Due to increasing digitization, the penetration of IT in Universities is rising steadily. IT is thus a critical success factor for Bielefeld University. In addition to the pure ability to work in digitized support processes, the aspect of increasing digitization of research and science must also be taken into account.
The demands on IT have changed - customer orientation, creativity, flexibility and innovative thinking are gaining in importance. IT should be a partner at eye level, act as an enabler, and thus proactively meet customers with value-creating solutions. IT plays a central role and helps shape the digital transformation. For this, processes must be known and requirements must be understood. Close and good coordination between the university management, the departments and BITS is indispensable.
In order to meet these and future challenges, the vice-rector for information management initiated the BITS 2025 project.
The results of this project are described below and individual fields of action are listed under "What is it about?".
The Bielefeld IT Service Centre (BITS) protects Bielefeld University and affiliated departments by filtering all e-mails in order to reduce the volume of unwanted and harmful e-mails, i.e. e-mails containing spam or malware (viruses, Trojans, etc.).
For quite some time, BITS had been planning to switch to a technical solution of the Deutsches Forschungsnetz e. V. (DFN) in order to further improve the quality of the e-mail service.
Among other things, DFN-MailSupport enables participating Universities to benefit from each other's processing of unwanted e-mails and thus mutually improve detection rates.
The new spam filter has now been active since mid-November '22 and is being expanded step by step in terms of functionality.
The proof of concept (PoC) was successfully completed in October '22. The target environment is currently being set up with test and production days and the configuration and data from the PoC are being transferred. In addition, the role and rights model is being refined and associated processes defined.
FlexWork, Zoom, Softphone, Clean Desks, Open Workspaces - many technologies and marketing terms want to be the future of the workplace. But the vision of the "Modern Workplace" is overshadowed by headset on and off, noise from participants at home, the desire for quiet workstations for zooming, telephone forwarding and the search for the colleague who should actually be here somewhere in the hallway - or in the home office?
But this is exactly where the potential of a flexible, productive working environment lies, in which effective individual work and work with colleagues can be supported in the best possible way. In addition to technical solutions such as simple communication channels, digital collaboration tools and good hardware equipment in the office, in the home office and at other workplaces, this also includes needs-based and more flexible infrastructures and services on site. Quiet Rooms for concentrated work, "Open Workspaces" for joint work on projects and personal workplaces for one's own demands and tasks must be prepared for a work culture of the future (and present). But not everything has to be networked - we can perhaps still do without a hybrid coffee corner with camera and microphone.
In the context of BITS 2025, we are engaged in the search for the "Modern Workplace" at Bielefeld University. This is not just about the devices on the desk and the software on the laptop - it is about everything that supports work at the university against the backdrop of increasing projects, overlapping subject areas, spontaneous working groups and growing demands, but also FlexWork, Home Office and the care of one's own health and work-life balance.
We are of course aware that there cannot be "the one workplace" at Bielefeld University, that not every group workspace can look identical, that not every department works in the same ways. This variety and diversity distinguishes the university as a special working environment and this strength must be expanded with infrastructure and support services and not to create a tasteless uniformity with "new" standards.
Since 2008, BITS has been using the product "BMC Remedy IT Service Management" from BMC Software, a so-called IT service management tool for supporting operational processes in an IT organization. Since this product is "getting on in years," the interdepartmental Working Group "Evaluation ITSM Tools" is addressing the question within the framework of BITS 2025: "What products are currently available on the market for IT service management tools that meet our current and future requirements for such a tool, and which one do we want to use in the future?" In perspective, the new tool should not only be used by BITS, but also be offered to other organizational units at the university.
As a first step, the WG compiled a list of BITS's requirements for an ITSM tool and, based on the market study "Gartner's Magic Quadrant for IT Service Management Tools 2021," a longlist of products that could generally be considered. In weekly AG meetings, these 9 products were presented by the sales partners in Q1 2022. The next step will be the creation of a shortlist, i.e. a list of products that will be "shortlisted" and tested in a proof-of-concept installation.
The aim is to have made at least one decision on the future ITSM tool by the end of 2022.
What is peer coaching?
Peer-to-peer coaching can be an effective form of learning and development. This form of collegial consulting is used systematically in the so-called "peer coaching circle". As an integral part of the project and corporate culture, the creative potential of an entire group can be utilized and those involved can benefit from the knowledge and experience of their colleagues. An exchange provides new perspectives and helps to develop and weigh up options for action.
The Peer Coaching Circle is a confidential process in which two or more colleagues work together to reflect on current practices, expand skills, or even share ideas. The range of topics covered by a Circle can be thought of broadly - from specific "technical" problems to interpersonal difficulties in the workplace. A Peer Coaching Circle follows a fixed history and is consistently solution-oriented. In addition to the host and guests, a facilitator or moderator should be part of the coaching circle.
What are the benefits of coaching in the workplace?
1. it gives people a 360-degree view of their academic achievements.
