Skip to main content

Our Unidesk shared service

I'm pleased to see that UCISA's Executive Secretary has written a blog post about the Unidesk shared service for service management.  This was set up by the universities of Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Abertay, who were joined last year by Sheffield Hallam.  Unidesk currently provides facilities for incident reporting and handling (i.e. service calls), enhancement request, and for managing change & release.  The next development of the service will add a configuration management database.

I am impressed that Peter managed to write his blog post without once mentioning the ITIL framework for service management.  From our point of view, the entire aim of the Unidesk project was to provide a comprehensive service for the ITIL set of practices.  Peter is more interested in how the shared service was set up and managed.

Unidesk has been a great success for us.  It hasn't always been plain sailing behind the scenes, as you would expect with any complex IT installation.  Back at the start, the integration with the Shibboleth federated identity took a while to get sorted.  It also took us a while to align the release plan across the different institutions.  Overall though, the system has been reasonably pleasant and pain-free.  If you are in a UK university, do come and join us.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Presentation: Putting IT all together

This is a presentation I gave to an audience of University staff: 

In this seminar, I invite you to consider what the University’s online services would be like, if we worked together to design them from the perspective of the student or member of staff who will use them, instead of designing them around the organisational units that provide them. I’ll start with how the services might appear to that student or member of staff, then work back from there to show what this implies for how we work, how we manage our data, and how we integrate our IT systems. It might even lead to changes in our organisational structure.

Our online services make a vital and valued contribution to the work of our students and staff. I argue that with better integration, more consistent user interfaces, and shared data, this contribution could be significantly enhanced.

This practice is called “Enterprise Architecture”. I’ll describe how it consults multiple organisational units and defines a framework …

Not so simple...

A common approach to explaining the benefits of Enterprise Architecture is to draw two diagrams: one that shows a complicated mess of interconnections, and one that shows a nicely layered set of blocks. Something like this one, which came from some consultants:


I've never felt entirely happy with this approach.  Yes, we do want to remove as much of the needless complexity and ad-hoc design that litters the existing architecture.  Yes, we do want to simplify the architecture and make it more consistent and intelligible.  But the simplicity of the block diagram shown here is unobtainable in the vast majority of real enterprises.  We have a mixture of in-house development and different third-party systems, some hosted in-house, some on cloud infrastructure and some accessed as software-as-a-service.  For all the talk of standards, vendors use different authentication systems, different integration systems, and different user interfaces.

So the simple block diagram is, basically, a l…

2016 has been a good year

So much has happened over the last year with our Enterprise Architecture practice that it's hard to write a succinct summary.  For my day-to-day experience as enterprise architect, the biggest change is that I now have a team to work with.  This time last year, I was in the middle of a 12-month secondment to create the EA practice, working mainly on my own.  Now my post has been made permanent and I have recruited two members of staff to help meet the University's architectural needs.

I have spent a lot of the year meeting people, listening to their concerns and explaining how architecture can help them.  This communication remains vital, the absolute core of what we do and we will continue to meet people in this way.  We also talk to people in other Universities in order to learn from what they are doing and to share our own experience back.  A highlight in this regard was my trip to the USA last January.

Our biggest deliverable for the past year was the design of the data wa…