Making the most of a UCISA bursary award at ALT 2018

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

Planning for ALT 2018

It’s only 12 days and 17 hours till ALT 2018 – ALT’s 25th annual conference and the biggest meet up of Learning Technologists this side of the Atlantic (possibly?)
I have been lucky enough to be funded to attend by the UCISA bursary scheme and I intend to make good use of my subsidized ticket.
There is so much on it’s hard to know where to start but in traditional festival fashion I have a list of potential topics and sessions, though who knows what will happen when I actually get there!
Student engagement – At the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) we really want to get better at asking the students what they think. This year we ran the Jisc digital student experience and it was both enlightening and a little scary. I’d like to hear more about how other institutions have been using their data so will be attending Rating their digital experience – what do our students really, really want?.   I might follow this up with What organisational variables support a positive student digital experience? – which also looks at the broader tracker data. The session on Students as partners in technology initiatives: How does the technology aspect affect partnerships, and how can we make the most of this? also looks interesting.
Staff  digital skills – We also need to improve our staff digital literacy so the session on Witchcraft to Wonder – My journey empowering staff with technology sounds like a definite.
Data – I’m a big data fan and it is an area we’d like to explore at RAU. The session on Getting to grips with Learner Dashboards: a research informed critical approach to understanding their potential will be useful as does the well-named session Honey I shrunk the data: small design steps towards a data-informed blended learning approach .  I might also attend the workshop session on Using learning analytics to inform evidence-based interventions on live courses. Hopefully we can get some dashboards up and running in the next year.
VR – Virtual Reality offers so much potential. I’m hoping the Creating VR: what we learned along the way session will give some good pointers on how to get started. There is also Virtual Learning Environments: Walking in the Park or Wandering in the Jungle?. Sounds appropriate for an agricultural university!
Multimedia – Video is where it’s at. If I get time I will take a look at OSCEs at the Oscars: how video assessment has stolen the show and I like the look of the workshop Capturing Imaginations: Why it’s important to consider alternative uses of (lecture) capture technologies .
Distance learning and course design – For the Catalyst project, we need to design four blended learning programmes from scratch so any ideas are useful. I might try OSCAR: A Structured Approach to Course Design. We also know that we will be using ePortfolios for a considerable chunk of the assessments and the talk on Eportfolios in placements: unlocking the potential through collaboration could prove useful.
I’ll also be catching the keynotes from the fantastic all-female line up: Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Dr Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas.

I will be presenting a poster during the poster and talk session entitled From little acorns…growing a learning technology culture.  If you’d like to discuss what it’s like being part of a one-person team then please find me. As I explain in the brief the poster is “of interest to anyone who wants to hear about how ‘more with less’ is possible if you make the most of collaborations and outside help. There will be lots of useful tips and far too many agriculture analogies!” I’ll post up my poster as soon as it’s finished.
Of course, as we all know the networking opportunities are what really make a conference. The Awards Evening and Dinner at the Midland Hotel will be great and I’m looking forward to hearing who has been voted ALT Learning Technologist of the Year.
I’ll also be catching up with my fellow UCISA bursary winner Karl Luke (Business Change Officer from Cardiff University). Karl and I bumped into each other at the recent Panopto user group meet up in Birmingham. We’ll clink glasses on behalf of UCISA!
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

New UCISA Toolkit makes it easier to get effective IT communications right

UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit (www.ucisa.ac.uk/ITComms ) was officially launched at the 2018 Support Services Group conference in Crewe in the summer. Designed specifically for the UCISA community by UCISA members and accessible as a dynamic standalone microsite, the Toolkit has been well received.

Below HENRIK BROGGER, project contributor and Head of IT Service Delivery at Queen Mary University of London, offers his thoughts on why communication can sometimes be problematic and how the new UCISA toolkit is now the go-to resource for the why, how, what and who of getting your message across. You can also hear from some of the other members involved in its creation in this short YouTube video.

