Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Nova Scotia universities and colleges save millions by migrating en masse to cloud enabled collaboration and productivity.
Year Submitted 2017
Awarded First Prize (Themed Category)
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Gabrielle Morrison (SMU), Ian Nason (Dalhousie) Vice President, Finance & Administration
Name of Institution Saint Mary's University (NS)
Office Address Saint Mary's University
923 Robie Street
Halifax, New Brunswick B3H 3C3
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Telephone: 902-420-5409
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Gabrielle Morrison
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President, Finance & Administration
Office Address Saint Mary's University
923 Robie Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3C3
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Telephone: 902-420-5409
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

All eleven Nova Scotia institutions of higher education now use a common communication and collaboration platform. Offered to higher education at no- to very low cost, Office365 is the new technology standard and portends future sharing opportunities in information technology (IT).


Through the Higher-Ed IT Shared Services program, there was a single procurement and contract with Microsoft. Schools shared implementation plans, policies, best practices and support services. The largest school forged the path with a comprehensive privacy impact assessment that led to a cloud-based, privacy-by-design effort that was leveraged across the other schools. The shared services initiative provided the project and change management services and coordinated collaborative training and technical migrations.


All schools reduced costs associated with running internal email systems. They now offer state-of-the-art communication and collaboration tools in cloud-based technology. No more servers, no more application upgrades, no more constraints on storage capacity. IT organizations now focus on more value-added activities.


The Office365 platform allows for data storage locally or in the cloud. The tools provided are secure, mobile, and designed to keep pace with the modern needs of a college and university. Office365 is also hosted and protected by some of the best and most secure IT resources available.


The key to this unique achievement was a collaborative agreement that 11 institutions can—and should—manage core IT infrastructure and systems more efficiently and effectively together than any one can do alone. Vice presidents finance and administration, along with each of their IT leaders, govern and advise the shared IT services program. They are committed to a steady transformation of the way IT services are delivered.


The success of the Office365 projects has lead to more opportunities for future sharing among the schools. With the standardized platform, the foundation exists for collaborations around other common technologies. The shared IT services initiative is currently exploring methods and business models for sharing networks as a service across multiple institutions.


This collective effort is a first of it’s kind in Canada. While there is no formal university system, the eleven schools of Nova Scotia are acting in unison around IT.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

This project is based on the fundamental premise of transferability. The Higher-Ed IT Shared Services program leverages core infrastructure and IT systems that are essential but not differentiating. Nova Scotia leveraged the transferability itself and now offers it as a model of what is possible as IT organizations 1) need to evolve, 2) deliver state-of-the-art services, and 3) develop sustainable and renewable IT services. The policy, legal, and procurement efforts completed by 3 early adopting institutions (Dalhousie University, NSCAD University, and University of Kings College) were leveraged by the remaining 8 schools (Acadia University, Atlantic School of Theology, Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, Saint Mary’s University, Saint Francis Xavier University and Universite Sainte Anne) to fast-cycle their project’s chartering and initiation phases. During project execution, several different institutions showed leadership at different points through things like developing change management materials, exploring security models, and implementing training programs.

Quality Impact

The migration from eleven disparate email systems to one, Microsoft’s Office365, has propelled each school to leading technologies. Only Google offers a comparable service to higher education, and Microsoft’s tools are common across industries and where most students will work in their careers. The governance and Higher-Ed IT Shared Services project is only getting started. Watch for more quality initiatives in the years ahead!

Productivity Impact

The eight shared services projects were completed in 2015/16 for 70% of $1.1m budgeted cost for a combined saving of $350k. Software licensing collaboration with Microsoft provided an overall saving $100k last year and each year forward. Minimization of total cost of ownership for HW/SW/Security related to email, collaboration and file storage at each institution is between $20k-$200k in annual maintenance and support notwithstanding the one-time infrastructure replacement costs mitigated using the cloud.



The innovation is in the commitment to a common goal, that sharing of core IT infrastructure and systems is indeed possible across competing institutions.  The project demonstrates that disparate IT organizations working together are far more viable than any one alone; that vice presidents and IT leaders can address the significant challenges of technology operations and succession collaboratively; and that institutions can voluntarily set aside their local focus for the greater good. In fact, the technology was the easiest part. It was the governance, collective effort, and shared rollout that is so innovative in the higher-ed environment. The NS Provincial government supported the initiative through its Excellence in Innovation Fund which enabled the schools to explore this opportunity themselves on their own terms based on shared priorities and objectives.