Unicef CIO preaches global service management

Managing IT for 11,000 people in some 300 locations across 158 countries is made bearable with a unified approach to controlling the underlying infrastructure, according to Unicef's CIO Andre Spatz.

"It's a piece of cake," Spatz joked in his presentation at this year's HP software forum in Sydney this week. "It's such a complicated environment. Think about the political environment, not just the infrastructure challenges."

Spatz, who is based in New York, said since Unicef has a "long-term presence", it needs to make changes sustainable, and that's what makes infrastructure "critical."

Unicef is part of the United Nations but not funded by it. Instead, two-thirds of Unicef's budget comes from voluntary sources, and the remainder from the private sector.

With about 85 percent of the staff in the field and the rest in its headquarters, Unicef has "quite a challenge delivering services for children."

"We're running global infrastructure and everyone has the same wherever they are," Spatz said. "We have servers, desktops, a global helpdesk, SAP at core, and a custom-built system for running field [operations]. This is on an IP-only global network with QoS and we have deployed VoIP in more than 150 locations for over two years. Who said VoIP isn't ready?"

Spatz said all this has to be managed and "it's not simple [so] that's why we use OpenView."

Unicef started to put in service management as a core component of its infrastructure back in 1998.

"In 1998, ITIL was not top of mind but service management was," Spatz said. "We have implemented a lot of pieces - global service desk, network surveillance, and a service information portal which allows us to see the status of our infrastructure."

Spatz decribed the results as "fairly dramatic" since Unicef now has consolidated operations and global visibility from one centre.

"We can redeploy IT in locations that need to be rebuilt or re-staffed," he said, adding that in several countries Unicef has trained the first person in ITIL.

"We have deployed according to principles and standards. It's a permanent challenge to deploy enterprise service management to have standard processes."

When asked how he can justify the ROI from such a project, Spatz said because IT is a fundamental enabler of the organization. To make the Unicef effective, it needs to make use of money in the best way, he said.

"All business processes are technology-enabled, logistics, SAP, fundraising, and Web content - all information is electronic," he said. "It's compelling and strategic as well [and] not IT for the sake of IT. If we don't deliver the organization can't meet its objective."

And if vendors think they can get a foot into Unicef's door by playing the charity card, they are grossly mistaken.

"We have done due diligence and are not a charity in terms of contract negotiation," Spatz said. "We are master of our own technology choices. I don't need help with the selection of technology."

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