Melbourne Business School cloud shift will take five years

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Melbourne Business School cloud shift will take five years
MBS CIO Darren Morris

Glorious three-year plan to untangle on-prem solutions proved optimistic.

Melbourne Business School (MBS) is using its cloud migration as an opportunity to "move and improve", rather than just lift and shift its information systems.

Over the school's 60 years of operation its IT had become typically interdependent: making a change to one often meant having to make changes to all the others.

That also meant extensive periods of testing to evaluate the stability of systems after rolling out relatively minor updates, which have become necessary as students expect better service and legislation requires more stringent privacy and security arrangements.

So when MBS chief information officer Darren Morris and his team began looking at updating to Microsoft 365 and shifting to Azure, it proved a good time to review the school's data estate and build stronger capabilities around data and analytics.

"We're not just picking up and putting stuff into the cloud," MBS chief information officer Darren Morris said in a Microsoft case study.

"We're saying, "Well, what's difficult about the way we work today?" and when we move to the cloud, "What can we improve on so that we don't have those same challenges in the future?"

Planning MBS' cloud strategy began in 2015 and the migration was expected to take three years to complete, with an initial focus on Azure File Storage, SharePoint and Dynamics 365.

The project is now expected to complete in 2020 as MBS decided to better future-proof its operations and migrate more applications from its on-premises data centre to the cloud, with the change over to Dynamics 365 by the end of the year slated to be one of the last major foundational elements.

The current transition will mostly be foundational to support potential future forays into artificial intelligence and machine learning, as the school evaluates how emerging technologies can be used to improve and enhance its services.

For now, MBS is using 365's reporting and transparency features, particularly Azure Identity Protection, infrastructure manager Pete Russell said.

"Security is another of our driving factors for the shift to cloud firstly to protect clients but also reputation with data breaches being brought to media attention. Our aim is to prevent and detect compromised accounts as early as possible. Microsoft's tools available under Office 365 under [service tier] A5 provides this capability.

"We are currently moving towards MDM [mobile device management] via Intune to build the platform to fully exploit Azure Rights Management. This is part of a coordinated strategy to protect information at all locations."

Other systems that are already in the cloud include email, HR, finance, and the learning management system, and it also supported a shift towards multi-factor authentication (MFA).

So far MBS estimates this has reduced the amount of time spent on maintenance by 30 percent over the course of a year.

The school is also starting to practice more of what it preaches, Russell added.

"One of the core activities of the Business School is to teach – we're leaders in teaching analytics to students, and data science in big business, in Fortune 500 businesses, and we've got a global presence in that space.

"There's a bit of a push by the School to become better at it ourselves. And to do that, we have to have the right tooling, and that's part of the driver for also going to the data warehouse in the cloud as well. We're also using other products like SAS and Databricks. We've got a lot of activity in that analytics space."

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