Bright future for UniDesk as service is transferred to new owners

It’s the end of an era but the start of a “bright future” for UniDesk as the service co-founded by the University of Edinburgh (UoE) moves into new ownership. After 11 hugely successful years, in which the service has gone from strength to strength, UniDesk has been transferred to the Higher Education specialist not-for-profit Shared Services organisation HEFESTIS.

Since it was created, the UniDesk Service has grown to become an indispensable IT Service Management (ITSM) tool for the University of Edinburgh and 10 other higher education institutions across the UK and beyond.  Among UniDesk’s many highlights are being consistently voted in the “Top 5 most used ITSM solutions within the HE & FE Sector” by UCISA every year since 2018, winning the UCISA ‘Best Delegate Presentation’ award at the 2018 SSG conference and being regularly showcased by TOPdesk online, via social media and at events.

As part of the pandemic response however Information Services has had to re-evaluate its priorities. Our focus on digital strategies and on supporting the University move to hybrid working has meant that we have been increasingly unable to grow and develop the UniDesk service in the way that is needed. The team at the University have therefore accepted that it’s time to pass on ownership of the service they have done so much to nurture and help flourish. 

“From the outset building the UniDesk Service and the journey we have been on since has been a real team effort.  We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has been involved – from those that had that bright idea all those years ago and created and developed the service to everyone that plays a part in supporting UniDesk today eleven years on,​”

Dawn Dodd​, joint UniDesk Service Owner at UoE, said.

“It really was a unique service to be involved with, and we don’t mind admitting that we are sad to see it go, but we know it has a very bright future ahead,”

​Catherine​ Hetherington, fellow UniDesk Service Owner at UoE, added.
Dawn Dodd​ and Catherine Hetherington, joint UniDesk Service Owners at UoE

What is UniDesk?

UniDesk is fully managed Information Technology Infrastructure-based (ITIL) shared service management solution, extensively tailored for Higher and Further Education process flows, using TOPdesk as the underlying IT service management platform.

The service was founded by the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Abertay, and has grown to welcome eight new members, the universities of Sheffield Hallam, Ulster, Stirling, Edinburgh Napier, and Durham​; and most recently the Royal College of Art, University of Highlands and Islands, and University of Malta, in 2019.

Overseen by its incredible “small army” of hard-working University staff, UniDesk logs and resolves incidents and request calls to ensure these universities’ services are supported and can continue to run smoothly.

In the last academic session, the collective UniDesk membership logged a staggering two million calls, including more than half-a-million at UoE alone, and reached almost one million registered users.

“The key to the success of UniDesk is its collaborative community.  The service has been developed with the community in mind.

“We have nurtured the relationships with our members and ensure that they are involved with and have regular input into the service. 

“Our community is so unique that it is referred to, by not only the members, but those within the education sector as the “UniDesk Family”.  And a willingness to collaborate, share experiences and best practice, documentation and support each other is what makes the UniDesk family really special,”

Dawn Dodd said.
The UniDesk Team at the Conference in UHI in 2018

Bigger and better

The UniDesk Service has never stayed still and has constantly been evolving, improving and growing in more ways than just membership. Among the milestone innovations introduced are:

  • Quick Calls – a unique tool to capture face-to-face support interactions quickly and simply, which has helped to drive changes in service provision and improve student experiences
  • Launch of EdHelp – UniDesk underpins a ‘one-stop-shop’ where students can access help and information from all student services in one convenient place
  • Self Service Portal & Knowledgebase and Finance Helpline – delivering a clear route to financial support for university staff
  • Move to TOPdesk SaaS – providing possibility for future growth through migration of 24 environments in coordination with 11 member institutions

A number of successful communication and marketing initiatives have also been launched over the years.

This has seen the creation of promotional videos, a modernised UniDesk logo, regular newsletters and a revamped service web sites including a ‘forum’ area where members can chat and share documents and videos.

UniDesk has also been very active on social media, sharing information on new developments and “getting creative” by whipping up special seasonal and other temporary logos including animated gifs.

UniDesk’s seasonal logos

Alongside all the hard work the service team has taken every available opportunity to get the UniDesk family together to collaborate and have fun.

Four very successful conferences have brought together members to enjoy guest speakers and best-practice sharing and updates from the UniDesk community and TOPdesk.

The conferences have further helped to build connections, support new members and brainstorm solutions to any issues, during events and at breakout lunches.

Fantastic entertainment has also been provided at fun-filled preconference events, including a moonlight BBQ cruise in Durham, a spooky ghost walk in Edinburgh and dolphin spotting in the Moray Firth.

UniDesk team and members at one of the hugely successful conferences

The future of UniDesk

The University remains hugely committed to the future success of UniDesk. UniDesk is a critical service for the University and also underpins the successful EdHelp Service which contributes to student and staff experience on and off-campus. 

We are certain that HEFESTIS is the right choice for UniDesk. HEFESTIS, as a not-for-profit HE focused Shared Service provider, shares the values and ethos of UniDesk.

HEFESTIS is jointly owned by member Scottish universities and colleges and already provides a number of successful shared services, including DPO Share​, CISO Share​, Change Share​ and Office365 Share.

UniDesk run by HEFESTIS will bring a broad range of benefits, including:

  • Dedicated specialist resources with HEFESTIS
  • Building on the great foundations established by UoE Service Management, meaning a continuation in great service and delivery partnership with TOPdesk
  • More and bigger promotional activities – including HEFESTIS working in partnership with UCISA
  • Removal of current constraints on service growth, meaning more member innovation and even better value for the University

The legal transfer of ownership to HEFESTIS has now taken place. The transfer included a detailed agreement for continued UoE technical support, and 12 month transition period to ensure a successful handover.

“Working with the UniDesk team at UoE was a pleasure, the passion for UniDesk was evident and both sides worked well together to make the transition successful.

“Going forward we will endeavour to continue with the same culture and ethics. I believe UoE has built a great service in UniDesk and it’s a foundation that HEFESTIS will build on and grow,”

James Morris, Chief Executive Officer of HEFESTIS, said.

HEFESTIS have the capacity and expertise needed to further grow and develop UniDesk welcoming new members and taking the service forward to a bright future! 

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