CIO guides strategic review at MTC Australia

Job skills educator sees benefits from 802.11ac, Chromebook deployments

MTC Australia CIO, Ash Kumar. Credit: MTC Australia

MTC Australia CIO, Ash Kumar. Credit: MTC Australia

A new CIO has led MTC Australia through a strategic review of its not-for-profit educational organisation.

The review follows a recent upgrade of MTC’s wireless network to 802.11ac and an embrace of cloud services and Google Chromebooks in the classroom.

MTC Australia provides skills training and helps people look for jobs. The organisation employs 500 staff across 30 locations in Australia and trains 35,000 people annually.

Ash Kumar’s first major task as CIO upon joining nearly six months has been a strategic review of the organisation.

“One of the key reasons I was requested to perform a strategic review of MTC was to prepare the organisation for its next layer of maturity,” said Kumar, who previously worked for Downer, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and the Queensland Government Department of Housing.

“A key initiative and objective that MTC and I were hoping to achieve during my engagement, was to ensure that the business IT infrastructure delivered value focused, sustainable and quality service consistently.”

Kumar and MTC have identified three main strategies for the review, he said:

  1. Define and deliver a customer experience framework that leverages current technologies, and focuses on improving technology embedment and uptake to realise benefit and better return on investment
  2. Deliver operational readiness through achieving operational alignment to ITIL
  3. A standard environment, application rationalisation and integration along with business process improvements.

“After completing the strategy review, MTC intends to produce a strategic roadmap and plan by March 2015,” he said.

“Once a strategic roadmap is produced, MTC will also consider developing the vision for creating an integrated digital organisation as part of its long term IT plan.”

802.11ac and Chromebooks

In 2013, MTC deployed an 802.11ac wireless network by Aruba Networks across all 30 offices. The network powers VoIP softphones, videoconferencing and desktop sharing through Microsoft Lync.

The deployment was required following an IT infrastructure review in which MTC decided to embrace a cloud strategy for the organisation, said Kumar, who was not with the organisation at the time.

Kumar said some of the main benefits of the 802.11ac wireless technology are that it supports a larger number of clients per access point, handles high-quality video better and provides greater interoperability, he said.

“One of the key reasons MTC implemented Aruba’s 802.11ac solution is because the 802.11ac standard allows the business to continue using the existing Wi-Fi enabled devices,” he explained. “This enables clients to bring any device into class and the MTC centre.”

Also, 802.11ac is less susceptible to interference between wireless devices, he said.

The wireless network has enabled greater collaboration and productivity in the classroom, Kumar said.

For example, it fostered the rollout of Google Chromebooks to free students from their desks, he said.

“Allowing Wi-Fi and using Chromebooks for the students allowed us to have the flexibility to move people around and have people work together in groups and have discussions and debate.”

Also, because student work is associated to their Google account, they have easy access to information even when working remotely, he said.

Internally, having the wireless network makes it cheaper for MTC to restructure the organisation and move staff around, since it doesn’t have to re-cable anything, he said.

The not-for-profit began to deploy Chrome OS laptops about a year ago, and cost was the main driver, he said.

“The cost of purchasing Chromebooks is quarter of the price of laptops. Along with the upfront cost saving, there is also a significant reduction in maintenance cost.”

Adam Bender covers business tech issues for CIO and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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