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If you're working with University IT teams, you're going to eventually be talking with (or wanting to talk with) the CIO. After all, there's a common belief that they are involved in all the key decisions. But if you've not worked with many before, how do you approach the conversation? What is it that they will want to hear about?
Sadly, I can't answer that directly for you - because each CIO is different - but I can point you towards a fantastic CIO interview of Mick Houlahan, who's the retiring CIO of the University of Western Sydney. He talks about his last 20 years, and some of the challenges and successes from that time. There's a few interesting numbers - like the fact that although student numbers have nearly doubled, the IT staff have remained the same. And the number of applications they support has quadrupled from 35 to 140.
Read the full Mick Houlahan article
Marquette University in Milwaukee has 11,000 students and 1,00 faculty and staff. As an independent university, they've got to make their budgets add up, so when they started to build three new campus buildings, they looked at the cost of the core services they provide - including their phone systems. What they did was replace their existing PBX phone system with a unified communications system - chopping their annual telecom costs in half, saving $120,000 a year.
I only know about this because of the story on the CIO Australia website, written by Shane O'Neill. There's detailed background about the decisions they took (and the alternatives they explored) to get them to where they are today - 1,000 staff using Lync as a replacement for their telephones, and adding audio & video conferencing, as well as instant messaging.
The full article is definitely worth a read, as one of the key elements is the key learnings that they made whilst doing the switch:
Read the full story on the CIO website
I've just been browsing the OECD report, Trends Shaping Education 2010, which takes a look at the international evidence about education progress across the globe, and how patterns are changing. The reports are based on data from the OECD, the World Bank and the UN.
The report covers:
The final chapter, on ICT, contains a bunch of interesting statistics with international comparisons. Some of the statistics for Australia reported in the research include:
The report goes on to say:
You can actually download the data tables that the report was based on - and use that for your own analysis. For example, there appears to be no visible link between exam results (from the 2009 PISA Results) and Frequent Computer Use at School and Frequent Computer Use at Home. I think that's a statement about examinations and what we're testing (but I won't repeat it here - you can see what I think from my earlier blog post).
Last Thursday evening I spent the evening at Calumo's offices in North Sydney, at their Club Calumo user group meeting. After a period of relaxed conversation over pizza and drinks, we got down to the serious side of the evening - hearing some of the users talking about how they are using the Calumo systems to get a better insight into the finances of their organisations. In the case of last week, it was two not-for-profit organisations - the National Trust and the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The UNSW team called their presentation "Dollars and Sense", and was all about the way that they used the business intelligence system to manage the finances across a distributed university finance system - where in some universities the faculties hold more power than the central teams. What they have done is to create a nimble way of users being able to get hold of data, manipulate it, perform what-if experiments - and all from the comfort of Excel. For them, it was about giving users a way to see their data from the tools they were already using, rather than forcing them to learn a new system.
The UNSW team also shared some quick stats of their business - with a revenue of over $1bn, 40,000 students and over 5,000 staff, it makes them a very significant business in Sydney.
On one of the pieces of paper handed out, Gary McLennan the CFO at UNSW, is quoted as saying:
And an example given on the day by Alister Cairns, who's the MIS Systems Manager at UNSW, showed exactly what that meant - now they can produce a completely new report in a few days when it previously took 3-6 months to get a new financial report specified, created and running. I get the impression that we're changing into a new way of doing things, when it is quicker to build systems, than it used to be to even just write the specification for it.
I've now heard a few different universities talking about how they've started to use business intelligence systems to give them a better view of what's going on. And the recurring theme is that they've had to resort to mild guerrilla tactics - to start by building a system outside of their normal systems and processes - because the existing monolithic systems have proved to be difficult to work with. It almost appears as if users and departments are trying to fly under the radar of the IT team, in case they get stopped.
As we need more and more data sources glued together, in order to manage complex, fast moving scenarios (like student load planning) then the tension - between existing monolithic data systems, and users who need to analyse data - is going to increase.
William Holmes À Court, the CEO of the National Trust talked about "Doing More With Less", and especially about how they have built their whole system to be used by volunteers around the state, which means using the tools they were already familiar with, like email and Excel, rather than creating a completely new system. He told lots of entertaining stories, but the one statistic that stuck in my head was that weeds cost Australia $6 billion a year. That stuck in my head, because I realised if you can stick a cost on weeds, then you should be able to put a cost on anything!
It doesn't look invisible. And the noise it makes as it comes down the school driveway every week isn't invisible. But it might as well be invisible - your mind tunes out things you see every day. Which means that school managers have got used to the paper delivery lorry turning up every week, and the tens of thousands of sheets of paper being delivered weekly for the school copiers and printers.
