5 minutes with... Rod Apostol, Manager technology, Greater Shepparton City Council

Q: How did you get into IT?

I started life as electronics technician and was involved in the first computer rollouts and support with the company that I was with at the time.

Q: What does your current role involve?

Providing strategic direction for the council in regard to technology issues, providing briefings to councillors and directors on strategic and operational issues, staff management and some technical support.

Q: What projects and issues are you working on?

Implementing a new financial solution (Great Plains Financials) to go live in early July. Currently we are testing a training environment and this is exceeding expectations. We’re also implementing a new voice over IP solution (Cisco).

Q: When are these projects due to for completion?

The VoIP project ‘went live’ in the first week of April this year, being an overwhelming success. Life is good. We were lucky enough that there were no hick-ups, but to ensure this we have our own internal resource work almost exclusively on this for the final eight weeks as well as the external team and project manager. Without the internal resource we may have had a different outcome.

Q: What are the business benefits you hope to achieve through these VoIP projects?

We haven’t an expectation that the VoIP project will drive down communications costs for our council. The reasoning behind this implementation is that whilst we currently have a reliable PABX, it is fast approaching its end of life and is not able to position us for our communication needs in the immediate future.

Q: How much are you investing in these projects?

The value of both of these projects combined will not give you much change out of $750,000.

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

Managing users’ expectations in regard to what technology solutions we are able to offer versus what are really people and workflow issues.

Q: How many IT professionals make up your team?

Five.

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

I report to the director of organisational development. I have three technical officers, one geospatial information systems officer, four records officers.

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

Our head office is in Shepparton, Victoria. We have about 350 end users.

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

To have time to enjoy the successes we have rather then focusing on the next emerging issue.

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

To move into a more strategic role rather than a technical hands-on role.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

About $2 million.

Q: What is the Web strategy?

To progress to a stage where all interactions with our customer service, permits, licensing and financial staff would be available online in real time.

Q: What stage are you at now with this?

Our first stage was to introduce a content management engine and to decentralise the responsibility of posting information onto the site. All content is still moderated but we now have much more meaningful content being added in a timely manner than ever before.

We are also working on implementing a geospatial map layer where visitors to the site are able to view aerial photography of our surrounding area and overlay that with property boundaries, roadmaps and utilities.

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

After working through a major upgrade through a day and night, falling asleep at my desk the following day...

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years time? And why?

In a CIO role. Because I enjoy the ability to propose strategic direction that makes a direct impact of the level of customer service that we deliver to both our internal and external customers.

Q: How do you plan to get there?

I plan to broaden my formalised skill set outside of a purely technical area into business and management areas. Additionally, internally I am getting involved in working across directorates to broaden my knowledge of how the organisation operates and the dynamics of each department.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spend time with my family and motorbike riding.

Q: What is the worst IT disaster you worry about?

Loss of systems and not being able to recover in an acceptable timeframe.

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