RGU Web – Inside and Outside

Go back 12 years or so, and RGU’s web presence was pretty much a static web site, with some core information on there but many parts of the University largely unrepresented. Around 2002, a major web redesign project created a simple content editor, a relatively straight forward overall design and the ability of a wide cross section of the University community to create and populate web pages within the overall web site. I remember clearly that our biggest concern at the time was how to galvanise the effort across the University to create the level of web presence that we were looking for. I needn’t have worried – we had made the process of putting information on the web so easy that everybody jumped on very quickly and we actually ended up with the opposite problem. We had too much information, it was not all co-ordinated across departments, there was some duplication and much content was not being kept up to date following the initial enthusiasm. If I remember correctly we had over 12,000 pages on our web site, of which probably 11,500 were rarely accessed.

Anyway, we set about a major redesign of our web site back in 2007/8, put a web content team in place and control of content and over a continuous process since then created the web site that you see today for RGU. That web site is deliberately focussed on the external world – prospective students, parents, business partners, the community and so on. Whilst creating it, we moved across / redesigned content on the old web site. However, a great deal of the content on the old web site had been created with our internal University community in mind and this remained on the old web site which was now affectionately called “www4” as it had been renamed to distinguish it from the main web site.

The next stage in our journey was to create a staff and student portal which would, amongst other things, be the new home for the internal content marooned on www4. I wrote about that portal previously.

We’ve made good progress in moving that content across – if you are a member of staff or a student, go and have a look {web link to RGyoU}. Now we are undertaking the final push to get all the remaining content areas removed from www4 and replaced with something on the Portal. After that, www4 will be turned off in the next 2 to 3 months – and that will be the end of an era.

Once www4 has been turned off, we will have externally facing web content on our main web site, and internally facing web content accessed through the Portal via your RGU username and password. We also have web based content on Moodle, but that is information that is primarily associated with our teaching and learning programmes. It’s important to avoid confusion that the right information is in the right environment (web site, Portal, Moodle), and I will be working with colleagues to make sure we have effective arrangements to oversee this.

If you want a nostalgic look at one of our www4 pages – here (ironically) is the old web page for the web redevelopment project.  But be quick – it will disappear soon!


OOPS! – Working from Home

There is a cracking article in a recent edition of “The Economist”, which is available online and in which Yahoo’s new Chief Executive, Marissa Mayer, appears to be driving Yahoo employees to come in to the office unless they have a very good reason to work from home. The memo from the Human Resources Manager is addressed to “Yahoos”. If you are cringing already, read the article!

This is contrary to the direction that most enlightened organisations are travelling in – the ability to work from home or anywhere else off Campus for that matter is increasingly one aspect of a more flexible approach to working life. Of course, there are occasions where face to face contact and participation cannot be easily replaced, but equally there are many activities which can be easily carried out anywhere.  An important aspect of our IT Strategy is to ensure that access to our core IT services can be provided easily to any location, on any device, whilst maintaining security of information and access. A key part of that is the MyApps service, which I have mentioned before and which gives  you access to your University IT resources from anywhere – at work, at home, on the move, on a Pc, on an iPad – even on your phone if you can cope with the small screen size.

The great thing about MyApps is that information and data never leaves the University servers. This is important if you are working from home and relieves you of many responsibilities. Did you know that if you use your personal e-mail account for work then these e-mails are covered by the Freedom of Information Act? Likewise, if you store University documents on your home computer, or take paper documents home, you could be personally liable for any breaches under the data protection act? There are a few things to think about if you are working from home – have a look at the page on the Staff Portal if you want a very comprehensive guide:

We’ve also published an interactive guide to data security for mobile devices under the banner of “OOPS” – “Out Of Protected Spaces” and if you are a member of staff you will already have received that guide in hard copy as well as interactively. We’ve had really good feedback from that – with many people making positive suggestions and asking very relevant questions about particular situations and also requests for additional copies. We did have one person who returned the printed cards with an anonymous note saying “waste of money”. That’s a real disappointment and completely out of step with all the other feedback we have received. Given the amount of press coverage of authorities being fined 6 figure sums of money for data protection breaches, and given the fact that this whole issue is important enough to grab the attention of the University’s Audit Committee, I hope that person has a change of heart on further reflection.

Here is the “OOPS” guide:


IT Strategy – Governance

This can sound like a dry subject, but it’s really important – and it concerns all of us!

IT Governance Extract from Strategy Map

Many will know from experience or from reports in the news how transforming IT can be when it hits the right spot, but also how IT projects and services can go wrong. Across the University, if you add up all the people costs, software licences, IT Equipment (servers, PC’s, printers, network, gadgets), support contracts etc – we spend at least £4m per annum on IT one way or another. In this new strategy, we are putting a stronger emphasis on Governance. Put simply, we need to make sure that we get the best value out of that annual £4m, that this spend supports the strategic aims of the University, and that we successfully manage risks and security in an ever more complex world.

Adopting the “ITIL” standard (IT infrastructure Library) will be a key foundation of this. ITIL is a widely adopted approach to IT Service Management, used across the world in the public and private sectors, as a tool for successfully identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT Services to meet the aims of the organisation. It’s not just a tool for IT Services, it’s a broad framework that will allow us to drive continuous improvement and make effective decisions for the University.

We will pay particular attention on the proper authorisation routes for commissioning new IT developments. Many IT services are available externally – sometimes at low cost or “free”. But, they all can carry risks, none are truly “free” and they all need to be stitched together so that our staff and students have a coherent IT experience and we don’t accidentally duplicate anything. Sometimes, it is as important to say “no” as it is to say “yes”!

We also want to constantly remember the business case for each development so that we keep at the forefront the overall University objectives and make sure we know that these have been met.

In relation to IT – the management of risks has never been more important. It is anything but a box ticking exercise – we face real and constantly evolving threats on a daily basis to our existing infrastructure, and there are always potentially significant risks to consider when embarking on new IT developments. There are risks that our systems may fail. There are risks that may prevent IT developments from achieving their objectives. And there are wider risks that can be exacerbated by weaknesses on IT controls. As I write this, I see that a hospital trust has been fined £325,000 after confidential patient records were stolen from old computer drives that were not properly disposed of. IT Security rules and procedures can feel like a pain but when something goes wrong we realise their importance, so let’s not learn the hard way.