Humanity has always used education to conquer the unconquerable. But, like all things, education and its systems are no exception to change. In a modern and digitalized era, there is a new generation of minds and a new playing field for the faculty in universities. The organizations in the education industry must meet the recent technological expectations, lest they are left in the dust of their competition. From replacing legacy systems with new technology to establishing a strong digital relationship with partners in the industry, the education space requires innovation in several aspects to meet the standards of the modern customer. William Confalonieri—Vice President & CIO at Deakin University—has garnered almost a decade’s worth of experience in digital strategy. He has used his expertise to oversee the university’s Information Management Strategy and manage a range of other digital disciplines. He takes a moment to exclusively talk with APAC CIO Outlook to shed some light on how to best utilise technology to further improve the education industry. Quote: A digital mindset challenges organizational arrangements and improves their characteristics, performance and essence, essential initiative for a sustainable digital future.
Could you tell us about the transformation lead by you that had a positive impact on your business?
Digital transformation is a journey that takes over a reasonable time for an organization to transform from its current state to become digitally mature. As a CIO at Deakin University, I witnessed the two most important facets in our journey to acquire digital maturity. The first was about the transformation of the organization's DNA by making the customer experience the core objective of the capabilities provided by my team. Changing the mindset of my team was essential to gain positive business outcomes. It was necessary to make them understand that delivering premium and consistent experiences to customers are much more important than just focusing on the technology.
Acquiring a digital mindset is the most challenging part of the transformation because it involves people and organizational arrangements, and requires shifting the focus from internal structures to stakeholders. A digital mindset challenges organizational arrangements and improves their characteristics, performance, and essence, an essential initiative for a sustainable digital future.
A digital mindset challenges organizational arrangements and improves their characteristics, performance and essence, essential initiative for a sustainable digital future
The other significant transformation I witnessed within the capabilities of my team was going beyond being aligned with the business world. Instead of being reactive or being aligned with the business world, we moved to anticipate the business and the technological changes happening. We analyzed the impact the changes were going to have on our business and then led the organization in that direction to be more digitally equipped. My team has changed their mindset and moved from being a service provider to a genuine business partner.
What's the major technology barrier you are facing in education tech as a CIO?
Typically, a majority of the organizations are wedged with legacy systems and are reluctant to change. Organizations need to understand that the role of a CIO is not just to enhance operational capabilities, but also to catch up with the new technology. They are still focused on partial experiences and on those things that maximize functional performance and not necessarily on organizational performance. Organizations need to force themselves to think differently. It is not an easy task for a CIO to change the organization's antecedent view into the modern view of the revolutionized industry. It's challenging to make organizations understand that technology is an enabler for the overarching transformation of the organization and business models.
Technology has evolved to a point where it enables us to move from digital transactions to digital relationships. It requires shifting our focus from internal organizational structures to stakeholders. Moreover, in times of digital disruption, to focus just on innovative applications of technology is not enough. It's important to manage other elements correlated to people and technology as well, like be able to create tight partnerships with varied business areas, navigate policies found within the organization, motivate the team and take them to the next level.
How do you strike a balance between operations and innovations among the IT staff in your organization?
In general, organizations push their CIO's and IT teams to focus on improving operations because there's always room for more improvement. There are still operations that are in urgent need to be improved, but focusing just on those operations is not right for an IT organization to be the best business partner. There has to be a proper balance between the operations and innovations happening in the organizations. In my view, one needs to always aim for excellence in operations, but regardless of its status, the investment in innovations should always happen. In particular, as an IT team, we need to keep the progress of the operations at the forefront, have a more agile approach to problems and make fast innovations on a smaller scale without taking significant risks to learn, fail and still understand what innovations are possible to push organizations boundaries. To perceive, think, understand, and do things that are best for the organization, the balance between these three pieces is essential.
Can you give any suggestions for the industry veterans or budding entrepreneurs to create an excellent organizational structure at their organization? What organizational structure allows for the best relationships between IT and its business partners?
I believe that changing the organization's structure, culture, and dynamic as well as how the IT team engages with the rest of the organization enables the best relationships between the IT team and the business partners. My team now works within a matrix, with boosted commitment and engagement. They focus on having higher rigour on IT disciplines but also on the proper delivery of all customer domains. This substantially improves the organization's decision-making process, and help in avoiding typical inefficiencies in the deployment of corporate solutions. Budding entrepreneurs need to strive for an embedded, transparent approach to sustainability and focus on 'what matters most' across the environmental, financial, and social sustainability performance.