CIO50 2019 #26-50: Liz Gosling, Auckland University of Technology

Liz Gosling has driven the adoption of agile within the ICT services team at AUT.

But possibly more significant is the fact that the agile approach is now being adopted in other areas of the university, including people and culture, finance and student services and administration.

The CIO at AUT used a phased approach to implementing agile beyond the ICT function, in partnership with People Culture.

First, she supported six staff from ICT services and People and Culture to get a formal Agile qualification, then asked them to train other staff.

“The objective of the Agile programme was not limited purely to software development, but is intended to improve operational efficiency, transparency, visibility and collaboration between teams by using a range of Agile practices,” explains Gosling.

“We’ve seen that Agile Scrum Practices have improved the collaboration we have with our stakeholders,” she says.

“Now we are able to respond to changes and provide value to our customers sooner, because we receive regular feedback during the review demonstrations. We are keeping the goals and success measures visible and as a result we have a clearer picture of what ‘done’ means to everyone,” says Gosling.

The Scrum practices and events, meanwhile, enable the developers, testers and business analysts to work more effectively.

The daily stand up meetings create greater common understanding and situational awareness, by providing visibility of members’ tasks and also reducing risk as any problems are highlighted early.

The teams regularly inspect and adapt their ways of working during the retrospective meetings, which results in improved ways of working at each sprint.

Visibility of work being done within each team has increased with the use of visual boards as well as greater collaboration amongst team members. Understanding what others in the team are working on, reduces duplicity of work and encourages sharing knowledge and advice between team members, she says.

Gosling leads improving business processes at AUT, and thus, ICT members have worked across the organisation to train other staff how to map and improve their processes.

AUT now has 25 business process champions, who are supported by ICT staff.

Gosling says some of the projects delivered through this new way of thinking and operating were the inclusion of key examination information for students on the Student Digital Workspace (central digital hub); integrating two of the university’s key systems to reduce administrative burden when handling students’ marks; and a project to digitise AUT’s annual planning process.

Over the past year, Gosling and her leadership team led the implementation of a new operating model for ICT services.

The model has several key objectives:

  • Promote early and consistent engagement with key stakeholders in the other group directorates and faculties.

  • Ensure that there is a clear separation of duties between development/configuration activities and operational activities.

  • Provide opportunities for staff that are currently performing roles that are under threat from the convergence and abstraction of core platform services.

  • Focus on and invest in IT capabilities that directly contribute to AUT’s strategic goals.

She says the new operating model has delivered a number of benefits.

ICT staff spend more time in other areas of the university, use cloud and as a service models where it is beneficial to do so, and focus more on the core business of “teaching, learning and research, and less on ‘keeping the lights on’ activities”, she states.

In 2018, AUT reviewed its Learning, Teaching Curriculum framework, to align with the new strategic plan, AUT Directions to 2025, and AUT’s vision of “Great Graduates”.

As an executive member, Gosling led the Digital Stream of this work, working with the deputy vice chancellor and colleagues from across the university to examine how digital can contribute to creating ‘exceptional learning experiences’, and recommend ways to advance such work.

“This is no simple piece of work and includes challenging mindsets, old ways of doing things and collaborating with a workforce that is highly educated and passionate about our students, but not always aware of new developments in the technology space,” says Gosling.

She says this work will position AUT at the forefront of providing flexible and personalised learning opportunities to allow students to have more control over their progression through their degree.

Beyond her ICT leadership role, Gosling is also a member of AUT’s overall budget committee.

Keeping staff informed about the organisation, is a key part of the role of a CIO. Gosling writes a newsletter or posts a video on the intranet, with a friendly update every month, without fail.

She keeps an ‘open door’ policy to ensure that staff can engage with her at any time.

External leadership

Gosling works extensively outside AUT to support diversity, and mentors young women who wish to develop their careers. She is also an ICF (International Coach Federation) qualified coach, and uses these skills to support her own staff and those outside the university.

She is also a member of NZTech Leaders, an advisory group of digital and technology leaders, and is the current board chair of TUANZ (Telecommunications Users’ Association of New Zealand).

She embraces the importance of voices representing diversity in all its forms around tables in tech and tertiary organisations. She says as a CIO, she is fortunate to be in a position to share that with the rest of the industry.

Every year, she co-hosts the Women in IT Conference with her counterpart at the University of Auckland. She says this annual conference and series of networking events throughout the year provide an important opportunity for women in the tertiary sector to unite and connect.

Our theme for the last conference was ‘learn, think and act’, says Gosling.

“The speakers highlighted the need for the tech industry to really focus on how organisations can truly support diversity, in its broadest sense, in the workplace,” says Gosling.

“Organisations need to really look at their culture, and have some honest conversations about the changes that may need to occur in their workplaces,” she says.

Critical metrics

Every two to three years, AUT runs a staff engagement survey. Gosling says the ICT function takes the results of this survey seriously. She has assigned a team within ICT to run staff engagement activities to address areas that can be improved.

Activities for the year ahead include team building events, socials, and courses and tools for managers. She says the ICT team has an annual rewards and recognition programme, and the cash prize,“covetedprize, “coveted by all”, is used to further personal development.

The ICT services team also organises regular ‘brown bag’ lunches that are open to all AUT staff. The subjects are generally around IT, but not exclusively technical, she explains.

These lunches are an excellent opportunity for AUT staff to network with ICT staff, says Gosling. They are very popular and attract a diverse audience.

“Our topics range from IT quantum computing to general health such as good workstation habits,” says Gosling.

The ICT team has held over 40 talks in the last two years, with speakers from across the university.

Another area that she is involved in is supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

AUT’s ICT division has been focusing on ways to meet key challenges articulated in the UNSDGs for some time,” she says.

Gosling says key focus areas for her team in this area include device and battery recycling and ICT energy efficiency.

Last year, the ICT team participated in the Fujitsu Sustainability Survey in in order to understand their environmental footprint.

The survey revealed that AUT’s overall performance is 23 per cent better than New Zealand’s education, health and welfare sector and more than 18 per cent better than New Zealand organisations overall.

More importantly, she says, the survey identified opportunities that her ICT team are prioritising, resulting in specific commitments that are included in the university’s Sustainability Roadmap.

“AUT’s energy audit is ongoing and energy usage will continue to be a key focus.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories