5 minutes with. . .Bill Advic, group IT manager, Community Newspapers Group, Western Australia.

Computerworld: If you could walk a mile in any other IT professional's shoes, whose would it be and why?

Bill Advic: It would have to be Ed Yourdon. By the way, there is some controversy in his biography, published on his Web site, that he wrote all of Bob Dylan's songs. Coincidentally, I'm a huge Dylan fan - but in all seriousness, I think Ed Yourdon would have to be every programmer's hero. His contribution to the computer industry and influence on the computer profession (particularly on computer programmers) has been outstanding - he is a legend.

CW: What is your view of the judge's ruling in the Microsoft/DoJ case?

BA: I am certainly no "legal eagle" particularly when it comes to American law but from what I know of the Microsoft case, I feel there is more to it than just anticompetitive claims. By all means, if Microsoft has truly been anticompetitive then it should be held to account for that.

There are many who think that Microsoft is too big and that its products are too popular and so would like to the see the organisation substantially diminished in size and in market share. I don't hold those same views - did anyone ever try and break up the Beatles because they were ‘too popular'? Or has anyone ever tried to break up the Rolling Stones for selling too many albums?

CW: You have been in IT for more than 15 years and have witnessed some interesting IT developments; what would you consider to be the most interesting?

BA: I think by far the most interesting would have to be the developments in recent years of the Internet, and how quickly it has grown and diversified. Using the Internet as an information resource, from communications via e-mail, chat lines and the like, through to e-commerce, it really does make the world a smaller place.

CW: What encouraged you to make a career in IT?

BA: My deep interest in computing, particularly computer programming. I remember the first computer I ever had (even before the days of the VIC 20 and Commodore 64). It was so expensive to buy, I could only afford to hire it one month at a time and it didn't even come with a monitor - I had to plug it into the TV set.

CW: What was your first position in the industry?

BA: Trainee computer programmer and I worked on a DEC PDP-11/70 programming in Basic-Plus. My job was to cut code and to write up user and technical documentation. After work each day, I'd go up to the IT department and voluntarily help out with operational tasks like loading tapes for backups, sorting out printouts and asking lots of questions.

CW: What other titles and roles did you take on before becoming an IT manager?

BA: Before taking on the role of group information technology manager with Community Newspaper Group, I was IT group manager with CALM (Department of Conservation and Land Management) and before that I was project leader, application systems development with CALM. I have also had positions in other organisations as senior systems analyst, systems analyst, analyst/programmer and programmer. I also did a stint as a part-time lecturer in the final year units of the Associate Diploma of Applied Science course run by TAFE.

CW: What does a ‘regular day at work' involve for you?

BA: No such thing as a regular day in the newspaper business. We publish 14 newspapers each week and of those, 11 newspapers are produced on a Monday and because we are fully computer paginated, things can get very hectic specially around deadline time. In our quieter times, we concentrate on new projects and we usually have a few on the go at any one time.

We have just finished a couple of major projects including the introduction of a new editorial system and a new finance and accounting business system. My involvement is mainly to ensure that we have the resources available that are needed to get the job done.

CW: How do you contribute to the Community Newsgroup WA's success?

BA: I'm very fortunate to be with an organisation that is not afraid of investing in new technology. I'm fortunate because I'm the one who, at the end of the day, is responsible for introducing new technology to the business and for managing that technology. Just about every department relies on the information technology department to be able to do their job. Our role is really to ensure that we get the most out of our systems and to take advantage of the technologies available today to satisfy our business needs.

CW: What are your views on the increasing usage of non-PC appliances (such as mobile phones and PDAs) to access the Internet and how can they assist your company and its staff?

BA: I think the usage of non-PC appliances to access the Internet will continue to grow, but the one thing that is restricting that growth at the moment is the speed of access.

Currently, the fastest access to the Internet via a mobile phone, for instance, is still only 9.6Kbit/sec, which is barely enough for e-mail or small file transmissions. (You wouldn't want to go surfing at such a low speed).

Once the speed limitations are lifted, I think that having Internet access while being mobile will be of tremendous value to organisations such as Community Newspaper Group. We have a decent sized sales team each of whom has a mobile phone. The order processing that we have in place is very much a traditional paper-based system. I see in the not too distant future, our sales people will have PDAs purposely programmed to accept sales orders which will be uploaded to our main systems via the Internet and their mobile phones.

CW: Where is your ideal holiday destination?

BA: My ideal holiday destination would have to be the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada. It's a place I've always wanted to visit, especially in the winter. I have a young family and my wife and I plan to take the family there for a skiing holiday in a few years time when the kids are a bit older.

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