Our principles guide how we take action and make decisions across the IT Services department. They help us to deliver the best possible service to staff and students across the University and reach our strategic goals.
They have been developed collaboratively with contributions from the IT Senior Management Team and IT managers and document the principles the team are currently working to as well as some new principles we aspire to.
The below is the first iteration of our IT principles and is by no means a final version. We welcome your feedback on this first draft to ensure we are accurately reflecting the aspirations of the department.
We value creativity, innovation and agility and vow to make 20% of time available to all staff for team building, training, learning, knowledge sharing, innovation, experimentation and realisation of good ideas. This needs to be flexible, it’s not intended to mean a day a week in a block, but to encourage a culture of learning and innovation and set the expectation that we can only allocate 80% of a person’s time to “normal” activities. It also helps us to attract talent. Considering the individual and role is essential, and it may be part of the day job in one situation and require taking time away from the desk in another.
Our training budget will match our aspirations, and every member of staff will regularly discuss their training needs with their line manager. Training will meet the demands of IT in five years, not just the now and will be included as part of any procurement we do.
We recognise that business systems will move to SaaS and want to help the staff that support these systems to support other areas of our infrastructure provision.
We will send staff to the best conferences, seeking inspiration from outside HE and will always think about higher long-term value.
The best conferences add value. Learning that benefits the individual and the organisation changes the way we work and our vision, helps us to network, influences the industry, and increases our reputation. We will always value paying for staff to attend a well-curated and useful experience rather than for them to attend a mediocre one for free.
Multiple people attending conferences has proved valuable for team building, deep thinking and transformation of our work and this is something we will continue to encourage where appropriate.
We seek and promote equality, diversity and inclusion in our teams.
We are committed to developing our skills and capabilities in AWS and Azure. We will continue to learn from incidents, without assigning blame, and follow up on actions. Using an early and often approach we will share knowledge with each other, making sure that projects include dedicated time for knowledge exchange.
We will remain customer centric, employ co-design principles, and use customer friendly language in all of our interactions. This means continuing to recognise the wide range of customers who come to us with varying needs and skills and using a flexible approach to address this.
We aim to build services that are intuitive, reliable and stress-free (IT that “just works”) and are committed to accessibility. When designing and reviewing services we will engage with standards and diverse groups. We will use the same services we provide to our customers including assured devices, to expose ourselves to the frustrations our customers may experience.
Service levels will be agreed with departments that allow services to be delivered in more efficient and effective ways, identifying internal and external customer pain points and seeking to provide self-service capability. We will also increase our focus on digital literacy and direct support for teaching and research.
The same teams will design, build and operate our infrastructure. Our approach will encourage continual improvement and incremental delivery against a product roadmap, rather than projects that succeed or fail in a single step. We will embed infrastructure staff into software delivery teams to deliver expertise where it is needed on projects.
To improve efficiency and consistency we will automate what can be automated across all of our teams. We will develop an architecture capability and governance appropriate to the challenges of the University, ensuring that anything we create adds value and always looking within and outside of the sector for inspiration and innovation.
Monitoring should be comprehensive and proactive and alerts should contain context and give confidence that they require action.
Where possible we will avoid the complexity and inefficiency of internal recharging and will support early career researchers who may not yet have external funding. Under this model we provide core services, networking, storage, virtual machines and HPC.
We will ensure the core IT capital and revenue supports all University activities, including research and aim to provide an equivalent experience to all students, whether on-campus, online or studying from other countries, both taught and research.
We will document the services we offer, including our storage options, so that customers can select the most appropriate service for their needs, and understand any costs when writing grant proposals. Charges may apply where higher levels of usage require us to purchase additional cloud or infrastructure capacity, or where we wish to discourage use of a service.
By ‘all’ we mean staff, student and academic visitors. Although defining our level of support for subsidies and companies that we interact with is beyond the scope of these principles, a common model is to provide standard services where there is no additional cost for delivery or impact on academic use of our facilities, and to charge for any additional.
Recognising all the additional advantages of a cloud based approach and the need to consider long term direction, we will always consider using the cloud before implementing a local solution. We will accept a cost increase, not waiting for cloud to become cheaper than on-premise.
We will promote the use of cloud for research computing over traditional models of owning physical hardware and will continue to engage with Finance to develop new models that require less capital and more revenue.
Rather than trying to be fully cloud-agnostic we will continue our strategy of making full use of individual clouds and focus our development on AWS.
