Core stability

Core stability

Les Mills CIO Matt Tucker shares his insights on getting IT systems in shape to deal with both growth and disruption.

Matt Tucker proudly shows off the new Les Mills New Zealand headquarters in the Auckland CBD, only a few hundred metres from where the fitness chain’s namesake and his wife opened their first gym in 1968. “It’s been a great ride, and I think we’re headed towards some pretty exciting things very soon,” says the CIO of the fitness chain. Les Mills has 45,000 members across 11 gyms located around the country, with its latest gym opening in Britomart late last year.

Tucker, who was named Microsoft’s Partners’ Choice CIO of the Year last November, started working at Les Mills five years ago, coming from New Zealand Post where he was a business analyst and project manager.

He admits that he acquired his current role due to “attrition” during a painful time in the company’s IT history.

“I originally came on board at Les Mills to manage an application project and help mitigate significant risk the software at the time posed to the company.”

“The application was a club management system designed in the US for the health and fitness vertical, which had become irrecoverable. We tried a number of times to do a physical to physical migration, a physical to virtual migration, but nothing worked. The vendor in the States wouldn’t support it and we couldn’t recover all that information.”

In the years since, Tucker has helped bring in a new club management system, virtualised much of Les Mills’ IT infrastructure to an externally managed datacentre, and built a six-person IT team. “Right now we are in the middle of a bedding down period, we’ve got all these great initiatives but we need to make sure we are prepared to support them fully.”

He says one of his goals is to bring control of the source code for the company’s systems inhouse. “I’ve found that we need to take a bit more ownership of our IT,” says Tucker. “We’ve transitioned a lot of our IT away from the vendors into the team through a new technical architect role. This is improving the speed to market of any small changes we make, and at the same time we can still outsource the larger bodies of work.”

Like many other CIOs around New Zealand, Tucker says one of the most difficult times in his career has been during the earthquakes in Christchurch last year, which led to the closing of two Les Mills gyms. “In terms of IT we were relatively unaffected. We had just finished virtualising server information, so critical data wasn’t lost. We needed to move some server racks from the building into our temporary premises, but our staff were able to work remotely and because our phone systems use VOIP we didn’t face many disruptions to phone services. But losing our main gym in Christchurch, and the earthquakes themselves really affected the business and our members.”

The main Les Mills gym in Christchurch is on Cashel Street in the cordoned-off red zone, only metres away from the site of the CTV building where over 100 people lost their lives in the February earthquake.

“It definitely took the business some time to adjust. We’ve got a temporary gym in Riccarton now, and we have set up a discounted membership system to encourage our members to stick with us. Overall the business is still optimistic about our future in Christchurch.”

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