25 Q&As: Amazing changes since the mid 1980s

As part of Computerworld's silver anniversary celebrations 25 IT managers recall the ups and downs of their careers. Here, Rod Apostol, manager information systems, City of Greater Shepparton, Victoria, shares his experiences with Lauren Thomsen-Moore.

Q: What is a key IT technology at your company and how do you want it to develop?

Voice over IP. We have just completed the first stage of communications strategy that aims to provide the same level of voice and data service to any employee regardless of where that person is located. Our initial stage involved replacing our ageing PABX with a Cisco VoIP system and deploying that across our central offices. The next three stages will see us upgrade and deploy fibre links to all offices across the municipality.

With the project spanning five years and rapid technology changes, part of the solution that we will implement probably has not been released yet. Planning for that is difficult.

We have offices that range from two people to 50 people and want a ‘cookie cutter’ solution that we don’t have to redesign for each location.

Q: What IT technologies have brought the most significant benefits?

These would have to be networking of computers, with TCP emerging as a pseudo standard. Also, the convergence of voice, video and data that we are currently seeing has dramatically enhanced our ability to deliver radical change to our working environment.

Lastly, from a support perspective, the initial implementations of SOEs were a great thing. The reduction in support costs and turnaround on job completions was amazing.

We are now adopting a MOE (managed operating environment) and think that the impact to both our support staff and the end users will be great.

Q: When did you start in IT and what job did you have before?

I started in IT in the mid 80s working as an electronic technician in a broadcast television station. At that stage all circuit boards were diagnosed and repaired instead of being swapped out and replaced. The technical department assumed responsibility when the first computers started to arrive and I was able to align myself with the technology from there.

What was your first computer? A Sanyo/Icon server running a booking and scheduling system in a PIC environment. This was in the mid 80s using mainly dumb terminals, but the power users were able to demand all of the incredible power of an eight meg CPU and 640K memory. Our diagnostic tools included breakout boxes with flashing LEDs and cutting code was a very common occurrence whenever we had a changed business need.

Fast facts: Annual budgeted turnover: $78 million. Employees: 600. IT users: 350. Key applications: Great Plains Financials, Pathway Property and Rate. Key infrastructure — hardware: IBM xSeries servers, IBM FastT SAN, Dell workstations; networking: Extreme chassis switches, Extreme switches; operating systems: Windows 2000 Servers and workstations.

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