25 Q&As: Serving the community

As part of Computerworld's silver anniversary celebrations 25 IT managers recall the ups and downs of their careers. Here, Cynthia Crane, chief information officer, Cairns City Council, Qld, shares her experiences with Helen Han.

Q: Choose a key IT technology and describe how you want it to develop?

The Clustering technology offered by Oracle9i Real Application Cluster (RAC) gives the council vital high system availability and improved redundancy. Over time, we are confident that it will improve our operating performance and significantly minimise our support costs. Our plan is to migrate all our major applications into the RAC environment during the next one to three years.

Q: What has been the most challenging IT project of your career?

The most challenging IT project was when we upgraded our ERP earlier this year. We moved from Oracle E-Business Suite 10.7 NCA to Oracle E-Business Suite 11i on Oracle9i Real Application Clusters. This project was further complicated by a change in hardware and operating system; we moved from DG-Unix architecture to a Dell/Intel/Linux environment.

It was a very successful project having spent the first six months planning the implementation (mostly researching the architecture) and the following six months deploying the new solution.

It was a huge challenge as it was almost a total system overhaul. Some of the application modules were reviewed and reconfigured and new features were introduced such as the clustering capability. At the same time we were trying to get the best out of the Oracle financial products to deliver maximum benefits to the council. I believe we were able to set a good benchmark for other councils which will embark on similar projects in the future.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing IT managers now?

Dealing with a more informed user community who demand more from technology, while balancing these demands with an existing base of priorities and the council’s overall goals and objectives.

Q: What has been the most significant breakthrough during your IT career?

The Internet and Web technologies have changed the way we work and how businesses operate. Cairns is now operating as part of a global community and I see potential for many untapped benefits to our business and the way we work.

Q: What advice would you give to someone now entering IT?

Focus on becoming multi-disciplined. It is ideal to have training and skills in other areas such as law, electronics, and the like, in addition to information technology as it is increasingly harder for new entrants to standout if they only have IT skills. I encourage newcomers to go out there and get practical experience or do volunteer work to learn how businesses and organisations operate.

Fast facts: Annual turnover: $140 million-plus+. Employees: 950 full-time. IT users: 600. IT budget: more than $5 million. Key applications: Oracle Financials 11i (GL, Cash Mgt, Accounts Payable, Fixed Assets, Projects), CHRIS HR/Payroll, Matman (Purchasing, Inventory Control, Works Mgt, Asset Mgt), Authority (local government application), Hummingbirds PC DOCS and Record Manager products, Microsoft Exchange/Office. Key infrastructure — hardware: mostly Dell/Intel, SAN; networking: Cisco (monitoring via HP Openview/Manager); operating systems: Linux (phasing out DG-Ux), Microsoft Win 2K.

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