Stories by Don Hill

Meat works

How Ian Bell used a rigorous selection process based around feature/function sets.
How Bell, as a change agent at Richmond Meats, saw that the company had fallen behind in its computing environment.
How Richmond Meats’ system involves multiple companies, multiple currencies and multiple time zones.
How Bell has been able to incorporate other companies’ systems in record time.
Why Bell is now looking at a web portal in place of Citrix.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

How to win support from your CEO

If you want to make progress with your project, the support of your CEO is mandatory, says Catherine Rusby. Here’s her advice on how to get the CEO and management team onside.
1. Make sure you attend management meetings. Demonstrate that you understand their issues, but most importantly engage with them.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

The ROI case

In order to get her peers behind the replacement project, one of the first things Rusby had to do was produce a compelling business case. First came acknowledgement that the company did, indeed, need new systems to take its business forward. “We had a very strong business case,” says Rusby.
After the original analysis she and her team did a high-level feasibility study and put together a framework and business case that included a lot of assumptions — but demonstrated a substantial return on investment and a certain amount of cost. Rusby went to the board and executive team with her case and said she felt that, with all the assumptions and caveats, she could get a return on the investment within two years.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00


An important part of the ROI effort has been the introduction of what Bone describes as a lockdown environment. What this means is that desktop applications are locked in place and maintained via scripting developed by Sytec. If a user messes up an application, it is automatically healed during log-on and log-off. As Bone says, if for any reason you rogered one of your DLLs, it would reinstall from the script.
The transition to the lockdown environment also involved rationalising use of the 160-plus applications that were being used throughout Datamail. Control of this area would obviously save considerably on licensing and support. The idea was to reduce the number of applications down to around 100 and identify them through Sytec’s scripting.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

The “e” thing

In reality, Datamail has been part of the e-business world for some time, as both an ASP and outsourcing bureau. It just hadn’t thought of itself that way. For Bone, the task was to get the management team to see the organisation as an e-business and to recognise that the internet is just another transport medium — but with special security issues surrounding it. Work is already being kept in electronic form for distribution and other information is archived for electronic access by outside organisations.
“We are already doing things like hosting archived repositories for large financial institutions and supplying the data back on demand via a private network to their helpdesk,” says Bone. “It was just a matter of expanding our thinking, saying this is what the internet is about. It’s got a whole bunch of new dimensions that we needed to manage because of the security exposure we now have.”

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

Antivirus remedies

Halfway through the first year of the three-year contract with Sytec, Bone got a wake-up call over the Love Bug virus. He already had the McAfee antivirus application in place, but he was told its current status within Datamail meant it would not be able to protect the organisation at the time the Love Bug first made itself known. Sytec phoned Bone at 7am with the bad news that the Love Bug had reached Australia. What was he going to do about it?
“By 10am we had sat down and squared off what had to be done,” says Bone. Sytec’s remedy was to install Trend Micro antivirus software, which had a Love Bug remedy in place. “This has been a real asset to us because other worm attacks have been going on since that time,” says Bone. “The beauty for us is that we pay on a seat basis for the antivirus licence and that service basically costs me the same as what my earlier licence used to cost me. And it is maintained 24x7.”

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

College on the move

BUSINESS Polytechnic Universal College of Learning (UCOL) has purchased JD Edwards’ OneWorld Xe enterprise software in a deal that will see a new financial system up and running in less than four months.
Set to go live in November, OneWorld Xe Financials and Procurement will replace a financial system called Real Time and will be accessed by up to 25 concurrent users across UCOL’s four lower North Island campuses.
UCOL financial controller Darryl Purdy says OneWorld Xe will provide UCOL with a single window into its enterprise information, by consolidating disparate accounting functions and providing better integration with its Progress-based student management system, Promis.
“We are running a number of finance functions outside the student management system and want to bring these functions — particularly programme costing, contribution analysis and purchase ordering, which is tightly controlled and linked to our forecasting — inside the system. We will now work faster, reduce double handling and seamlessly transition our commitments into financials.”
UCOL has grown on average 12% annually for the past five years and this year incorporated Wanganui Polytechnic, boosting its student enrolments to more than 13,000 and staff to 650.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

Reasons to be proud

Mind-boggling. Even the Mutt wants to attend CIO’s regular leaders' luncheons these days. I have to say no because of his habit of chewing on the fingers of people rash enough to try to pat him on the head. This bro don’t like being patronised.
The lunches often feature ordinary CIOs who are creating mind-boggling applications at a minimum of cost.

Written by Don Hill09 July 02 22:00

IT structure

The Fire Service's computing environment is based almost totally around Compaq thin clients with Metaframe on the Compaq servers running on Microsoft Windows NT4. The Citrix environment has been in place for five years.
Hogan and the IT team are happy with that arrangement, although the time is fast approaching when the service will need to consolidate its scattered server environment, particularly as the computer offerings continue to grow. Hogan says there are servers in each fire region, as well as the Wellington servers that support the JD Edwards environment and other applications. Support in the regions is outsourced.

