"We provide VPN access into our systems. We use the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN). That is a very high speed network, it allow us to pump volumes of data around and up into NeSI (New Zealand eScience Infrastructure), which is a high performance cloud computing service for organisations working in areas of science.
"Anything that is invested in infrastructure is taking away from science research. Saying that, we have done pretty well with organising our information. It just means that things take time to change in a science organisation, and you are not going to see vast amounts of money poured into some of these things," says Jones.
Levelling the field
Having a diverse set of users with demands for connectivity, mobility and ability to work remotely, means contending with different skill sets as well. While the IT team does not generally have the capability to provide basic training, it felt the need to provide its staff some amount of ICT guidance around two years back.
"Being a knowledge organisation, we are very rich in information resources. Key for us is having productive staff — and that includes everyday work they are doing using ICT. In every aspect, from the far end — mobile phones, video conferencing, data management, images, document creation, etc. It is essential that they are effective with ICT tools. For us, it is one of the areas slips through the cracks in some ways.
"HR tends to focus on company and organisation-wide leadership, training and personal skills. The ICT team does not have the budget to provide training company wide. We manage to cover some of that during the initial training when we are rolling out certain projects or systems," says Jones, recounting a situation that is all too familiar in most organisations.
The organisation called in the folks from Ripped Orange, a Christchurch-based provider, to help them train some of its staff on basic Microsoft and Office skills.
"We used Ripped Orange to help us with point solutions really early on. This included training around Excel and Word and Lync, to lift people's expertise in those areas," says Jones.
According to him, Ripped Orange used its tools and consultative expertise to understand the way staff, such as PAs, used popular Microsoft solutions and offered one-on-one training sessions to help them gain more from the products.
"With this we found such an improvement in productivity. Some people were able to save multiple days of work in each calendar month. However, when we got into this, we also realised the sheer scale of it.
"A science organisation is very much about just in time training. Unless the scientists are interested, or they see a need for it, they won't come along. Too many times there are training programs that go right through the organisation. Even if you get people to attend it, if they are not using it they lose the knowledge straight away," says Jones.
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