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Macquarie University Case Study

"There had been two false starts on an entire digital network replacement project when I started as CIO at Macquarie University in 2009. A strategic priority was to recover this situation to empower the next generation of teaching, learning and research. After securing a remediation budget of $8.5M I needed to entrust a programme manager within my first 90 days in a very uncertain and unfamiliar situation. Setting aside the technical difficulty of ripping and replacing every single network device without business disruption, the customers were jaded, sceptical, cynical and adversarial, the technology was a world-first debut, and the inherited supplier was unreliable. Failure was not an option; it was going to take a very special consultant and organisation to achieve success and create Macquarie OneNet, and my reputation depended on it. Fred Etter of FBS was that person.

In the preceding two years the project had thrashed, was 75% spent and less than 30% completed, precluding any reasonable level of bootstrap/honeymoon period. The incumbent internal team was unionised, lacked cohesion, and did not enjoy a good reputation for customer service. I entrusted and empowered Fred to build and deploy a team of 25 people, and gave him one year.

Starkly contrasted from the usual zero-care, revenue depleting, intern-deploying, drone-like project management that is so prevalent with big-five consulting practices, FBS was strategic, mission oriented and laser focused from the outset. Fred’s personal motivation, patience, care, coaching and mentoring organically inspired camaraderie and even allowed us to develop effective professionals through our university cadet program. Moreover, from a personal perspective, Fred was able to proxy for me and navigate complex political negotiations according to clear rules of engagement with zero supervision/intervention. Technical and management depth of experience supported the entire project team, identifying future opportunities, and exposing risks and weaknesses before they arose. The project was mission-critical, impacted over 50,000 people on a daily basis, and every migration had to be scheduled in a 24x7 environment.

5,090,920 metres of cabling, 62 buildings and 20,256 devices later OneNet was completed on budget, on time. It delivered a 10x speed increase at the edge, 800x at the core, eliminated all single points of failure, reduced operational incidents in the first year by 75%, and provided unprecedented digital security. Fred’s invention of a systemic strategy and consistent tactical application were key to success.

Ultimately OneNet unified the digital experience of every single student, researcher, teacher and staffer at Macquarie, an innovative university with a $2.5B annual budget. Its success built a strategic foundation that engendered political capital and trust in the reformed Informatics team for future projects, and was an important early win for me as CIO. I remain convinced that would not have been the case but for FBS, Fred Etter and his dedication." – Marc Bailey, CIO, Macquarie University.


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