The South Regional TAFE has a reputation for delivering quality, flexible vocational education to meet the needs of students entering diverse industry sectors. From agriculture to IT, courses are designed to support the career aspirations of the community, helping them to earn valuable qualifications.
An ageing IT environment was due for upgrade, both to ensure compliance with Western Australia’s Government requirements and to maintain South Regional TAFE’s ability to deliver a quality service to students. The organisation sought a highly qualified partner to deliver consulting expertise to provide optimal governance and IT operations models.
As with many organisations, South Regional TAFE’s IT environment had developed over time, and some elements had become dated. When experienced CIO Swain Kirk joined the organisation, he quickly identified the need for modernisation, and the opportunities that a digital transformation could bring.
“We wanted to push the college forward through its use of technology. Before we could work on digital transformation, we needed to address some of the low-hanging fruit, the quick wins. These included updating from Windows 7 to Windows 10, introducing a new managed print service, and enabling the use of Zoom,” said Kirk.
These early projects gave Kirk the opportunity for a closer look at South Regional TAFE’s relationship with technology and provided the opportunity to learn more about the challenges faced by the different campuses.
“We have 12 campuses, widely distributed throughout southern WA, including Esperance, Margaret River, Albany, and Bunbury. This gives us a relatively complex IT environment that must support learning outcomes for automotive, trade, business, IT, and hospitality – we are a broad organisation with a large number of applications and services to support,” explained Kirk.
After conducting his own review, Kirk approached TAFE management to outline the needs he had identified, and the opportunity that a transition to cloud would bring.
“We’d reached the point where we could review our overall strategy and take a look at a cloud-first value proposition. It would give us a chance to shift from aged infrastructure to a Microsoft Azure or cloud-based environment. At the same time, we also had to look at our capacity to support the department’s governance framework, and address how we could deliver the best IT services to students and staff.”
The next step for South Regional TAFE was to issue a tender for consulting services that would give an independent perspective on the organisation’s needs, and how best to meet them.
“The executives’ view was that we needed an external organisation to come in and, with no preconceived notions, review our environment, identify areas we should improve, and recommend how we should address our cloud move,” said Kirk.
The South Regional TAFE was working with some technologies that approached end of life and saw an opportunity to move to a hybrid cloud environment to support modern learning. To do this, the organisation needed an accurate picture of its current state and a detailed plan for digital transformation.
Desired business outcomes included:
- Detailed inventory of current technology state
- Assessment of operational impacts of a cloud transition
- High level cloud strategy
- Recommendations for improvements to IT fundamentals
- Roadmap for South Regional TAFE to build its desired IT environment
As a government funded organisation, South Regional TAFE must adhere to Western Australia’s GovNext and Department of Training and Workforce Development (“DTWD”) governance, processes, and guidelines. It issued a tender seeking a consulting partner to assess its situation and advise on the best path forward. After a rigorous selection process, Business Aspect, a Data#3 wholly owned subsidiary, was found to have the capabilities and experience needed for the project.
The team at South Regional TAFE was familiar with Data#3, both as a DTWD Microsoft licensing partner, and from previous experience working across a number of unrelated projects. While they had not previously engaged with Data#3’s wholly owned subsidiary, Business Aspect, an awareness of their consulting capability made them a logical inclusion among a number of IT organisations invited to bid for the project.
“After considering the bids in detail, we chose to work with Business Aspect because of their breadth of experience in the Education Sector, their understanding of our Microsoft position, and their quality resource base of consultants. Their bid demonstrated competency in their review of our environments to be transitioned to cloud. The decision came down to the demonstrated capability managing similar projects,” confirmed Kirk.
After further briefing from South Regional TAFE’s IT team, Business Aspect consultants embarked on a series of discussions, gathering information from staff from around the organisation.
“They established more facts about what happens in the business through structured workshops, bringing together groups of lecturers, management executives, and other staff. The discussions pulled out nuggets of information that I didn’t have. As this process was spread across the organisation, it gave us a broader view, and helped the smaller campuses feel more included in the outcome,” described Kirk.
Following this research phase, Business Aspect compiled a report that identified vulnerabilities, mainly associated with ageing infrastructure, and noted opportunities to improve IT service delivery by building a closer relationship between IT and operations. Governance challenges relating to change management and cost management were addressed. A high-level roadmap for improvements offered guidance about preparation work that was needed in order to achieve a smooth, managed transition to a cloud model.
“Cybersecurity is very much on the tip of everybody’s tongue in IT departments. We have a government framework that we must work towards, the Essential 8, that identifies eight key areas our cybersecurity must address. Our ageing infrastructure and operating systems were identified as areas we need to improve. We have addressed upgrades from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and are upgrading our server fleet to provide a clean platform from which to migrate to cloud. This preparation work will reduce our risk profile and ready us to transition,” said Kirk.
A high-level cloud strategy was included in the report, including a close look at organisational impact and the organisation design needed to support a cloud model. The report “95 percent confirmed” Kirk’s own initial assessment of what was needed, but he said that the conversations with many stakeholders added nuance and provided a valuable independent viewpoint.
“The fundamentals were as I suspected they would be, so the report validated what I put forward, and gave TAFE executives confidence that we were going the right way as an organisation. It has given us a framework, and a basis for prioritising our actions in the near future and further ahead. The report is a guide that shows us where to go, and we are starting to move down that path.”
Importantly to Kirk, the report also offered recommendations for improvements to the ICT function in South Regional TAFE, with a focus on service delivery within a complex, multi-campus organisation.
“The consultants put forward the need to align the IT strategy with business strategy: the tail can’t wag the dog. Rather than IT pushing solutions on people, the report provided clarity about practical ways we can integrate more closely with the business. It was good to have this reinforced,” explained Kirk.
Business Aspect clearly demonstrated that they had the depth of knowledge, skillset, and experience this type of project needed”Swain Kirk, Chief Information Officer, South Regional TAFE
When taking an in-depth look at the organisation’s ICT environment before a cloud transition, Kirk said it was important to recognise that the project goes beyond technology. The people and processes impacted must carry significant weight in any plan if it is likely to succeed.
“The Business Aspect consultant understood both the organisational and the technical elements involved. He was happy to come and engage with various working groups in person, rather than by Zoom or Microsoft Teams, even when working with staff from our regional campuses. Their inclusion makes them feel valued, and it gives us a more complete organisational view,” described Kirk.
When selecting a consulting partner for similar projects, Kirk said it is important to verify that they have a depth of experience, and can “walk the walk, not just talk the talk” when it comes to cloud transition.
“Business Aspect clearly demonstrated that they had the depth of knowledge, skillset, and experience this type of project needed.”
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