5 minutes with...Toby Dods, IT and communications manager - Asia Pacific Right Management Consultants

Q How long have you worked in IT? 15 years.

Q What does your organisation do? Right is a global career transition and organisational consulting firm focusing on the execution of business strategy through people: leadership development, executive coaching, talent retention and organisational performance. We are not a placement agency, rather our role is to guide and coach people in their job search.

Q Where is your head office? The Asia-Pacific head office is in Melbourne and the global HQ is in Philadelphia.

Q What is your annual turnover? $US500 million, globally.

Q What is your IT budget? Just over $1 million.

Q What are your key applications? Office/SQL 2000, RightTrack (internal app), PeopleSoft.

Q What key infrastructure do you use? WAN VPN links across Asia Pacific. Windows 2000 operating system.

Q Do you believe IT has the respect of business leaders? No, but that has as much to do with a lack of understanding of IT by business leaders and by a failure by IT practitioners to clearly spell out what IT can (and can’t) do for a business. I find that a major part of my role is education. How can business be expected to derive benefit from IT if they don’t understand its strengths and limitations? The only way for IT to earn the respect of business leaders is for it to deliver tangible business benefits in the short to medium term, not utopian promises for a better future in the long term. So, it is educating the business to ask for things that can be delivered by IT, and their delivery that earns respect.

Q What area of IT would you like to understand better? There are two areas that interest me for different reasons. The first is IT security. I feel that as the Internet matures it will become more and more important for IT security to be embedded as deeply as possible into an organisation’s philosophy, culture and structure. Currently this is seen as a purely IT responsibility, but I think it will need to become a whole-of-business issue before it becomes effective and understanding how to achieve this is a big challenge. The other area is in the human-to-computer interface. Since humans are evolving so slowly in comparison to computers, it seems likely that computers will close the gap in understanding rather than us. Working out why some people just “get it” when it comes to computers, and other just “don’t get it” regardless of skills and abilities in other areas has always fascinated me.

Q What are your greatest IT challenges? Trying to predict where the business is heading and thereby researching and preparing in the right areas so that when a “we need it yesterday” request arrives, I can keep my “miracle worker” reputation intact.

Q How many IT professionals in your team? Three. A network administrator, a Web developer, and me.

Who do you report to, and who reports to you? I report to the AsiaPac finance director as well as a dotted line to the global CIO. Aside from the two full-time staff, there is a part-time IT coordinator in each of our 11 offices.

Q What is the most difficult IT decision you have had to make? I joined my first company as a graduate and had risen through the ranks to being a team leader but I realised that if I wanted to continue to grow then I would have to move on. Deciding to leave after eight years was very, very tough but I have no regrets now.

Q What areas of IT do you specialise in? Networking and operations management.

Q What are the most exciting IT projects or implementations you have been involved in? The original 1000 node NetWare PC LAN implementation that I did back in the early 90s was probably the best. It was a completely new technology for the company at the time and despite being a recent graduate, I had enormous say in the design and rollout — and enjoyed it immensely.

Q What are the most pressing issues IT managers face? Very early on in my career, it was explained to me that there were three positive attributes sought for most IT projects and services, which were: fast, cheap and reliable. It was also explained that only two of these attributes could be achieved at any one time. Selecting the right mix for each situation was the key to customer satisfaction. Cutting through the industry hype (which always seems to promise all three) to discern the “missing one” is a constant challenge.

Q What’s been the biggest life-saver of a purchase or procedure? Back in the DOS/Windows days, Xtree Gold was just the handiest file management utility around — I never left home without it! On the hardware side, we recently invested in a Fuji-Xerox colour copier, which has been brilliant. It is so versatile and I am still finding new things I can make it do — still working on getting it to brew the coffee though!

Lauren Thomsen-Moore

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