1. Introduction

Dear Colleague,

Welcome to the annual report of Oxford University Computing Services for 2006-2007. In keeping with previous formats we have attempted to write a report that is informative and approachable to allow our users to get a comprehensive glimpse of OUCS’s performance over the period. We have divided the report into three main sections. First, in an attempt to synthesize issues which have arisen, we have produced a set of short essays on current ‘perspectives’; namely topics which have come to the fore over the last year. We then present a set of service reports which show the increasing levels of demand on OUCS. This year, where possible, we have also attempted to show the level of use of OUCS’s services by the Divisions. Finally, we include a series of reports from the Research Projects OUCS has led or been part of over the year. This aspect of OUCS is fundamental to our taking services forward for the University, and we attract over £1m per annum from external funding agencies.

As well as undertaking major initiatives to develop our services in line with the demands of our users (e.g. the upgrade to Herald), 2006-7 witnessed some important strategic changes for OUCS. First, the University’s ICT Strategy was finalised and the first steps have been taken to introduce a new governance structure. The University’s ICT Committee was disbanded to be replaced by the PRAC ICTC sub-committee (to meet for the first time in Michaelmas Term 2007); and a new professional group for the IT Support Staff across the University, whose invaluable work we all rely on, was set up. More importantly, the Office for the Director of IT has been established, looking at strategic IT initiatives across the University. Throughout this period OUCS has continued to develop but the lengthy period of time taken to ratify the ICT strategy has not been without consequences, with several senior managers being asked to ‘act-up’ during the prolonged period.

Equally important has been the setting up of the Services Funding Working Group (SFWG). This was a central committee with divisional representation charged with looking at the funding of central services – including OUCS. We liaised with this committee throughout 2006-2007 and have now started to implement its recommendations. For the first time the budget of OUCS will be set to meet the increasing demands of the divisions, and anomalies in our funding (which over the years has led to a mounting deficit) are being tackled. Long-term planning and funding of key services will be addressed, and future capital projects properly resourced. The SFWG also revealed that although OUCS is solely funded by the Infrastructure charge levied on the Divisions (in effect to provide services to c. 26,000 students and staff) we are actually supporting over 35,000 users across the collegiate University.

OUCS has also made major strides to meet its users and to get feedback from them on our services. We have a series of OUCS Reps who are linked to colleges or departments. These provide a direct route for feedback to us primarily from the Academic staff in the departments, faculties, and colleges to supplement our existing communication network with IT Support Staff. OUCS staff also sit on all the major Divisional IT Committees. In keeping with the times we are now using Web 2.0 technologies to facilitate communication, including an in-house developed news feed service (OxITEMS which now facilitates Podcasts), Facebook groups, and blogs and wikis.

Finally, it should be noted that this Annual Report forms only part of the information OUCS provides. Here we attempt to indicate how we have performed over the year; but we also produce a five-year strategy looking forward (revised each January). Furthermore, this year we have produced for the first time a complete set of Service Level Descriptions providing information on all the services we provide. All of these are available from the OUCS web site (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk).

I hope you enjoy reading this report and find it informative,

Dr Stuart D Lee
(Acting) Director, OUCS

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