ICT services is not something we have to sell to the organisation, says Walter Chieng, director of ICT at Saint Kentigern Trust.
“The core services are expected and delivery is guaranteed as all users depend on it every day,” he explains.
“I spend more time looking at ways to optimise the business with key stakeholders through digital opportunities and transformations,” says Chieng.
“I am entrusted with and expected to drive innovation, to provide a service that supports our business and end users.”
He applied these insights during the recent move of the school’s ICT systems to a hyperconverged infrastructure.
The project covered consolidated server compute, storage, network switch, hypervisor, data protection, data efficiency, global management and other enterprise functionality on standardised infrastructure.
This was to enable the simplification of management and delivery of IT services, while increasing efficiency, providing a scalable architecture and reducing TCO, says Chieng.
“The project was borne through our ongoing endeavours to diversify the way we manage ICT and the need to solve the problem of an effective and realistic DR setup, for enterprise systems,” he explains.
“This was a pathway for us to afford the sophistication required and manage a system that we can count on at all times and is thus ‘invisible’.
“One of the main focuses of the project was taking the ICT team through a change process to cope with the ‘paradigm shift’.”
Keeping core operational systems running is a given, says Chieng, and new projects and innovations do not affect the business.
“Ensuring that initiatives are appropriately resourced and there is close project management by the systems integrator, as well as commitment from within is critical.”
There is a concise/practical/realistic project documentation, maintaining focus on the tasks at hand and the end game, while knowledgeable/capable human resources contribute to a smooth project that was delivered on time and on budget.
“A good balance was maintained between research, education and consulting with experts in the field. Time was also spent on brainstorming options available to operate differently, to ensure that the decisions made and the systems put in place will service the organisations requirements in the best way.”
Furthermore, the opportunity to move away from the traditional thinking on infrastructure management also cleared the path for higher efficiency and effectiveness, he says. This freed up staff time for higher value tasks.
“The continuous effort to invest in innovative, best of breed technologies ensured a good return in investment.
We set out to measure the KPIs and presented the analytics for the difference made to the board, immediately after implementation.”
He says the leadership team, including the board, was kept abreast of the strategy from the project inception. It was also an education process focused on the benefits for the business.
Chieng says it was important to measure the benefits right from the start.
Chieng says the school is moving away from from traditional IT systems/management as ‘’we know it’’.
The challenges he faces in the job are continued growth driving the scaling of infrastructure, along with the introduction of new features and functionality that add to the complexity of the environment.
As well, there is an increasing demand for new services and enhanced performance.
Chieng says teaching disruptive, technology-enabled change is the greatest challenge the ICT organisation faces.
The way to manage this, is to have “clear terms of reference and establish ownership with the business unit”, he says.
“You need to provide support and project management to see through the initiative and show value upfront.”
He says there is an ongoing need to improve/enhance infrastructure to deliver ‘best’ user experience, with the need to move to the next layer of service/operation and enhance redundancy.
As well, St Kentigern IT needs to achieve constant availability (100 per cent) of online services.
This requires a strong skill set in staff to administer infrastructure – revisiting core business and competencies. He says systems maintenance windows are minimal (if any), due to interoperable systems that service the customers 24×7.
Project objectives are focused on a change that will stop the infrastructure growth and sprawl.
He sought strategy and solutions to enable Saint Kentigern to focus on its core business, rather than ongoing competency development to match complexities in infrastructure/services.
An alternate on-demand DR fall back system was required, along with a feasible and cost-effective outsourcing (cloud) strategy.
To achieve it, he engaged a trusted advisor to assist in selecting the right technologies.
A partner with the right support/integrator was required to conduct ROI analysis, using existing case studies and projections for the organisation.
He sees leading disruptive tech-enabled change as a key issue the ICT team will face ahead.
As to how he will lead through this challenge, he says: “Clear terms of reference and establish ownership with the business unit. Provide support and project management to see through the initiative and show value upfront.”