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Transforming the workplace

Transforming the workplace

ICT executives discuss the impact of new collaboration tools on the enterprise, and the skills needed to succeed in this new environment, in a CIO roundtable with Spark Digital.

In the round

Aaron O'Brien, CIO, Les Mills International

Roger Jones, chief technology officer, Auckland Transport

Alin Ungureanu, CIO, Oceania Healthcare

James Christopher, chief technology officer, UXC Oxygen

John Pye, director, associate director, applications and business intelligence, University of Auckland

Dave Wilson, regional manager for collaboration, Cisco

Neil Gong, IS manager, NZMA

Leanne Buer, head of collaboration, Spark Digital

Pam Nobbs, head of IT, The Comfort Group

Simon Gillespie, GM national corporate, Spark Digital

Peter van Dyk, CIO, BEST Pacific Institute of Education

Vanessa Sorenson, business manager, commercial acquisition, Spark Digital

Divina Paredes, editor, CIO New Zealand(moderator)

Related: In pictures: CIO Roundtable on 'Transforming the workplace'

The different facets of collaboration

Alin Ungureanu, Oceania Healthcare: We’re in the aged care sector and as I always say, you are our future clients. Collaboration is very important for us. We operate throughout New Zealand and have 3500 staff nationwide in about 50 locations. We make use of a number of tools for the operational side of our business. The core side of our business is the clinical side. Collaboration can either be phone calls, video, text, audio, or information/reports to support decision-making.

The channels of collaboration have to be matched with the task that you need to put forth and support the objectives you want to achieve.

Alin Ungureanu, Oceania Healthcare

Aaron O’Brien, Les Mills International: I have two roles at the company: Half a week in marketing as head of digital, and half a week as a CIO. So collaboration is really close to what I’m looking at both internally and externally. We have offices across the US, Europe and China. Having project teams spanning multiple times zones, collaboration is really important for us.

Peter van Dyk, BEST Pacific Institute of Education: We’re interested in collaboration from two perspectives. The first is, being a tertiary establishment, our students need to have the tools to be able to collaborate around their assignments and share information and give information. From a staff perspective, we’re distributed around several locations so we don’t always have the ability to meet face-to-face. So, collaboration tools for us are really important.

Peter van Dyk
Peter van Dyk
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Neil Gong, NZ Management Academies (NZMA): I can see the opportunity for collaboration to improve decision-making and also communications not only vertically within teams, but more importantly, horizontally across the organisation.

From our organisation’s perspective, we see ourselves in a traditional model. People create and consume information all the time and the channels are either ‘pushed’ or ‘pulled’. Email is kind of a way of ‘pushing information out’ and the portal is a way of publishing and pulling. So we have spent quite a bit of effort working on building our staff portal as the main collaboration platform. It’s important to get the basics right, making sure the information is relevant and specific and up-to-date so staff have a trusted platform where they can work together.

Because of the diversity of our students, it is important not to make simple assumptions, and any solution should not disadvantage part of them. For example, a lot of our students don’t have Internet or even computers at home.

By simply providing them with some kind of online services and expect them to do it from home might not work, unless there is a way of offering the device and the connectivity as part of the consideration.

It’s not just about the tools, it’s also how you’re enabling people, changing the culture and driving adoption; that the limitations of geography are taken out of the equation.

Dave Wilson, Cisco:

Learning from the gaming community

Alin Ungureanu, Oceania Healthcare: Collaboration must have a purpose, otherwise it is just watercooler talk. For example, having people in different places videoconferencing, all using the same online platform to source and arrange resources, communicate the allocation of tasks and provide support with specialist skills to complete harder tasks.

I just described my kids playing Minecraft with their friends from school. They get together and they literally collaborate from their different homes on how to do it. They have somebody in the group that is good at maths that calculates how many cubes, etcetera, are required. That collaboration is great. It has a purpose and they can measure its progress.

