Federated Access Management Outreach and Communications
JISC has been supporting access management services for the UK Further and Higher Education communities for many years. For the last ten years JISC has provided Athens, an access management service run by Eduserv. However, the Athens service has a number of limitations, so JISC is currently investing significant funds and effort into developing a new generation access management service based on the new Shibboleth technology. JISC will stop funding the Athens service by July 2008.
The JISC-funded Core Middleware: Technology Development and Core Middleware: Infrastructure Programmes have facilitated the development and testing of a range of Shibboleth-based technologies and have given HE and FE institutions an opportunity to explore the new technologies by becoming Early Adopters.
Shibboleth is also to become the underlying access management technology for the school sector, as announced by Becta, JISC’s equivalent for the school sector. JISC and Becta are now working together on the development of the UK Access Management Federation for Education and Research (run by UKERNA), due to go live at the end of November 2006.
JISC has funded the Access Management Transition Programme to assist institutions and service providers (e.g. publishers) in the adoption of the new access management service. With six hundred and forty one potential HE and FE adopters alone, this makes for a challenging task. It has been proposed to fund the Assisted Take-up Service under the Transition Programme to facilitate institutional adoption of Shibboleth (PID-003, funding approved by JIIE). However, there are wide variations in institutional awareness of the new service and what it means for institutions, as clearly demonstrated by the recent Federated Access Management Institutional Preparedness Study. The same is true for service providers. The Transition Programme’s aim is to have substantial institutional uptake across FE and HE by July 2008, with the rest of institutions to adopt by 2011. Therefore, successful take up of the new service on such a large scale has to be supported by a comprehensive outreach programme. JISC has already done significant amount of work in this area by producing briefings, roadmaps, organising events, etc. In addition, one of the JISC requirements for any JISC-funded project is to disseminate project findings to relevant communities. Some of the projects funded under the JISC Core Middleware Programmes have done exceptional work in this area. What is needed now is a coordinated approach, specifically targeting the three main adopter groups: service providers, HE institutions and FE institutions. To help the Transition Programme achieve this objective, JISC has recently appointed two full time members of staff with specific responsibilities for Transition Programme outreach.
Aims, Objectives and Scope
The project is responsible for delivering against a number of packages in the JISC High-level Access Management Transition Programme Plan (Annex 1):
- PKG07 (Bringing SPs to Federation readiness)
- PKG08 (Institutional Preparedness Audit)
- PKG09 (Devising appropriate messages for potential adopters of the new technology)
- PKG14 (Outreach Programme)
- PKG15 (Inter)national liaison).
JISC has recently recruited two Outreach Coordinators with specific responsibilities for Transition Programme outreach work. The new outreach team will be in place from January 2007. The team will be led by Nicole Harris, the Transition Programme Manager, with support from Sara Hassen (lead JISC Communications contact for the Programme). The outreach team will also be supported by the PERSEUS extension project (PID-006).
The aims of the project are to bring service providers to Federation readiness, develop and implement the Transition Programme Outreach and Communications Plan, and liaise with national and international partners. The specific objectives are:
- To provide an Assisted Take-up Service for service providers to bring them to Federation readiness (e.g. initial onsite visits)
- To implement the results of the Federated Access Management Institutional Preparedness Study
- To implement the Federated Access Management Roadmap (see Annex 2)
- To create and implement the Outreach and Communications Programme, in conjunction with the Transition Programme Manager and with support from the PERSEUS project
- To develop a Partnership Matrix
- To create and implement the Liaison Plan.
There are also a number of mini projects that need to be accomplished to help achieve the above objectives:
- set up and maintain the new Assisted Take-up website (in line with the Federation website maintained by Janet)
- finalise the ‘look and feel’ of the new federated access management service (e.g. logos, corporate colours etc)
- commission and finalise a Business case document to assist with institutional decision making processes (funded from the Core Middleware: Infrastructure Programme budget already approved by JIIE)
- produce a federated access management animation to be used in presentations etc (ditto)
- work with the Core Middleware Programme Early Adopters to produce best practice documentation and guides to support the Access Management Federation policy (ditto)
- restage and produce podcasts of key past presentations to make available on the ATU website
- collate and review Early Adopter project outputs, and to make them available on the ATU website with the help of an open access repository
- review and organise public programme documentation to date, and make it on the new ATU website
- produce a flowchart that maps institutional requirements for federated management against the Federation roadmap and support available at each stage
- produce and circulate regular news updates
Scope and Methodology
JISC has recently recruited two new members of staff with specific responsibilities for Transition Programme outreach. However, it is crucial to the success of the Transition Programme to ensure close coordination between all its key functions (funded and managed as separate projects within the Transition Programme): the Federation, Gateways, ATU service, PERSEUS extension project, outreach and Programme Management. This means effective communication between JISC staff (e.g. the Transition Programme Manager, JISC Communications, new Outreach staff etc), Becta, JANET and SDSS (responsible for running the Federation), and Eduserv (Athens Gateways support, JISC website). The PERSEUS Project at the London School of Economics is also providing support to the Programme. PERSEUS has been granted a one-year extension to support the work of the Transition Programme by helping the JISC Programme Management to scope and embed the assisted take-up and outreach plans. This also means that there is a certain amount of overlap between outreach work and ATU work (see PID-003).
