IT Open Meeting May 2023 | Your questions answered
A summary of questions and answers from the open meeting with the IT Executive Leadership Team held in February 2023.
The questions are divided into the following sections:
- Projects (M/N migration, Windows Refresh, Teams Voice)
- Hybrid working
- Support and engagement
- Incidents and requests
- Data and stroage
- Web and accessibility
- Other questions
Can you give an update on the M and N drive migration and more details about the project plan?
The project to migrate files from Documentum and the M and N drives is part of the Digital Enablement programme.
The first stage of this is a 'discovery' which has recently started. This will help us to understand more about the M&N drives and Documentum are used. Once complete, we will be working with the Faculty Operations Directors and Managers (FODMs), their equivalents in Professional Services and other key stakeholders to understand what the data means and what needs to happen in terms of migration.
The main driver for this project is to move us on to a more stable, flexible and scalable approach to how we store files in Microsoft SharePoint. We will be co-creating the plan for moving our files (migration) with our key stakeholders and we want to ensure you have plenty of notice and support. As part of the project, we're looking at the best approach to both communications and the people and change elements.
Why does the Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) not work on Windows 7 machines (which some people still have at home)?
Windows 7 is no longer supported by Microsoft. This means that they don't develop it as a product anymore and it no longer receives security updates. This is why there has been a huge program across the University to replace our aging Windows 7 equipment with devices that run Windows 10 or Windows 11. WVD is also a Microsoft product, and they do not support it on Windows 7.
We recommend you do not use devices running Windows 7 at home to avoid security risks, and you should not process University data on these devices (unless they are in the small group of University owned devices that are still waiting to be replaced).
If you are processing personal data on a device running Windows 7, it is at risk. If you have a personal device still running Windows 7 you may be able to upgrade it to Windows 10/11 if your device supports it, and you should do this if possible.
What is the status of the Windows 11 updates? There are still some Windows 7 desktops out there on campus, are they being replaced?
There are a small number of Windows 7 devices remaining, and these are what we call 'complex devices'. These are devices that are connected to equipment which could stop working if we upgrade to Windows 11. The short term plan is to isolate these complex devices from the main University network, so we are protected from any security issues, but you can keep working. We intend to do this in the next 2-3 weeks. In the medium term, we are working with the faculties and professional services to migrate the services that are still running on these complex devices to newer Windows 11 devices. In some circumstances this will require replacing equipment to facilitate this.
Why was more advice not given that the Windows 11 project desktops that replaced Windows 7 would not permit users remote access? Is there a fix for this?
This was an oversight caused by a technical issue which we are working to resolve. We will resolve it as quickly as possible, but if it is causing a significant issue, please log it with the Service Desk. There is a workaround available.
There were some issues with the Windows Refresh project - have those difficulties been fed into lessons learned so that when the next round of PC replacement happens, we won't have the same problems?
Yes. The Transformation Office ran an independent review and gathered feedback from a lot of people, which we will publish. The key lessons we have learned include having a better understanding of our stakeholders and involving you more.
Given the security risks with Windows 7 (with support ending Jan 23) we needed to move at pace to mitigate the risks. We appreciate that there is a balance between managing risk and also quality/good customer service and that we didn't always get this balance right. We apologise for this.
In future we will be more collaborative and work with you. We already have plans to provide more floor walking and support when we have a big roll out. If you've got any specific feedback and you haven't had chance to input, please let your FODM or your business manager know.
Can you update on the Teams Voice project, particularly when phones are going to be removed and phones will be set up where there are multiple users using an extension?
We have just completed phase one, moving around 4000 telephone extensions to Teams Voice. We are now in phase two, which is looking at more complex cases. Because these cases are more difficult, they do require more resources and will take a little longer, but we are working through them and working with the different departments. If you want to know what the plan is for your department, please contact the project manager, Attila Rab.
How do you stop phishing calls on Teams?
The challenge here is much like email - how do we block the bad (or frustrating calls) while allowing other parts of the University to work freely with suppliers and third parties?
