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CIO50 2021 #26-50: Alistair Vickers, Tū Ora Compass Health

  • Name Alistair Vickers
  • Title Chief Information Officer
  • Company Tū Ora Compass Health
  • Commenced role December 2017
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 14 staff, six direct reports
  • Tū Ora is the fourth largest Primary Health Organisation (PHO) in New Zealand, with 57 practices in its network across two DHB regions of the Lower North Island. In mid-2019 it began a digital transformation programme, led by CIO Alistair Vickers, to completely refresh every part of the technology stack. The Tū Ora leadership team had recognised the challenges faced by an ageing, bespoke legacy technology base, and saw the opportunities of fully embracing a modern, secure, cost-effective and ‘as a Service’ model for digital services.

    The programme has involved replacing over 50 applications and over 60 pieces of bespoke code onto two core solutions, moving from a locally hosted data centre model with over 70 physical and virtual servers onto nine VMs on Microsoft Azure, in-sourcing the IT Operations function, and moving to a modern analytical and visualisation platform for all reporting services.

    In the process of delivering the programme, Vickers says Tū Ora made national news when it was the subject of significant cyber-attacks which targeted the legacy environment in late 2019. It was then at the front line of the health sector responses to Covid 19.

    “Nevertheless, the programme began to deliver benefits in time to enable frontline staff to keep working through Covid — by our migration onto Microsoft Teams and SharePoint 365, as well as our new Software-Defined WAN solution, then continued to retire all legacy servers and implement the new core platform mid-2020.”

    Tū Ora’s new cyber security posture — achieved through the implementation of Microsoft’s Defender, Endpoint and Azure security tools, alongside WAF and SIEM solutions — has seen the organisation being recognised as having ‘world class’ systems, recently vindicated by being awarded HIMSS INFRAM Level 6 accreditation, only the second organisation world-wide to achieve this.

    This represents a massive reversal from the nadir of October 2019 and vindicates the investment and strategic direction endorsed and funded by the Tū Board and Executive team, with Vickers citing the following benefits of the programme to demonstrate its success.

    ·      Much cheaper, more predictable costs for ICT services — savings of over 20% of overall ICT spend realised by moving from the former legacy to new model.

    ·      Far more secure systems, optimised for users.

    ·      DR/BCP capabilities significantly enhanced.

    ·      In-house Service Desk, with more personalised service for staff.

    ·      A platform to inform and support wider business initiatives through significantly improved BI and data analytical platforms/tools/team.

    ·      A well-governed and managed ICT function which supports and enables the business.

    ·      Business and board confidence in the ICT team and solution.

    ·      100% of Tū Ora staff able to work remotely and securely through Covid lockdown.

    ·      100% move from a manual, paper-based processing process of GP Claims onto an online portal, with speedier payments for service and removal of data input and other human errors.

    Championing IT in the organisation

    Throughout the Programme, from inception to completion, Vickers says the executive and board fully supported the transformation, acting as change champions and advocates, and reinforcing the accrued benefits Tū Ora gained in realising its wider strategic goals through the programme.

    “Staff training has been an on-going challenge. Technically, many of the new technologies adopted are so new that few people have the required skills and experience to use them, and there are few courses available to upskill. Similarly, the use of Microsoft Authenticator (for MFA), Teams, SharePoint 365, Power BI, the new B2B portal (branded by Tū Ora as Te Puna Mātauranga) and other new technologies has proved challenging for many staff members,” Vicker says 

    “To address this, the IT team has run a series of online and in-person training sessions, has identified super users across the business to act as Change Champions, and now all new staff get one-on-one training from the service desk team on our tools and services to help them become 100% productive as soon as possible.”

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