When we open peer-to-peer coaching to colleagues*, we get a more comprehensive 360-degree view of our academic achievements/problems/ideas than, for example, in one-on-one meetings with supervisors. The result is a more reliable overview of strengths and improvement potential.
2. it empowers people to learn new skills.
Just as peer coaching gives employees a more complete picture of their academic achievements, it also exposes one to a wider range of workplace skills. Not only does it empower people to learn new skills, it can accelerate learning. Why? Because colleagues are usually in a good position to provide quick and accurate feedback and tips.
3. it can improve leadership skills (and soft skills).
Strong leaders have certain skills in common. These skills include empathy, active listening, effective feedback, timely communication, and the ability to teach and supervise.
Peer coaching offers people the opportunity to build many of these leadership skills and work on their soft skills, as these are essential to positive and successful peer-to-peer relationships.
4. it increases camaraderie and engagement.
When people coach each other - and see how it positively impacts each other's well-being or performance - they feel good about themselves, too. At the same time, they also learn things about themselves that create a sense of community and positively impact their engagement.
At BITS, the implementation of a sub-project on the way to BSI basic assurance has started: Documentation System within the Information Security Management System (Confluence).
Security, availability, confidentiality and integrity of data play an important role in the development of the new documentation system. In addition, structures are to be standardized, release and validation processes defined, roles defined and intelligent search functions configured.
For the implementation, an appropriate tool is required, which was found in the software product Confluence from the company Atlassian. Confluence is intended to increase work efficiency, improve the quality and timeliness of ISMS documentation, and make a contribution in accordance with the requirements of a BSI baseline assurance.
As a documentation system, Confluence enables document creation, collaboration, work organization, and knowledge exchange. Taking into account the assignment of rights and roles, users can not only read content, but actively contribute to it. By bundling information, ideas, plans, workflows, etc. in one place, all users are on the same level of knowledge. Confluence is therefore a very useful tool for promoting collaborative work.
After project completion, Confluence will initially be available to all departments of BITS, the ISB and the DSIS staff unit as a documentation system in the ISMS. The platform will be built on premise and operated by BITS. From the beginning, requirements regarding scalability and expandability will be taken into account so that Confluence can be made available to other user groups after successful implementation.
BITS ensures standard communication to its (existing) services. A tool was developed that documents the target groups and standard communication channels for each IT service. This is to be used for events such as maintenance, service changes or breakdowns.
When creating the so-called communication profile, building blocks were used that had already been developed in the Effective Dialog.
In this way, we will be able to communicate even more efficiently, purposefully and fully. This will benefit both IT service providers and our users.
Various formats have been developed for internal BITS exchange. Especially due to growth and integration of further departments in the past years, communication and exchange among each other has become an important task. In addition, there is the special Corona situation, whereby the colleagues usually only see each other in video meetings and a personal exchange is almost non-existent.
In order to strengthen this again, various targeted actions were carried out in 2021, in which it was possible to exchange information in person again, while adhering to valid hygiene measures. These activities will be continued as an offer as long as many people work predominantly in their home offices.
Further formats have already been prepared and will be launched in the coming year.
A project to increase IT security by introducing the BSI-Grundschutz methodology at Bielefeld University is currently in advanced planning (approval pending). The project was commissioned by the Prorectorate Information Infrastructure and Economics and the Chancellor. It is being carried out in close cooperation between BITS, the DT/P department and the Information Security and Data Protection staff unit.
As a result of increasing digitization, the degree of penetration of information technology (IT) in Universities is rising steadily. At the same time, this development leads to an increased dependency of university operations on the underlying information technologies. This results in increasing demands on the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and IT systems. However, these are threatened by an increasing number of attacks. The frequency, quality or complexity and impact of malware attacks are also increasing significantly at Universities.
The importance of the project already resulted in an audit of information security in 2018/2019, which identified a total of 14 measures to increase the current level of security.
According to § 10 of the "Agreement on Digitization" between the Universities of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the MKW in agreement with the DH NRW, "the Universities undertake to strive to apply the basic security according to the IT-Grundschutz methodology of the BSI [...] from 2021 onwards". The MKW hereby combines the expectation that all Universities have started with the safeguarding at the start date of 2021. Step-by-step implementation is possible. Initially, the implementation focus should be on the services of the computer center and the administrative IT." However, an appropriate level of security will only be achieved when all IT areas of Bielefeld University are included. Corresponding ideas for expansion based on the results of the project exist.
The goal of the project ending date is to improve the university's information security in accordance with the BSI's basic protection methodology and taking into account the measures identified by T-Systems. Using a puzzle methodology, which was developed with an external security consultant, the measures are implemented efficiently and in line with requirements. The aim is to achieve a higher level of security, which includes basic security and the extended operational area of information security (results/ SecOps).
The subprojects (TP) serve to fulfill the objectives and furthermore to strengthen information security at Bielefeld University:
The BITS 2025 project identified the following strategic action areas for BITS:
In the meantime, projects and measures have been derived for these fields of action, and we would like to report on one or two of them above under current news.