Therefore, there are a number of mechanisms in place to ensure effective communication between all interested parties:
The Transition Programme Stakeholder Map (Annex 3) provides a useful framework for the Programme’s outreach efforts. There are two distinctive groups that should be targeted: institutions (with a further distinction between HE and FE institutions) and service providers. Each group has a number of different audiences (e.g. senior managers, IT departments etc) that require different messages. The stakeholder map also helps identify external bodies that can be used as effective communication channels (e.g. CURL, CILIP).
It is planned that each Outreach Coordinator will have specific responsibilities for one of the groups, while working closely together to ensure consistency of approach. Each stakeholder will be assigned a contact from the outreach team. The outreach team will be assisted by the PERSEUS project, as mentioned earlier. Each mini project (e.g. creating podcasts) will also be assigned to a dedicated member of the outreach team to ensure that several projects can be worked on in parallel.
A particularly difficult group to reach is FE colleges. The best communication channel for this group is the JISC Regional Support Centres (RSC). The Transition Programme is currently working on formulating a communications strategy for RSCs.
The PERSEUS project will support the Transition Programme Manager in the induction of the new staff, allowing questions to be answered outside of the line-management chain and permitting a mentoring approach. This is very important, as the subject area is complex from technical, political and operational perspectives.
Due to the time lapse between the start of the Transition Programme and the recruitment of the outreach staff, some of the outreach tasks described in the Project Tasks part of this PID are already in progress.
Due to the continuing outreach efforts of the Core Middleware Programmes, there is already a wealth of possible venues and communication channels that can be used to promote the new service. JISC and PERSEUS staff are also invited to present at events on a regular basis. However, if JISC is to achieve substantial uptake by July 2008, a coordinated and carefully planned outreach programme is required.
In order to inform further planning of the Transition Programme outreach and assisted take-up work, JISC has commissioned a Federated Access Management Institutional Preparedness Study. All UK HE and Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh FE institutions that have not participated in the JISC Core Middleware programmes are in the scope of the study. The study excludes English FE. The study has elicited 170 (65% HE, 28% FE, 6% joint FE/HE) institutional responses. The respondents were a mixture of library and technical staff. The study offers a good insight into institutional preparedness for federated access management. However, it is important to bear in mind that, as with any survey of this kind, there is a certain amount of subjectivity in the information provided, as respondents may not represent an institutional position.
Some key findings and how they affect the Transition Programme outreach efforts
- The study has found wide variations in awareness, understanding and preparedness among institutions. The study has confirmed that HE institutions are far ‘ahead’ of FE institutions in terms of awareness, understanding and preparedness for federated access management (NB this doesn’t include English FEs). According to the study, 50% of FE institutions are unaware of the JISC’s activities and timeline in relation to federated access management. This reinforces JISC’s plans to target Further Education institutions as a separate group.
- The full cycle of adoption of the new technology takes at least a year, so JISC should have an intense outreach and training programme for year 2007 to give as many institutions as possible institutions a chance to implement the new service by July 2008. JISC will have to continue its outreach efforts beyond July 2008 to ensure a high longer-term uptake by July 2011. It would be beneficial to prioritise outreach activities to first focus on institutions that most likely to and able to adopt, but haven’t committed to doing so, as identified by the study.
- The most popular sources of information for institutions are JISC mailing lists and the JISC website (NB this is likely to change when the Federation and ATU websites go live)
- The study has proved to be a valuable outreach exercise in its own right, directly raising the awareness of relevant institutional staff, especially where it was previously particularly low. The study also provided a good opportunity to obtain contact details of key staff at institutions.
- Many institutions are not clear about budget implications for adoption of federated access management (NB work is already in progress to provide examples of institutional scenarios and possible costs, as well as training on how to conduct an institutional audit)
- JISC should prioritise its outreach efforts, initially concentrating on institutions that have technical capability but lack senior management buy-in.
- The results of the study will inform the Outreach Plan and will be made available to the education community. There are now plans (backed with approved funding) to extend the study to English FEs and, possibly, publishers. It might be useful to conduct repeat studies on a smaller scale to evaluate the success of the JISC’s access management activities.
- In terms of publisher outreach, some prioritisation will also be necessary. Publisher outreach is also closely linked to inter(national) liaison, as many publishers operate globally. JISC has been working with Interenet2 on encouraging publishers to adopt Shibboleth and also on compiling a list of ‘priority’ publishers.
This project is responsible for delivering against packages 07-09 and packages 14-15 in the JISC High-level Access Management Transition Programme Plan (see Annex 1). The project will be supported by the PERSEUS project (PKG16).
LSE - Masha Garibyan