Long-standing education sector CIO, Peter Nikoletatos, is joining Optus Business’ Public Sector Strategy and Innovation team following his resignation as executive director and CIO at La Trobe University.
Nikoletatos has been a CIO in education since 2005. Prior to his role at La Trobe, he was tech chief the University of New England, the Australian National University, Curtin University, and the University of Newcastle.
Speaking to CIO Australia, Nikoletatos – who will lead Optus Business’ local education and government team – said the telco’s growing investment in the education sector was appealing.
“I’ll be looking at strategies to assist organisations in the education space – more than just universities – to transform their businesses,” he said. “This really plays on my background in being a disruptive thinker and innovator in helping businesses transform.”
Nikoletatos said he would miss the university environment.
“I certainly will miss the people … I’ve worked for some fascinating people, some amazing vice-chancellors and I’ve been privileged to work at five great institutions.”
At some point you need to [ask yourself], ‘Can you do anything more?’ And the reality is that I have been at the forefront of trying to lead change and transformation in higher education. I think I’ve demonstrated that for quite a few years,” he said.
“While I will miss it [education], I will stay connected to it in another way.”
Since 2014, La Trobe University has moved systems to the cloud as part of five-year strategic plan to boost its national and international ranking.
Nikoletatos has managed a team of around 200 tech staff. Last year, the group moved the university’s student management system to the cloud. Around 36,000 enrolled students and 3,200 full time staff use the system, which was first deployed in 2006 under an on-premise contract.
La Trobe said it provides a complete view of the student experience from enquiry, application and registration, through to graduation and alumni services. The university was also the first global organisation to deploy SAP Simple Finance, SuccessFactors/Workforce in the cloud.
Nikoletatos told CIO Australia last year that these investments had given La Trobe the opportunity to leapfrog its competitors through early access to functionality to enhance the student experience, improve their employability, and support excellence in research.
Future of education tech
Universities have an immediate need to embrace technological change for their own sustainability, said Nikoletatos. People don’t like change and resistance to change programs is probably more amplified in education, he told CIO Australia on Friday morning.
“In universities, there’s a way of doing things, there’s a certain reassurance about the way we do things.”
Disrupting the traditional ways doing business makes people uneasy fairly quickly, he said.
“Equally I think a lot more investment needs to be made in taking people on that journey. We see impacts on higher education and government reform – [Liberal Senator for South Australia] Minister Birmingham was pretty clear about the changes he’s going to implement. Those things are going to impact universities quite significantly.
“We all need to adapt to the environment and in some ways lower the demand on only government supporting [education reform]. We need to foster strong industry partnerships, look at the way [industry] manages student experiences and link that to successful graduate employability in each discipline.”
“When we talk about universities needing industry partnerships, some of the services areas within universities whether it’s ICT, finance, or a properties group, we are only successful when we partner with likeminded organisations and co-creating solutions that are mutually beneficial to both organisations.
“If [can’t] just treat it like we are buying things from a catalogue – we are not in the business of online shopping for our services – we are in the business of transforming an experience.”
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