Flexible, really……

So just attended a workshop on flexible working……..interesting to say the least but unfortunately didn’t really tell me anything new.

So back in 1985 when I first started work (yes I know I really am that old), I had that good old flexi time, you know come and go as you please as long as you were in the office between 8.15 and 9.25 and leave between 4.00 – 6.15 pm and take at least 30 minutes lunch. Handed my clock card on the first day and off you go – no agreeing an early 4.00 pm finish, no working silly hours to build up weeks, half a day a month was all we could take.

Moved on from Local Government to a truck rental company and yes again we had flexi time – core hours changed but pretty much same rules – except we had the added advantage of being able to use a Saturday morning to make up our hours – great day if you wanted to get a load of work done in a quiet office.

And even as a retail manager, an element of flexible working was available, early finish Saturday, early start on load day and talked about with the other manager in store to agree who was doing what.

So what was the difference between then and now.

I could not work from home, as didn’t have the technology and to be frank really wouldn’t have wanted to get a customer to pick up a 38T truck up from my drive………. or take a delivery for 400 litres of milk on my front door step.  (It really was pre internet and home computers)

Working in a customer service roles the team still provide the services when the store was open or when a transport manager had had a breakdown at 6.00 am – but we seem to find it impossible to work flexible in role that I am in now and I think I have the answer……..

  1. Previously, I never had to go and ask for flexibility in any of my previous roles, it was talked about openly on the first day of the job. It was contractual in some cases. Having to ask to work flexibly is almost an admittance of not being able to do the role 8.45 – 5.00 that you have asked me to do, it is like saying “hey, I have something far more important to do than be at work”
  2. I never had to wait 26 weeks, it was a given that everybody had this opportunity from the first day of their contract. After all starting a new job, sorting out childcare, or even just travelling 40 miles to your job are all stressful enough, when trying to get to the office for 8.45 and you are on probation!
  3. Because everyone had the opportunity, no one felt like they were letting the team down. To be fair we are not all professional footballers, who have 90 minutes to deliver our work, we do have a day, week, month and as long as we are delivering it should not be a problem how and where we do it……
  4. There was absolute trust in the staff – yes there were clocking on machines, but everyone clocked on even the managers! But no one was questioned about why they wanted an afternoon off flexi – no one really cared after all you could only have one afternoon a month and quite often you would use flexi to go to the dentist, GP etc.
  5. There were rules, yes they were there and everyone new them, there was no policy that you had to read, form you had to fill in.

So the question is as a manager do I like flexible working. The answer is yes, but do we make it easy for staff or managers to provide it then I think it has to be no. A definite culture change is required to get everyone on board……..after all if work life balance is to improve, traffic queues reduced (due to the 9-5 culture), then we need a definite shift in this is not something you ask for, this is something we trust you to do! After all we managed it in the 80’s.

Comments and opinions are my own




10 years of an IT Service Desk

As we reach 10 years of having an IT Service Desk at the University, I thought it would be good to reflect on how things have changed.

So imagine life without wifi, without eduroam, without Google providing us with email and and an array of apps. Imagine not having a dedicated support desk for students (IT CONNECT).

Imagine life without a single point of contact for IT, or an online portal for checking the status of your logged requests and incidents. Oh and, to top it off, imagine only having wired internet in the halls of residence, our iconic but not-much-missed HallsNet, that allowed a massive 500Mb daily allowance. Imagine that today and hitting your limit after a few minutes of Netflix!

Imagine all this and you are then pretty much back in 2007.

I can remember trawling through forums looking for comments about HallsNet and think yes we are meeting student expectations; finding out that students’ were happy with the changes we had made:

“…….have now changed their policies regarding their internet system (Hallsnet). The central change means that if you exceed the 500mb d/l limit your internet access is removed for that day only. Before these changes a person would have been banned for a whole week (for the first offence) and 2 weeks for a second offence.”

We were going some way to meeting their expectations, even if we still had someway to go in terms of usage limits!

So student and staff needs have changed. We are now always connected and I think we would all miss being able to walk across campus checking status updates on social media or emails on the move. Social Media is something we’ve become accustom to using as a Service Desk too; in fact our very own IT Services Graduate spends his time looking at what we can offer you on Twitter or Facebook that will provide you with information that may be helpful one day……..In 2007 all you had was a leaflet telling you the basics. (We didn’t have an IT Graduate in 2007, infact thinking about it none of the staff on the Service Desk were even full time employees).

So from a support point of view do we meet your expectations of what a Service Desk should be achieving?  Well, we answer most enquiries within 4 hours now, and we deal with over 30,000 enquiries a year. A big change from the mere 7,000 back we dealt with back in 2007. If you telephoned the service desk back then, you only had a 75% chance of the phone being answered. These days, we now answer over 95% of our calls. But why call us we even have online chat? Who would have thought that in 2007.

Remember your first weekend: Freshers, and the start of  Welcome Week, where IT would be with their mobile support desk. Well, we did that in 2007 too, but pretty much all we did was sell you a HallsNet set-up CD and a network cable so you could connect to the internet. The Service Desk staff used to get really excited at the end of that weekend when we saw 60% of students in the halls were connected to the internet; that’s about 1900 students in real terms.

In 2017 you connected to WiFi whilst standing in the queue waiting to enrol. Eduroam is like an old friend to you, as you had it at college. But the IT support team was still there to offer advice and Celebrations (other chocolates of course are available). We attempt to calm the nerves of anxious parents by assuring them their now student-children will have sufficient connectivity to check in with home as often as possible.

We continue to fix things in our Laptop Clinic, which was originally set up to install network cards into PCs (actually that was as far back as 2001!!). The problems are pretty much the same today as they were in 2007, virus removal, failing hardware, the usual… but the cost of fixing these things, well it is still £30 so I think we pretty much tick the box for keeping this a value for money service.

And whilst we are talking value for money, do you know that printing today is cheaper than it was in 2007 (double sided black and white 6 pence) a whole penny cheaper. But the number of students printing out stuff must have gone down since 2007, I hear you say, after all we now have online submission. Alas, no. You can still create a decent queue on an essay hand in deadline day.

To end this little reflection of the last 10 years I am sure I have missed something out that would have been worthy of talking about. But I can’t go without mentioning our IT Graduate, IT Advisors and Service Desk Support staff make up a small team of 6; and our team of 8 Student IT Assistants who keep things running when we all go home at night. As a Manager and a University we are  immensely proud of them all and I am sure you are too after all we were voted Top IT Service Desk 2015 (as voted by you) and were finalists in the Best Small IT Service Desk 2017 following a submission of our achievements.

So if I had written this 10 years ago, even 5 years ago, how much would I have predicted would have happened? Probably very little. I hope the next 10 years proves as successful and as eventful in IT Services, and for my wonderful staff and students.

Simply IT, Simply Me

So, I have been thinking of doing a blog for a long time but never quite got around to it. Inspired by son, who has a successful blog following his travels to different football grounds, I don’t do anything quite as exciting but I am passionate about service delivery and in particular IT Service delivery. So here goes……….