Knowledge House Information System project updates

Trialling Collaborative Tools Business and Community Engagment

KHIS Rollout

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Following the launch of KHIS 2.0 late last year, accounts were created for only the core KHIS users within each of our five member universities.

However, now that the system is stable and users are reporting excellent feedback, the rollout of accounts to other individuals and groups within the universities has begun.

KHIS is underpinned by a bespoke security model which allows access to data to be customised on a per user basis. For each record in the system, four levels of access can be granted:

  • None (record is invisible)
  • Summary (user can see core data such as project reference and owner)
  • Read only (read-only access to the full record)
  • Full (write access to the full record)

These levels of access can be granted to a single user, a collection of users, all users with access to a specific project, or globally to all users.

This flexible security system is one of the prime advances over KHIS 1.5, and allows highly customised user groups to be created. Indeed, several such groups have now been set up.

At one university, for example, a group of accounts has been set up for staff from a research centre. Users have full access to projects created by staff from that centre, plus summary access to all other projects running within the university. Projects from the other four universities are completely hidden.

Further accounts and groups will be created over the coming months.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

March 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Posted in KHIS, Knowledge House

Championing KHIS

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One of the reasons KHIS has been so successful over the years is down to the active engagement between the user community and the development team. This is due in no small part to the KHIS Champions meeting.

Established several years ago, this monthly meeting sees key representatives from Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside universities meet with the system developers. The forum is useful for a variety of reasons:

  • New functionality can be demonstrated and instant feedback obtained from people who actually use the system
  • Opportunity to plan potential new functionality and features
  • Discussion and resolution of problems

During the evolution of KHIS 2.0, the meetings proved to be invaluable as users were able to contribute to the new system, right from when it was simply a few rough sketches on a whiteboard. KHIS 2.0 was actually devised to address several fundamental problems with KHIS 1.5 identified during Champions meetings.

As KHIS 2.0 progressed, the meeting was used to identify and prioritise problems, and plan solutions.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

March 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Posted in KHIS, Knowledge House

Congratulations Rachel

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Congratulations and best wishes go to Senior KHIS Developer Rachel Armstrong, who earlier this month gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Rachel will return to Knowledge House in 2011.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

March 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Posted in KHIS, Knowledge House

Bug Swatting

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As with the launch of any new system, no matter how much it is tested beforehand, once it goes live bugs are inevitable. This indeed was the case with KHIS 2.0, although the majority have been minor. Several mechanisms were used to record bugs:

  1. Automatic error logging

    KHIS 2.0 automatically logs errors and emails the system administrator whenever a problem occurs. This enables problems to be actively tackled and there have been several occasions where bugs have been fixed and reported back to the user within an hour of the problem occurring!

  2. Bug reporting system

    The open source TRAC bug reporting system is used to allow users to lodge tickets. Often problems don’t result in an actual error message; instead there could be an anomaly with missing data, or a user might want to request an additional system feature. TRAC allows such things to be recorded, with the progress of tickets being tracked and reported back to the users.

  3. Monthly KHIS Champions meeting

    Once a month, nominated representatives from our five partner universities (Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside) meet with the KHIS development team to discuss problems and ongoing development work. This forum has proved to be an excellent way of identifying problems, eliciting feedback and educating the users about how to use the new system. There have been instances in the meeting where someone has reporting what they perceived to be a problem, only for another user to intervene and explain how to resolve it.

    By actively involving the users in this forum, their trust in the new system has steadily increased.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

March 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Posted in KHIS, Knowledge House

Full Speed Ahead

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Following the launch of KHIS 2.0, the biggest gripe reported by users was the slow system speed. Upon investigation, this was found to be due mainly to the large amount of data imported from KHIS 1.5.

During the testing phase only recent data (i.e. less than two years old) was imported from KHIS 1.5. This volume of data did not cause significant speed issues and was not reported as being problematic during the user testing phase. However, upon the launch of the live system in November last year, all KHIS 1.5 data was imported. It dated back as far as 1995 and comprised several hundred thousand records; only at this point did the speed issue become apparent.

To combat the problem, several actions were taken:

  1. Archive old data

    I.e. projects and all related data (e.g. documents, emails, actions and financials).

    Due to the volume of data, it was not possible to simply bulk archive. Instead, key users from each of our five member universities (Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside) were asked to provide a set of “archive criteria” which could be applied to data owned by their institutes.

    Typically, this was projects that had a status of “closed” or had been inactive for two years.

    Once all old data had been archived, system performance notably improved. Functionality was then added to the system to allow archived data to be searched if required. By default, though, searches are set to only search non-archived data.

    Subsequent feedback from users confirmed that system performance had improved. Involving the users in addressing the problem subsequently led to a greater buy-in in KHIS 2.0. By actively involving them, the users became more understanding as they could see problems were being proactively tackled.

  2. Swap server roles

    The KHIS 2.0 database was hosted on a dedicated database server. Similarly, the web site was hosted on a dedicated web server. However, the database server was several years old, whilst the web server was brand new, and a higher spec.

    As SQL Server is more resource intensive than ColdFusion (the language KHIS is written in), it was decided to reverse the roles of the servers. This way, greater processing power and more memory would be available to SQL Server, which would therefore improve performance.

