5 minutes with... Peter Ratcliffe CIO, Hagemeyer Brands Australia

Q: How did you get into IT?

I was originally very keen to become an actuary, but soon realised that a life of mathematics and statistics was not for me. I then applied for and got a job as a trainee computer operator on an IBM system/3 for a European motor vehicle company. After extensive training at IBM I then moved into a programming role using such languages as RPG, RPG II and Cobol. Then I moved into an analyst programmer role and moved forwards from there.

Q: What does your current role involve?

Hagemeyer Brands Australia Pty Ltd distributes and services a wide range of premier branded consumer goods across Australia and New Zealand, representing and building equity for some of the world’s best known brands.

My role is to facilitate the provision of IT services such that IT is regarded as a ‘key’ contributor to the achievement of our overall business objectives. It also includes the implementation of an IT strategy and plan whilst ensuring alignment with the strategies and plans of the Hagemeyer Brands Australia business units. I have also acquired the role of building a complete business continuity Plan for the entire business.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

Current projects include the implementation of e-business with all consumer electronic retailers under the guise of the Applie-Com project. This sets the standard for all suppliers and retailers within the appliance industry for conducting electronic trading. Other projects include the rollout of a complete financial data warehouse for management reporting and measuring of operational KPIs. As well as the business continuity plan.

Q: What are your greatest IT challenges?

Ensuring that we meet the ever growing expectations of our users and that we keep within budget, and add value to the business.

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

Finding the time to ensure that I am kept up to date with emerging technologies, and trying to satisfy such a diverse range of business units with such high expectations!

Q: How many IT professionals in your team?

I have a team of 11 great people. This is broken up into an applications team who look after the business systems and then a technical support team who look after infrastructure, helpdesk and technical issues. The team works like a well-oiled machine and they are all wonderful to work with.

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

In my role I report directly to the CEO and have two managers report to me — technical services manager and applications manager as well as my PA.

Q: What is the most pressing issue you face as CIO?

The most pressing issue is ensuring that every project we work on is adding value to the business, as well ensuring systems are well maintained and reliable, and of course we are in complete alignment with the goals of the business units.

Q: Where is your organisation’s Australian head office, what is its business and how many end users are there?

Our head office is located in Kingsgrove, a few kilometres from Sydney. We have about 350 users attached to our network as well as sales agents for some of our business units. Key applications are tailor-made systems — Powermaster, Lotus Notes, IBM DB2 Olap and Warehouse Manager, Corvu for Management reporting, WebSphere. the key infrastructure is: Hardware: IBM iseries, IBM xseries servers. Networking: Nortel Networks / Bay Switches / Cisco/Telstra Frame and DDS. Operating systems: Windows 2000 server / Windows 2000 Desktop, OS/400.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

More than $2 million.

Q: What’s your average week like?

There is no average week, but I generally work with the business unit leaders and IT project managers ensuring project deadlines are met. General day-to-day issues, following up on system-related matters and also meetings with our various business partners. Although of late I have been heavily involved in the business continuity project.

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

Find more time to talk to the users at a grass roots level.

Q: What is your company Web strategy?

Our Web strategy is to be able to conduct business with our suppliers and retailers electronically via the Web and EDI and improve supply chain efficiencies. We do this already with our major retailers and some suppliers and are rolling out access to all our business systems to our service agents. We tend to steer away from a B2C environment preferring to focus on B2B.

Q: Do you plan to undertake any additional training courses?

I am doing my MBA now.

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

Security and catastrophic loss of data from both of our data centres.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

The wave of new mobile technologies will revolutionise the industry.

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