How the WA Institute of Sport muscled-up their ICT during COVID

How the WA Institute of Sport muscled-up their ICT during COVID
Western Australian Institute of Sport

A complete IT infrastructure refresh by the WA Institute of Sport has released the handbrake on collaboration and IT Performance.

The Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) is responsible for delivering programs that support professional athletes, with training and facilities that help them compete at the highest levels. Over the years, they have grown from a crew of 10 full-time staff to a reputable team of 75 dedicated professionals. Reflecting this growth, WAIS has also changed their image, with new premises to house their growing project and support needs.

I worked directly with the Corporate Services Manager at WAIS Damien Fitzpatrick over the course of a year to help WAIS redesign their ICT infrastructure. Damien explained to me that their ICT infrastructure was starting to slow down productivity. The legacy servers and Citrix environment that had once enabled efficient workflows at WAIS were now acting as barriers to efficiency and collaboration.

Damien said: “Our colleagues in the AIS and abroad were using tools like Office 365 to collaborate and share work processes. WAIS was using thin clients connected to assets on a local network.”

Not only did this make it hard to collaborate externally, but WAIS was struggling to maintain efficient workflows internally. In short, their ICT infrastructure was starting to act as a handbrake on their performance.


Defining ICT performance

Damien was keen to get WAIS to transform away from legacy applications and platforms to a cloud-based model. Managing the ageing IT hardware took time away from their core responsibilities – time that could be better-spent training champions.

Damien knew that WAIS was in dire need of immediate IT improvements, and set about planning a full analysis covering:

  • in-house infrastructure.
  • a wish-list of what they wanted to be able to do.
  • the systems and infrastructure they needed to make it happen.

A business systems renewal project of this scope needs careful management, and Damien elected to partner with First Focus to help him make the changes necessary for future growth.

“IT is not our core business” he explained.

A leap of faith

Working with First Focus, Damien laid out a three-stage plan. This ambitious undertaking involved:

  • the staged migration of users to the cloud with enhanced cybersecurity measures.
  • replacing thin-client access with cloud-based apps like Office 365, OneDrive, and SharePoint.
  • upgrading from old hardware to new infrastructure in scalable stages.

Of utmost importance to Damien was the capacity of their MSP. WAIS needed to have confidence in the people, their knowledge, and experience.

"[Our MSP] needed to make commitments that were backed up. First Focus is secure and growing. They were already doing this work for over 150 clients”

“It was a leap of faith, moving to First Focus in the way we did. But we needed that specialist skillset to build for future needs. 2020 has been wild. I thought if we don’t do it now, who knows what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time?”

Crossing the finish line

The timeline was ambitious. But Damien had confidence in our project schedule and its outcomes.

“We started the transition in April 2020. No one was in the office thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown. We were all working from home. The fact that it was all done during this period is doubly impressive.”

By the end of July 2020, we had finished the onboarding process with WAIS and migrated its managed services. WAIS users had secure access to cloud-based infrastructure, Microsoft 365, OneDrive, and SharePoint – without having to rely on thin clients. Emails were set up, signatures verified, firewalls deployed. Cloud backups were planned, and a VPN solution would support secure access to data and applications for employees making use of work-from-home arrangements.

By February 2021, First Focus had finalised both the hardware replacement project and the decommissioning process. WAIS was finally ready to tackle whatever the future brought – pandemic lockdowns included.

I asked Damien what he felt made the project such a success. He explained that the speed and care taken during the transition was a big win for WAIS, with First Focus identifying issues before they developed and solving them proactively.

First Focus brings a level of responsiveness and personalisation we didn’t know we needed. We get quarterly business reviews full of forward-looking projects. They’re quite helpful from an ICT perspective, and a big improvement on our expectations.”

“I can be confident that daily stuff is just taken care of - no need to intervene. Now I can look forward.”

Rewarding results

After we finished the projects, WAIS conducted an internal survey. WAIS employees said that the business systems renewal project had lessened their IT issues while increasing their escalation options, with staff responding “quite positively” to the speedy project.

Damien is now confident that WAIS has future-facing systems in place: “Without worrying about ICT, we’re free to do more interesting things.”

“We’ve got the base in place – it’s set and forget.”

“The handbrake is off.”

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