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Showing posts from January, 2013

Users telling stories

It seems simple enough.  The project sponsor tells the business analyst what they want; the business analyst structures these requirements and documents them; the systems analyst translates this into a technical design; the developer implements the design; everyone checks it and then it goes into production.  Only everyone knows its not that simple.

The idea of a "User Story" seems simple too.  The project team, which includes someone from the business unit, identify a feature that someone will need in the system.  They write it in a simple format: "As a , I want , so that I get .  They agree how they will know when the feature is implemented satisfactorily.  They give an estimate as to how long it will take, decide its priority, and if the priority is high enough then they implement it.

This idea of user stories originated in Agile project methods and have several advantages over more traditional techniques for gathering requirements.  They are written in the language …

Office 365 for students

On Monday, undergraduate and taught postgraduate students returning for the new semester were greeted with a new e-mail service.  Using Microsoft's cloud-based system, Office 365, this new service gives students a modern web interface and a maximum mailbox size of 25GB each.

The service also provides a new student e-diary. In due course, this will become an important source of information, as further projects will automatically populate students' diaries with personalised timetables and other key appointments. 

In addition, students also have access to web versions of Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel and OneNote; and space to create a personal web site. These are currently not explicitly supported by IS; we are simply giving students access to this functionality for them to use if they wish.

A lot of work went into this move.  Last semester we moved research postgraduate students onto the staff e-mail systems, as feedback from the schools showed that this was the option prefe…

Drupal for the Enterprise

For the past few months we have been investigating whether Drupal might be a suitable CMS for our university's web presence.  Several people in the university already use Drupal for smaller sites and we use it ourselves in that way.  It is popular and highly flexible.  It has been used for a number of highly visible sites around the world and so would likely handle the number of page hits that our central web site receives.

The big question for us was whether the large number of modules that are available for Drupal could be managed in a consistent way across our large, devolved, institution.  The university has over 500 people who can edit some part or other of our central web site and we need mechanisms for managing this access.  We want to be able to share information between different parts of this distributed information architecture, a requirement that is very different from running a more centralised operation. 

Meanwhile, Drupal modules are written and maintained by a larg…