 

NEW UCISA TOOLKIT MAKES IT EASIER TO GET EFFECTIVE IT COMMUNICATIONS RIGHT

When contributing to the development of UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit, there was a lot of debate about the outcome we wanted. Personally, I was keen we didn’t produce a printed booklet because a static product is difficult to update or interact with if you are somewhere and don’t have it to hand.
We needed something digital — and we were all on board with the idea of an agile web space that could evolve and be added to. Now, if we need to rewrite or update a section, we can meet tomorrow and do it rather than having to start producing a second print edition from scratch.
Simplicity was our watchword. We wanted to make it really easy for you to get to the information you want and to give people real-life examples that they can look through, learn from or replicate themselves. As a microsite, it’s meant to be something you can dip into and out of easily. In that sense it’s almost bite-sized learning that you can refer to any time for examples, downloadable templates and other resources.
So yes, we fully embraced digital (and it was Blue Sky thinking, I think the next step would be some sort of App). We also embraced digital in project delivery — using Trello to monitor the project, track progress, list responsibilities and share comments with colleagues around the country and Google Docs and Google Hangouts for virtual meetings.
When I shared UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit with the senior management team here at QMUL, the immediate feedback was ‘This is really good. We can use it to have a communication strategy and plan for IT here’. I’d already floated this thought with peers but having one of the senior managers come out and back the idea so enthusiastically was a real result.
So now we’re doing it. We’ll be applying the learning to IT first because that’s the area we’re responsible for but it will link to, and support, the wider professional services strategy and the University’s overall strategy. We will of course be meeting with the marketing and communications people here as part of all that.
In fact, one of the things that came through loud and clear when discussing Toolkit content, as you can see on the website, is the need to ensure everything correlates. A communications strategy for IT is not a standalone piece — it has to tie in with the strategy for the rest of the University.
When it comes to communicating IT, I think that we tend to be fairly good at communicating down time and fairly good at communicating when something goes wrong — but less good at communicating when things go right, such as projects and tasks completed and the good feedback we’ve earned.
Communicating and celebrating success, not only with outside audiences but among ourselves, was something we talked about a lot and there’s a dedicated section on ways to do this within the new Toolkit.
There are challenges when communicating with the rest of the University. You’ve got to think about the needs of individual schools and institutes so the way you communicate might have to be different. You are addressing very intelligent people who are paid to think and question so you need to draft your content accordingly. It’s not like the private sector where someone might send one email about change to the whole organisation. Adopting a consultative approach, rather than diktat, is key.
As well as making sure your message is clear and pitched at the right level, I think we should all – whether within or outside IT – spend more time making sure the method of delivery is right.
Email is actually a very poor communication tool. If you are always sending emails it is often a zero-sum scenario because people will just scan and bin them. When a really important email comes through, they’re not going to be reading it. That’s why all other ways to communicate need to be considered. It’s really important to think about your audiences and what’s going to work with them.
Personally, I’ve found reflection on different ways to communicate really useful. For example, we now have a board up in IT so everyone walking by can see the kind of positive feedback we’ve been getting.
And among the interesting examples of communication on the Toolkit website is Leeds Beckett University’s ‘12 Days of IT Security’ Twitter campaign to increase student awareness of online safety in the digital world. For me, it really stands out as a novel way of communicating that both addresses the needs of students provides information in a way that they, as a digital generation, find natural.

Key take-outs:

    • UCISA’s new Communications Toolkit is available at www.ucisa.ac.uk/ITComms.

    • The Toolkit was produced by UCISA members for UCISA members. The dip-in-and-out microsite includes practical advice and examples on how to better communicate as an IT function as well as a range of ready-made templates that can be downloaded.

    • Communication channels and tools are constantly evolving.  Producing the Toolkit online, rather than as a printed booklet, means the content can continue to evolve, stay up to date and be added to.

