25 Q&As: Setting a platform

As part of Computerworld's silver anniversary celebrations 25 IT managers recall the ups and downs of their careers. Here, James Huckerby, CIO, Panthers Entertainment Group (PEG), Penrith, NSW, shares his experiences with Lauren Thomsen-Moore.

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

Justifying their budget (not to mention existence). Many organisations feel that they have been spending a great deal of money for very little return in terms of information technology. IT managers have been partly to blame for this as they have historically looked at technology spend for the sake of technology rather than for business reasons.

In some cases business units are to blame, for example the whole CRM carry-on over the last few years has resulted from business unit managers and even CEOs making strategic IT decisions without the buy-in (or in some cases knowledge) of their IT team. It comes down to a lack of communication and participation between IT and the business.

Q: Choose one key IT technology used by your company and describe how you want it to develop over the coming three to five years?

Our membership base, of more than 120,000, is at the core of our organisation. We have proved over the last six months that by adding more members we make significantly more money. Also, by rewarding our higher-spending members, we ensure that they spend more money at our sites.

Our loyalty system (Loyalty Magic) means that any member who comes on-site can swipe their card for any transaction, whether it be buying a drink or playing the slots, and they will be rewarded according to what they spend. The system, coupled with Cognos, Microsoft CRM, and our Web site will allow us to understand our customers better and look after them individually in terms of marketing, sales and service.

Q: What IT technologies have brought the most significant benefits?

The most significant benefits come from dealing with the broad spectrum of IT technologies in a holistic manner by developing an enterprise architecture. It is only when IT technologies are approached from the “big picture” perspective that cross-functional business processes like supply chain management and selling chain management can be addressed properly. Increases in efficiency and effectiveness will follow a well-executed enterprise architecture strategy.

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

The European Expansion Program (EEP) for Global Crossing where 65 sites were being commissioned in a little over a year, containing between five and 400 users, across many countries and cultures. Before EEP, everyone was specifying each site differently in terms of infrastructure and applications, in a blind rush to get the job done. By standardising on three types of “infrastructure templates”, depending on the site, we saved millions of dollars and provided an efficient, supportable and recoverable environment.

Q: What would you put on a wishlist for IT vendor performance?

Know their product/service offering inside out; prompt and efficient service; provide accurate and timely information.

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

The PC.

Q: What has been the most disappointing for you during your IT career?

Digital ceasing to exist — despite the fact it had the best hardware and operating system and so on.

Q: What has been the most exciting experience of your IT career?

Global rollout of systems for BBC Worldwide — did the “perfume bottle” tour: London, New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Sydney.

Q: What would you tell someone now entering IT?

No longer the “gravy train” but can be a very rewarding career. One of the few careers where, if you do your job correctly, you can make a difference to the way a company performs and the quality of work-life experienced by your fellow employees.

Q: What tertiary qualifications do you have?

MBA — Technology Management

Q: When did you start in IT and what did you do before you moved into IT?

Started in IT in 1989 — previously worked for chartered accounting firm as a junior.

Q: What was the first computer technology you used (and when)?

Playing Star-Trek on an ABC system in the early 80s.

Fast facts: Annual turnover: $280 million. Employees: 1800. IT users: 1600. IT budget: More than $2 million. Key applications: IGS — Gaming, Micros — POS, Loyalty Magic — Loyalty, MSGP — ERP, Guetebruck — digital surveillance. Key infrastructure — hardware: Compaq (Intel) servers, IBM P-series servers, IBM desktops, IBM notebooks; networking: standardising on Nortel routers and switches, IP VPN WAN links; operating systems: Desktop — XP, Server — 2000.

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