Name: Anthony MoliniaTitle: Chief digital & information officerCompany: University of NewcastleCommenced role: October 2016Reporting line: Chief operating officerMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 250 staff, 7 direct reports
With a fresh digital strategy, which aligned with its latest strategic plan, the University of Newcastle wanted to upgrade its communication tools and improve its technology touchpoints with staff and students.
The aim was to maximise the opportunities and benefits presented by digital technology, while boosting engagement with users and improve the overall digital experience at the University.
What was needed was a university-wide drive to a platform architecture model what would increase adoption of digital tools, consolidate technology resources, promote standardisation and re-use, simplify support, and help to reduce costs and alleviate technical debt.
Chief digital and information officer, Anthony Molinia and his Digital Technology Solutions (DTS) team has always sought to lead from the front and seek opportunities to invest in technologies to better enhance the outcomes of students.
So, the challenge was on to unify and simplify various channels, such as video, audio, support, learning delivery, and collaboration, while enhancing self-service options and streamlining processes.
By investing in intuitive interfaces and technology, the University was able to improve efficiency and create a more seamless experience for all.
“This has resulted in heightened satisfaction levels, achieved cost avoidance, and aided the University in setting itself apart in a competitive marketplace – demonstrating its commitment to innovation and customer service,” says Molinia.
This can be seen through three key projects – consolidating collaboration tools, enabling self-service support, and implementing a world-first video search capability.
Consolidating collaboration tools
The University’s shift to Zoom as its enterprise platform for video and audio conferencing, telephony, learning and teaching and contact centre has been transformative, says Molinia.
“The move to a single platform has streamlined technology options for ease of use and opened a perpetual communication channel for staff and students beyond just meetings and lectures.”
Benefits achieved include improved collaboration, communication and teaching, reduced costs, and a smaller carbon footprint. All while resulting in a satisfaction rate among staff and students of over 90%.
“Adopting Zoom has enabled the University to enhance its operations and become a more efficient and effective organisation whilst saving over $5.5 million on other telecommunication technology by integrating into a single platform,” says Molinia.
In 2022, the University introduced the NU-B virtual assistant to staff and students to enable self-service support. Based on the ServiceNow platform, this virtual assistant has significantly reduced workload, while providing quick responses to common technological queries, says Molinia.
“One of the critical features of NU-B is the establishment of a knowledge base constantly being enriched with relevant content. This enables the virtual assistant to answer support and general inquiry questions effectively. As a result, there has been an 18.5% reduction in service calls for the IT Service Desk,” he says.
A phased rollout to the university’s student helpdesk, Student Central, which supports around 75,000 queries/year, is ongoing and is expected to lead to further efficiencies.
“This positions the university to adopt more pervasive AI technology in the future, utilising technology such as ChatGPT. This will expand the value and service proposition of the virtual assistant even further, allowing it to provide more personalised and sophisticated support,” says Molinia.
The implementation of a patented world-first technology, Linius Whizzard, has allowed staff and students to “deep dive” into the university’s existing video archive to find content with which to create and share personalised compilation videos, says Molinia.
“This is a first for any university and puts the power of video into the hands of the user, enabling the organisation to unlock the use of video for the very first time,” he says.
“Video has not only become one of the most common ways for people to consume content, it is also becoming a standard medium for learning. The University saw this as an opportunity to partner with Linius to trial video search technology with historical video content.”
In its first use-case in 2022, the tool was able to find content that historically took six weeks to compile in a matter of minutes, says Molinia. The university is investigating the benefits this technology could bring to other forms of video content.
In addition to delivering this project, Molinia has also transformed the DTS group over the past two years by focussing on driving change as a trusted advisor and strategic partner. As a results, the university technological maturity has increased by 105% as assessed by Gartner’s digital maturity assessment tool.
In this time, the team led the implementation of a modern operating model, migrated the university’s corporate environment to a public cloud provider and enabled the adoption of activity based-working across the organisation. The team also opened a Cyber Lab where students can develop and test cyber security scenarios and threats in a safe environment, while Molinia also led the acceptance of a “trial and reflect” approach – often using the DTS team itself as a test bed for new ideas.
Louis van Wyk