The role of New Zealand Lotteries CEO might not be everyone’s dream job. It takes a particular kind of executive to balance the not-necessarily-complementary interests of groups focused on problem gambling with the expectations of the Lotteries Grants Board, employees and millions of consumers.
Stories by Chris Bell
The thing Andrew Crabb is most proud of from his time as TelstraClear's CIO has more to do with business transformation than technology.
Until recently Kelvin Kroll was IT leader at Flight Centre New Zealand. He’ll soon return to Australia to take on a global infrastructure strategy role.
He wanted to change the way the company delivered desktop productivity tools to its retail outlets, after a virtualisation project a few years ago led Flight Centre to migrate its backend infrastructure to VMware. By changing to a centralised desktop, resources could be redirected from supporting services that cost the company around 200 person-hours per month. Flight Centre was running a server in each of its retail stores – there are 140 of them in New Zealand and the company has around 1050 employees here.
The Press published an edition the day after Christchurch's February quake. With communications compromised, residents were even more reliant on news, but the paper's IT team has its own stories of resilience in the face of adversity.--
In defiance of the pessimists, the global financial crisis hasn’t caused our financial systems to collapse. Although a risk of relapse into a double-dip recession remains, there are some encouraging economic signs from around the globe.
New Zealand CFOs face a range of geography-specific challenges; among them dollar exchange rates and access to capital, due to the small size of the market. We asked these chief financial officers, commentators and experts for their tips on preparing organisations for the upswing we all hope is soon to come:
The air on the 28th floor of the ASB Centre in Auckland’s CBD seems thinner than it does at street level. At the time of our interview Russell Jones has been head of group technology for the ASB Group of Companies for just six weeks.
His new office is about as far removed from the daily rough-and-tumble of IT operations as it’s possible to get; more luxury hotel suite than server room or data centre. And there are indications that the occupant is still new to his role: Framed pictures leaning against the wall; a child’s doodle on the whiteboard.
A good CIO needs staying power and nerves of steel. Owen McCall, chief information officer of The Warehouse Group, set his sights on system stability from day one and never let up until he achieved it. Four years on he is confident that first base is covered and can address some of the other challenges: “Business enablement” and revising perceptions some areas of the business still have about IT unreliability.
For The Warehouse there is increasing competition, with new entrants in general merchandising and national retail space growing three-times faster than retail sales. As well, so-called ‘large-box category-killers’ such as Harvey Norman, Supercheap Auto, Bunnings Warehouse, Mitre 10 and even Number 1 Shoes have been expanding their retail footprints. Convergence has led to grocery businesses increasingly selling general merchandise — not to mention, of course, The Warehouse diversifying into groceries with its own Extra stores. Three Extra stores were opened, with plans to expand to 15, but further expansion was put on hold last September; as the company wanted to assess the performance of the new venture.
Orson Welles’ 1941 classic Citizen Kane, regarded by many to be the best film of all time, features a party scene in which the hat worn by an extra disappears and reappears in subsequent shots. Films generally have storyboards, scripts and continuity managers. Businesses often aren’t so fortunate and a lack of business continuity planning (BCP) can be severe, even catastrophic.
Perhaps the starkest example of this is Swedish mobile phone company Ericsson. It appeared to be a relatively minor 10-minute fire caused by lightning that in March 2000 struck a New Mexico electronic chip-making plant belonging to Dutch firm Philips. But in a chip-making environment required to be clinically clean and dust free, that fire was catastrophic. After failing to find an alternative supplier, Ericsson reported a loss of over $2 billion to its mobile phone division for the year and the company that had once been a market-leader was dismissed by the Economist as an “also-ran”.
Auckland’s Nuffield Street in Newmarket isn’t the place that springs to mind when you think of the city’s water operations. You imagine a building camouflaged by dense bush, perhaps, overlooking a dam or a reservoir in the Waitakeres. But the upmarket suburb is the location for Watercare Services’ new corporate headquarters and you can find Mike Foley, its CIO, in the former Mercury Energy building; an open-plan office accommodating 200 people from operations, asset development, IS and corporate finance.
Foley sees Nuffield Street as a fresh start for Watercare. Operations and management had previously been spread across two sites in Onehunga and the Auckland CBD.
Received wisdom would have it that transparency makes systems more secure by allowing anyone to view the underlying software code, identify bugs and make peer-reviewed changes.
Computer security and cryptography expert Bruce Schneier certainly adheres to that theory. He’s been saying engineers should “demand open source code for anything related to security” since 1999. But not all security experts agree.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if you could email the author of the software you use to ask questions about it? Open source software users do that every day, and would have us believe their software is all the better for it.
While the “commercial” software vendors are busy spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about open source, it might be said that the world of the open source software developer is one of fearlessness, confidence and certainty. Open source developers dispense with many of the constraints placed on proprietary software developers. There’s no need for them to develop elaborate licence key checkers; maintain multiple, “crippled” demonstration versions of software or develop nifty communications protocol tricks to prevent others from creating competing software products.
THE OPEN AND CLOSED REGIONS of the software world are poles apart, and not even the open source community can agree on the terminology. So, secure in the knowledge that fear, uncertainty and doubt are rife, how do you navigate the open source minefield?
Open source code generally evolves through the cooperation of a community of developers and is made available to the public, enabling anyone to make a copy, modify or redistribute it without paying royalties or licence fees. Traditionally, software vendors have distributed their products with no access to the source code, making modifications technically impossible.
Whatever the technological and economic advantages of open source software, there is a potential legal risk from software that doesn’t offer the warranty protection of commercial products. Open source software might violate third-party intellectual property rights if a programmer has added infringing code to your open source application or operating system without your knowledge, exposing your business to potential injunctions and damages claims.
Global law firm Simpson Grierson advises that, as open source code is written by a number of programmers, OS software is usually provided on an “as is” basis, without warranties. And as has been reported in the Economist magazine and elsewhere, the open source movement’s general public licence (GPL) has never been legally enforced.
Virtualisation describes many different IT disciplines, but for John Holley, IS manager at the RNZFB (Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind), it’s “the poor man’s disaster recovery”. The RNZFB is the country’s primary provider of vision-related habilitation and rehabilitation services to the blind, deaf-blind and the vision impaired. It has 272 full-time-equivalent staff in 18 offices nationwide.
But when Holley joined the foundation around three years ago, he found its IT infrastructure in need of TLC. “I had some pressing issues to address within the organisation as far as security and business continuity were concerned,” he says.
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