by Divina Paredes

CIO 100: AUT University

Mar 24, 2016
Technology Industry

LIZ GOSLING IS the first CIO of AUT, the youngest among eight universities in New Zealand. She stepped up to the role in late 2014 after being group director of ICT services for three years, and before that its director IT services.

She says this move “is a recognition that CIO roles are not just about technology”.

“A small portion of it is infrastructure, but it is about transformation and supporting the business and being customer centric.” This is something she strongly applies as she and her 165-team works on projects that range from infrastructure to digital technologies across faculties and departments.

Gosling led the group that drafted the university’s Digital Strategy report. She says the three-to-five year strategy all links back to AUT’s strategic themes of learning and teaching, research, continuous development and engagement with communities and what they want to deliver in all those areas.

“It is an overarching strategy, we look at all of the different things we are doing, how are we going to simplify and make it simple for the staff and users across the board? When it comes to the user experience, she says “rather than systems getting more complicated, technology should be helping them to achieve their objectives”.

The ongoing project on end user computing is essentially delivering a virtualised desktop to any device, wherever the students are. She says this project is expected to be completed before the year-end. “It is about putting power back in the hands of the users.”

Gosling sees a very busy year ahead for the ICT team.

The ongoing migration to SharePoint is one of the biggest projects for the university. The team has also been working on BI projects, and rolled out Skype for business. They are also rolling out an enterprise videoconferencing system from Zoom.

“It is much easier for users, with our previous system, most academics needed a technician to help them. Now, they can drive it themselves.”

One of the projects the team worked on was the Stroke Riskometer app which is able to calculate the risks of the likelihood of a stroke based in a series of factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and lifestyle.

That has been really successful, she says, as she notes how the 165-member ICT team work with different faculties and departments on a number of projects.

“We are working with researchers on data collection and data management which are very important to the university.”

She says the university has also switched its production data centre to Datacom’s Orbit facilities.

Academics use different technologies in different ways, she states. “We looked at strengthening our online platform Blackboard, and have done more enhancements on all teaching spaces.”

Ongoing projects include changing the library system into Sierra platform, and a CRM project. The latter is a student relationship management system with Microsoft. AUT holds a campus license with Microsoft and it aims to leverage as much as possible of that, says Gosling.

She is also looking forward to the work on the Engineering, Technology and Design building, which she says will provide state of the art technology to support students. The building is currently being constructed and will open in 2018. It will be equipped with a lot of machine to machine equipment, so the ICT team can work first-hand on Internet of things technologies.

AUT is also on the early stages of a student digital hub project. She says this is to ease a problem that is common among universities or even major enterprises. There is this assumption made by organisations that you have to understand how to navigate the organisational structures in order to get what you need, she says.

She says this is not the ideal approach. “What we are doing is very much student centric, or customer centric.

“We have all the information on the student and through an app, and plan to push what we think students need. If you are a new student, you will get information on orientation or how to use the library. A postgraduate student will not need information on orientation but be directed, for instance, to a postgraduate laboratory.”

Gosling explains that when working on these projects, the team looked at organisations that did “web experience really well”.

They came up with three – Air New Zealand because of its customised, personalised easy to navigate website; Marks and Spencers in the UK for providing pop up information to users on items they may be interested in, and Amazon, whose recommendation engine also provides a similar experience for users.

“We try to provide a personalised, customised easy to navigate place where we are giving you information that you actually need.

“This is a very complicated thing to do because underneath all that, we have to integrate different systems.”

She says she is working with partners on this project. “We need to find strong partners who understand user experience. This is a key part of it because, yes, we can design the technology but whether it is easy to use is another matter.”

She says the IT team came first in student satisfaction benchmarking and close second in staff benchmarking in the 2014 customer satisfaction survey among Australian and New Zealand universities. That is way above other New Zealand universities, she says, on the survey that they participate in every two years.

A recent accolade was having AUT ranking 12th globally, above other New Zealand Universities in the Times Higher Education List, for attracting staff and students around the world, and how well they collaborated with overseas universities.

“A lot of what we are doing is building relationships both internally across the university, and also helping people collaborate externally overseas. They need good IT infrastructure to do that.”