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CIO100 2018 #31-100: Grant Strang, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa

  • Name Grant Strang
  • Title Executive director information technology (Tumuhangarau)
  • Company Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
  • Commenced role August 2016
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 3 direct reports, 40-plus team members
  • Related

    “We are confident, audacious and constantly challenging ourselves, the status quo and leading the pace of change,” is how Grant Strang describes the approach of the technology team at tertiary provider Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (TWoA).

    The results, he says, can be seen in the range of projects they have delivered over the past year.

    The programme of work connects the Te Kōpua intranet site, records management, digitisation of records, enterprise service bus, Access Point Integration framework and online moderation.

    It includes integrations to cloud solutions and on-premise data, and the mobile app, and extends the workplace to any time or place.

    “ICT asset statements for TWoA core ICT systems are now in place,” says Strang, executive director information technology at TWoA.

    “These statements support investment planning and budgets, continuous improvement initiatives, and reverse several risks and audit issues.

    “Each asset statement enables greater confidence in formulating ICT investment strategies. Each asset statement sets out the current state, impact and desired state of each core ICT asset and how it enables student success.  

    The statements include ICT specific data; explains the business processes each system enables business risks, financial situation, investment plans, and life-cycle road map and how each asset currently delivers outcomes e.g. Enrolments, Moderation and they integrate each  assets through a roadmap.  These deliverables also informed the 2017 ICT Audit as conducted by Audit NZ.

    He says the team also developed an Online Moderation tool and invested further in the TWoA Innovation Hub.

    Additional mahi (work) in the past year included embedding a strategic focus on Blended Learning e.g. collaborating to establish opportunities to use our Moodle platform (iAkoranga) more, to allow students to access programmes (online) at time and place of their choosing e.g. outside of face to face teaching ‘classroom time’. Much resource was placed on data cleansing across a large number of high risk databases and information repositories, establishing an offsite data centre, resolving information backup risks, introduction of collaboration tools across legacy systems, mobile applications, online self service kiosks, and databases that support Tauira experience and inform accuracy of TWoA Regulatory reporting processes.  

    Hangarau-led initiatives included the implementation of the Hangarau structure/redesign which went live in August last year. The change programme included the creation of a business intelligence team and appointment of kaimahi (staff) into new BIA (intelligence/ data analyst) roles.

    He says the 2017 Hangarau (Technology) Business Plan included two objectives for ICT - to positively affect TWoA business processes, and positively affect business decisions. Adding value is that simple!

    “We established a 2018 Hangarau Business Plan and submitted a 2018 – 2020 Hangarau Strategy that sets out the goals and direction including reduction in duplication of TWoA information across multiple Hangarau managed applications, student systems and end of life business processes.

    The team also installed leading edge cybersecurity systems. We updated ICT security policies, reviewed and updated password policy, authentication, and conducted penetration testing, says Strang.

    The team completed the 2017 Audit NZ audit of ICT “with no new areas of concern”.  

    Primed for learning

    Strang leads a fairly diverse team, with nearly half 41 per cent female.

    He says his three ICT managers are (75 per cent) are female. “We are hopefully leading the way in gender equality within ICT.”

    “My team is 100 per cent proud Kiwis, and approximately 60 per cent are Maori,” he adds. “The diversity of the team reflects NZ today”

    “As a non-Māori in a Māori organisation, I had to adapt, and quickly,” says Strang.

    “I enrolled in a Te Reo Maori language course. I took every opportunity that came my way to embrace Maori culture,” says Strang, whose wife also joined him in these activities.

    Last year, all of his managers became members of IT Professional NZ, and each are working towards a chartered certification.

    He points out TWoA is an education partner of ITPNZ so the staff has access to workshops across New Zealand and also to have ITPNZ mentors.

    He says the technology team makes sure this focus on learning also translates to non-ICT staff. The team regularly runs workshops to TWoA staff to demonstrate functionalities in Office 365 and other collaboration tools. Strang himself acts as a mentor to other TWoA staff.

    He also presents in and attends professional workshops in NZ and offshore. “I ensure ICT is included wherever practicable at executive and Board papers,” he says. “We use information metrics to summarise performance.”

    Maori-centred approach to innovation

    As a chartered IT professional and branch committee member of the ITPNZ in Tauranga, Strang contributes a lot of time and effort to promote the professional IT sector.

    He also presented ICT at schools as part of ITP Tech Hub programme, and sponsored the establishment of the TWoA Innovation Hub at the school’s Mangere Campus.

    “Innovation Hubs are about creating a Māori-centred approach to Innovation in Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, that draws from an indigenous perspective to integrate a Māori world view with technology, creative thinking, and problem solving,” he says.

    In September last year, they tracked an average of 37 users per day, with over 70 users visiting the Hub in two days.

    “The innovation hub is moving with the times. It allows people to connect and communicate in different ways,” he explains.

    He says feedback from the users has been positive, with some students saying the Hub is the only area in the campus that has the latest information and technology available for everyone.  

    “We identified that Tauira and kaimahi have used the Innovation Hub for learning 3D, to music production, to filming and editing movies as part of course requirements, voice overs, special effects, improving aromatawai presentations, learning graphic design, photography and also to get technical advice, or learning to play the guitar.”

    He points out Innovation Hubs provide a cost effective way to provide all Tauira (both students and teachers) with a “modern digital learning environment”.

    Innovation Hubs are highly attractive to Rangatahi (young people) who often prefer these over traditional library spaces.

    “With the right focus, strong partnerships, strategic investment and a commitment to the continued development of the concept, we can position ourselves as a leader in Indigenous Innovation.”

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