Huckerby swaps football for video

After reforming the IT infrastructure at Panthers Entertainment Group – home of the Pentrith Panthers rugby league club, James Huckerby has taken the helm at Video Ezy as the company’s first CIO.

“My work was pretty much done at Panthers. I had implemented a solid infrastructure and strategy regarding transactional, informational and strategic systems," Huckerby told Computerworld.

Huckerby said Panthers and Video Ezy are different in a lot of ways, with the latter presenting a unique set of requirements.

“Video Ezy has 550 customer sites, each of which is a franchisee. This presents some technical challenges as well as challenges related to getting their buy-in - not like a ‘normal’ corporate situation at all,” he said.

As the company’s first CIO, Huckerby said Video Ezy has invested a “great deal” in technology, including writing its own point-of-sale system.

“There are many silos of information at Video Ezy, [so I] will be looking to rationalize the database structure as well as reviewing cross-functional business processes across the business,” he said. “I will be looking to moving away from building systems from the ground up and heavily modifying enterprise applications.”

Huckerby believes it is a good time to join Video Ezy to "further develop the IT systems". . . "where there is plenty of room for improvement", and has a number of projects on the horizon.

“We are formulating a plan to move into online rental and revamp our online retail offering, and are also looking at an ERP system,” he said. “The first thing that needs to be addressed is the infrastructure as we need a solid foundation before we can start looking into the sexier stuff.”

Video Ezy’s existing IT landscape consists of applications that have been either built from the ground up internally or heavily modified; enterprise applications including Navision ERP, ePhiphany CRM and EzyRetail, the in-house POS system.

“Customer-facing systems are designed with stand-alone resilience so that stores can still operate without links,” Huckerby said. “The are some 570 servers in the organization, all running on Microsoft platforms. Desktops are a bit of a mish mash and we are looking to standardize on Microsoft XP for the desktop and 2003 for the servers.”

With a staff of around 18 “with a skewing towards coders”, Huckerby is still putting together putting Video Ezy’s IT budget.

According to Huckerby, the CIO’s strategic influence at Video Ezy is as great as at any organization he has heard of.

“With a CIO role, you never know if it is an A or B team position,” he said. “I attend every executive team [of five] meeting and board meetings.

Our CEO supports the move to a ‘clicks and mortar’ model and is looking for me to drive this move.”

Furthermore, Huckerby is confident that the IT market in general is “definitely” looking better as we approach 2005.

“I know of colleagues who are finally in demand for roles when things had been slow for years,” he said. “I also know from talking to vendors that a lot of large-scale infrastructure projects are kicking off, which is a good sign indeed.”

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