5 minutes with... Larry Reed, IT Services Manager, Salvation Army

What does your organisation do?

The Salvation Army is an international Church and welfare organization.

Where is your head office and how many employees and end users do you have?

In Australia The Salvation Army is represented by two territories, the Eastern Territory which covers New South Wales, Queensland and ACT and the Southern Territory covering the rest of Australia. I work for the Australia Southern Territory in which there are about 6000 officers and staff and 3000 end users.

Who do you report to, and who reports to you?

I report to the secretary for business administration and I have a staff of 22

What is your IT budget?

The budget is a difficult one to state as a lot of the capital expenditure comes from the various cost centres and is included in their budget.

What are your key applications?

Our fundraising applications (SAFRA) plus Finance1, CHRIS21 and Lotus Notes.

What is your key infrastructure?

Windows 2000 server, Windows XP for our desktop PCs and notebooks and our ADSL/SHDSL VPN WAN.

Given an unrestricted budget, what IT technology or service would you buy?

I would get the best network management and monitoring tools available and the latest security predictive software and whilst we are at it, server consolidation.

How long have you worked in IT?

I have been in IT for 36 years. I started on IBM 360 computers and in those days they were all card machines. The 360 had 16k of core memory and did all of the accounts, customer history and company dividend cheques and ran 24x6.

What IT technology do you lust after?

Automatically scalable network bandwidth that scales up when you need it dynamically and scales down when you don’t and is costed according to the scaled usage.

Which IT technology do you think is overhyped right now?

Wireless has it’s place and we have used it where it is appropriate; a lot of vendors have been pushing it as a replacement for cables. I don’t see it that way and it will eventually find a niche where it is most appropriate. VoIP is also becoming “hype of the month”. Again I am happy to embrace it providing it can deliver on performance and cost savings and not compromise the data network.

What area of IT would you like to understand better?

Most, I am not as hands-on as I used to be and like everything unless you are doing the nuts-and-bolts work, day-in day-out, your depth of knowledge decreases.

What are your greatest IT challenges?

Working for an organization like The Salvation Army and trying to make the dollar stretch as far a possible yet still maintain the quality of service the users expect - is always a challenge.

What's been your most difficult IT decision?

As far as IT decisions go, I haven’t had too much difficulty in that once proper research has been done and you know the result you are looking for, the decision usually falls into place. Now when it comes to staff issues . . .

What areas of IT do you specialise in?

Gone are the days where I can specialise; these days I try to be across all areas within the department as well as knowing what the organization wants from an IT perspective. I also attempt to understand the industry trends and technologies most appropriate to the organization.

What is the most exciting IT project or implementation you have been involved in?

Starting from scratch The Salvation Army Employment Plus IT network. This was a greenfields project, which is always exciting. However, it had the added complication of having to be set up in six weeks across 63 sites around Australia. Many decisions had to be made regarding infrastructure, communications and application; again, due to the circumstances, most decisions were fairly easy as expediency dictated the solution.

I am happy to say that the implementation was a success and Employment Plus is still a successful operation of The Salvation Army providing employment services in 93 sites nationally.

What are the most pressing issues IT managers face?

Keeping up with the latest technology and knowing what will work for you and what won’t. Also, security and ensuring all effort has been made to protect the organization from any internal or external threat.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at work?

There have been quite a few and I am too embarrassed to say.

Where do you see your career heading and how do you plan to get there?

At this stage I am happy where I am and I intend working to keep building a robust, secure environment.

What potential IT disaster stops you from sleeping?

Not much stops me from sleeping; however, a major security breach or any issue affecting our enterprise applications.

What's been the biggest lifesaver of a purchase or procedure?

Mail Marshall has been a lifesaver and has stopped thousands of viruses plus protected us from embedded threats. Using Citrix, initially for our fundraising system and later for our enterprise applications, was also the right product for the job. w – Staff writers

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