University of Adelaide
Name: Bev WrightTitle: Chief information officerCompany: The University of AdelaideCommenced role: March 2017Reporting line: Chief operating officerMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 230 staff, 4 direct reports
The COVID-19 pandemic put tremendous constraints on budgets across all industries globally, while demand for and expectations from digital services increased among users due to the requirement for remote working and learning.
The University of Adelaide was no exception, experiencing increased needs and expectations of students, researchers, academics, and staff for more advanced university digital services to be able to adapt to the new ways of working and learning.
Chief information officer Bev Wright took on this challenge and led her team to deliver more with less. Under her leadership, the university’s IT department rolled out a programme of multiple innovative but cost-effective changes to help uplift experience, efficiency, and effectiveness across the university. These enhancements were not just responding to a need during the pandemic but have proven to be sustainable improvements post-COVID.
Digital transformation at the university started in 2019, but some initiatives were reprioritised in 2020 to support pandemic-related technology. Through a focus on business continuity, remote working, and online teaching of academic content, the IT team was able to support and enable the university’s strategic objectives, even with the constrained funding and significant disruption brought about by COVID-19. Wright and her team found ways to make a real difference across the university without the price tag that normally accompanies innovation, and with limited resourcing.
Wright and her team delivered a program of targeted and innovative changes across a range of areas including:
An enterprise platform was established with the capability to deploy initiatives to improve the digital experience of key university cohorts.
Digital marketing capabilities were improved to create a better experience for prospective students through targeted and personalised journeys, resulting in increased conversion rates.
This initiative aimed to improve the experience of staff and students by using the Microsoft 365 platform as the workplace backbone, while providing students, staff, and industry partners with access to creativity and productivity tools. This has resulted in greater connectivity and productivity, and has improved workplace experience, helping with staff attraction and retention.
A student personalised portal was deployed that is accessible through all channels from smartphone, to tablet and laptop. This enhances the digital experience for current students by creating personalised content and journeys through onboarding, learning and teaching support, and other activities in the student lifecycle. This has helped increase student satisfaction, retention, and success rates.
Knowledge of relationships with stakeholders including current and prospective students, researchers, and alumni, has been established and content continues to be centralised as an Enterprise Relationship Management system, accessible across the university. This has provided improved support for marketing, business development and opportunity identification activities.
A single entry-point, self-service, and automated service management system has made it easier for staff to find and access services, improving efficiency, productivity, workplace experience and staff retention, while reducing costs.
The university enhanced its cyber program to deal with emerging risks and to ensure that the university systems and data are cyber-safe.
The university’s core computer network and storage platforms, including High Performance Computing for research, were upgraded using emerging technologies and innovative approaches to meet the organisation’s rapidly evolving needs.
The IT department was the first in the university to adopt ABW, which included implementing meeting rooms with displays and one-touch booking, day-use sit/stand desks, individual pass-card coded lockers, ultra-wide screens with built-in webcams, hubs and laptop charging. This was part of a number of initiatives aimed at addressing IT staff needs which helped lift staff engagement levels significantly and has created interest from other parts of the university to implement similar accommodation options for professional staff.
“Each of these changes has involved breaking new ground, new ways of working, engaging with students and staff, and driving innovation for the university. They have brought significant new capabilities, opened new pathways, and the potential of further possibilities to consider, for different areas to work collaboratively towards their common strategic goals,” says Wright.
Taking a “Whole of University” approach to localised IT pain points, as opposed to individual departments driving individual solutions, required a combination of influence, understanding and stakeholder engagement.
Focussing on digital foundations
Wright’s focus on the underlying digital foundations as essential to uplifting the digital capabilities of the university had the support of the university leadership team. She achieved this through combining an evidence-based approach with a sound understanding of leaders’ individual areas, which she had developed since becoming CIO in 2017.
“The crux of the discussion was that the digital essentials were foundational to being able to achieve meaningful, sustainable technology uplift in their areas,” Wright says.
“It is not an easy ask to explain the priority for technology, which is invisible to the people you are convincing, when they have tangible technology needs which affect them on a day-to-day basis. You need to effectively get them to take a ‘leap of faith’ in your judgement as an IT expert.”
Meanwhile, by understanding the different areas of the university, Wright and her team were able to identify opportunities to provide stop-gap measures to target key pain points in different areas until major technology upgrades and investment resumed.
Louis van Wyk