As such, the number of immediate stakeholders including students and caregivers is well over 100,000. The sheer scale of the undertaking makes this the largest digital transformation in education anywhere in Australia and our travels on this project draw attention from across the globe.
The program is delivered through a series of projects across different portfolios including technology, education, finance, security, risk, governance and compliance. My role as the program director is to ensure that the program as a whole delivers much more than the sum of its parts. This takes careful planning, coordination, synchronisation, proactive management, negotiation, risk assessment, relationship building, stakeholder management, communication, collaboration and a great deal of faith. Program managers are busy people indeed.
To make LEADing Lights a reality, it takes a proverbial army. Multiple system integration partners have been engaged throughout the program to supply their expertise and people who ultimately deliver the outcomes. Between CEWA, Microsoft, Empired, SMS, Ignia, Optika, R1i and a number of other partners, the team size has varied between 70 and 120 people on IT projects alone. A big part of my role revolves around nurturing tight relationships with project partners, coordination of effort between them and ensuring that from CEWA side we are always ready and ahead of the game to avoid costly delays and contract variations. The part I have particularly enjoyed on this project has been negotiating commercial aspects of these engagements because the impact of a reduced daily rate for example is measured in millions across the lifespan of the program.
Another exciting aspect of my role is that it has given me the opportunity to put into practice what most other organisations only talk about but rarely do. For example, we truly are “cloud first” with a clear strategy of minimising our on premise footprint (including schools). All LEADing Lights solutions fit the IaaS, PaaS or SaaS model and for this reason our solution architecture has existed on the leading edge, providing countless learning opportunities. Machine learning, bots, predictive analytics – we are delivering real solutions based on these technologies. My passion for software engineering has been met too through the Conversation Platform project which is delivering a world class user experience through a set of web portals built on a .NET back-end.
If I had to pick one program achievement that I am most proud of to date, it would have to be the project that we affectionately refer to as the “field of unicorns”. To migrate over a 150 schools to a single domain and port terabytes of email, documents and content to a single Office 365 tenant, is a massive undertaking by anyone’s standards. To do this for 120 schools in a tick over two months – this I equate to Roger Bannister breaking the “four-minute mile” barrier. I believe that we must have set some sort of record and created a new benchmark.
Why unicorns? When we first scoped out the project, we were looking at thousands of labour days at a staggering cost. To source and engage this many highly skilled people and still deliver on budget seemed impossible and hence we felt that we were looking for a field of unicorns. Through technical, entrepreneurial and project management wizardry, we were able to create a “cookie-cutter” solution which we could scale enormously. Through process automation, it became possible to outsource much of the legwork to school IT staff, school support providers and in some instances even end-users (including students!). Crowd sourcing at its best. The field of unicorns was right in front of our noses – and they delivered.
Based on successes to date and learnings along the way (no such thing as failure) I remain confident that LEADing Lights will continue to exceed expectations and that CEWA will look back on this couple of years as a chapter to remember – a lesson in boldness, faith, team work and a string of minor miracles.
Mike Kovacevic – Head of Digital Transformation Projects