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Meet the Chair: Commercial Working Group

An interview with Tony Panetta, Chief Information Officer of Catholic Education Western Australia

Catholic Network Australia (CNA) is a consortium of Catholic Education organisations committed to sharing resources and expertise. Our organisation is composed of participant volunteers who are committed to sharing their insight, experiences, and guidance for the benefit of all participants.

Providing participants with access to affordable technology solutions is a core focus of CNA. The Commercial Working Group is dedicated to ensuring that all participants are fairly represented with any commercial negotiation reflecting a better outcome than a participant could expect to achieve alone.

We recently had the opportunity to interview the chair of the Commercial Working Group, Tony Panetta, Chief Information Officer of Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA).

CNA: How does your role as the Chair of the Commercial Working Group align with your role as Chief Information Officer of CEWA?

Tony: As a CIO in a large system of schools, my core focuses are to ensure that digital platforms and technical infrastructure are constantly available to students and staff, that child safety is front of mind in every technical consideration, and that the technologies we introduce to the system are available to all of our schools. These focuses of best in class, reliable technologies; child safety; and equitable access to education permeate both organisations.

CNA: As a large system of over 160 schools supporting over 80,000 students, I’d imagine that you already have considerable buying power. How can an organisation of your size benefit from CNA?

Tony: CNA is much more than a procurement arm for Australian Catholic Schools. You’re right that if we were a smaller Diocese, we wouldn’t be able to negotiate as effectively and may not have access to internal legal and procurement expertise. As one of the larger members of CNA, we have considerable benefits from collaborating with other participants. CNA fosters an ongoing dialogue across Catholic Education in Australia. Whether we’re exploring a new HRIS solution or unsure about how we can help prepare our schools to navigate the latest security threat, CNA offers a forum for us to learn from each other and benefit from our collective brain power and lived experiences. Coming from a corporate background, this collaboration with similar organisations is entirely unusual. Can you imagine three competitors joining forces to overcome a shared obstacle?

CNA: What upcoming focuses can participants expect from the Commercial Working Group?

Tony: Historically, negotiated Microsoft licensing and data carriage solutions through Telstra were the anchor of the Commercial Working Group. Over time, this expanded to negotiated Licensing Service providers with Insight and SoftwareOne in addition to security services and devices from Fortinet, legal services through Engo, and network services through NBN.

We work closely with the Technology Working Group, the Education Working Group, and CNA Executive to regularly explore technology solutions raised by CNA participants. If a number of participants express a need to purchase a specific solution, we’re here to negotiate terms that benefit every participant.

These benefits aren’t strictly financial. If you look at the Microsoft licensing arrangement, without getting too technical we were able to secure A5 licensing to participants that would normally only be able to afford A3. The A5 licensing comes with additional security, data analytics capabilities, and telephony that would have otherwise been out of reach for these schools.

While we’re looking to introduce new solutions, the Commercial Working Group is actively managing existing partners to ensure that contractual obligations are met and explore additional value adds to consider in future renewals and other procurement activities.

CNA: You mention Child Safety earlier. CNA currently only supports a sliver of the technologies in use in Australian classrooms. What other resources would you recommend for participants interested in examining the safety of the applications in use in their schools?

Tony: At CEWA, we’ve introduced an approved technology list that is regularly updated by the Digital Technology team. A number of other Catholic systems of schools have taken the same approach. While it may seem a Herculean task, a cross-country consortium of Catholic, Independent, and Government schools has made it a lot easier. Safer Technologies 4 Schools (ST4S) assesses each application submitted to ensure that it meets safety, privacy and other requirements. This free-to-use resource is constantly growing in scope of applications reviewed and can help you power an approved technology list for your schools.

CNA: With over 25 Diocese, schools, and Catholic organisations as participants, it could be overwhelming to navigate the needs of each. For participants who are interested in requesting a new technology to be procured through the Commercial Working Group, how should they do this?

Tony: CNA has built several avenues for participants to help guide our focus. Each year two surveys are sent to participants: Voice of the Diocese and Voice of the Educator. These specifically explore what technologies are of most interest to participants. Stay tuned for these, and please do contribute when they come in.

Outside of these annual surveys, the CNA website has a feedback form on the bottom of the page. Feel free to provide any suggestions through that channel.

Thank you, Tony, for speaking with us today. If you are a participant with an interest in the space, the Commercial Working Group is actively looking for additional members spanning a variety of skillsets (E.g. procurement, negotiation, contract management).

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