5 minutes with... Shashank Sharma, IT procurement and administrative officer, BNP Paribas

Q: How did you get into IT?

Four years ago I was offered my current job, which was a newly created position in the bank. This was my first direct involvement with procurement and that too in the IT industry.

Previously I worked for international organisations such as IBM and Goodyear in finance, education and administration. My first job was in sales but it did not suit me; I have worked for many large organisations in the Middle East, Europe and now in Australia. A few years ago, I took a break from work and completed Masters in Information Systems Management in the US.

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

The head office is located in Sydney and we have more than 500 end users. BNP Paribas is a European leader in banking and financial services, with leading positions in Asia and an active presence in the US. BNP Paribas has one of the largest international banking networks; it operates in some 85 countries and has 85,000 employees, 65,000 of which are in Europe.

Q: What does your current role involve?

I am responsible for the entire IT procurement of hardware and software. An average day involves a range of queries from helpdesk and business departments as I provide IT logistics support for the bank through coordinating the procurement of hardware, software and IT supplies including liaison with suppliers. Such procurements arise to satisfy a business need or solve business problems.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

My key focus is on maintaining the integrity of the work that I do; another is on maintaining and growing our support to the increasing number of customers, meaning each and every employee who works for the bank. And, in the present environment, to assist my manager in keeping the budget in balance.

Q: What’s the role’s greatest challenge?

The fact that IT is changing so rapidly. We have to keep in view the global IT hardware and software policy of BNP Paribas and blend it with our IT requirements in Australia. The technical challenge posed by the continuous changes in the IT products introduced by our vendors and also to help the employees of the bank and to make sure we give the best assistance required in the language they understand.

Q: What are your greatest IT challenges?

The hardware and to keep the asset management under control so we can track the movements of the assets bought. The accuracy and the ability to make optimum use of the assets is a challenge, but we are very close to achieving our goals.

Q: How many IT professionals are in your team?

Just me in my role but I work with more than 30 wonderful IT professionals.

Q: Who do you report to?

I report to the IT head.

Q: What is the most pressing issue you face?

It is always hard to balance the value of what we deliver as a team versus the cost involved by replacing old technology with new. We work very closely with the head office, ensuring that we contribute to the strategic direction of the bank worldwide and be a part of its direction.

This requires consistent communication. Sometimes it’s difficult to provide consistent service to our employees because the quality of hardware and systems may not be entirely consistent with what we use worldwide. Constantly changing technology makes it hard to justify investments to management.

Q: Briefly describe your average week:

There is no average week. My focus is on service delivery. Often I have to resolve immediate issues as they come up. Sometimes I attend software and product launches and keeping pace with new technology. I may be considered a bridge between IT and the business.

Q: If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be?

It’s challenging as it is. Maybe more time to read and think about new technology and be able to operate more gadgets. There should also be more humour at work. I love my job but there is always scope for improvement.

Q: What is your company Web strategy?

We host our own Web server and site in-house. To us the Web is the ultimate delivery and communication mechanism, which is vital across the world as BNP Paribas is a worldwide bank.

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

Asked to attend a meeting with my peers while on a work cruise. The place was located next to a pool and sauna. I turned up in a suit and tie and realised that all my peers were wearing next to nothing. It happened in Europe.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

Wireless, broadband and PDA usage. The prices will fall as technology is more widely available.

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