5 minutes with... Matthew Hawkins, IS manager, Radio Rentals Group

Q: How did you get into IT?

Paddle-controlled TV pong and the Atari 2600 were my very first steps into the world of computers and once I had tasted the pure power of the Commodore 64 I was well and truly hooked. I studied a number of computer related subjects in high school and decided quite early on that I wanted to pursue a career within the IT industry in some form or another.

Q: What does your current role involve?

As diverse as the role is, two of my core responsibilities include the consistent supply of a stable and cost-effective data and telecommunications network across multiple platforms and locations, whilst simultaneously providing a strategic IT direction to drive the business forward.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

We are undertaking an innovative B2B project which will provide an ‘electronic messaging’ facility between ourselves and our retail partners, allowing efficiencies and improvements to a number of key business practices. Unfortunately due to the nature of this project I am unable to elaborate too much more. Next on our agenda will be a number of significant infrastructure upgrades that will also provide many system-wide efficiencies.

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

Wading through the immense amount of products and paraphernalia to determine what could be both beneficial and cost-effective to our organisation. It would be easy to always choose the most ‘new and shiny’ product, but determining what is actually valuable to the business is both challenging and personally satisfying.

Q: What are your greatest IT challenges?

Due to the diverse nature of our business and the services that we provide, the biggest challenges lie in developing IT strategies that provide consistency throughout the company. From call centres and service departments to the retail shop floor, we must provide systems that integrate both seamlessly and efficiently.

Q: How many IT professionals in your team?

Currently we have seven extremely talented and hard-working members, incorporating system and network support, telecommunications, business analyst and Web development roles who manage around 22 offsite locations as well as our head office which is located in Adelaide.

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

The Radio Rentals Group head office is in Adelaide. We are primarily a retail business focusing on both the electrical and furniture markets with over 400 end users. We also market a rental finance product (inRent) interstate through a number of agents.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

About $1 million.

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

I report directly to the CFO/general manager corporate services and the IT team report to me.

Q: What is the most pressing issue you face?

Every day presents both pressing and important issues, but I feel that getting a disaster recovery plan in order is the one major issue that is imperative to get right in any organisation.

Q: What’s your average week like?

No two weeks are ever the same, but they are always exciting. Some weeks are full of meetings and negotiations leaving precious little time for anything else, whilst others involve getting up close and personal with both the technology and the users.

Q: How do you manage your relationships with IT vendors?

Most of the relationships that we have with our vendors have been built on a number of significant factors such as quality of performance, support and value for money. Managing these relationships effectively relies on clear and concise communication, and ensuring that all expectations (both client and vendor) are clearly negotiated up-front. This ensures a happy working relationship, which in my opinion is a healthy working relationship!

Q: What’s been your most difficult IT decision?

The hardest decisions are always whether or not to replace existing, working technology with newer and more advanced technologies; ‘If it ain’t broke, should you fix it?’

Q: What is your company’s Web strategy?

To provide a secure, informative and appealing environment that may allow future Web services to be implemented. Looking forward, no matter what initiatives may be implemented, security will always be extremely high on the agenda.

Q: What is your IT prediction for the year?

We’ll see a significant increase (for better or worse) in the use and development of PDA-style mobile telephones and the security of these devices within corporate networks. Popularity of these devices appears to be increasing, largely due to the availability, physical size, functionality and convenience of these units and will only grow further as the technology improves.

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