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The Benefits Of Working With Local IT Providers

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Bruce Winzar | CIO | Loddon Mallee Health Alliance & Bendigo Health Group

The Loddon Mallee Rural Health Alliance is an alliance of 25 members that are all health agencies. There are some 17 acute hospitals with five or six community health stand-alone hospitals across 25 percent of Victoria. One of the first roles, as I'm CIO of the Alliance, was to look at how could we share our systems. How could we share our staff, our resources? How could we share the cost of doing IT? The value for our network was to bring a wide area network, go to tender, and bring a broadband network to connect all of our members together. Part of the tendering process was to look at, obviously, facility management and how're we going to manage the network. We have over 150 sites that are connected to the network. Most of it was quite straightforward, to go to 10-to-2 and look at the provision of carriage. We were also looking at the facility management and the ongoing operations management of it. There was a feeling that this was a complex network and therefore we'd have to go with some expertise that would only be provided out of a metropolitan area. What I looked at was, "How can we use local third-party agents? How can we collaborate with our local providers to provide a whole range of value-adds for our community, as well as solve the problem of operations management and facilities management?" What I found was that there were a number of local providers that were willing to help provide the operations management and the facilities management of their network, but on a local basis. What come out of that, and what we saw out of that, was that we had a need to do facilities management and operations management. We thought it was complex. We thought it could only be done by a couple of large, national providers, but yet we found on our back door that there were some local providers. Through some collaborative effort and through economic and regional development initiatives, we were able to enhance them to provide the services for a whole region. We've now moved that way, where local providers within the context of our region are providing a whole range of local area network, wide area network, and other services that probably, five years ago, would not have been possible. The lessons that we've certainly learned being that, within regional areas, there are experts. All the experts to support the technology do exist in regional areas, and particularly in the context of our area. We don't have to go back to a metropolitan or to a city provider. This allows us to be a much larger fish in the pond. It enables us to leverage our pricing much better. It enables us to enhance quickly and be much more adaptable and flexible to the changes that we want, because the provider is right alongside working with us, almost daily, as opposed to remotely. It enables us to have an informal way to the way we do business.

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