, for new starters to have equipment ready when they arrive, and we are treating the issue as a high priority.
There is a lot of work happening at the moment in the Windows Refresh project. This project will be replacing around 4,000 computers which are currently running Windows 7 and updating over 20,000 computers to an up to date version of Windows 10.
The project is also looking at new ways of delivering those laptops and desktop computers. In future, rather than having to come on to campus, your new computer will be shipped directly to you (at home or on campus) and you will just need to log in and it will configure itself as a University computer. This will remove a lot of the current delay.
Unfortunately, we are not able to commit to brilliant timescales yet, but our aim is to be able to deliver basic laptops and desktops within 48 hours (specialist equipment may take longer).
The Windows Refresh project is currently running pilots, and there will be a lot of activity in the next two months which will help to remove the backlog and let us process orders more quickly.
4. What plans are in place to improve the provision of core services i.e. new and replacement laptops; standard access for new starters to systems (e.g. better allocation of SAP and Restricted Virtual Windows Desktop)?
The Windows Refresh project will bring in improvements in this area with regards to replacement laptops and ordering computers.
At the moment we are working on implementing our new identity and access management (IDAM) solution. We have worked with PwC on an internal audit, which looked at the starter and leaver processes and some of the risks and business processing issues associated with that. A lot of the issues are around data, and making sure that the right data flows into our systems. We are working with colleagues in both faculties and Professional Services to resolve issues with data and source systems. We will also be looking at how this links into things like Virtual Windows Desktop provision etc, and how we can automate these processes. We expect to have the core platform in, and for it to start taking over from our current system (LURCIS), in the first quarter of next year. So you will start seeing iterative improvements from that point.
5. What should people do if they have not had an update on their request or incident and need to chase or escalate it?
If you need an update, please contact the IT Service Desk initially and request an update, ideally by adding a comment to your incident or request through the IT website.
If you feel there has still be no appropriate response, contact the IT Service Desk and check if they have escalated your incident/request.
If there is still no appropriate response, escalate via your school / service manager to the Business Relationship Manager in your area, and they will chase it on your behalf.
In the medium to long term, we are planning to build an escalation team, but we don’t have that capability yet.
In an emergency you can contact any member of the Exec Leadership Team, but this should only be for real emergencies.
6. The IT support desk closes at 4pm. If you need something like a password reset between 4pm and 5pm, does that mean you have to wait until they open the following working day?
The IT Service Desk provides face to face appointments from 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday, telephone support 8am-4pm and a basic out of hours phone service outside these times.
For password resets you do not need to contact the IT Service Desk but can use the self-service password reset at any time.
The IT website has a lot of self-help articles which will help you resolve many issues yourself, and you can ask Falco (the chatbot on the IT website) for help.
7. Can we not have teams that are faculty/hub based again rather than the central IT Service Desk, especially for hardware problems?
We have heard you when you asked for more alignment of IT resources within the faculties. So we are planning to build what we call faculty based field engineering services teams which will be aligned to faculties and will focus on activities for faculties. These faculty aligned teams will continue to be run by IT, so faculties will not be running their own IT service, but there will be people who you can build relationships with and have a greater capacity to support you.
Exactly what they will do in terms of hardware is something that we are still working on. We do plan to set up the computer ordering process so that equipment is shipped direct to you from the manufacturer and does not require IT staff to set it up.
Support for research is covered in the Research IT business case which is going to Council this month.
8. Hybrid meetings - how are plans progressing to offer support with equipment and installation working with Estates Service?
At the moment IT do not have a support service for this, but it is something we want to build. We are working with the Facilities Directorate to write a paper and bid for University funds to do this and work out the best way to support hybrid meeting rooms. It is not just about the technology, but the whole meeting experience.
We are also working with the University of Nottingham, who have already done this, to understand their lessons learnt.
We know a lot of people want to use Owls (an Owl is a device that sits on the desk in a meeting room and has a camera and microphone), and we are looking to see if these can become part of our service. We need to ensure they are secure and that we can offer the right support.
In the meantime we are working with people where there are critical needs, for example with the Facilities Directorate for teaching space areas. If you do have an urgent issue, please raise through your Business Relationship Manager and we will give you the best advice we can.
9. When will IT support for faculty owned audio visual (AV) equipment be resolved?
This is related to the previous question, and unfortunately we do not have an AV support service at the moment. We do understand your frustration but at the moment we do not have any teams trained to support this equipment, so we have struggled to provide support where faculties have bought their own equipment. This is why we are working with the Facilities Directorate and writing a paper (for the Ways of Working Steering Group) on how we can provide support. We need to be clear about what we can do and what the central teaching services team can do.
We also want to make sure that we build an actual service rather than it just be about supporting specific types of technology. This may start with the room booking experience and flow all the way through to using AV equipment. We will keep you up to date on any progress in this area.
10. What are the latest plans for replacing MS Stream? Is this still going ahead and when?
Stream is not being replaced, but Microsoft are making changes to where the data in Stream is stored. You may have seen it referred to as Stream Classic, which is the old version, and Stream on SharePoint, which is the new version. All new meeting recordings, for example, are now stored on Stream on SharePoint. Recordings of most meetings are stored in the OneDrive of the person who made the recording. Recordings of meetings set up in Teams channels are stored in the channel. You do not need to worry about running out of space – your OneDrive can hold around 20,000 hours of meeting recordings, and we can ask Microsoft to increase your allowance if necessary.
11. Why don't you integrate the IT chatbot (Falco) with the Student Education Service chatbot (Parky) to deliver a unified University information service for students and staff?
The two chatbots were originally developed in isolation and they are using different technology. It is our long term goal to have a single place to go to, but at the moment, because of the nature of the two different platforms, it doesn't make sense to put them together.
12. My team relies on remote connection to use our specialist software. We struggle to get support from IT and to find a location for new computers. Are there any plans to improve this service?
With hybrid working a lot of staff are logging into their PCs on campus from remote locations. We know the software is not ideal and we are working at the moment on providing better virtual PC connections. We are testing it in IT at the moment, and will then roll it out.
We know a lot of computers are being upgraded and replaced, and many of these will be laptops, so in future it may be less about using remote tools to connect to desktops as you’ll have the right device to support hybrid working. This will also improve sustainability, as it removes the need to leave banks of PCs powered on when they are not being used.