5 minutes with. . .Curtis Williams, IT manager, Cussons

Computerworld: What was your first position in IT and when did you join Cussons?

Curtis Williams: Basically, I set foot into IT from the day I started in my first full-time position. This was back in 1991 when I joined Telstra national directory services (White Pages). The role was providing technical support in a mainly Apple Mac environment; a few PCs were starting to come in and gradually replaced all the Macs. Five years on, we were outsourced, so I took the opportunity to move out and started work at Pacific Brands (a division of Pacific Dunlop) for two years. I started work with Cussons in March 99.

Q: Who do you most admire within the IT industry?

A: I admire a number of people in the IT industry, but specifically I admire Michael Dell (Dell Computers); he has created a terrific channel distributing and selling PCs and other services. The company took a huge gamble using the Internet to deliver its products and services and stuck with its vision that has now enabled it to expand into alternative methods of revenue growth such as e-commerce and other business services.

Q: What do you believe are the hottest technology trends right now?

A: I would say a few things that come to mind are WAP (wireless application protocol), voice over IP and e-commerce. WAP is probably caught up in some hype amongst other things, but the technology benefits it will offer I think are sensational, especially considering the rapidly growing areas of Web access and mobile telephony. Voice over IP in my eyes is a pretty hot technology that is set to boom. I have a basic belief that an integrated voice and data network, with its increased efficiencies and lower cost of ownership, holds the key to businesses being successful in an Internet-driven economy. A single and integrated network is a trend that most companies should aim at, I think. Finally, e-commerce is really starting to overcome the hype stage and prove that it's a technology well worth investing in.

Q: What does a ‘typical' day at work involve for you?

A: Each day brings something challenging or interesting along within IT; a typical day for me includes such things as development and implementation of IT strategies, and overseeing activities involving systems, communications, software and hardware platforms. Also, such activities as providing direction in design of local area and the wide area networks in Cussons Australia and New Zealand and more importantly that we maintain appropriate LAN file server response times and where possible and practical, ensure wide area network availability. I am also in the process of redeploying a national help desk system for smoother support and problem resolution times.

Q: What major projects or issues are you working on at the moment?

A: We are currently undertaking a few major projects. The main ones involve upgrading versions of our transactional system, which is Mfg/Pro, and upgrading our data warehouse to empower the users with a greater level of data analysis. We are also rolling out our e-commerce strategy, which covers tasks such as the deployment of EDI, Web enablement and eventually B2B transactions.

Q: List your three favourite things about working in the IT industry.

A: Well I would say one of my favourites would be the fact that IT covers such a broad area of the business. For me, this means being involved in most aspects of supporting the different departments throughout the whole organisation. Secondly, I really like being able to follow the industry and be a part of the growth of new technology and the various components associated with IT. Thirdly, I feel that IT is a large part of the backbone when running a business, and that there are plenty of opportunities and avenues to venture into within the bounds of IT itself.

Q: What is your Web strategy at Cussons?

A: We set out early last year to develop an e-commerce strategy that was aimed at outlining the importance of growth factors. The Web strategy was a part of this and was our way of ensuring that our e-commerce investments were, and still are, both strategic and effective. Basically we will be utilising the Web for such things as EDI, EFT and eventually Web-enabled ‘trading partner transactions', which will provide an Internet-based ‘front end' into our transactional system. This means real-time access and will allow our trading partners to operate in a true B2B environment. Of course we want to get our feet wet first, and are ensuring our own internal business processes and systems are refined and ready before we go swimming!

Q: What is the most interesting task you have undertaken during your career and why?

A: I would have to say the most interesting task is the one I am currently performing. Mainly due to the fact that I see a lot of opportunity to help drive Cussons into this new millennium. Being a manufacturing business means we tend to be the middle man in the scheme of the ‘supply chain', and I think that the potential to continuously improve our relationships within our supply chain through the use of information technology is very interesting, challenging and rewarding.

Q: If you could rule the world for one week, what changes would you make to the global IT industry?

A: If I could rule the world for one week I certainly would not be focused on changing the global IT industry! In fact I think the global IT industry does just fine. It's all controlled by people and I guess people are not perfect all of the time!

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

A: My free time is usually spent with my wife and two children, but I also like to go surfing, play golf, and I have a keen interest in motor sports. Having also recently built a new house tends to take up a lot of my free time.

Q: What do you hope to be your next career move?

A: Well in any career I think that it's important to set yourself goals, and one of my longer term goals is hopefully to have a stint working overseas, although I would still like to remain within the IT industry. Either that or racing touring cars . . . oops that must be one of my unrealistic goals that slipped out there!!

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