IT puts its house in order, for business' sake

As IT executives seek to transform their operations into true, corporate assets that can help grow the business at their companies, many are finding that first they must impose much tighter controls over their often vast and unwieldy portfolios of technology projects.

Numerous Australian CIOs said they are moving quickly to ensure that their IT staff are doing work that meets business priorities and can generate the highest possible return on investment.

For example, Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services CIO, Garry Hulme, said there are so many projects currently under way the agency couldn't get it all done if they simply sequenced one after the other.

"We have some 10,000 employees at more than 350 sites, 40 to 50 different areas of service including mental health, public housing and hospitals," Hulme said.

"This year we will be focusing on infrastructure development, improving data communication and information storage to ensure there are enough workstations and access points. Being so diverse we are attempting to get value out of information we hold across our different services."

The department is also looking at ways to protect information and establish individual consent modules which creates considerable overhead. It also involves a lot of integration work to ensure standards are in place to share and move information.

"The biggest challenge in health related areas is [balancing] the demands for new equipment by health professionals against tight budgetary demands," he said.

For Perth-based Murdoch University IT services director Chris Foley, the biggest challenge today is implementing a configuration management system for the organization's 3100 PCs to remotely manage inventory and configure and deploy software from one central point.

"This is something we have manually managed in the past and will take about six months to implement," Foley said.

The next priority is server virtualization.

"We have dabbled with it in the past and because it is becoming mainstream we are more confident about moving ahead," he said.

"Another major task is network redesign - this occurs every five to seven years and we will upgrading the network to include new technology such as wireless, VoIP and video over IP and other high speed network applications - we will complete the upgrade over the next two years.

"This year, we have a chance to build and plan a little more rather than just surviving as we have had to for the last three years."

Demands are great for everyone even high profile CIOs like Randall Mott of Hewlett-Packard.

When assessing projects, Mott said he found at least 10 major IT budgets that were separate from one another, plus a variety of "shadow" IT activities that were going on outside those budgets. Altogether, HP had about 1200 IT projects in the works, he said.

The main focus for online tender notification service TenderLink is developing its in-house JADE application which is used to manage subscribers. "This is always our biggest priority," according to TenderLink IT manager Stephen Persson.

"We always have a large number of development projects under way at any one time, and are continually looking for new and better ways to improve that software, and to successfully get it to market and in use by the electronic tendering fraternity."

South Australian department of trade and economic development corporate IT manager Roger Collini is currently implementing a content management system for Web site management.

"We are consolidating 20 Web sites down to five and hope to have it completed by the end of the year," Collini said.

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