Q&A: Realestate.com.au's IT service delivery manager

Damian Fasciani talks Cloud, consumerisation and major projects

When did you join REA Group and where were you working prior to that?

I joined REA in July 2010 and before that I was working at a software vendor called Primavera Australia for six and a half years where I held a few technical roles. Prior to that, I worked for a marketing company, George Patterson Y&R, on a help desk, which was my first job out of university.

What does your role involve and who do you report to?

I’m the IT service delivery manager and I report to the head of IT operations — we aren’t just a traditional help desk — we look after all the network and server infrastructure that holds together the corporate side of IT.

We also look after all the corporate IT projects, infrastructure and the business applications, and we have a technical support function within that as well, so I have a team of 10 people.

What does your IT team look like?

IT across the board in REA is split into two different areas. First of all, we have the internal corporate side of IT, and embedded on that side are four departments and the IT service delivery team sits here.

I’ve got six technical support specialists that offer level one and level two support, and they also work on projects that are innovative and then I’ve got an engineering team that is comprised of two engineers and two consultants at the moment who are working on projects.

What are some of the main challenges of working in IT in the real estate space?

I think the top challenge is the consumerisation of IT. What I mean by that is we’re moving into an area now where we’ve got people who come in who want services on demand, by being able to pick any device like an iPhone or use any applications.

Traditionally the business would say “you have to use this hardware”, we’re taking your admin rights away, you can’t install your own software. We’re trying to move away from that, because working for a website, you have to look at the fast paced nature of the business. We want to give them the information they need, and make sure that productivity is at an optimal level.

We need to find a balance of giving staff what they want on demand while still being able to manage this process. We’ve got some projects in play now that will give the staff a self-service model which means they don’t have to come to a help desk.

We’re building a REA app store, which is built upon the idea of the Apple iTune store, and we’re going to roll out this project so people will be able to access these applications and have them installed so that people can work away without having to request anything. We’re about two weeks away from rolling that out.

What major projects do you have coming up?

As well as the mobile side of things, we’re redefining our disaster recovery applications in case our data is lost and so the business can keep working. We’re putting that in the Cloud.

We’re also rolling out an antivirus product that incorporates not only our Windows machines but our Mac machines, too. We’re creating a call recording service for the REA call centre to make sure there is due diligence on the calls made, and we’re also doing a Cloud file backup service.

A large number of staff save their backup data on their desktop PCs even though we try and educate them to save their data to the network, so we’re creating a Cloud application on their machine that backs up data to a Cloud so that information can be retrieved and shared with other REA staff or via iPads and other mobile devices. That’s about three or four weeks away from being rolled out.

REA has offices throught Australia, Milan and Luxembourg. How do you manage to juggle the responsibilities of IT across all three countries?

Luxembourg and Milan have IT representatives over there, and they run in isolation. The broader IT strategy when I came on board was to consolidate a service model in Australia and eventually expand this overseas.

We’re about three months from extending and offering those services overseas, so right now we’ve been working with Luxembourg and Milan to offer those services so we can standardise our IT offerings. Right now, we work with them but they don’t report to myself — they have people they report to in their offices.

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