“Walking to the office, the pub,” is how Donald Horsburgh describes his fitness regimen as IT manager at Number 10 Downing Street more than 10 years ago. “That was as good as it gets.” These days, though, there is no escaping from the gym for Horsburgh, who now heads IT at health and fitness company Les Mills.
The self-acknowledged geek confesses not having been to the gym, until he joined Les Mills as its “first formal IT manager” some four years ago.
Formal, he says, because the company had been “used to getting by in terms of IT”. That meant the then nine fitness clubs having what Horsburgh calls “a federation of partnerships” with service providers, with each club having its own membership list and sourcing PCs of different models from separate retailers.
After an IT infrastructure overhaul, Les Mills now has a structured platform across all clubs, a centralised database and a range of tools like instant messaging that helps staff share information and collaborate more closely.
Horsburgh gave a number of presentations to the senior executive outlining the business case and savings with the ICT investments. One of the criteria for the ramping up of ICT in Les Mills was “how we will be able to engage with the customers more actively”.
The group worked with Computerland (now Gen-i) on the ICT revamp, using Microsoft as the basis for the standardisation and consolidation.
This consolidation was important for the company, which has 40,000 members locally, and a sister company, Les Mills International, which runs a global franchise business.
“We have been wonderfully good at reporting for reporting’s sake in the past. We have suffered from the spreadsheet disease – where one spreadsheet is multiplied 16 times - in a shape that is unrecognisable from the original version as well.
“We want that data here. We have to mine that, understand that and come back to how we address the customer.”
Horsburgh runs a compact IT shop with a team of four and the new investments allow them to manage the ICT infrastructure centrally.
“I am trying to convince the business this is a three-year process. If we don’t have these forms now we won’t be able to deliver the innovation,” he says. “Part of my job is to change ideas into innovation. Some of these technologies are much more achievable than five years ago.”
One of the vital lessons from this exercise, he says, is the importance of mapping the business processes early on. “It is dull and boring stuff,” he says, but enterprises need to do it. “If anything, I would say my job is to try and ensure those processes are in place and are maintainable.”
© Fairfax Business Media
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