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Flinders University

Flinders University turbocharges innovation opportunity

Microsoft’s three clouds deliver value, velocity and veracity

Flinders University has more than quintupled the number of projects it can tackle annually thanks to its embrace of Microsoft’s three clouds – Azure, Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365.

The institution has also significantly hardened its security posture and now has access to real time – rather than three-month-old – data to base decisions on.

Two years into her role as Flinders’ first ever chief information officer, Kerrie Campbell, has aligned the 206-strong IT function to the University’s 2025 Agenda, and encouraged a more Agile approach to transformation lifting the number of IT projects completed each year from 12 to 62.

Transitioning to Microsoft’s three clouds has freed many in her team from infrastructure management, allowing them to focus on working more closely with business teams in the University.

Flinders is also transforming the way in which data is collected and how it can be accessed and used. An Azure data lake is replacing on-premises Oracle data warehouses and can be accessed and analysed using Power BI.

Campbell said; “We used to say to our business, ‘Yes, you can have that information. It’ll take us 12 months to put it in a warehouse’.” Now the data in Azure can be accessed almost immediately.

The move to Microsoft 365 has also helped elevate the security posture of the University, which was very much on Flinders’ agenda following recent high-profile data breaches at other universities. The recent opening of the Jeff Bleich Center, part of the US Alliance in digital technology, security and governance, at Flinders also put security front and centre for Campbell.

“That’s really put us up as DEFCON 1 here now. We are looking to utilise that value that’s in Microsoft to harden our services, to keep that openness but also to maintain that control,” she said.

Flinders University has worked closely with Microsoft partners KPMG, Expose Data and Empired on the cloud-based transformation across the institution.

Kerrie Campbell joined the University two years ago, becoming its first CIO. She has a team of 206 people – but doesn’t see herself as head of the IT team, rather the servant of the University – delivering the systems and data that students, researchers, academics and administrators need.

Viral uptake of cloud technology

According to Education Direct, Steven Miller, Microsoft Australia; “Flinders University has important ambitions for students, researchers and academics. The approach that Kerrie Campbell has taken in adopting Microsoft’s three clouds establishes an integrated, secure and richly featured platform that can meet the needs of all the University’s stakeholders now and in the future.

“Flinders has also been enthusiastic in its adoption of Teams which has gone viral across the University supporting business teams, students and academics. It is fast becoming the communications and collaboration platform of choice.”

Flinders is also extending the use of Dynamics 365, first rolled out in 2016, to become an enrolment and marketing platform for domestic and international students. Growing student numbers is one of Flinders’ 2025 strategies.

The streamlining and simplification that Microsoft’s three clouds has underpinned was critically important said Campbell. “I have 400 applications here at the University. The organic nature and the development in universities has led to a large amount of products and services. But if we can rationalise those products we can make savings, because having 400 applications, you’ve got 400 different maintenance cycles, 400 different ways of keeping that working.”

“One of the big surprises was how cost-effective it’s been so far. We expected the opposite,” she said, but explained that the combination of rationalisation and moving to Microsoft’s three integrated clouds has proven cost effective for the University.