    The server roles were swapped in several stages and, once everything had been implemented, performance was found to have improved even further.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

February 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Posted in KHIS, Knowledge House

KHIS 2.0 User Manual

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An initial draft of the KHIS 2.0 User Manual has been released to the core KHIS users. The guide was produced by two members of Knowledge House staff – Business Support Officer, Lynnsey Rayne and Marketing and Projects Officer, Laura Kingston.

Both Lynnsey and Laura use KHIS on a daily basis to post and circulate new project opportunities. It was considered important that the manual was written by people who actually use the system, as opposed to the developers, as their viewpoints are very different.

What a developer might consider trivial, users might not understand at all, so it was important that the manual was written in a way that end users could easily follow.

As the system continues to evolve, the manual will be updated accordingly to reflect the changes.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

January 5, 2010 at 11:45 am

Posted in KHIS, Knowledge House

Change of Trial Project Manager

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Following the temporary departure of Senior KHIS Developer Rachel Armstrong on maternity leave, Knowledge House has secured the services of web developer Paul Cranner on secondment from the University of Sunderland to cover her duties.

Paul and Rachel have been working closely together over the past two months, to ensure a smooth handover.

Paul arrives from the University’s Centre for Internet Technologies. He has been involved with Knowledge House for several years and is well known to the KHIS community, having worked on both KHIS 2.0 and the previous version of the system.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

December 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Posted in KHIS, Knowledge House

KHIS 2.0 now live at Knowledge House.

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On Thursday 5th November KHIS 2.0 went live at Knowledge House and replaced the KHIS 1.5. system.

A training manual has been drafted and once content feedback has been given by the KHIS Champions it will be printed and issued to each site alongside a Training Champions session. Each site has nominated 1-2 ‘training champions’ who will be trained in a 2 hour session with KHIS developers Rachel Armstrong and Paul Cranner. It is then expected that these champions can be the initial point of contact at each site for any KHIS 2.0 user enquiries.

In the interim, users have been giving general feedback to Rachel and Paul to iron out any initial teething problems.  The major go-live issue was that of speed – users were highlighting that the system was initially running too slowly to be useable. Therefore it was decided that any data in the database which is marked as ‘project closed’ with a creation date of over 24months would be archived and a ‘search the archive’ functionality be updated to all searches. The database has also be transferred to a more powerful server and feedback has been positive, with users commenting on increased speed.

Knowledge House will update on progress and KHIS development after the Training Champions session.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

November 20, 2009 at 11:14 am

Posted in JISC, KHIS, Knowledge House

New Trial Partner – One North East Inward Investment

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At the beginning of the project, the trial project faced a major issue when it’s original trial partner was no longer able to take part in the project. Fortunately, Knowledge House has been able to identify another potential partner and discussed with them expected benefits of the trial. ONE Inward Investment has now agreed to partner the project.

Knowledge House has worked in partnership with ONE Inward Investment since 2006 to support and attract investors to the region by promoting the expertise in the regions universities. The enquiries which Knowledge House receive via ONE are not standard commercial enquiries, and are handled in a very different way to the standard enquiries we receive from businesses in the region. The project and enquiries are managed by Knowledge House using an excel spreadsheet in combination with some functionality on KHIS 1.5 and reports are generated from the spreadsheet. In order to attract and secure Inward Investment into the North East the Investment and Aftercare Team also require detailed, up-to-date, sector specific information on past, current, and proposed research undertaken at the region’s five Universities and any other relevant higher education provider.

With this in mind there is a need to develop a bespoke project management system to support the Inward Investment users. There is also the potential to allow the ONE strategic account management team to have access to the system and circulate enquiries. Currently ONE use a system called Sales Logix to handle enquiries. It is thought that linking this system with KHIS 2.0 or at least having the functionality to cross-reference projects across the two systems would be useful for tracking the progress of enquiries.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

November 20, 2009 at 11:09 am

Inaugural Post

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Knowledge House is an independent consultancy and project management service offered jointly by the universities in the North East of England – Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside. We are a single point of access to the skills, expertise and resources of the partner organisations, providing fast, unrivalled access to the world class expertise and facilities that are found within the university network. We have over ten years’ experience in managing collaborative projects and are continuously improving working practices.

This was recognised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development who identified Knowledge House as an organisation of “global best practice” in 2007.

In order to support the work undertaken by the Knowledge House network, we have developed an in-house, bespoke web-based collaborative project and client relationship management tool named KHIS (Knowledge House Information System).

KHIS is currently used by both the Knowledge House central team and each of the five universities. KHIS is a web based collaborative project tool that manages companies, contacts, projects, documents and communications all within one system. It is used by the North East Universities to manage Third Strand revenue generating projects.

Knowledge House
have successfully won funding from the JISC’s (Joint Information System Committee’s) Business and Community Engagement Programme and have become a partner in their project, Trialling Collaborative Tools for Business and Community engagement.  The Knowledge House trial aims to assess the potential of KHIS as an Open Source Platform for use by a broader range of organisations, including Knowledge Transfer Networks.  Food Processing Faraday Partnership will be our partner and will be trialling the use of KHIS .

This blog will provide regular updates on the progress of the trial and the further development of KHIS.

Written by knowledgehousekhis

April 17, 2009 at 11:55 am