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s Executive Director Peter Tinson execsec@ucisa.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

 

Seeking user experience design inspiration

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

UX Week 2018, San Francisco

Thanks to the UCISA bursary scheme, I’ve come from Glasgow to San Francisco for UX Week 2018. It’s awfy pretty here, though I have been accused of bringing the Scottish ‘summer’ with me. 
UX Week is a ‘premier’ annual conference, now in its 16th year, with a fantastic reputation for delivering ‘new tools you can put to use immediately’. As a self-taught user experience researcher, and leader of a grassroots project to build a UX Framework for my University, I like the sound of that very much. 
In my work on internally-facing websites and digital systems at the University of Glasgow, I try to employ the UX mindset and methods at all times. This helps me defeat my assumptions and produce data-driven content that solves our users’ actual problems in ways that are intuitive to them.

Levelling up and sharing the love

Over the next four days, I aim to level-up my UX skills and toolkit, and pick up lots of tips on how to communicate the benefits of UX, especially to senior management.
I will channel my new knowledge into my University’s drive towards user-centred services, and share it with other universities through the Scottish Web Folk group, the HE-Digital Slack channel, and here on the UCISA blog.

Learning from the best

The range of speakers looks amazing: as well as UX researchers and designers we’ll be hearing from academics, authors, project managers, CEOs, founders and futurists. Content themes include accessibility and inclusivity, the ethics and social power of design, and how we might imagine the future into being.
As well as two full days of talks, I’ll also be attending four half-day workshops. These promise to be practical, hands-on and pretty intense:
• Maps & Markers: Enacting a Strategy to Transform Your Design Team
• Paying Better Attention to the Problem
• We’ve Done All This Research, Now What?
• Just Show the Data! How to Design Better Data Visualizations.

Community of practice

As much as all the scheduled stuff, I can’t wait to be surrounded by user experience professionals from loads of different backgrounds and industries; in my experience so far, UXers are utterly lovely people.
And of course the organisers of a conference about human-centred experience design, have designed in plenty of fun, human experiences: amongst other things, the social programme includes trips to a street food festival and SF’s Exploratorium…I think it’s going to be a good week.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

Testosterone, mental well-being and Robotics Engineer Barbie

UCISA’s recent Support Services Conference in Crewe saw a passionate panel and audience debate on a wide range of diversity issues including ways to increase the number of women entering and progressing across the sector’s IT workforce and how members can support colleagues facing mental health challenges. Supporting diversity is a key aspect of UCISA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan and here, UCISA Executive Director Peter Tinson reflects some of the key comments and learning from the SSG18 session.

 