We recognise the advantages of SaaS, DBaaS and serverless infrastructure over infrastructure that requires us to maintain it and always seek to understand TCO (total cost of ownership) and environmental impact as part of that decision making process.
We expect that resilient physical data centres will be required for a number of years, necessitating the two physical locations with UPS, generator provision and other supporting plant.
To enable senior leadership to make decisions about the future, we will develop a fully costed model for the data centres and the services hosted there. In the immediate future, we expect the majority of storage to continue to be hosted in our data centres, due to cost.
The physical network infrastructure (wiring centres, cabling routes and cables between and within buildings) is essential to the operation of the wired and wireless networks, and we will review these to ensure they are adequate to support the availability expected of the network by staff and students. We note that improving wireless requires improving the wired infrastructure, as power and data requirements are continually increasing.
We recognise that environmental sustainability is a core University principle, and that the University is committed to “net zero carbon emissions on campus by 2030.” We will help our customers to understand the total impact, financial and environmental of their decisions, and push to retire inefficient or redundant servers and services.
We will work with DTEF colleagues to gain a full understanding of the energy consumption of different approaches, including accurate, detailed and timely reporting, and factor this into the conversation around on-prem vs cloud. Where it is not environmentally or financially justified, we will avoid the repurposing of old equipment taking full account of energy consumption.
To minimise the generation of e-waste, we will only purchase devices such as mobile phones that are supported for their useful lifespan and will always dispose of e-waste in a responsible way. To improve lifecycle management we will provide customers with information about all the IT services they are using.
Where possible we will seek to reduce the number of systems we support, consider the viability of non-core systems and consolidate storage platforms. We understand that we have limited resources and need to focus our efforts on delivering high-quality, sustainable and supportable services. It is not always possible to retain systems where user numbers are falling and such services should be identified early and retired quickly.
Sustainability is also about services, and we will always consider lifecycle. We will look to our strategic platforms before we propose an alternative solution and will prefer to buy a competent and cost-effective third party solution rather than build our own.
We appreciate our role in promoting cyber security across the University.
Security and privacy must be considered at the specification and design stage whether building our own or tendering for a solution, we will embrace the spirit of the GDPR as well as the technicalities of compliance. We will commit to zero trust as a design principle and aim to design services that consider who you are and your role, rather than where you are.
To support the University’s data governance strategy and ensure we understand our information assets, we will work closely with data governance and risk colleagues, to assess risk and design and implement appropriate controls to meet the acceptable risk level.
We will ensure that University devices, systems and services are secured through their lifecycle from secure commissioning and configuration, patch management to data and hardware disposal at end of life.
As part of the 2021 cybersecurity paper we stated that further security improvements would be funded as part of digital transformation and business change, and we will review all new projects to ensure security, sustainability and infrastructure is funded appropriately. We will align our policies to ISO 27001.
We are committed to one IT service, and “Digital,”“Infrastructure” and “Customer Engagement” will work together to be more than the sum of their parts.
We will fully participate in UCISA, RUGIT, RUGIT InfoSec, CiSP and Jisc information sharing initiatives. As we start to deliver a physical and digital infrastructure that supports the University’s ambitions, we will build strong relationships with our Estates & Facilities colleagues and ensure that we are present at the start of projects.
We will organise activities that promote the possibilities of IT to senior stakeholders, and actively engage in the University strategy and transformational initiatives to deliver joined up physical and digital experiences. To ensure that they have the support, training, resources and expertise required to deliver secure services, we will engage with IT teams outside of IT. The library is a key partner, particularly in the digital literacy space, and we will continue to work very closely with them on all things digital.
We recognise the dangers of siloed working and will open up our work and our thought processes to the widest appropriate audience. We will listen, think about the impact of our communication on others, assume the best in people, and behave with professional courtesy at all times.
The University's upcoming "Community without Limits" framework expands upon this, and will form an important part of our values.
When negotiating contracts we will consider what services the supplier should be providing. By working to improve our supplier management we will avoid unconstrained cost escalation and ensure that suppliers are providing what we are paying for.
We will seek to supplement our capabilities by engaging the correct partners, and avoid partners that do not align with our objectives or culture. When we find the right partner we will look to strengthen that relationship and work over longer time periods, rather than on a per-procurement or transactional basis. When contracts no longer represent value for money or the appropriate technology, we will seek to wind these down.