Prepare for a cultural shift

John Pye, University of Auckland: What is the definition of collaboration? To me it’s the culture shift to want to collaborate, to want to work on projects together. So we’re really focusing on culture at the moment across our project space. It is a big space, and we’re doing lots of large projects, and looking at ways we can utilise the tools.

Read more: How to turn decision making into a competitive advantage: PwC

Previously, each faculty pretty much looked after their own IT space and central IT looked after the commodity work. This year we’ve created an integrated IT environment where collectively we deliver services out to the researchers, teachers and the students in a joint [manner]. This new service delivery model requires a lot more collaboration and as with any major change, there are temporary service disruptions occurring in some parts of the business.

This year we’ve created an integrated IT environment where collectively we deliver services out to the researchers, teachers and the students in a joint [manner]. This new service delivery model requires a lot more collaboration and as with any major change.

John Pye, University of Auckland

We’re using heavy service management tools to do something that would have been done previously through conversations. We have a central place for this and you have to work out the best way of delivering that service out to the end user.

Pam Nobbs, The Comfort Group: We use the Agile methodology for project management, so it’s very much the rapid prototyping and delivering what’s been described as a full slice of cake with icing on it upfront rather than waiting until the whole cake’s built.

We started off with stickers all along the wall in the conference room (post-it notes), but that became quite confusing because you couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Recently we introduced the Scrumwise tool. That enables us to run projects Australasian wide. This tool allows you to see every project in the program of work, see exactly what’s been allocated to which people, outstanding tasks and the burn down so you can see where it’s tracking. It’s just a little cloud-based application but it is quick, easy to use and it really gets results.

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We use the Agile methodology for project management.

Pam Nobbs, The Comfort Group

Dave Wilson, Cisco: Because I am working in a global team, video and collaboration tools are absolutely critical to enable me to do my job. I’ve got access to a complete range tools, from applications on my laptop that enable me to be completely mobile, right through to a dedicated video unit at home. It’s the ability to bring all these tools together and to use the right technology at the right time that enables me to do the job. I need the ability to work from wherever I am because the office isn’t really my workplace.

So for us it’s not just about the tools, it’s also how you’re enabling people, changing the culture and driving adoption. Are you giving the access to the right tools at the right time for people, be that at home or wherever they are? Our culture at Cisco is performance driven and we have very clear goals and processes identified. We are free to utilise the technology at our disposal to achieve these, regardless of if we are in the office or not.

Around the world, including New Zealand and Australia, we have been changing the office environment as well. There are more collaborative workspaces. There are areas where people sit down and work as project teams. Some of these projects can go on for months or they may just simply be a one-off meeting. The key is that they can utilise the technologies to collaborate effectively and that the limitations of geography are taken out of the equation. They can bring together subject matter experts and ensure the best people and skills are available for any given project.

Read more: Spark announces ‘Digital First’ program and changes to leadership team
Leanne Buer, head of collaboration, Spark Digital
Leanne Buer, head of collaboration, Spark Digital

Peter van Dyk, BEST Pacific Institute of Education: We’ve just introduced a new way of inducting students. All students, irrespective of what course they are doing, ultimately come together for the first six weeks, where we teach the common parts of their courses.

What’s really interesting is the best results we have achieved are in a classroom where we’ve actually set it up exactly as you’ve just described, where all of the students, including the teaching staff, are sitting around a table.

There are no individual desks. It is a blended learning environment where 70 per cent of our course material is delivered through an in-learning platform, but they still access that platform in the classroom as well as at home.

Vanessa Sorenson, Spark Digital: When we moved into the new Spark House three years ago, many people were upset that they would no longer have a fixed desk where they could put up family photos and their kids’ drawings. However, the unexpected piece to that was when the technologies kicked in, the tools enabled everyone to work in a collaborative way, anywhere, any time and our overall productivity increased ten-fold. That is what made it a success.

That first doubt of not having your children’s photos on your desk went away once people really understood the coming together of different groups of people to respond to request for proposals or solving a business issue was so much more beneficial.