Written by Don Hill30 June 02 22:00

Young talent quenches IS fires

The first thing that strikes you about Joanne Hogan is her youth. At 24, you wouldn’t expect her to be taking on the hugely responsible job of project leadership in the New Zealand Fire Service.
But don’t be misled by the youth and the occasional infectious giggle — Hogan is a heavyweight. The fact that she has achieved so much in such a short time is testament to her obvious intelligence and leadership skills. You have to ask, where will she be tomorrow?
How she got into her present role makes an interesting story in itself.
“Basically, I was seconded from the shop floor as an end-user representative. Before that I was business manager in Palmerston North for the western fire region, ranging from Taranaki down to Horowhenua — 53 brigades in all, most of them made up of volunteers — with a budget of $11 million.”
Well, she says, that’s kind of what she did — all the different business functions, making sure everything ticked over properly. With the help of her administration team, of course. Naturally, with this sort of experience she found herself becoming in demand in other areas of the service. “I knew what the regions wanted to do — and they wanted greater representation than just accountants on the finance project that was then under way. So I became a reporting specialist and did all the communication with the end users.”
Once the financials software was put in place, Hogan’s growing knowledge of the JD Edwards software environment naturally led on to other roles for her. “We always knew we were going to set up a portal to roll the data out to the management outside Wellington,” she says. Also in the development queue were a broad — and expanding — range of other services. Hogan’s job was to design the portal and take charge of its rollout.
“I am really young to be in such an important role,” Hogan acknowledges. “But building the portal was a really interesting experience and a big learning curve. We were JD Edwards’ first portal site in the southern hemisphere.”
As the portal project evolved, Hogan was able to add other HTML applications from the software suite. An unruly buying system was tamed by adding a purchase card component. Hogan was able to add information about who performed what function on the finance team. Users around the country are now able to access information such as payroll closing dates. They can also use various OLAP tools for their financial analysis.
“At the moment it’s a finance portal,” says Hogan. “It’s a one-stop shop for any information you want, wherever it is held.”
Hogan is brimming with ideas about where to go in the future.
Phase one of the financials project started in December 2000. The first offerings went live on July 14, 2001.

Written by Don Hill30 June 02 22:00

Driving the changes

Hogan's comments on the scattered nature of the Fire Service beg another question: change management — how hard a task was it drive the changes? Her answer, after a moment of consideration, is that the key was to get the business units involved and demonstrate the benefits the new software would provide.
When it came to the financials, that wasn't too difficult. For starters, all the financial management had been centralised in the past. That meant the fire stations never got to see their individual summaries — sent to them on paper — until the end of each month. As Hogan says, by that time the summaries were old news. Fire station managers had to go through the central finance team to access information in a hurry — a situation they could hardly be expected to favour.

Written by Don Hill30 June 02 22:00

Girl power

At this point Hogan squares her shoulders and offers a cheerful smile.
“It was fanastic," she says. “And it was done by an all-female team. It was really good, it was excellent." That's girl power for you. Actually, it was all about talent and good leadership.

Written by Don Hill30 June 02 22:00

Next steps

The next rollouts will be the property and fleet modules. Don’t expect everything to arrive at once, says Hogan: this will be a “soft” rollout with bits and pieces going online as they are completed. “There are so many groups and so many different types of equipment,” she says. “I mean, we have the people who do the ladders, the people who look after the pumps … We have decided to concentrate on each part even though they may have some of the same processes and use similar applications. We need to make sure all the category codes are correct and we have got all information people need to do their jobs.”
The first rollout, for breathing apparatus, will hopefully happen in mid-August. The reason this segment comes first is because it has the most efficient organisation and conforms to ISO standards. Those involved in this sector have regular meetings and have a lot of documentation the project team can tap into.

Written by Don Hill30 June 02 22:00

Major challenges

Hogan says the biggest challenge is development of business processes on the asset management side. The difficulties are inherent in the loose structure of the organisation, where there has been little standardisation of processes. “We are going to have to take all the different instances and blend them together into best practice. At least, this project provides us with a really good opportunity to do that. It forces you to sit down and say, 'What is this person actually going to do?'
In the case of finance, we had a financial accountant, we had the woman who was going to be systems accountant. I was there, as was a JD Edwards representative. We also had the account manager, and he attended all the analysis sessions. He was there when we had queries, especially ones that were going to affect end users. In addition to all that, I had a weekly communication with those users. I sent out an email to say what we had done and what we were doing. I asked for feedback and their opinions, what they thought. We collated all that, and would come up with the best approach according to the feedback we got. Then we communicated our analysis to the users and explained how we were going to do things."

Written by Don Hill30 June 02 22:00

Enemy at the gate

SECURITY How long did it take your company to recover from the CodeRed and Nimda viruses? Charlie Johnson, Symantec’s vice-president of security services, recalls asking that question at seminars in New York and Boston. He knew the attendees had problems even before he put the question — he had seen people from the same company introducing themselves to each other at the entrance to the seminar room. If they hadn’t met before, they were unlikely to have devised an integrated security solution. So how long did it take them to recover? One day? No hands went up. Five days? A couple of hands went up. Ten days? A third of the room raised their hands. “I said if it took them longer than that we didn’t really want to know,” says Johnson.
And therein lies a problem: if businesses are to succeed against a multitude of attacks from hackers, they need to get organised. The cost of recovering from hacker attacks is appalling — $US2.6 billion for CodeRed, $US530 million in costs and 2.2 million systems infected in just 24 hours by the Nimda virus.

Written by Don Hill31 May 02 22:00