by Rodney Fletcher

CIO100 2017 #31-100: Brad Vines, Waikato Institute of Technology

Mar 29, 2017
Big Data Education Industry

The Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) has adapted business intelligence into its core strategy this year.

The strategy was to allow improved decision making, increased opportunity discovery and decreased risk within the organisation, says Brad Vines, IT director at Wintec.

He says the operational and structural improvements were significant as the key changes enabled by BI were to Wintec’s enrolment function.

“New business practices were created to overcome inefficiencies and previously decentralised processes were now able to be centralised, creating a better experience for students,” he says.

“We followed good change management principles and a top down approach from management.”

Wintec has transformed its enrolment process into an efficient supply chain, monitoring time, status and staffhandover points to isolate areas for improvement. This has resulted in significant reductions in enrolment application processing times, he says.

“At Wintec, our technology team does not actively seek innovation, rather it is built into our approach. Our focus is to identify simple solutions to complex problems

But then only deliver those that bring true value to the organisation or our students.

“Our practices are innovative not because they are new, but because they work,” he explains.

“Wintec IT actively engages our community throughout the year. We follow the customer value chain to identify areas where innovative solutions can yield the greatest benefit.

“Foremost among those this year was the creative use of data to help answer questions that were previously unanswerable, such as where and how students are using mobile devices on campus, how our classrooms and meeting rooms are being used, where bottlenecks occur in our sales processes and how we compare to our competitors internationally.”

This knowledge has led to policy change and operational improvements, quickly implemented and for minimal cost, he says. In other words, the solutions were simple once his team had the data to support the questions they were asking.

“By closely collaborating with experts within our business, and by allowing them to formulate the questions that needed answers, we’ve begun demonstrating the value of data for decision making and for operational improvement. Our customers benefit from the efficiencies we have gained through better and more personalised services.”

The Wintec IT team run Agile and Kanban boards, with daily stand-up meetings to manage the priority of all activities. The team’s architects keep abreast of new technologies; with time allowed to trial and recommend, says Vines.

“Projects are constantly re-assessed for priority to ensure new innovations are given consideration. We will change our programme of work to suit changes in our environment. Key stakeholders are consulted and form part of the prioritisation process.

“We have a strong network of vendor partners to handle overflow BAU priorities and they are involved in the project planning cycle to ensure they are able to support our intended direction.

“Several initiatives delivered bottom line operational improvement for Wintec this year, including reductions in domestic and international student application processing times, and a new onboarding network for staff, students and guests to self-provision wireless connectivity.’’

As a member of the executive team, with involvement in several committees, Vines helps set and influence strategy, policy and decision making.

His management team collaborates regularly with senior leaders throughout the organisation, firstly to understand the needs of their business units and secondly, to help educate.

Vines meets with members of the board every two months to update them on business plan progress, share achievements and elicit feedback.

He also has a marketing and communications specialist to help him convey IT’s role, upcoming changes and the benefits of technology to the organisation. The team also contributes a technology column in the weekly staff newsletter.

“Each year I host a Technology Showcase for all staff. Guest speakers from industry provide context and a view to the future, while faculty and our HR business partners work closely with my team to make technology-based professional development workshops available to staff on the day,” he says.

His hiring policy is to attract and retain people with curiosity and initiative. Those are the key behaviours to enable success in the Wintec environment. These behaviours are found equally in women and men and across cultures, he points out.

“We have a very diverse team who thrive in our dynamic, self-starter led environment. I have people in my team who specialise in capability development, coaching and mentoring. My managers and their staff all benefit from having these skills within the team, as do staff throughout the organisation.”

Rodney Fletcher