TESTOSTERONE, MENTAL WELL-BEING AND ROBOTICS ENGINEER BARBIE

When De Montfort University’s Tim Ingham kicked off the SSG18 debate on diversity he led with some interesting statistics. Less than 20% of software roles in IT are held by women. Less than 16% of tech companies are founded by women. Only 18% of computer science graduates are women and across the IT industry only 17% of organisations have women in a Board role.
Despite many positive steps, including the fact that diversity is now an accepted priority for any forward-thinking organisation, IT still has an image problem. As a career destination, it doesn’t look or feel welcoming to women when, as one female audience member attested, you may well find yourself one of only three women in a department with 46 men. It’s sadly not surprising that another reported just two of 48 recent service desk job candidates were female.
Panel member and itSMF Director Barclay Rae won support for his summary of the driver of IT’s career destination perception as simply testosterone – an overabundance of masculinity that’s a challenge not only for women but also, as we heard when discussing mental well-being, for men.
One of Barclay’s earliest managers, a woman, impressed the necessity of what she described as a good mix of people in any successful team. He reminded us that most programmers were women in the early days of IT ­ – Margaret Hamilton, lead programmer of the Apollo 11 moonshot, being among the most notable.
So what can we do? Many delegates bemoaned the dearth of female candidates in the educational and recruitment pipeline and pointed to the importance of neutral language in job ads – and in the day job.  As one delegate noted, we can all, men and women, play a role in calling out inappropriate blokeish behaviour even when it doesn’t cross the line to illegal.
When it comes to recruitment, all of us can influence HR colleagues not to demote communication, teamworking and relationship building as afterthought soft skills. These are vital proficiencies in customer facing roles and why lead on technical skills when most young candidates have lived with, and used, digital technologies since childhood?
Indeed, why not reappraise traditional recruitment approaches in more radical ways? Blind recruitment can help eliminate unconscious gender, class or socio-economic bias in not requiring candidates to reveal their name or background until the final interview shortlist following a text-based interview and technical challenge.
Attitudes are shaped from an early age and while schools can do their bit, delegates suggested those of us who are parents can speak with our wallets. A two year old is well capable of interacting with an iPad and 50 per cent of youngsters playing Minecraft, which inculcates many of the skills and interests needed to work successfully in IT, are girls. Further, Mattel’s latest Robotics Engineer Barbie shows an acceptance that toy choice can make a difference.
But ultimately, what influences the study and career choices of women is framed by society’s expectations and wider culture. It’s not something UCISA or UCISA members can change alone. However, we should not overlook the incremental power of individual changes ‑ such as Barclay’s refusal to sit on any all-male panel.
The fact that the conversation on gender diversity is in full flow is positive for both men and women. Just as positive is the fact that open conversation around male mental health and well-being is also gathering pace. In England, more women than men are likely to have a common mental health problem according to the The Mental Health Foundation.  But it’s men that make up 78% of all suicides. Traditional attitudes to masculinity can make it difficult for men to admit or talk about such issues.
As one delegate related from personal experience, It’s easy to talk about the effects of a broken arm or leg on work performance and attendance but psychological injury is unseen and, for many in unsupportive environments, harder to disclose.
With Mind reporting one in four UK adults suffer a mental health problem each year, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a large number of the panel audience acknowledged they’d faced a mental health challenge. What was significant, and encouraging, was the level of openness.
Managers can, and are, playing a key role here – having a strong relationship with their team, checking people are OK as well as their activity, being open enough to have trusted conversations, taking the time to read up on, understand and recognize common conditions.  Institutions can help too – by having mental health awareness days, making it easy for staff to access appropriate professional counselling and support and encouraging staff to tend to their mental well-being on an ongoing basis through approaches such as mindfulness and meditation.
The bottom line? Tackling diversity and helping colleagues overcome barriers is a duty on all of us. Male or female, everyone has a right to be treated with respect, empathy and simple humanity.

Key take-outs:

    • If you are leading a team, lead by example. Set the tone and contribute to a culture that’s appealing and welcoming to employee diversity.

    • The modern student body is diverse. Foster and encourage the mix of people and talent on your doorstep to consider a career in IT at your institution.

    • Reconsider your recruitment approach. What actions can you take to support applicant diversity?

    • Look out for news of UCISA’s new Mentoring Scheme and support progression of junior staff through use of UCISA’s Bursary Scheme which covers the cost of event and training programme registration, accommodation and travel for successful applicants who might otherwise miss out on such opportunities.

    • Take a look at the Tech Talent Charter. Can you persuade your institution or college to sign up?

    • Be human kind. Take the time to monitor the mental well-being of your staff as well as their workload progress. Deal with mental ill-health with the same empathy as physical ill-health. Understand different conditions and ensure access to necessary support.

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s Executive Director Peter Tinson execsec@ucisa.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

 

The professional advantages of a UCISA bursary

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

SITS, June 2018

The bursary I received from UCISA to attend the Service Desk and IT Support show (SITS18) has been a brilliant experience! Providing me with great insight into other IT support services colleagues outside of my own institution from both the UK and worldwide. In addition, it has shown me what changes and improvements companies can provide through their services to our sector.

New developments

We have in fact recently taken on board one of the services that was at SITS18 as we have been going through a new tool transition from LANDesk to Ivanti. For my own personal adjustment to the change, and that of my colleagues, a lot has been learned from feedback from SITS and from analysing what was presented at this event. Insights into how other institutes have customised their tool/workspace, which I learnt about at SITS, have been useful to know about. This information can help shape our new tool, which is being customised to our needs.

