5 minutes with... Christine Brand, IT manager, Britax Childcare

Q: How did you get into IT?

Long Story. I've been a Trekky (Startrek) for a long time, so I believe anything is possible. I always look for ways to do things more efficiently and add value. Technology has been a great tool for this and to usually make my job redundant - at least I did it to myself. In my other incarnations I have used technology extensively, and have built an abundance of knowledge, which has helped me understand the process, which in turn led me to a role in IT.

Q: What does your current role involve?

First and foremost "the systems" must be up and running when required for business. We manufacture as well as import, so systems are complex and need revision regularly. To remain competitive we must always look for advantage in everything we do.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

In an environment that is constantly demanding less spend, which equates to smaller budgets, projects need to be seen to add value. Earlier this year we had to spend a large sum (so did everyone else) for Microsoft upgrade advantage, so the current thing on the agenda is upgrading all the servers and PCs. We have also just installed a two-meg microwave link and are in the process of making it our main source to the outside world. Ensuring a secure site is harder than first led to believe. In theory it all looks easy and doable - but try implementation on a shoestring and it is fraught with dangers unmentionable.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Probably keeping everyone happy. Whatever anyone says, IT is the support centre of the business. We provide tools and, just like doctors, provide solace when machines get sick. Maintaining the balance is difficult - we implement change to help the organisation be competitive but at the same time create chaos for the people as most are change averse.

Q: How many IT professionals in your team?

We are a small team. Over the years it has become necessary to outsource a great deal of the IT expertise. This has added greater complexity as it requires different skills to deal with external partners.

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

I am answerable to the company secretary and at the moment I have only one direct report and manage about nine IT service providers who fill various roles and tasks. Due to the fact that two internal people can't do everything, I have been able to convince eight other people (the power users) in different departments to be trained in different things to be the first point of call in their department when there is a problem. This has alleviated many of those "Is the power turned on" type of calls.

Q: What is the most pressing IT issue you face?

Security. Ensuring the company is safeguarded from unauthorised access and that if disaster strikes no data is lost.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

About $700K - 2 per cent of revenue

Q: Where is your organisation's Australian head office, and how many end users are there?

Britax is based in Melbourne and currently we have about 70 end users on both PCs and thin clients.

Q: What's your average week like?

Answering e-mails, discussing progress and new projects with service providers, helping streamline processes in different departments, troubleshooting, finding out about new systems and programs, filing (not), seminars, avoiding phone calls, proposals for new value add projects, ensuring 2IC is coping and feels valued, communicating with suppliers about hypotheticals and possibilities, and so on.

Q: What is your favourite IT gadget and why?

Don't have this yet - but I am excited about all the hype around voice over IP. I sit next to the computer anyway, I can get rid of the phone and talk to it instead. Need to find out more about the reality of cost savings though. Remember I need to add value - especially to the bottom line.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

Even though "we have the technology", some projects can't get off the ground due to the telecommunication infrastructures not being adequate. Prediction - the telcos finally getting their act together.

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