Jack Rivers - Modern Desktop Environment Programme Board
Article Date: 07/09/2016

Jack Rivers shares his thoughts on being a member of the Modern Desktop Environment Programme Board.

I was first asked to join the Modern Desktop Environment Board earlier this year to bring an International perspective to the team overseeing the programme. One of the key aims of the programme is to improve IT services to provide a flexible and secure working environment from anywhere in the world, on any device. This aim is both highly relevant and exciting for the International and Partnerships Office, as our various teams not only conduct university business across the globe but also support international partners that use many of the university's IT and infrastructure services remotely.

For me, the benefits of the programme to the international work of the university were immediately clear. My particular team frequently travels overseas on behalf of the university, and one of the biggest challenges is keeping on top of our day-to-day work load whilst constantly moving from place to place. The ability to quickly and efficiently access our desktop and applications from anywhere in the world, be it on a laptop, partner institution computer, tablet or smartphone will greatly aid our ability to stay up-to-date and on top of things whilst we travel, without having to sacrifice sleep to access our emails or documents! Both the Cloud Storage and Cloud Access projects will deliver this international flexibility, whilst also benefiting the entire workforce of the university and, of course, our students.

As well as the projects that will particularly underpin the international activities of the university, there are a number of projects that I am excited to see implemented across the organisation. Enterprise Social Networking, with the introduction of applications such as Yammer, should aid communication between colleagues and departments, leading to less cluttered inboxes and hopefully a little less time spent scrolling through long threads of email signatures! As well as helping with international work, Cloud Access will make working between campuses easier and allow both staff and students to have efficient access to the applications they require, at whichever work station they happen to find themselves.

Over the last couple of months, I have already had the opportunity to experience a number of projects as an early adopter of both Skype for Business and Windows 10. When Windows 10 was first put on my old desktop computer, I thought they had updated the entire machine. Previously I had to wait around 10 minutes for my system to start up, whereas with Windows 10 it takes about 15 seconds. The only downside being that there is no longer enough time to make a coffee whilst I wait! All of the updated versions of the Microsoft Office suite that run in Windows 10 integrate seamlessly with each other as well as the new Windows operating system and Cloud Storage, which makes working feel much more intuitive and streamlined.

As the whole MDE Board are early adopters of the various projects involved, we thought it appropriate during the summer to conduct one of our board meetings via Skype for Business. There were attendees across both campuses and one member working from home, using a variety of desktop computers and tablets. As well as discussing the various agenda points, we also viewed a presentation via Prezi which ran seamlessly. The feedback from all members was that we felt connected throughout and that in fact the presentation was more effective on a personal screen than it would have been projected on the wall at the other side of a meeting room. We've already decided that the next meeting will be held in the same way, and to quote one particularly impressed participant, 'this is the future'!