Sharing with colleagues

As soon as I returned to the office, I discussed many elements of my findings with colleagues, which was great and I believe insightful to them. As well as talking about lectures and people that I came across during the event, I also talked about the companies I saw too, and the research I carried out at SITS, and the information that they had provided me with. In addition to this, we are actually putting a couple of these systems in place which we are testing to see if they are suitable for our institute. From the knowledge I provided to colleagues, it has given a great insight to those who may be using the systems in the future.
Due to this bursary having an application process from individuals in institutes across the country and the announcement being made on the UCISA website, many people were aware of the scheme and that I had successfully been awarded a bursary. People such as my colleagues would ask me about it and the event, which was an interesting way to stimulate new conversions with others.

Organisational benefits

I had a few interactions with companies that have got in touch with our institute before and had some nice discussions about practices. I took note of what they were also saying about comparing benefits to the methods mentioned. This was great! From one another we both received updates and further awareness of each other, which may aid us both in the future. It was a good way to make the companies who provide assistance and solutions, aware of needs and ideas that they could implement in their company/products.

Blogging with confidence

The blogs I wrote have been a great way to share my findings with anyone who wishes to seek insight into this event. The event provides great knowledge from providers, lectures giving assistance with institutional development, which I discussed in my blogs, and of course, I also mention information on visiting a conference/event from the perspective of an employee in the IT sector and how to make the most of it. In my case, I also gained more additional content by attending the InfoSec event, next door to SITS. The blog is great form of communication – basically an article that those who do not know me personally can still gain from by reading my findings at their convenience.

Early career benefits

Overall, I am very thankful that my bursary application was accepted giving me a chance to attend this conference as it has not only provided some great insight for others in this sector and my colleagues, but it has also greatly benefited me personally and my early career start in IT. Hopefully, this has opened more doors for my future as the insight provided by the event has also given me more knowledge for my role and enhanced my understanding of the sector from both sides; front facing and behind the scenes.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

Identifying common points of failure in technology implementation

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

The Service Desk and IT Support Show, June 2018

Attending SITS18 in June, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, has helped me learn about the most common points of failure in an implementation programme. These include:
  • Ineffective coaching program
  • Management not taking ownership
  • No workflow or content standard
  • Wrong metrics
  • Seeing it as just a project.
From one of the SITS sessions, I learnt that Eptica had compiled some interesting stats together this year from customers which are useful to be aware of:
91% of customers report that they become frustrated if they are not able to find answers they are looking for online quickly
75% of customers report incidents where agents haven’t had the right or sufficient information to be able to answer their question
70% say that they often experience inconsistent answers between channels
94% of customers say a high-quality response makes them loyal.
By looking at these statistics, it looks as if communication is the key factor which makes and breaks a successful service.

The role of AI

We must adapt to change and the change in how early/what technology people are introduced to. There were a number of different sessions which looked at AI over the course of the conference including: ‘The role of AI and the automation in the rebirth of IT’ and ‘What AI will mean for ITSM and you’. AI is now a key component in many households, which the newest generations are now experiencing at a very early stage. However, there is still an audience that has not had the same experience and may struggle to adjust. One of the speakers stated that in 2011 it had been predicted that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of its relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. It is quite noticeable today that it is in fact quite close to that already. So with AI, how can it be harnessed as a tool to make an efficient service for the customer?

The importance of individuals

This follows a point on performance of individuals. Although we are human and not robots we should have a uniform/quite identical approach and knowledge database when assisting a customer so that we can provide an effective and positive service. We can all be guilty of cherry picking who we want to deal with to get the satisfaction we need, but all involved should be able to provide that; behaviour and knowledge are very important factors in providing good customer experience. ‘Shift left’ is a great example of this as it reduces the time a customer has to spare to receive a resolution, but also helps the person/people providing the support to be more efficient and productive in their work. This may possibly save time from unnecessary escalation and provide more time on tasks that may require additional focus.
Other points noted regarding what makes a service/tool run well are as follows:
Consolidation, Compliance, Security, Adoption, Optimisation, Integration, Mobilisation, Collaboration, Collaboration, Efficiency, Productivity.
To elaborate on a couple, Adoption is a key element on both user and support side. The service/tool needs to be adopted as smoothly as possible to enable the service overall to be at its constant prime, so that it can resume or start as expected to complete its duties. Mobilisation is also another factor which relates to availability. In order to achieve the optimal service for a customer, such as online remote support, mobility plays an important part providing support no matter where the customer is.

