by CIO Staff

University of St Andrews CIO Steve Watt Q&A

Oct 09, 2015
IT Leadership

Steve Watt, CIO at the University of St Andrews, has taken the 600-year-old institution through a full infrastructure refresh and consolidation which has seen the university lauded for its award-winning green data centre.

The CIO is now focused on delivering excellent services to support the teaching, learning and research programmes at St Andrews, as well as keeping an eye on green IT initiatives.

When did you start your current role? January 1, 2010

What is your reporting line? Chief Operating Officer

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week? Most weeks

What executive boards do you sit on? Senior Management Group, Chair of Higher Education IT Directors Group, Scottish Government T&D Board

Does your organisation have a CDO? No

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation? Change Management and Business Process Re-engineering.

How many employees does your organisation have? 2,200

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU? Yes

What number of users does your department supply services to? 15,000

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business’s products? Focus Groups and regular interaction with key user groups.

St Andrews University technology strategy and IT agenda

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology oriented start-ups? Yes

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside? Yes

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in? There are many however the implementation of campus wide WiFi across 166 sites which has facilitated many new ways of teaching, learning and research which is our key mission – and has had the biggest impact at this time. Partnering with BT to overlay a public WiFi solution across the campus has allowed the organisation to drive further its conference venue proposition.

What major transformation project has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation? A full ICT Transformation is ongoing within my organisation which I’m fully responsible for. This involves a full infrastructure refresh, new green data centres (award winning), and the e-enablement of most business processes.

What impact will this transformation have on your organisation? This transformation will ensure all parts of the organisation have access to the latest technology solutions and embrace modern and enhanced business processes. This will also ensure that a 600-year-old organisation delivers a truly world class experience to its staff and students.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project? Having a leadership style which takes people with me has helped to deliver some very challenging change projects within the overall ICT transformation. Also displaying integrity and conviction has ensured even the most challenging projects have been delivered and staff have stayed committed to their delivery.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation? Server and desktop virtualisation, storage area networks and data centre technologies. Also wireless networking.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation? Yes

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation? My vision is to provide the right information to the right people at the right time in a secure and platform agnostic way. I have implemented Qliktech’s Qlikview which will be the key analytics tools reporting from an Oracle datawarehouse and a number of other systems.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience? In a University environment mobility is key and there extensive use of all forms of mobile computing.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice? BYOD is fully supported within my organisation. My strategic approach has been to allow any device to be utilised as I want to promote creativity and innovation and not stifle this by restricting device choice. This has to be done in a secure way so a number of solutions have been implemented along with extensive wifi provision across 166 sites.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? Several strategic technology deals have been done, including with Cisco and Dell.

Who are your main suppliers? Cisco, Oracle, Tribal, Microsoft, Dell and BT.

St Andrews University security and IT budget

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months? Yes

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda? Yes

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces? Yes

Has this led to an increase in your security budget? Yes

What is the IT budget? 10m + capital

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year? To deliver excellence in supporting teaching, learning and research through the deliver of ICT Transformation whilst continuing to maintain excellence in customer service. Also, the implementation of a programme of green ICT initiatives.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation? Yes

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO? Yes

Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have? Yes

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme? Yes

St Andrews University IT department

How would you describe your leadership style? Having commenced my IT career in a hands on role and worked my way through all levels of IT before reaching CIO I maintain a very active leadership style getting involved with staff at all levels. I work with integrity and conviction and encourage innovation amongst all my team members.

How have you supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision? I have supported my leadership team through gaining MBA qualifications to ensure they all contribute at a strategic level and all staff which they lead are properly managed, motivated and supported.

How many employees are in your IT team? 95

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff? 90/5

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU? No