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Agile transformers

Agile transformers

Supporting constant change in a high-profile organisation in a competitive market.

Aga Webb, online director for Dell Asia Pacific, says whether she is talking to CIOs in Japan or New Zealand, a recurring theme is the need for IT initiatives that allow organisations to face new challenges and innovate within constrained IT budgets. And she says Dell is no different – the direct seller faces increased globalisation, the need to standardise IT and business models across multi-cultural regions and time zones, and has to transform and tap into new markets including retail. “As a US company, we have our own ideas about how the world should work, but then we come into Asia Pacific countries and we get surprised around things like local issues, and legal and infrastructure requirements,” says Webb, who is based in Japan.

In case there are any doubts about the IT challenges Dell faces globally, Webb says Dell manages a SAN of more than 6.2 petrabytes in size (believed to be one of the five largest in the world) along with 122 global WAN sites, 39 geographic locations, 248 extranet partner links; 20,000 servers; 110,000 client systems and 1390 wireless access points. Add to that a website that coped with 400 million website visits in the US alone in Dell’s last fourth quarter, and sales to 81 countries covering 24 languages and 26 currencies, and you have a lot of IT infrastructure and general business hurdles to overcome.

“For example, in China we had to develop a new way of processing online payments because there were few credit card options,” says Webb.

Dell also faces increasing user expectation and growth that requires reliable co-operation between marketing and IT departments, says Webb.

To adjust to growing telephony and internet volumes, and the need to create and track inventory for retail sales, (before using retailers as a channel, Dell’s direct model bypassed the need for complex inventory), the company creates efficiencies by security tagging each piece of hardware.

This helps in providing support and inventory, and it has set up ‘premier’ pre-configured web pages for regular business customers. Sophisticated spam filters also remove 94 per cent of the company’s 1.8 million outbound and 40 million inbound emails per month.

“Filtering delivers tremendous savings, but is not just a ‘turn it on, walk away’ exercise. Because we allow quite a bit of personal email, we give our people a mailbox to report false or spam classifications so we can put additional rules into the traffic,” says Webb.

“With virtualisation, it’s important to move developers away from the mindset that they are having something taken away from them. They can get very proprietary about ‘their’ box. But when they learn they can have a new development environment up and running in less than 30 minutes instead of six to 12 weeks [through virtualisation], it’s a no-brainer,” says Webb.

Aga Webb was a speaker at the CIO New Zealand Conference 2007 organised by Fairfax Business Media.

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