5 minutes with... Daniel Scordel, Chief Information Officer, Austin Health

Where is your head office?

Heidelberg, Victoria.

What is your annual turnover?

$348 million

How many employees do you have in Australia?

3300 equivalent full-time

How many IT users do you have in Australia?


What is your IT budget?

$2.5 million, plus ad hoc funding for specific projects based on their business case.

What are your key applications?

Patient management (pre-admission, admission-transfer-discharge, bed management, meals, billing). Scheduling (out-patients, allied health, operating theatre). Clinical management (pharmacy, emergency, radiology, pathology, diagnostic ordering, discharge summaries to general practitioners). Staff management (HR, payroll, rostering). Business (finance, supply, procurement, key performance indicators, government reporting).

What is your key infrastructure?

Hardware: 30 Intel servers, two Sun servers, 2300 work-stations, 200 network printers. Networking: the two main hospitals are linked by gigabit fibre, the third hospital by microwave. Eight community health centres are linked by microwave or ISDN. Operating systems: NT4 and Windows 2000.

How long you worked in IT?

17 years.

How many IT professionals in your team?

There are 30 IT pros in the team.

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

I report to the finance director. The following staff report to me: IT services manager, applications manager, purchasing officer, project managers of large IT projects.

Does IT have the respect of business leaders?

No. IT still has a long way to go before it is seen as integral to most businesses.

What area of IT would you like to know more about?

Web security.

What are your greatest IT challenges?

Software vendors who over-promise and under-deliver. It takes a lot of juggling to subsequently manage user expectations whilst still implementing a viable and useful system on time and on budget.

What is the most difficult IT decision you have had to make?

I don’t find IT decisions that difficult because I have a strong technical team advising me, and I trust them. My job is to ask the right questions and translate what I’m told into business outcomes.

What areas of IT do you specialise in?

Project management.

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

When I joined the hospital in 1997, the network infrastructure was so run down it needed rebuilding almost from scratch. I learned a lot by working closely with the network designers to set standards and provide a strong platform for future service growth. We’ve never looked back. In 1998, the network had 600 users; we now have 3000. With solid infrastructure underpinning IT services, we have been able to undertake a major systems replacement program. Most significantly, we used to receive endless complaints due to continual fire fighting, whereas now we consistently score in the high 80s in customer satisfaction surveys.

What are the most pressing issues IT managers face?

Never having time to truly consolidate services. The next big project is always about to start and it will invariably destabilise things again.

Do you plan to undertake additional training courses?

Yes, but concentrating on financial and business skills, rather than technical IT. I sometimes think that an MBA would be beneficial, but I can’t bear the thought of studying part-time for years whilst holding down a stressful job and bringing up small children. So, I do short courses, and back them up with self-paced learning.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

The IT market has been so unexciting the last couple of years I won’t start thinking about that until it picks up again.

What IT disaster do you worry about?

Major network down-time. So far there hasn’t been any. My staff are vigilant when it comes to security and, for example, we haven’t suffered any significant virus attacks in the last six years. Also, contingency planning is integral to any work we undertake.

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

In the lead-up to Y2K, we significantly enhanced our disaster recovery capability and developed a set of procedures, which we have been using ever since. Years ago I worked as a consultant specialising in business continuity planning, and although I got very bored with it, I’m glad now that I went through that experience.

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