In the UK I did some research that showed an average high school was using over one million sheets of paper a year - with some up to two million. And since arriving in Australia, I have been deluged with so many sheets of paper from my children's school, that I reckon the numbers are going to be even higher here.
For context, one million sheets of paper is almost twice the height of the Sydney Opera House - which you really would notice if it all came down the school driveway on one day!
Obviously, using that volume of paper is a huge expense - and in many cases, schools are spending as much on paper, copying and printer toner as they are on their main ICT budget. So if there's a way of reducing paper usage, it would deliver a real cash saving as well as an environmental benefit. As an added thought, even just shifting the mix of where things are printed can save money, as printing on classroom inkjets or laser printers can cost up to 6x more than printing on large, shared, multi-function devices around the school. In my research I also came across a school that had as many printers as they had staff - with some staff having more than one each!
There are plenty of things that can be done to save money on this:
There are plenty of things that you can do - but first you have to build the momentum for change. Which means that you've got to make sure the lorry isn't invisible any more. And how do you do that? The easiest way is to find out how much paper you are using at your school (half an hour with the admin team and a quick scan of the last few invoices from your stationery provider), and then you've got a story to share with your principal about the invisible lorry.
Last week I wrote about the call for more examinations to use IT - to more closely follow the style of learning and working today. At the back of my mind was the fact that in some Scandinavian countries this has been happening - and I've finally found the info.
In Denmark, in 2009, the government started a pilot where they were delivering examinations online, and students had full access to the internet during them. Although they were forbidden from messaging or emailing each other or people outside of the room, they were allowed to use the internet to hunt down relevant information. You can read the full story on the BBC News website.
Going back to the example of my daughter from the last post, this would be fascinating. If she had full access to the web in an exam, would she be able to focus on the task in hand, or would she be distracted off to other places and end up lost in Facebook? I think that would actually be a pretty good test for her future employers - because if she can't stay on task in an exam, what are the odds that she's going to be able to stay on task in the office. Quite a nice test of employability skills!
CIO Australia featured a case study on Marist College in Canberra, which has completed their move over to SharePoint as a basis for their future development of their administration and teaching and learning systems. One of the difficulties I have always had when describing SharePoint is that it can do so much, it is almost impossible to put it in a brief paragraph. Ultimately, it's a platform upon which you can build other things - process flow, document management, social networking - which means that the same basic functions can be used for many different things. Think about document management and process handling - in a school, that's as relevant for enrolments, homework assignments or meeting minutes.
So it is good to read about a College where they see that platform potential, and have a plan in place to extend the strategic use of SharePoint over time. Their first move was to use it as a way of bringing together isolated pockets of information. According to Michael Plenty, the ICT manager at Marist College who's quoted in the article:
You can read the full article on the CIO Australia website
A colleague shared with me a list of other free ebooks from Microsoft Press, that you may find useful too. Many of them are quite technical, so they won't be for everybody. I bet there are some colleagues around you that would appreciate this list:
Personally, I haven't read them all - but I have read the Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions book - mainly to make sure that I can keep up with some of my more technical colleagues and customers, and to understand what the true potential can be in different scenarios.
Find all the other 'Free Download' posts on this Education blog
Late last year, Microsoft in the US published "The Economics of the Cloud", which I've only just got around to reading. If you are running a data centre in education - either at university or state level - then this is a good read to understand where your costs are adding up, and where you could be making savings. The document has some data points which were surprises for me (I love data points, so this report made my day):
With so many Cloud projects happening in education in Australia, I wonder if anybody is yet collecting the statistics for what's being saved - in power, space or dollar terms?
Download your copy of The Economics of the Cloud
There's a new case study out this week on the University of Canberra's use of virtualisation in their data centre. There's plenty of detail in the case study of what they did (and which products they used, basing it on the Hyper-V virtualisation system built into Windows Server 2008 R2). Rather than dive into that detail, I think the key thing to look at is the way that they have built a much more flexible IT infrastructure for the university, which along the way has virtualised 60% of their servers, including their Red Hat Linux ones. According to Tom Townsend, the IT Data Centre Manager at the University:
We now have a flexible, responsive IT environment, which positions us to grow and change in line with the demands of today’s dynamic university environment. This makes us more agile. We can implement the technologies we want as soon as they become available. From a business perspective, being able to trial and commission new services quickly gives us a real advantage.
We’re managing a much larger number of servers with fewer staff.
They've also reduced the power and cooling running costs of their data centre by 20% - a significant contribution when electricity rates are continuing to go up.
Read the full University of Canberra virtualisation case study