5 minutes with. . .Nigel Evans, IT manager, P&O Australia

Computerworld: How long have you been working for P&O Australia?

Nigel Evans: I've been with the group for nearly seven years and this is my third role.

I joined what was then the P&O Holidays business which ran the combined cruising and eco-tourism resort business as the IT manager. After three years I moved to the corporate office as the group project manager. In that role I ran a number of projects, many about building common infrastructure for use by many of the divisions.

I recently took over the manager of information technology role in the corporate office.

CW: Describe the best part about your job?

NE: It would probably have to be the variety. P&O is a fairly diverse group (although less so of late), with interests in port management, the storage and distribution of chilled and frozen products, the cruise and resorts businesses, and a number of companies which support the maritime industry.

CW: What is your most recent achievement with P&O Australia?

NE: We've just been through a strategy review in resorts that I quite enjoyed and are now moving on through selecting and implementing some new systems. Outside of work, completing an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management was a major personal achievement.

CW: How did you become an IT manager?

NE: That's a fairly circular story actually. After studying hospitality in Wales and working in the industry for a few years, I moved to the US to work for a software company that provided solutions to the industry. About 15 years ago they opened a new office in Australia and I came over to set up the support and operations side. I then put both experiences together and started managing IT for hotel management companies. Firstly for Best Western, then Rydges Hotels and Resorts, before joining P&O's leisure businesses.

CW: What do you believe to be the hottest technology trend right now?

NE: I probably wouldn't pick a technology trend; the more interesting thing for me is the divergence in business strategies with the trend to new dotcom companies and how the traditional businesses get to deal with this changing environment. There's a long way for that story to play out. There are some very good ideas around that will threaten some aspects of existing business' work. A large proportion of the dotcoms will fall by the wayside, while there is the potential for damage to a number of traditional businesses. Strong brand names and customer relationships are the traditional companies' biggest assets.

CW: How many professionals make up P&O Australia's IT team?

NE: At the corporate office, there are only a couple of us; we're mainly a support function for helping out on strategy development, trying to identify good practices and share that with everyone else, purchasing deals or managing projects, and the like. All of our businesses have their own functional IT teams, which report to the management teams within their own businesses. Ports has a substantial operation, while Cold Logistics has its own in-house development team.

CW: What is P&O Australia's IT agenda for this year?

NE: There are a couple of themes. Firstly, as a result of a fairly significant worldwide restructure, P&O has focused on a far smaller range of businesses; developing synergies across them is important. Secondly, e-commerce is an issue. Our Ports and Cold Logistics businesses have had substantial e-commerce operations for years; by today's dotcom measures they're not seen as particularly sexy, but we have very effective interfaces with our customers and suppliers. There are a number of projects under way to use Internet technologies to augment what we've been doing for some time.

CW: Does your role involve a lot of travelling?

NE: A little, but not much, which suits me just fine. A few interstate trips, most commonly to Melbourne, sometimes to the resorts in Queensland and Tasmania and usually one trip a year to the US and maybe to the UK. It's nice to get around and see what's going on, talk to colleagues, and so on, but I must admit that huge amounts of travel aren't for me. When I lived in the US and first moved to Australia, my role had me travelling extensively. For the first six months here I lived out of a suitcase and for the next two years I travelled for 46 and 44 weeks respectively. As much fun as it was at the time, I'm really glad that I did it, because it really cured me of the travel bug.

CW: What are your interests outside the office?

NE: The kitchen is probably top of my list, I love it. Reading, when I get the chance, and I'm a bit of a sports fan, particularly rugby union.

CW: Name five people, living or not, you would invite for dinner, and why?

NE: Number one would have to be Nelson Mandela, his leadership in achieving what he did after what he's been through is amazing. A guy called Brian Keenan would be there; he was one of the hostages held in Lebanon for a number of years. His book about that ordeal was one of the most moving I've ever read. Andrew Ollie, one of the best journos; he had a tremendous ability to get people talking. Nick Nairn, one of the TV chefs, who has a nice way of explaining why different cooking techniques work the way they do. My wife would also have to be there, although she'd rather have Jamie Oliver than Nick Nairn.

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