We will be introducing more controls and technology to support Microsoft 365 and Teams Voice security via the BeSafe programme. If you've got immediate concerns or if you think data has been compromised, please raise a ticket for Cyber Security Operations. Microsoft also provide instructions on how to block specific numbers.
We were going to move our distribution lists to Mailman but have been told Mailman is being retired. What should we use instead?
How is IT Services adapting to the changing needs of students and faculties, especially in light of everything that happened with the pandemic and the requirement for hybrid work and study?
Before the pandemic we did not have a huge focus on hybrid working. From an IT perspective we offered a range of options to allow people to work flexibly that were mostly fit for purpose. Since the pandemic we have switched to most computers requested being laptops, and we have significantly improved our other remote working options with a new VPN, a new capability to remote control computers on campus and our new Windows Virtual Desktop capability.
We are working closely with colleagues across Facilities and other service departments such as the Library, are helping to empower people and drive changes that will enable people to embrace hybrid working. For example, we've rolled out Teams Voice to over 4,000 people so that they can make phone calls from wherever they are. We've also rolled out over 4000 laptops and continue to do so to enable people to work in a hybrid way.
We are now looking at how we optimise the working environment where people are using laptops. At the moment we typically give people docking stations and a monitor, but this is an expensive way to connect laptops. In the future we are planning to have an integrated single screen with a built-in docking station and are piloting this at the moment. We won’t just be offering a standard size 24” screen, but other sizes such as 27” or two monitors.
We are engaging with Facilities and other colleagues to look at how we can reshape and change the way we run meetings to allow us to have a better hybrid experience. We are also working closely with the educational spaces program; looking at the spaces that students use and not just at the technology. We are planning to bring some student interns into that project to ensure we have a student perspective.
We recognise we still have a lot to do, but we have achieved a lot since the pandemic and are continuing to improve our service to you.
Why is it difficult to hold a hybrid event in so many teaching and meeting rooms?
The majority of these rooms were not set up to support hybrid teaching and meetings pre-pandemic. We are responding to the need to provide hybrid technology through two key initiatives. The Student Education Programme is looking at requirements for future teaching and the Hybrid Meeting Rooms initiative is piloting hybrid technology for meeting rooms for staff.
The Education Spaces Programme has piloted multimode technology which aims to provide good interactive experiences for people both in the room and when joining externally. The assessment of this technology is progressing and if successful, it is anticipated that the no. of multimode rooms will be expanded.
For hybrid meeting rooms, we are working with colleagues in Facilities on a project called the Hybrid Meeting Room Project which is in pilot this month (May) until the end of June. After the pilot the full business case will be built and go to Capital Group in July. We’re aiming to implement the recommendations for later in the year. The project is focusing on the user experience and is demand driven. We know it needs to support the different types of hybrid meetings that people want to hold, from large meetings where all the equipment you need will be in the room, through to small meetings where you may need to bring a laptop to use Teams, for example. As part of this project, we will agree standard equipment that is secure, integrates with our systems and is supported.
How does IT engage with students and staff to understand their technology needs and preferences?
It is important for us to hear the voices of students and staff. We have a number of mechanisms for us to listen:
- Working alongside major programmes, such as the Student Lifecycle Programme (SLP) seeking engagement with the wider University and students.
- Quarterly open meetings with the IT Executive Leadership team – open to all University staff.
- Bringing back the IT Customer Voice forum so we can hear direct from our customers including students.
- Supporting our Business Relationship Management (BRM) function to have a stronger relationship with faculties and services across the University.
- Hearing from the IT Comms Reps group, this is a group of volunteers from across the University who share information from IT to their areas and provide feedback. Contact Sue Cunningham for more information about this group.
- Engaging directly with students, via the other programmes such as the Digital Student Experience programme, to understand their digital experience.
Understanding customers’ technology needs and preferences is not a science that we've perfected yet, but we have been working in this area and are trying to do more.
Will there be IT floor walkers to rapidly support staff as they're coming back on to campus?
