With more than 40,000 students spread across Melbourne, Victoria University is ranked among the world’s top 2 percent of universities. As vice president for students, infrastructure and digital technologies, professor Richard Constantine is responsible for an ambitious change program that is rewriting how higher education services its student body.
What is an example of a recent project you’ve embarked on using partners?
We’ve launched a $15 million project, the VU Digital Campus, which is all about upgrading and building the foundations for our digital campus infrastructure. It incorporates everything from a data centre upgrade to the wi-fi and also telepresence units.
It is quite instrumental in building the foundation, and it is an innovation layer on top of which everything from then on is possible.
The deal was negotiated with Cisco directly, but the fulfillment and implementation was carved off via Cisco to Optus and Dimension Data. So they are the arms and legs on campus doing the actual projects.
What do you look for in a partner?
They have got to have an idea about our business. The peculiar thing for the university is we are upgrading the network while we are live, and we have a number of key things that happen, such as exams, that can’t be moved.
And you have to work around those key periods. And you want an integrator to understand that. There is a lot of work done after hours because we just can’t allow it during the day.
How do you determine if a partner can meet your requirements?
Reference checking is critical, including where have they performed the work. If a partner has upgraded a network in a hospital, which is a bit more critical than us, then that is a big tick. Also, in the early days it was about putting the technology in, and you didn’t care about the change management aspect.
Nowadays you take the technical expertise as a given. What is not verified is the change management and how do they deal with the users. It is all that side that is absolutely critical now.
Will your use of partners increase in the future?
I see it increasing. And the reason is that whilst it is becoming simpler for people to use technology, the actual implementation of things is complex. And there is no way that we could afford to train all our staff across the range of skills they need to perform all those complex tasks.
And I can only see it becoming more and more complicated. And do you want to invest when in 12 or 24 months you will throw out that appliance and get another one from another vendor?