Michael Grant has held CIO positions at numerous organisations over the past 20 years. His biggest lesson? Take your own counsel when commencing a new role.
“This is most important when it comes to assessing your staff and their ability to deliver an ambitious program of work. I am a big believer that everyone comes to work to do a good job. If you have the mindset, the results that can be achieved are amazing,” he says.
To put this into context, he says, it is common that a new CIO will be told that the IT function is under-performing and this is primarily due to poor staff capabilities. A significant restructure is required and CIOs must make changes a priority.
“It is also inevitable that this is a half-truth at best. In some instances, there were significant gaps in capabilities but this was typically due to lack of investment in staff training and development, functional roles that did not exist were required.
“For example, when I arrived at Murdoch four years ago, we did not have dedicated technical or organisational change management [teams] nor information security roles amongst other role gaps. This was addressed and most of these roles were filled by existing staff with positive benefits to the organisation immediately realised,” says Grant.
Grant and his tech team recently rolled out Murdoch University’s student portal and mobile app (myMurdoch) to its 25,000 onshore and offshore students. This innovation provides students with portable access to course information, personalised calendar, career opportunity listings, notifications for on-campus activities and advice for studying and health and wellness support.
This was one of the most complex projects the university has undertaken involving more than 65 staff from many different departments within and outside IT, as well as 100 students. It was important that the university ‘leapfrogged’ the status quo which required several other activities to be achieved.
For example, while the project focused on building the new mobile app on top of ExLibris’ Campus M platform, it was highly reliant upon a number of other projects running concurrently to improve the overall student experience.
These included establishing an integration competency centre; leveraging the identity and access management to provide additional security of student data; rewriting, reorganising and building around 60 pages of student content within its content management system and retiring 400 pages from the old CMS. The team also made significant enhancements to its student’s management system.
“The app also provides the capability to have various areas of the university to self-manage the publishing of news, announcements, promotions by location, study level and student type enables relevant messaging to be promoted to the right people at the right time. This reduces the need to email students.
“More than 90 per cent of our students across all campuses have registered for access to the portal with another 5000 plus downloads of the mobile app.”
Grant says that the student portal is a critical enabler for student recruitment and retention.
“The pervasive use of technology in so many aspects of our lives means that students come to higher education with a broad experience of technology and a growing expectation that it will feature in their learning journey. They expect digital services to be freely and easily accessible as a core entitlement to support their overall experience.”
Achieving the right rhythm
Grant says he has implemented an ‘operating rhythm framework’ to provide a structured approach to staff engagement. This means that each role and level within the department understands the expectations to communicate with staff to discuss work performance, professional goals, training needs and general updates.
“For example, all managers are required to have one-on-one fortnightly meetings with their direct reports. Each area within IT has weekly team meetings and we have quarterly ‘whole of IT’ meetings where we recognise staff in front of their peers for going above and beyond expectations.”