We don't have the capacity in our support teams to do this effectively now. We are recruiting heavily in our teams that provide face to face support and intend to build faculty aligned teams in the future. These teams will still be members of IT and work in the same way but will be based in faculties, allowing them to build stronger relationships and better understand the science in that faculty.
Will we be having local IT support hubs in faculties?
Yes. However, these will not be separate faculty IT teams as we had previously. Instead, they will be a small 'field services engineering team' that will have a dedicated number of IT engineering staff for each faculty. They will report to IT and follow IT processes and policies and work will continue to flow through our normal processes, but they will be dedicated to providing support to a specific area. We expect each team to have a senior member who will be available for consultation, and it is likely most faculties will also have specialist staff funded through the Research IT Strategy, specifically to support researchers. We have started large scale recruiting for these teams, growing from a small base. We are now working with an external partner to help us deliver some of the external recruitment and to speed that up.
Can you explain what the policy for onsite support for areas off campus, such as St James’s, for example, delivering and collecting new devices?
Since covid we have had challenges supporting our remote sites. This has been due to a change to more laptops because of hybrid working and low numbers of resource in our field services team. We are currently recruiting to increase the team to be able to better support everyone on and off campus for device installation. We are also exploring with a 3rd party if they could help when it’s urgent for example someone not working, and they are some distance away from campus (outside of Leeds).
We have also invested in technology so that we will be able to send you a standard laptop, and the first time you log on to it, it will set itself up. We will post equipment to you if that is easiest, rather than you having to collect it, but if you are coming on to campus, or live nearby, we will ask you if you can collect to save the University money. If you want help carrying a monitor etc to your car, then please ask us.
For the longer term, we are working on a tender for a third party to provide us with a service to manage our equipment. In other words, you would be able to select equipment from a portal, for example if you had a faulty piece of equipment that needed changing, and they will come along and install it (on campus or at home). We expect this to be in place towards the end of the year.
Is there a process for returned equipment to be allocated back to the department who purchased it so that it can be reallocated to other staff?
We are currently working through a backlog of returned equipment, identifying those devices that were purchased and updating our records accordingly. This equipment is being segregated by faculty/service, however, we have not yet finalised the processes for efficiently reallocating it to the appropriate department.
During the pandemic, a lot of equipment was sent out very quickly. The associated records were distributed across multiple systems and recorded differently to cope with the change in priorities and working practices. This in turn is making the current activity very challenging.
Our aim is to have laptops replaced every four years and desktop computers replaced every five years to ensure they are up to date and have the right security measures. This will also cut down the number of calls through to our service desk which typically start to increase in years 4 and 5. In line with this strategy, any out of warranty devices have been retired.
Why does it seem to be taking longer to get new starters set up and to do things like changing access rights? Is there a plan to improve it?
The new starter process is very important. Unfortunately, in IT (and beyond) we are currently experiencing quite high workloads in terms of new joiners and access permissions. This is because historically someone would start and use a desktop that was already there. Post covid, we are collecting a laptop, reconditioning and re-issuing. This change in procedure has created an increased workload for the relevant teams. There is a lot of transformation work going on across the University which involves lots of new roles, temporary roles, contract roles, etc so this has also added to the teams workload. We have added some contract resource to this team, and have cleared the backlog now.
We are implementing a new platform and an Identity and Access Management solution which will reduce duplication of effort and speed things up by allowing the correct access to be assigned automatically by HR (for staff) or the Student Education Services (SES). We will be communicating more about this in the next few months.
What is the best way to escalate a ticket, for example if you were given a completion date and that has passed and you have not had any response?
We accept the service isn’t as good as it could be at the moment, but we are working hard to reduce the queue length. In the next few months, we will be putting service level agreements (SLAs) and operational level agreements (OLAs) in place, which we will publish.
We have been focusing on the backlog of providing equipment, and this has now been removed. We are working to ensure staff have the right permissions and access to the M&N drives. In the future we aim to do this work in under 48 hours Unfortunately, we still have a lack of resources but are recruiting to resolve this.