I met with Sally Bogg for a short while on the first day who is the head of our end services at Leeds Beckett and was also talking at SITS on career development for women in IT.  We attended a keynote session on Women in Technology lead by Dr Sue Black OBE. It was quite inspiring and Dr Black had some amazing stories which she kindly shared with us all.

Conclusion

Although my role is not a managerial one and I cannot make decisions regarding the take-up of tools, it was a pleasure to learn about them. It has been a great experience to take this information back for research purposes and also to document in these blogs how we can improve our attitude and processes. I also spoke to the vendors about how colleagues and I have utilised these tools. The vendors were glad to receive feedback at the event which they could take back to improve their provision to us all.
I spoke to many individuals at this event and it has not only been beneficial for my role but also for my own confidence. Thank you very much to UCISA for the opportunity to attend this event – it is one that I’ll keep with me.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Meet the professional

Rhiannon Gillespie
Service Desk Advisor
Cardiff University 

Interview with a 2018 Bursary Winner

Job title: Senior Technician – Networks
Department: University IT
How long have you been in your current role?
3 weeks!
What does your role involve?
Maintaining and supporting the University’s network infrastructure. This includes the wired network, wireless network and telephony systems.
As part of the role I deploy new network outlets, wireless access points and telephones, as well as supporting existing infrastructure and fixing it when it breaks!
To help build my skills, I successfully applied for a bursary from UCISA, which enabled me to attend the CISCO Live IT networking conference in Orlando, Florida in June. This was an amazing opportunity and has really helped my confidence and skills. I was able to attend sessions and talks during the event, including a four-hour session called CISCO Empowered Women’s Network on the Sunday before the main conference.
As a newbie to the world of networks and being the only woman in our team, this session really helped to boost my confidence and expertise. My favourite talk was about women on the front line of the disaster response.
Tell us a bit more about your career history
My first job was as a lifeguard and swimming teacher in Caerphilly followed by a few shop jobs and then working as an administrative assistant for South Wales Police.
I started working at Cardiff University in 2009 on the IT Service Desk. This was my first role in IT and it involved supporting IT services for the whole University, both for staff and students.
While working here I led the project for the online live chat service, which was successfully rolled out this year. I started working with the network team once a week around 18 months ago to further my skills and a few weeks ago was seconded to work with them full time for three months.
Where are we most likely to find you outside of work?
Usually running around after my daughter while she takes part in her million activities! Otherwise I enjoy going to the gym (even though I moan about aching the next day!) or reading a good book.
What makes Cardiff University a great place to work?
I love that the University offers opportunities to all whether it be via standard training or working with other teams. I also love that they care about staff wellbeing and offer various events such as sustainability week and the Positive Health + Environment Week.
First published in the Cardiff University, IT Newsletter
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Learning about the importance of customer feedback at SITS18

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

The Service Desk and IT Support Show, June 2018

The seminars at SITS2018, which I was able to attend courtesy of a UCISA bursary, consisted of hour long talks. I have condensed here and in my next blog, information that was mentioned in the talks, which I believe may be helpful to colleagues.

