Digital Workspace Program and Team awarded for Service Excellence

The Digital Workspace Program (DWP) and Team has been awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award in Service Excellence for a transformational program that redesigns how ACU works and collaborates, allowing staff to work anywhere, any time, on any device, and remain connected wherever they are.

The Digital Workspace Program’s success was made possible through the collaborative efforts of cross-unit teams and specialist consultants, in a team which grew to respond to ACU’s immediate needs.

The ViceChancellor’s award team comprises Wil Daniels, Keng Ong, Dustin Marcus, Gordon Howell, YingFang Lee, Trung Nguyen, Brendan Hunt, Matthew Remington, Natasha Zissis, Paul Wagner, Govinda Subedi, Glen Fisher, David Prentis and Douglas Simpson. Maria Cindric, Suraj Thapa, Bec Newton, Lizzie Lamb and many others within the IT Directorate and ACU community also contributed to this work.

DWP aligns with the Service Excellence Framework in providing solutions and systems that are fit for purpose and easy to access and use. Chief Information Officer and Director, Information Technology, Niranjan Prabhu explains that any program must be easy to use if it’s to be successfully adopted.

“For multiple digital channels to collaborate, access to all resources needs to be seamless,” Niranjan says. “It was important to have all the technology fully integrated into the ACU network, and for that experience to be the same regardless of whether you were on campus, in transit on a device, or working from home. This is the heart of the DWP – the ability to seamlessly access the tools and information you need from wherever you are.”

The program consists of six major technology components:

  • Microsoft Teams chat, video conferencing, and telephony capability for communication and collaboration
  • use of bot technology (AVA – ACU Virtual Assistant) and interactive videos to facilitate adoption of DWP tools
  • OneDrive for Business to enable file access from anywhere without a VPN
  • migration to SharePoint Online so staff can access departmental and faculty data from anywhere
  • uplift of meeting room technology with Teams video conferencing to provide one-touch-join meeting rooms
  • introduction of room scheduling display panels on all ACU video conferencing rooms.
Opportunity in a crisis

The shutdown of all ACU campuses due to COVID-19 could have crippled the university’s ability to operate. Instead, the pandemic demanded the project team reprioritise tasks in order to accelerate its rollout of MS Teams and OneDrive as part of the Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

Niranjan says, “We were very lucky that we’d been working on DWP for a long time, so when COVID-19 struck, we were able to accelerate the last few months of the program into a few weeks. We were careful though not to compromise on the end-user experience or cut any corners in the implementation.”

Associate Director, End User Computing, Wil Daniels says, “To use a simple analogy, all the lights were ready to be switched on. When COVID came, we switched the lights on.”

The team credit this successful transformation to the willingness of the ACU community to embrace technology to enhance their work.

“We provided the platform, but how teams used that platform to connect creatively was led entirely by them,” says Niranjan. “We soon saw things like online campus ministry, drinks on MS Teams, and virtual book and film chats.”

Shining a light on ACU

The DWP featured in two Microsoft case studies, which showcase the digital tools that support a modern, flexible workplace, and leverage ACU’s significant investment in Microsoft 365 applications.

Among other details, these stories share how the DWP Team worked together from all over the country to deliver the program, using the very tools they were tasked to deliver.

“We had people who were committed to delivering the solution and a willingness to try new things because we believed this was the product the university required,” Wil says. “Featuring in two Microsoft case studies is recognition from Microsoft of what can be done with their technology.”

Niranjan says, “The higher education sector shares their experiences in order to share and learn from each other. The Microsoft case studies are a fantastic way for us to tell our story to a broader audience and help them to understand what’s possible with these technologies.”

The possibilities inherent in technology is something tertiary institutions are rapidly learning, Niranjan adds.

“The pandemic has really accelerated the understanding in the sector that the way of the future is digital,” he says. “DWP helps ACU to continue to work flexibly under any circumstances and opens the way for many more developments in the teaching and learning space, as we transition to online and mixed-delivery classes in addition to our physical offerings.”

Both Wil and Niranjan acknowledge everyone who has contributed to the success of the program, including almost all staff in the IT department, the steering committee and the change champions.

Digital Workspace Program Team_500

Digital Workspace Program Team – from left to right at desk: Niranjan Prabhu, Wil Daniels, YingFang Lee, Anubhav Agarwal, Shyam Narayan and Rajendra Rawat; on screen, top left to right: Gordon Howell and Lizzie Lamb; on screen, bottom left to right: Bec Newton and Mary Futol.


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