If we haven’t met a deadline on your ticket, please contact the IT Service Desk and ask them to chase it for you.
Where can we store highly confidential data which was previously on encrypted, password protected folders on the N drive? We have received conflicting advice and information on the IT website seems outdated.
Highly confidential data is often NHS data. We have LASER (Leeds Analytics Secure Environment for Research) which can store tier 3 and 4 data (ie highly confidential), and as you mention tier 1 and 2 data has often been stored on the N drive. As part of the Research IT Programme, we are providing new services for storage and data processing to address different data needs. This includes advice on the appropriate solutions for different classifications of data. A first draft of this advice is already in development and will be made available to all researchers as soon as possible. We must be extremely cautious when research data involves personally identifiable information (PPI), anything commercially sensitive or would otherwise have serious regulatory or legal impacts on individuals or groups if it was to be disclosed, which is why for the most sensitive data we have developed LASER. For less sensitive data, we aim to be able to provide appropriate alternatives at a low cost (some will be free at point of use), but the selection of the right storage solution has to be based on the assessment of risk for the specific research data.
We now have a data sharing framework in in place, particularly with the Teaching Hospitals Trust, and we are working with the information governance teams to provide an easy to understand guide to the different tiers.
We are also working on the Identity and Access Management (IDAM) project. When this is implemented, we will be able to give you access to the systems based on the needs of your role.
Will the new data strategy deliver a data services division, task resourced and funded to manage University data, improve it, transform it before on it and so on, and develop the data feeds and applications for integrated services?
Yes, and we have already started this. We now have a central Data Services team of 13 colleagues. The team are working on data governance and quality, data engineering, data modelling, data integration and the overall service management. The new Data Strategy has been published on the IT website.
We have a major program of work, funded through the Digital Enablement programme around creating a data integration platform and a central data repository. The integration platform will be about reducing the burden on the connections that we have between systems which are very bespoke and take up a lot of people's time, effort and resources. We will be moving to much more open standards and having a central data warehouse (a centralised repository for structured data) where we can take extracts in real time from our core systems, such as SAP and Banner, and use that for business intelligence and analytics. It will be a secure data environment that people go into and can use all the latest tools and technology in order to get a much better result. This is due to be delivered by the end of this calendar year, and you can see the road map in the Data Strategy.
There will be more information about this coming out in the next few months, and if you want more information, please contact Monica Jones, Chief Data Officer, and she can arrange to do a presentation in your faculty or department.
The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK's implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). How have we audited our processes to reflect this change from GDPR to the new UK legislation over the last few years? How can an employee check what records are kept, how they're used and their confidentiality?
GDPR is the remit of the University Secretariat, and they have provided a response to this question:
The Information Governance Team within the Secretariat have overall responsibility for compliance with data protection regulations and are the people to ask about this area; contact details are available via the University’s Data Protection website and via the Secretariat web pages – or contact the Data Protection Officer (email@example.com).
The University is constantly reviewing good data protection practices. It processes data in accordance with the Staff and Student Privacy Notices which are available on the Data Protection website.
The privacy notices above spell out how data will be used and the Information Governance training, which is mandatory for all staff, sets out expectations re confidentiality. In addition, the University’s core systems have ‘least privilege access’ structures built in.
Data subject access requests (for personal data) can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org and Freedom of Information requests (re institutional data) can be submitted to email@example.com (both on the Data Protection website).
The IT Data Services team are working very closely with the Secretariat around data governance and quality improvements. Ayesha Hussain is Data Governance and Quality Lead in the Data Service. We're working with data owners and data stewards and processors, mapping out who is doing what and where they are, and also bringing in data quality and management systems.
Will you be recruiting more Web developers? At the moment there are lots of features in the design system, but they haven't been implemented in the CMS (Content Management System). There are also key updates and fixes that aren't being made yet. In addition, will there be a closer way of working between IT and the web content teams?
