“With a significant reduction in capital and operational budgets, the challenge has been to keep technical debt, and its associated risks, at an acceptable level, against the backdrop of the university’s new technology roadmap,” says Andy Keiller, chief information officer, University of Canterbury.
“This roadmap has the key component of an integration layer that will allow the leveraging of legacy technology and solutions by creating the opportunity to develop new services through modern presentation technologies. It will also allow easier integration of new solutions with older ones.
“The journey is an ongoing one but a number of successful “proof of concepts” have helped to inform and shape it”.
He says having set a technological direction, the next challenge is to ensure the IT staff are in a good position to develop and leverage this technology.
“I have been in consultation with staff over the past six months and we are now in a position to embark on creating and developing a new structure that will include product teams, which will be self-contained, self-managed and empowered to deliver services associated with critical business value streams”.
As part of the journey towards the new architecture and product teams it was obvious that the university would need to create capacity to allow IT to deliver on these initiatives, he says.
“Automation is one way to address the mundane tasks of the operational environment and create efficiencies,” says Keiller.
“The IT Services has started ‘hackfests’ which are specifically focused on driving more automation.
“We have delivered on three of the four areas we identified,” he adds.
“The fourth identified, early on in the hackfest, as not being achievable until we have introduced more of our integration layer technologies.”
“We have an ongoing programme of hackfests this year, which will be turning their focus to creating the appropriate technologies and services for the new product teams.”
The “hackfests” are not unique in terms of what they deliver, Keiller says.
“But the way we have structured them, similar to a product team, has allowed our staff to get a feel for how our new structure will work in reality.”
The hackfests have also helped get significant buy-in to the realignment of IT Services into product teams that will focus on key university value streams, he says.
“This is helping with our organisational change management as we prepare, in earnest, to re-align IT Services over the next 18 months,” says Keiller
Keiller regularly presents to the senior management team on the progress of implementing and developing the new technologies identified in the roadmap.
This progress is made visible through the exposure of the IT Services Portfolio plan which in turn maps to my IT Strategy’s objectives, he says.
He says encouraging the staff to challenge themselves even if they have not identified a formal career path is an important part of his leadership.
“I have taken a different approach to the University’s personal development programme which is heavily focused on task-based activity,” he says.
“I now spend more time, with my direct reports, on discussing how they will achieve their objectives and what behaviours they need to embrace and display to move the IT Services’ constructive culture forward.”
Apart from regular meetings with the members of the senior management Team, Keiller has volunteered to be on more of the non-technology focused committees.
He is active in the Learning and Teaching committee and is helping develop a Learning and Teaching Strategy which focuses on pedagogy and not technology. He is also a member of the newly-formed Information Governance Committee.
“I see both of these areas as being hugely influential and critical to the university’s success, and to assist in developing a more targeted IT Strategy to underpin these areas.”
He says the biggest single lesson he has learned is that IT is all about people from two perspectives, those who deliver the technology and those who use it.
“As part of delivering a significant organisational change, the initial challenge I have to overcome is that a change proposal will affect every member of the IT Staff and will have budget implications” he says.
“I have been very clear, as we have embarked on this change, of what the outcomes are and how we are going to measure success. I have put together a change programme that will allow staff to contribute through facilitated workshops, informal drop in sessions, one-to-ones and briefings.
“This approach has proven to be popular with staff and is reflected in the numbers who are actively engaging in the process”.
“I have listened and adjusted our change programme on the basis of input from staff. There will also be clear review points, over the next 18 months, where lessons learned will be captured and applied. There are exciting times ahead of us.”