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An argument for training

Sathya Mithra Ashok | Jan. 14, 2014
Greg Jones, head of Landcare Research's IS&KM team, talks about the challenges in developing and implementing an organisation-wide ICT training programme.

The latest in ICT systems can be of no use when your staff don't know how to use them effectively. With the right investment in training staff, even the slightest bit, can result in surprising gains and improved productivity.

This was the experience of the IT team at Lincoln-based Landcare Research.

Landcare Research is a Crown research institute (CRI), one of seven in New Zealand. CRIs were formed in 1992 as independent companies that are owned by, and accountable to, the New Zealand Government. The organisation's core purpose is to drive innovation in the management of terrestrial biodiversity and land resources.

"We have got around nine sites, about 353 full timers. That can stretch to another 100 easily over summer when we do a lot of field research, or when we have external PhDs, summer students, and we have a lot of research associates who are sort of retired scientists who carry on doing their research. We provide facilities to help them. That includes IT as well," says Greg Jones, manager of the company's information services and knowledge management (IS&KM) team.

"We also manage seven nationally significant databases for NZ. These are key for NZ. It includes information from land care, soils and national vegetation cover. It is about not only maintaining those physical specimens but also digitising them and putting them online.

The IS&KM team is split into the operational infrastructure management team, the business information and process improvement team (that covers software development and business analyst capability), and the knowledge services and library team.

"We are also responsible for the records management for the organisation and to ensure that we are PRA (Public Records Act) 2005 compliant. We also provide collaborative workspaces through SharePoint for teams to manage documents and information," says Jones.

With tight budgets, the ICT team at Landcare is aware of the need to draw the most from every dollar they spend.

Greg Jones, manager of information services and knowledge management at Landcare Research

"At the moment, all our infrastructure is in-house. We manage our own databases internally. Lincoln is our head office, our main data centre is here. We failover to our Palmerston North site. That has been our main strategy up until now.

"We are moving into more real-time data gathering. There is going to be a lot more gathering, and a lot more images being taken as part of our information gathering. The volume and high-quality of all this data is going to be challenging to manage and back-up.

"There is also the necessity to develop the digital skills of the scientists in helping them classify their material, store it, capture metadata against it so that it is discoverable, and use tools around these new tools. That's a big area for us.


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