5 minutes with... Hervey Graham, general manager client systems, Gluck Forwarding Systems

Q: How did you get into IT?

I joined Gluck to set up its local Customs operation and when that was finished I was looking for a new challenge. I had already been the project manager on selecting a new software system and I had also done some work on setting up interfaces between Gluck and our client systems so I had been "dabbling" in IT issues. We had realised that one of the main differentiators in our business was our strength in information management, but our IT department didn't have a senior manager overseeing its daily activity. I then moved into Gluck's IT general manger role.

What does your current role involve?

I have moved from a broad IT role into what can be loosely termed a marketing role. As GM of client systems, I am responsible for the development of our client-side systems and solutions - it tends to be a product development role. I am also part of our client solutions team, which completes hard and soft systems reviews with our customers. We also look at how to re-engineer the process to make use of technology to both improve process and take out the huge amount of task duplication we find between our customers and our role as a freight forwarder/customs broker.

What projects and issues are you working on now?

We are just in the final phases of building an interface between our systems and the purchase order/shipping modules in Pronto. We are about to roll it out to the wider Pronto user market to see if we can be of assistance to other Pronto users.

A great deal of our transactions originate in China - Hong Kong - and we are working through a systems integration project with our Hong Kong partners, Jardine Logistics. It will have significant impact on our client tracking systems as well as getting information into our system here in Australia a lot sooner than currently happens.

One of our major Australian customers also outsources one of its distribution centres to us in Hong Kong and there is a need to refine the integration of our client's warehouse management system and our host in Hong Kong. Again this total project has been the development of both soft and hard systems that always remain part of the total supply chain solution.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Managing, or some say juggling, the many conflicting priorities set for me by both our external and internal clients. Our team remains flexible with all the projects we work on as priorities constantly change, even in the middle of a project. Constantly reviewing these priorities with our senior management team is necessary to ensure that our focus is continuously in the right direction.

What are your greatest IT challenges?

Not being a "true" IT professional I must keep abreast of emerging technologies to refine our client side products. Keeping abreast of market place trends is important because trends in supply chain management become the challenge for my team and me.

How many IT professionals in your team?

We outsource most of the traditional IT roles such as hardware and network maintenance (we have more than 70 people in three offices) that leaves four of us to concentrate on systems development rather than systems maintenance.

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

We have split our IT role in two with our GM, finance and administration being responsible for hardware and core technologies and me being responsible for systems development and tailored solutions. We both report to the managing director and share the other three professional staff.

What is the most pressing IT issue you face?

Keeping focus on processes and developments that add value to the business and our clients.

What is your annual IT budget?

$1 million

Where is your organisation's Australian head office, what is its business and how many end users are there?

Our head office is in Melbourne CBD which contains our sales, administration and customer service centre. Gluck Forwarding Systems provide global air and sea freight forwarding and customs clearance services as well as local and overseas warehousing & distribution solutions. Most of our users are in our Tullamarine (Melbourne) and Matraville (Sydney) offices. We have about 75 users overall which includes seven users who work from home.

What is your company Web strategy?

We believe the Web has been overused by commerce to get the end user to pull the information it wants. Our philosophy at Gluck has always been to push the right information in both terms of usability and workable amounts of information direct to the end user (our client). The Web has not necessarily been a great tool in supporting this strategy but we now think we're pretty close to getting it right. Watch this space!

What is the worst IT disaster you worry about?

We don't worry because we continually review our disaster plan, which helps us to sleep at night.

What is your IT prediction for this year?

I think it is the merging of technologies. The blending of communications and computing through mobile phones could provide a significant opportunity for the smarter ones amongst us.

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