Read more: NZ’s unified communications market tipped to grow over 3 per cent in next two years
That has really been a massive thing for our business – faster decision-making, collaborating together and responding to our customers so much faster.

Simon Gillespie, Spark Digital: There’s certainly an expectation in the workforce now that the people don’t have an office, they don’t have an allocated desk and they have various projects, customer engagements as they move through the business. Teams change and form, and then come apart very regularly, and that’s a very agile and fast way of working. Technology supports that with mobility, wireless and collaboration tools.

Teams change and form, and then come apart very regularly and that’s a very agile and fast way of working. Technology supports that with mobility, wireless and collaboration tools.

Simon Gillespie, Spark Digital

James Christopher, UXC Oxygen: I can remember the first time someone came up to me and asked, ‘How do I know that they’re working when they’re working from home? So the adjustment was at the management layer and it turned into deliverables rather than this person sitting at his desk doing the work.

Being a tertiary establishment, our students need to have the tools to be able to collaborate around their assignments and share information and give information. From a staff perspective, we’re distributed around several locations so we don’t always have the ability to meet face-to-face. So, collaboration tools for us are really important.

Peter van Dyk, BEST Pacific Institute of Education

‘Asymmetric conversation’

Alin Ungureanu, Oceania Healthcare: We shoot a lot of content – video, voice, text, documents, you name it. We have a lot of content for training that we just share over videoconferencing. It’s either a video with a presentation or it’s a voice recording and we deliver this content over our WAN using a lot of Cisco videoconferencing equipment. HR can make use of videoconferencing, reducing the need for too much travel.

When you have a website where you put in content and type in words and somebody replies, that’s not considered collaboration, that’s just asymmetric conversation.

One of the things marketing wanted was to refresh the website so that when customers come, they can see more information. I said, “What are they going to do with that information? They still have to pick up the phone and call”. Now we take appointment requests via the website – that is collaboration with our potential customers.

We have offices across the US, Europe and China. Having project teams spanning multiple times zones, collaboration is really important for us.

Aaron O’Brien, Les Mills International

Push the button with a time when you want and then we’ll send you back a confirmation automatically saying, ‘Yes we’ll accept an appointment with you’. We took that simple visit to the site and we tried to convert it in that two-way collaboration.

We have a significant number of customers who still have to talk to us in the traditional way. We still have to be able to interact with them so we need to have those channels of communication because if someone wants to call us over the phone and we don’t answer because we are waiting for the email to come, it’s a massive mismatch. The channels of collaboration have to be matched with the task that you need to put forth and support the objectives you want to achieve.

Roger Jones, Auckland Transport:It’s all about people at the end of the day. It’s their choice how they communicate. Access to collaboration is important. We have to be careful in the business that we don’t cut those people out and leave them behind.

Facebook and all those new things that we haven’t even thought about are the way younger people want to converse with us and collaborate between themselves and between communities. How you tie that into a system that still allows people to pick up a phone and talk to someone is the challenge.

Keep it simple

James Christopher, UXC Oxygen: You can lead a horse to water but you can only hold its head under for so long. If they don’t want to use the tool, they’re not going to. So we do keep it as simple as possible.

You can’t put something out there that is much, much harder to use than Dropbox because they won’t use it and it’s the same on the collaboration front. If it doesn’t work the first time, your people in the business don’t want to know about it.

James Christopher, UXC Oxygen

You can’t put something out there that is much, much harder to use than Dropbox because they won’t use it and it’s the same on the collaboration front. If it doesn’t work the first time, your people in the business don’t want to know about it.

Aaron O’Brien, Les Mills International: I always find people are much more successful at collaborating if they’ve met face-to-face initially and then they use the tools after that. I use the same technique where if some teams cross functioning aren’t working on a project, I just make them sit together.

Photos by Jason Creaghan

Send comments (including topics for future CIO roundtable discussions) to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

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