Charith Nanayakkara has been IT manager at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic since 2001, and has been working in ICT for more than 20 years. He came to New Zealand from Sri Lanka, where he was head of IT services for an international research organisation.
His first job in New Zealand was as IT manager at a freight forwarding company for a year. He applied for the polytechnic role when it became available, as it allowed him to return to a more research-orientated environment.
The Tauranga-based polytechnic has a dozen IT staff to help align technology to the business strategy, plus using technology to give the organisation a competitive advantage on its rivals and flexibility in learning delivery.
Nanayakkara develops the business strategy in relation to the infrastructure, business applications and customer services functions of the polytechnic, with three team leaders reporting to him.
Projects underway include the institutional Webportal using Microsoft Sharepoint, contact management and customer profiling using Microsoft CRM, extending the wireless systems, and reviewing electronic records management and the student management system. The polytechnic is also moving to the ITIL best-practice customer service framework.
But it is the shared services work that is most significant, with Nanayakkara saying the polytechnic is one of the first tertiary providers in New Zealand looking at a shared services model. Because the University of Waikato offers some of its courses at the polytechnic, this had already required some sharing of IT services to support these programmes, he explains.
Since the beginning of the year, polytechnic IT staff have worked with university IT staff to deploy terminal server access to the Waikato network from the Tauranga campus.
This allows university staff and students seamless access to the Hamilton-based organisation, including internet access and access to its corporate network for various network services.
Over the coming year, Nanayakkara expects increased joint service provision to support the closer partnership of programmes between the university and the polytechnic. Some of the ICT shared services under investigation are unified ID cards for students, shared room scheduling systems, access to common business applications, a centralised IT service desk and shared on-line procurement systems.
“It is not an agreement but a similar model we work on. We buy in bulk, we work in bulk. I jump into their [the university’s] purchasing rounds so that we can work with suppliers for purchases of parts and make huge cost savings.
“Last year, during our PC purchase time, the university was buying big numbers. We put our numbers into their deal and made huge cost savings,” he says.
Nanayakkara says the tertiary sector has various academic licences available from vendors like Microsoft, while the Ministry of Education also offers various models for organisations to work together.
Shared purchasing and provision not only means better deals, but sharing the expertise of IT teams to work on common systems. This allows the University of Waikato to fix systems remotely from Hamilton if needed.
Indeed, Nanayakkara cannot think of any drawbacks to the shared services model. He encourages IT leaders to collaborate and consider shared services with others in similar markets or service provisions.
“When there are common business practices, common systems, you basically reduce duplication and costs thereby passing the savings to the customer, in our case the students. Of course there are opportunities, [with] sharing knowledge and shared training for those who build IT,” he says.
“I studied a Queensland TAFE model in shared services across 16 institutions, sharing single systems for core business systems. I see huge synergies from going down a similar track for New Zealand.”
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