David Edwards’ technology-enabled improvements are all about improving the experience of students. Lecture rooms are being refurbished with the latest audiovisual equipment and the facility to record or stream all lectures. And the workplace is being digitised, with Microsoft Office 365, Yammer, One Drive for Business, MS Power BI, MS Project Online and Skype for Business (unified communications and better remote/flexible working).
Director of IT
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
We have a significant investment programme that is aimed at improving the experience of our students through technology enabled improvements. This includes a programme to refurbish our lecture rooms to include the latest audio visual equipment and the facility to record or stream all lectures. Additionally, we are digitising the workplace, leveraging Microsoft Office 365 to integrate our email. calendars, collaboration (Yammer), OneDrive for Business, MS Power BI, MS Project Online, Skype For Business etc – this is fundamentally changing the way we work at the University for our employees and students.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
We have replaced our analogue telephony system with Skype for Business which now enables unified communications and facilitates better remote/flexible working.
Lecture capture allows our academics to be innovative in the delivery of lectures, including things such as the ‘flipped classroom’ as well as providing the ability for students to replay captured lectures.
The introduction of MS Power BI is providing better business intelligence for the organisation which is leading to better outcomes in areas such as student recruitment and research excellence.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
One of the challenges our students and visitors have is to navigate their way around the University. Cardiff University is a city university with over 300 buildings spread across a wide geographical location. We did consider digital signage but I have now commissioned a proof of concept to provide an augmented reality application which can help navigate across the city while also providing a wealth of information through the student’s mobile device screen.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
We have doubled our training budget and ensuring that all of the IT team are trained to ITIL foundation level. We are encouraging and facilitating cross training to enhance resilience but also to provide greater job satisfaction. Through better monitoring of service performance we are focusing on improving the customer experience.
How have you worked with your CEO and/or board to communicate whatever ‘digital’ and IT means to your organisation/sector and improve digital literacy at the highest levels of the organisation?
We have launched a digital transformation programme which is leveraging the MS Office 365 workplace technical products. The advantages of this is that Microsoft are doing the heavy lifting from a technical perspective allowing us to focus on helping people to use the products through training material but also through use cases – providing real life examples of effective usage.
How have you worked with the technology and IT vendor market to achieve your business goals? How have you been able to influence IT suppliers and successfully manage your partnerships/relationships with large IT companies, SMEs and startups?
We have worked with our suppliers to provide genuine partnerships. Longer term contracts provide a significant discount but the real value is with the commitments that we have to work together to advance their business and the objectives of Cardiff University.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
We have introduced apprenticeships as well as student internships where we have actively encouraged applications from all diverse groups. Additionally I am personally involved with the Tech Partnership (formally e-skills UK) which actively encourages girls to take an interest in technology.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
IT is organised into Build (provision and development of solutions), Operate (technical operations) and Service Management (oversee). We use a number of methodologies – ITIL, PRINCE 2, SCRUM which helps us to effectively deliver IT services. Additionally we have a separate University PMO which regulates our Portfolio, Programmes and Projects ensuring that the focus is on delivering the business benefits and not just the introduction of technology.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
One of our primary suppliers is Blackboard – providers of our Virtual Learning Environment which is one of the main interfaces for our students. I signed a five-year deal with them just after the Brexit vote at the pre-Brexit exchange rate (providing significant savings as well as providing financial stability for the next five years). In addition to the main contract for products an services we also signed a partnership deal which outlines how we work together for mutual benefit.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
We have a £600m investment programme which includes a number of new buildings and further initiatives to improve the student and researches experience. We will also commence a complete network refresh and will move out of one of our data centres to a commercial data centre offering.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
As many of our products and services are bought using US dollars and so currency fluctuation is a big risk as a result of Brexit. We are mitigating this risk through contract negotiations which fix exchange rates until after Brexit is likely to be concluded.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
CIO to COO
Are you a member of the executive leadership?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- Analyst houses
- CIO peers
- Industry bodies
Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
How many employees are there in your IT team?
Are you increasing your headcount or planning to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next year?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- devices (mobile)
- devices (desktop)
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- enterprise applications
- devices (mobile)
- devices (desktop)
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
AR, IoT, cognitive computing
Does your organisation do a significant amount of trade with the EU?
Does your department include technology staff from the EU?
Are you or have you been looking to the EU to recruit key skills?