Glad you like it :-)

#TotalRecal done a cracking job on joining up systems (rapid innovation strand) – awesome calendaring system #jiscfsdless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Thanks, Andy! (Community Facilitator for the JISC Flexible Service Delivery (FSD) Programme)

Integrated Service Development

The university, in common with the wider HE sector, is looking at SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) as the way forward.

A major issue is that many of our existing systems exist as discrete silos of data and functionality, yet they are for the most part sufficient for the tasks they were originally acquired for.

A prime example would be our timetabling system. With it, our timetabling team are able to meet the university’s need for an academic timetable, with all that that entails. It is an established part of the university and is supported by process and procedures that have been honed and refined over the years. To replace it would be a major undertaking.

To qualify what I mean by “the university’s need for an academic timetable” is that we are able to generate a timetable that enables the university to allocate its resources in such a way that it is able to deliver its academic program. Any functionality beyond that (for example, publishing the timetable) has had to be provided by other means in common with most of our other systems. This usually entails some form of overnight batch processing.

One consequence of the way our systems currently interact is that when they are all “butted” together as they are, it takes several days of passing from one system to another, processing it and reprocessing it to reflect any changes in any circumstance or environment. Accordingly, we are far from real time and are unable to give a truly accurate view of the “whole picture” at any one time as there will always be some system with data that is lagging behind.

The above encapsulates what constitutes two of the main drivers in our move towards SOA: namely better management information and a near real time experience for our user.

And we’re off…

I’ve just had a good chat with Alex Hawker, Programme Manager of the Flexible Delivery Programme that Total ReCal is funded under. We received some good comments about the bid that we put in and there’s a particular interest in the idea of working with ‘space-time’ data. Our (student) developers, Alex and Nick, are on leave for the next week, but we’ve already met to discuss the points that JISC have asked us to clarify and develop in order to satisfy funding requirements. They are:

  • More detailed dissemination and workplan
  • Engagement with other institutions to test the solution against other applications
  • Data gathering to be undertaken when students are available

My first task is to address these in the Project Plan, which will be submitted by the 29th. Much of the project budget has been allocated to buying Alex and Nick’s time as developers, so we’ll have the equivalent of almost one developer (30hrs) working full-time on this project for six months.

In addition to the Project Plan, our immediate ToDo list currently looks like this:

  • Setup UserVoice (Done)
  • Setup Bitbucket (Done)
  • Intro blog post – what we’re doing and why
  • MongoDB/NoSQL evaluation
  • Set up surveys for users
  • Blog post about the plugins we intend to create
  • Blog post about the work we’re doing towards integrated service development

We should have all of those done by the 6th August. Some of this has already been touched on in Alex and Nick’s personal blogs over the last few months.