CIO50 2020 #26-50: Liz Gosling, Auckland University of Technology
AUT has implemented the most comprehensive cybersecurity campaign, which not only addressed threats behind the scenes, but also increased awareness among staff and students, says its CIO Liz Gosling.
“While cybersecurity may be regarded by some as ‘housekeeping’, the increasing sophistication of threats means the risk of members of staff and students being exposed to them are greater. This can no longer be seen as business as usual at the university,” says Gosling.
The work included multi-channel communications, events and briefings at all levels of the university.
Gosling cites the university-wide student and staff cybersecurity campaign as one of the key initiatives driven by the ICT services teams to ensure that AUT benefits from the latest technologies.
Another major project for her team is the replacement of the university’s core Learning Management System (LMS).
This was done to align with the new strategic plan AUT Directions to 2025, and AUT’s vision of “Great Graduates”.
“This is no simple piece of work as it includes challenging mindsets. This means collaborating with a workforce that is highly educated and passionate about our students, but are not always aware of new developments in the technology space,” says Gosling.
“This sets the stage for AUT to be at the forefront of providing flexible and personalised learning opportunities, allowing students to have more control over their progression through their degree.”
The ICT services team, meanwhile, has converted the majority of their ICT infrastructure from CAPEX to OPEX.
“A large organisation like AUT has significant and complex needs in the infrastructure space,” says Gosling.
“By changing the procurement approach to an ‘as a service’ model, we can deliver costs savings by only purchasing the capacity that is needed today, rather than buying ahead for predicted future requirements.”
Digital workplace strategy
The ICT services team has also implemented Microsoft Teams and Yammer, and is gearing up for the transition to Teams Voice.
“The introduction of Yammer has cut the amount of emails traversing the organisation, and has allowed people to connect with particular interest groups – in AUT that is everything from sustainability to the history of our organisation,” she says.
AUT is currently piloting Teams Voice, to replace the existing IP telephony system which is over a decade old.
“AUT is an organisation that values collaboration and communication,” says Gosling.
“By introducing Teams and Yammer, we provided our people with an easy to use collaboration platform that they can use to work in cross functional, collaborative groups on a wide range of initiatives.”
“This has helped our people to become more efficient, as they don’t have to deal with a lot of email, but rather use Teams to curate the conversations and files that they need,” she adds.
AUT has more than 6,600 desktop and laptop computers, and delivering software images to them each year is a huge undertaking.
Last year, the ICT services team ran a trial to look at more efficient ways of executing this.
“We hope to revolutionise the way AUT provides computer desktop images and allow us respond to business change effectively ‘on the fly’,” says Gosling.
Gosling is working with the group director of people and culture to implement a self-service employee portal, built on ServiceNow.
AUT’s ICT was one of the very first ServiceNow customers in New Zealand over 10 years ago, and it is used extensively to provide ICT support to staff and students.
The portal is now being extended to provide HR and payroll support as well. It will also provide proactive information and reminders of the tasks that staff need to complete at different times of the year.
Gosling says work on the student management system has included automated testing which has allowed them to reduce the amount of time required for regression testing.
The deployment windows have been reduced from all day to a few hours using deployment scripts and within the product, she states.
“These examples provide practical, daily benefits that influence the work and study experience of staff and students and deliver to a key strategic theme of being ‘a place where people love to work and learn’,” says Gosling.
Change management nous
Gosling points out that all change projects have challenges, and in a diverse community of 30,000 people, “the impacts of change need to be carefully worked through.”
She says some of the changes her team have implemented are largely “invisible” to the community.
But the rollout of Office365, Teams and Yammer require a lot of change management, she states.
The ICT service team ran a series of digital pop-ups around the campus, with expert presentations, case studies and help on hand to ensure people knew how to get the most out of the new technologies.
The sessions were planned to demystify Office365 and explore best practices for O365 applications like Outlook, OneDrive, Yammer, Teams, Forms and Planner.
The community heard from the experts on how to set up and use the O365 tools to share knowledge and collaborate with their team and others.
They also learned how to access their work when they are out of the office.
Gosling supports a range of programmes to support diversity in the workplace, and mentors young women on developing their careers.
She is also an ICF (International Coach Federation) qualified coach, and uses those skills to support her own staff and others outside the university.
As director of operations for AUT’s Emergency Management Team, Gosling works to ensure the university has harnessed technology to improve processes, as well as being mindful of potential vulnerabilities.
She says AUT’s entire Emergency Management process, checklists, templates and plans are housed in a cloud-based SharePoint site.
Last year, she worked with a professional external organisation to run a multi-media crisis simulation. The emergency management team was exposed to the challenges that could arise in real-life crisis situations.
Taking on these roles outside the traditional CIO remit highlights one of the key leadership lessons Gosling has learned through the years.
“He tangata, he tangata, he tangata,” she says, citing the Maori proverb.
“The people that you have around you are what drives success,” she says. “With the right people, who possess a positive and proactive attitude, you can achieve great things.”
At the same time, she says, respect is at the core of how they work together.
“We’re collaborative, inclusive and open, and our staff value different viewpoints and challenge conventional ways of doing things; the same characteristics AUT graduates are well-known for.”
“In contrast, hiring the wrong people can be damaging to the team, and the organisation.”