We are not planning to significantly increase the number of people in the web support and development team. We do want to work much closer with business owners – someone in the business who will be able to help us prioritise what gets done first. This will be one of the key things in our new way of working, ensuring you know what is in our job list and what has been prioritised.
At the moment the web team is focused on moving old and outdated technology and software to new cloud based solution. This means that in future we will have less responsibility for maintaining the web. content management system (Jadu) and can spend more time working on the features that you require. The CMS will then always be up to date and sites will be more secure and less vulnerable to attack.
We are also looking at involving third parties for bigger pieces of work. So funded projects would be able to move out of the normal workflow and be dealt with on our behalf by a third party or by a combination of University lead staff and a third party.
What are the current plans for the faculty website upgrades and is there an overarching web strategy?
There is currently a web accessibility project that involves updating all our major websites to ensure that they are compliant. Updates are being made to the design system, which is a series of templates, and these design principles and standards will allow us to deliver fully accessible websites. Some of that design work is taking place for the faculty sites. Currently, the web developers are working on moving our current content management system (Jadu), into the cloud (see previous question).
We recognise the need for a web strategy in the future, but this needs to be a collaboration between IT, marketing, communications and other areas. However, this is not a top priority and is not currently in development.
Is digital accessibility a priority and are there any plans for a permanent accessibility team who can train staff?
Accessibility is very important, and we have an active WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) compliance project and a Digital Compliance Officer. We have thousands of websites at the University, and they were largely created without templates and with lots of modifications. It takes a lot of time and effort to bring these websites into something that is standardised and based on a template to ensure that they are accessible in the long term.
We have made good process, and many of our WordPress websites are now using the design system, as is our main corporate site. There are more sites in development, but it does take time and is a more complicated issue to resolve than it may appear. We are also working with our suppliers, many of whom are based in the US who often don’t fully understand our regulations.
One challenge we face is that we don't really have any standards or principles about how we retire and archive content, and we need to address this. For example, we may need a ‘Digital Museum’ for content that we don’t want to lose, but no longer needs to be prominent and we need to ensure it doesn’t have any security vulnerabilities. Watch this space for more information about this.
Can we have a localised version of Adobe rather than using AppsAnywhere?
Adobe products receive updates quite regularly, including security updates. By having them in AppsAnywhere they are much easier to manage, and we can make sure they are always up to date. Adobe licences also need to be carefully managed, otherwise there could be large fines for having additional copies. The version in AppsAnywhere should work just as well as if it was installed locally. If you are having any problems using Adobe products in AppsAnywhere please contact us so we can find out what the issue is.
How can the news that the module content will no longer rollover be justified given the workload implications?
A response for this question was provided by the Digital Education Service:
Last year's successful upgrade of Minerva module areas to Ultra was a necessary step to provide our learners with a more accessible and reliable learning experience. It was also important for the University to move away from Original Course View, which had been in use, largely unchanged, since 2008 and is no longer actively supported by our supplier, Anthology (formerly Blackboard).
Because of structural differences between Original Course View and Ultra, last summer there was a need for staff to completely rebuild their modules areas to fit the new layout. This was, however, a one-off piece of work, with the content copying being significantly more straightforward following initial conversion to Ultra. The Digital Education Service has worked with Anthology to improve and streamline copy functionality and will provide online guides and walkthroughs to help staff as they copy and review content. Your local Digital Education Enhancement Teams are also available to provide help and advice.
We use Power Automate and our processes could be further improved using other elements of the Microsoft’s Power Apps. Will these be made available in the future?
Yes, we want to allow more people to use these as part of the ‘citizen development’ – that is allowing staff outside IT with little or no coding experience to build applications. We need to make sure it happens safely and, in the future, this will be the focus of one of our teams, product engineering. There will be a whole team dedicated around things like Microsoft Dynamics 365 which we are rolling out for various customer relationship management applications.
There will also be a team looking at how we get the most out of that low code, no code environment (methods of designing and developing apps using intuitive drag and drop tools that reduce the need for traditional developers to write code). We need to recruit more people in this space as soon as possible.Posted in: IT Services updates