Key points included learning that:
A vision for a project should be: Direct, clear, brief, achievable, believable
The mission for a project should include: What, how, from whom, why
In order to understand requirements, it is important to look at: processes, strategy, functionality, output, future
Future requirements for IT services are likely to include: Shift left testing, self-service/help/healing, AI/chatbots, business relationship management, predictive analytics
Effective research should include: Engaging with experts, engaging with community, demo, SDI intelligence, seminars, software showcase
The following inputs provide opportunities to improve: Customer satisfaction surveys, complaints/compliments and suggestions, management reports, major incident and quality reviews, cross-functional meetings, corridor conversations, social media.
These foundations should help create and sustain success if applied correctly and should continue to be focused on even after the initial launch date. For instance, if maintained, regular performance reviews will help improve services. Another factor that is sometimes overlooked, is when a small and quick addition or change is made. These play a big part in improvement and promotion of the tool.
Other areas that are important to consider include the fact that customers do not necessary want a silent switch out and may like to be informed of improvements being made to the system they use. It is important to advertise the product/tool that is being put in place, inform users why there is an improvement but also underline how it should not be problematic for the users to get the service they require. Customer experience is a huge factor in whether something fails and this should be constantly monitored.
Pictured here is a cycle of processes that I was shown at the conference, which I believe are important from the presentation by Matt Greening, ‘The Naked Service Desk’. It is a good way to further understand satisfaction levels. Correspondingly, another speaker that day underlined that ‘user experience drives improvement’ so keeping, observing and collating this useful data, can help lead to improvements.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

 

Logic Apps and BizTalk Integration

Bryony Lloyd
Information Services Developer
University of Lincoln

Integrate 2018

I was lucky to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend Integrate 2018 in London, without which I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go. Integrate is the conference to attend for anyone working in Microsoft Integration and is a two day event.
I turned up early to register, collect my name badge and to talk to other attendees from other organisations. They also had an amazing pre-conference breakfast available! Being able to talk to other people outside of your own experiences with integration and BizTalk, was useful in order to be able to gain different perspectives on integration, practices, and design used within the industry. Lunch times again were another opportunity to be able to talk to the experts of the different companies that were exhibiting. This included talking to current suppliers and getting clarification on configuring and using their product in our environment.

Pre-conference preparation

It is always helpful to establish a few things before going to the conference:
  • Check out the conference website for the agenda
  • Do some research on the speakers attending, look at their work and blogs, this will give you some preparation on their listed talk. Plus, if there is any speaker you are unsure about e.g. who they are, you will not be going in completely unprepared.
  • Make sure you have the hotel and the conference addresses as well as any travel information so you know where you are going
  • If possible, go down the day before and visit the venue so you know where you are going
  • Lastly, be prepared by taking a notebook and pen.

Logic Apps and BizTalk integration

After the welcome talk we went straight into the conference about integration using Microsoft Azure,  Logic Apps and BizTalk.
The sessions were led by integration experts, and experts within their own fields, and from different companies who are using Biztalk and Logic Apps within their environments.  They also covered how Azure is helping companies achieve strategic goals. Within these sessions there were also announcements about new features within Azure and BizTalk 2016. It was really good to be able to hear about these, and have the opportunity to talk to experts on how these can be utilised effectively. Having this information, also means I am able to bring back and relay that information to the integration team at the University of Lincoln.  This will help increase the understanding, effective implementation and upgrade to these new features.
It was interesting and helpful, to hear about the real world solutions, and the pros and cons that have been encountered from the experts who have implemented these, as well as the lessons learnt in the process. We also heard about the pros of having a serverless environment achieved through Azure, and of improved costs, and easier and quicker development. Although we will always learn our own lessons in any development process, being able gain knowledge on throttling and access rights was very helpful.  However, I think the biggest lessons learnt from the conference were always use the best tools for the job and don’t try to fit the tools with the solution!

New technologies and practices (to us)

There were a few technologies and tools which we don’t currently use. Getting a basic understanding, and being able to talk to the experts about these technologies and tools, is useful for future development and deployment within our environment. This was helped by seeing these technologies in use first-hand by other businesses and developers in the conference sessions. Development tools I saw included, API Management, and monitoring tools for the environment such as ServiceBus360.  I also learnt about the integration possibilities with an upgraded environment and best practices from industry experts.
Recaps of both days can be found here: Day One and Day Two. This conference was hugely beneficial for me, mainly to be able to find information on other practices, environments, and experiences outside of the university integration team. Going forward this information will benefit the way we carry out integration as a team.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.