Uni of Wollongong CIO lays the ‘digital foundation’

Uni of Wollongong CIO lays the ‘digital foundation’

Transformed IT infrastructure lays building blocks for future innovations

University of Wollongong's CIO Fiona Rankin

University of Wollongong's CIO Fiona Rankin

University of Wollongong CIO Fiona Rankin is “laying the digital foundation” and undertaking a series of moves to take the university to the next level.

Part of her moves have included partnering with Oracle to consolidate the university’s 14 disparate solutions into one cloud platform with Oracle HCM, ERP and EPM.

She acknowledged it’s one of her larger moves as part of the university’s digital transformation journey and it lays the building blocks for future initiatives and innovations including the $500 million Health and Wellbeing Precinct currently being developed at the Wollongong campus.

“It’s one large step on our digital transformation journey,” she told CIO Australia. “I wouldn’t say it’s the whole thing because there are a bunch of things we’re doing around teaching and learning, but it creates a standardised platform through which we can leverage future initiatives.”  

She said part of the impetus for adopting the new technology was to ditch some of the older legacy systems that were in need of modernisation.

“I wasn’t interested in sweating the assets. I wanted us to move forward because I could see we were at a very locked-in corner where we couldn't move anywhere. There were frustrations in terms of our current operations. There were frustrations in terms of our current stakeholders and the experience which was just so awful - and is so awful - so people had been delighted from the get-go that we were actually finally moving on it.”

Essentially, the university was seeking to not only improve overall efficiency, but also increase its respective entities ability to participate and compete in the dynamic higher education sector and more broadly in the global marketplace.

“The technology lays the foundation for some of our future strategic initiatives,” Rankin explained.

Certainly, Australian Universities are under immense pressure to perform on the global arena. They’re expected to attract the brightest minds from across the world, be a powerhouse for innovation, and adapt to constant digital disruption – all while providing a seamless experience to students, staff and researchers.

Rankin said once the platform has been built and delivered, this transformation will enable the university to free up valuable resources for student and staff initiatives.

“We can focus more on the people aspects of our business and leave the system to do what it needs to do.

“We’re essentially looking at doing more with less. This gives us the opportunity to retire a series of systems - or related systems - that will drive efficiencies. It will also drive things like straight through processing and allow us a single data source,” she said, explaining it will enable systems to link together to ensure transparent and streamlined operational processes.

“It’s very competitive in the higher education sector at the moment and it’s going to get more competitive. Essentially, this will allow us to be a lot more efficient. In addition to that, the same solution will give me the internal native integration,” she said, explaining it takes away the burden of building support and maintaining integrations.

But the journey will take time. She said the university has only just started the implementation and expects a two-year adoption program. “It will be a big program and there will be lots of organisational change challenges. I have no doubt about that.”

The first step is to implement the core and then continue to refine and deploy more components of the overall solution, she explained.

Beefing up customer experience  

Indeed, she expects massive benefits for both students and staff in terms of enhanced user and customer experience.

“It will provide a much better enhanced user experience for students when they engage with the university. . . When we recruit new people to the university, the overall onboarding process will be a lot more efficient and the overall experience will be a lot more pleasant and engaging.”

She said the system will allow for more self-service and faster turnaround for addressing students' needs, and will also free up staff time and resources to focus on other initiatives.

She’s particularly excited about looking at the user journeys and what’s possible with the new system and how to “delight our end user stakeholders.”

Additionally, Rankin said the university has a series of programs underway as part of its overall strategic plan. 

“We’re rebuilding our intranet. This will contribute to improving our staff productivity and experience - and clearly like any business, retention is a big part of our business. We're ensuring we maintain our good quality staff and enabling them to give the best experience to our students.”

The university is also rebuilding its website (eyeing a content management system), and looking at student lifecycle processes and building customer relationship systems.

Rankin said these and other moves are all part of the plan to lay the digital foundations.

“You can’t keep going with bespoke bits and pieces. You can in some aspects, but when it comes to the overall enterprise-wide view of architecture, you have to modernise. You have to build the digital foundations so that you can scale up - because you just won’t keep up. You just can’t keep up.”

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