Flinders University taps into Microsoft Azure, 365, and Dynamics 365

The cloud-based transformation is part of the university's 2025 strategy to become a top 10 university in Australia.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

Flinders University has transitioned to using Microsoft's three clouds -- Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 -- as part of its strategy to use "disruptive technology" to become one of the top 10 universities in Australia by 2025.

According to the university, the adoption of Microsoft's clouds has more than quintupled its project workload capacity so it can fulfill its 2025 agenda. From 2017 to 2018, the university's cloud transformation lifted the number of IT projects completed each year from 12 to 62, Flinders University chief technology officer Kerrie Campbell said.

"I have 400 applications here at the university … 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."

While Dynamics 365 has been used by Flinders University since 2016, its use case has been extended to become an enrollment and marketing platform for domestic and international students. Flinders University worked closely with KPMG to create a roadmap for the new platform.

The move to a Microsoft 365 A5 licence, meanwhile, will help elevate the security posture of Flinders University, Campbell said. Security efforts are a key priority for the university, she added, as it wants to avoid the various data breaches that have affected other universities. 

The Australian National University suffered a massive data breach earlier this year that resulted in 19 years' worth of personal staff, student, and visitor data being given unauthorised access.

As part of the cloud-based transformation, Flinders University has also changed the way it collects data and how it can be accessed and used. An Azure data lake has replaced on-premises Oracle data warehouses, which it said, will be able to be accessed and analysed using Power BI.

The Azure data lake will eventually hold all of the key corporate information assets of the university so it can provide a "centralised, timely, performant, and consumable value proposition," the university 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'," Campbell said.

"[But] with some of our services we have now in Azure, we are able to make more effective decisions with near real-time data. This is a fantastic step forward and we are looking forward to build this functionality further with Azure over many more services at Flinders."  

As part of its efforts to align its IT strategy with the 2025 agenda, Flinders University has also structured its IT portfolio into three different teams: customer-centric teams that are focused on research; a student and teaching team; and a digital business team and a BI team.

Looking ahead, the university is also exploring how it might make greater use of artificial intelligence. In one recent project, it used robotic process automation to sift through 15 systems for information needed to compile the Chancellor's letters of commendation, which it claims has saved 1,700 hours of work.

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