Jason Preston talks about project delivery

Jason Preston, Director of IT Project Delivery, discusses what project delivery is and what the team is currently working on (July 2023)


I'm Jason Preston. I'm the Director of IT Project Delivery here at the University of Leeds.

What is project delivery?

Project delivery is a function that's made-up of different parts. We have the central parts - the portfolio management office, the project management office, which looks after the governance and the assurance of the various projects that we deliver. They make sure that we're running to time, that we're running to cost and quality. We then have the PPR function, which is planning, prioritisation and resourcing, which is essentially making sure we do have the right people and the right other resources to do work at any given time.

And then we have the DCI function which is a relatively new function around delivery, development and continuous improvement. The delivery and development component is really about making sure that we're adapting and we're flexing to the requirements of the University and the way we need to deliver projects. Continuous improvement is a little bit more internally focused, making sure that actually we're acting in an effective and efficient way as possible. It tries to remove some of those barriers that people have to delivery.

Each of those functions obviously helps out our main delivery core, which is around projects and programmes.

Can you tell us about Digital Enablement and Be Safe

Sure. So I think it's probably reasonably well known that these all fall under the banner of IT modernization, so actually moving us from a position where we were, where we had probably quite a bit of technical debt. We were doing OK with our cyber security, but as the landscape continues to evolve and change, we need to do better. So particularly digital enablement is about us making sure we're fit for the future. There are some key planks to that, in terms of migrating our applications, our data centres to the cloud, so taking those off our estate and making them more secure in the process and more performant in a lot of cases.

Also within digital enablement, we have some of those core things around replacing laptops and some other programmes around just making sure that what we've got, from a University point of view, is fit for purpose. It's very closely tied to a lot of the basic requirements that the faculties have and a lot of those basic requirements that students have.

Be Safe is probably a little bit more obvious. The name is the clue - we're really just trying to make sure that every opportunity for anyone to get into our estate in any way, shape or form to access our data, to access information is closed off and that's working its way across a number of different projects and programmes. I think the one that most people know about at the moment is IDAM which is about Identity and Access Management. Again, just ensuring that people that are accessing our data and our accessing our estate are authorised to do so and that they have the right level of controls around the way they're using and controlling data.

What are your team working on at the moment, and what’s on the horizon?

On the horizon, there are all sorts of interesting things coming up, particularly in relation to some of our student projects. So we've just recently completed the move of Banner to Azure, which is a very significant piece of work within the Student Lifecycle Programme (SLP). There are other programmes that are being lined up around things like Curriculum Redefined, and there is still some work to do to be honest within SLP. There are a number of modules around the Banner system that I think the stakeholders would like to see us move forward with now and we're working closely with one of our tech partners to map that out, so that we have a clear understanding of what we do as we move forward. It's an interesting piece of work because it's pulling on some more of our core principles about trying to get back to a core version of a system, an un-customized version of a system which just makes it easier for us to keep it safe and performant. Which is, from an IT point of view, one of our key reasons for existing.

There are some other pieces of work that we're doing at the moment that we're involved in. Jadu is one of those moving, our web estate again to the cloud and again for mostly security reasons, but there is a similar kind of theme around making sure that they are introducing a system that is supportable from an IT point of view. We talk a lot about technical debt, and a big part of what's being done across pieces of work like JADU and a lot of the digital enablement work is about as addressing that and making sure actually what we're implementing is something that's fit for future and we can keep safe and we can keep up to date with a lot less effort than we've had in the past.

A couple of other big pieces of work that we're doing. We're doing quite a lot of work around our critical systems and infrastructure and some of that again has to do with our web estate and our accessibility. We have some requirements there from a compliance point of view to make sure that actually our websites are fit for purpose.