5 minutes with... Sandra Beach, principal consultant, information strategy and systems, Qld Dept. of Primary Industries

Q How did you get into IT?

I was in a senior HR position at TAFE Queensland when I realised that IT would have a big impact on human resources. My passion for IT learning turned into an MBA, where a wonderful IT lecturer encouraged me to make the career change and I took the plunge into my current role with DPI.

Q What does your current role involve?

As business change leader for my department, I manage major information strategy projects.

Q What projects are you working on now?

I have just finalised the upgrade of the department’s intranet (OurNet) content management system to Microsoft Content Management Server 2002, as part of our wider knowledge management strategy. The system went live last week and it was a magnificent effort by the OurNet team.

Q What is the most challenging part of your job?

Going home at night! If you’ve ever had a job that makes you want to race into the office, you’ll understand what I mean.

Q What are your greatest IT challenges?

My personal mission is to make information systems work FOR people, so my biggest challenge is getting end users and managers to understand that new technology can’t work miracles on poor quality data. Ensuring data consistency, reliability and integrity is vital. I’m confident that our new implementation of Microsoft Content Management Server will help to address this challenge.

Q How many IT professionals in your team?

We have 12 members in the information management team, two of whom are contractors.

Q Who do you report to and who reports to you?

I report to the manager, information management. I lead a number of virtual project teams, for example, the OurNet team, which has five highly skilled members and our partners from Avanade.

Q What is the most pressing issue you face as an IT manager?

We operate across four physical locations, so traditional communication models don’t operate well. I am continually striving for new ways to motivate team members and to reward performance.

Q Where is your organisation’s head office, what is its business and how many end users are there?

Brisbane. DPI encompasses a range of fields including science and innovation, the commercial uptake of new technology by food and fibre industries; food integrity; ecological, sustainable use of natural resources and prosperity for rural communities. We have 3000 end users.

Q What is the most difficult IT decision you have had to make?

I know this will sound strange, but none of the IT decisions in which I’ve been involved, have been difficult to make. I have great support from my manager and team. We collaboratively make the difficult decisions through a consultative process. Working in such an environment builds ownership and support for decisions while producing better outcomes for users.

Q Name five people you would invite to a dinner party and why?

The dinner would be at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen, in London: 1. Jesus Christ because he could tell us how to achieve world peace. Diana, Princess of Wales so we could find out if the Palace really was behind her death. Mark Knopfler to tell us stories about Dire Straits and hold a jam session after dinner. Frances Ford Coppola who would outline the plot of The Godfather IV and tell us where they found the terrible costumes for The Godfather III. The project manager of the Egyptian Pyramids so that we could find out who financed the project and whether there was any scope creep.

Q Do you intend to undertake any additional training courses? Why, why not?

I am a compulsive learner and I love studying. After completing five undergraduate/graduate programs, I have promised my husband that I won’t do any more. However, I am finding this promise difficult to keep!

Q Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Working part time as business change leader, for a large consultancy group specialising in public sector ICT, holidaying in Antarctica, participating in Masters Sports and generally enjoying myself immensely.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Going to the gym and playing with my computer… I’m a bit of an Internet junkie, I must confess! I am a member of the Council of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (QLD), and am immensely enjoying my role as Chair of the 2003 National Conference Committee.

Q What is your idea of the worst IT disaster?

I don’t lose sleep worrying about IT disasters. In the crossover from HR to IT, I learnt that you have to trust your team and colleagues because personal knowledge alone is not sufficient to make well-informed decisions. DPI employs highly skilled people so that IT risk is managed as effectively as possible.

Q What is your IT prediction for this year?

Mobile devices will become more widely used in Queensland government departments following the government sponsored Wi-Fi trial in Brisbane later this year.

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