Microsoft partners Espire Infolabs and InSync have overhauled the Australian Catholic University's (ACU) systems through its digital workspace program.
The two-week long refresh saw the introduction of SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and Teams and Teams Telephony for communication and collaboration, all underlined by Microsoft 365 integration.
These products come in to replace on-premises-backed Sharepoint, network share drives and Skype for Business, plus Cisco desk phones, respectively.
Online system access is governed by Azure Active Directory and multi-factor authentication, which includes workspace access, joining meetings, collaboration and interaction with peers and internal and external stakeholders — all across ACU’s eight national campuses.
The refresh is a part of the university’s digital workspace program to increase the level of technology being used through to 2023.
Niranjan Prabhu, CIO and director of IT at ACU, said the program is aiming to provide “a modern workspace environment that ensures seamless collaboration and optimised communication to increase efficiency and enhance the staff experience”.
The digital workspace program has proven particularly useful with the rise of COVID-19 causing staff to work from home, with Teams allowing for collaboration and secure file access.
“There’s nothing like a crisis to present an unprecedented opportunity for change and transformation,” Prabhu said.
The decision to side with Microsoft solutions, according to Prabhu, was due to the “breadth and space for opportunity” that they provide.
“We wanted to leverage our current investment and integration of multiple capabilities to achieve a consistent digital experience for our staff and students,” he said.
“The ACU digital workspace enables the best experience for employees and students securely, regardless of their location or device. They have the same seamless experience no matter where they are.”
The digital workspace was initially deployed to staff, with plans to expand it for student usage. Currently, Teams usage is being piloted to some course units to strengthen partnerships between staff and students.
“For teaching space meeting technology, we currently use Zoom. Our intention is to transition to Microsoft Teams, to ensure a single platform across the University. As staff are familiar with Microsoft Teams, we expect this to be relatively straightforward,” Prabhu said.
“Furthermore, the ease of sharing documents and ability to live chat during a meeting, as well as emerging features, such as the “raise hand”, or running a 3×3 video calls, are helping to spur the transition to Microsoft Teams.”
The university’s meeting rooms also saw an upgrade as part of the program, utilising room panels to display room availability and can facilitate on-demand room room bookings, even from non-Microsoft devices. Outlook integration also allows for staff to add extra room services, like catering and IT support.
In addition to the refresh provided by the two partners, the ACU is looking to develop its own applications and workflows through the Microsoft Power Platform in order to replace existing third-party workflows.
Two examples include the use of a Data Lake to utilise Power BI and the Azure Data Platform to identify students who need assistance, including those that are at risk of separating permanently from ACU before they finish a course, and the ACU Virtual Assistant chatbot for providing on-demand support.