Excellence Awards: IT chiefs take technology to the business

Helping to introduce the new photo-ID driving licences with few hassles is just one of many successful IT projects for Tony West, says Judith Johnstone of Land Transport Safety Authority supplier Unisys.

Helping to introduce the new photo-ID driving licences with few hassles is just one of many successful IT projects for Tony West, says Judith Johnstone of Land Transport Safety Authority supplier Unisys.

Johnstone says she has known West, one of four finalists in the “CIO of the year” category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards, for perhaps 10 years, including five in his role as CIO at the government agency.

“He’s a very strong CIO. He’s had a vision and he’s stuck to it,” she says, “particularly as he’s taken the business with him.”

At the LTSA, West heads a team of 30, manages $23 million of IT spending (17% of the total operational budget) and is one of six on the LTSA executive management team.

He also sits on the e-government authentication group and is a key member of the justice sector working group, helping develop the information strategy for that division of government.

West joined the LTSA in 1993 and became its CIO in 2000, helping the authority develop one of the first government e-commerce sites in New Zealand.

He pushed initiatives such as online warrants of fitness and handled the merger of motor vehicle and road user charges databases, and is involved in the crash analysis system of all reported New Zealand road accidents.

Carol Silva, the only female finalist, is credited with helping save her employer, UBD, after she joined the business directory company in 1997 as IT manager.

The company had just tried to implement a $2 million billing system, but it was a complete failure until Silva came on board and with her staff redesigned and succeeded with the project, claims UBD general manager Eamonn Bicknell.

Silva says IT has helped move the company into profitability and to grow rapidly. But she also credits staff, particularly one “underpaid” DBA staffer.

Silva has helped UBD develop CD-Rom versions of its national business directories, industry directories, street maps, Wise Maps and subscription-based internet services. This year her team of seven will deliver 40 products, including printed, CD-based and online mapping software.

Bicknell praises Silva’s knowledge of industry issues, current technology, IT events and milestones, and for possession of commercial awareness and project management skills “par excellence” which he says keep UBD ahead of the competition.

“She was critical in keeping the business going in that [first] year [1997],” he says.

Kevin Drinkwater, global IT manager of supply logistics company Mainfreight International, “cannot be rewarded enough”, says his boss, executive chairman Bruce Plested.

Drinkwater joined the business 17 years ago to work on accounting systems, but boosted his knowledge of the overall business by working in the warehouses and even sweeping the floors.

Now he heads an IT team of 25 spread across New Zealand, Australia and the US, having dealt with projects like Mainfreight being one of the first trucking firms to use handheld PDAs to track and record deliveries using mobile communications.

Other Mainfreight projects include a voice picking system for warehouse staff; a Mainchain order tracking system for business customers; a similar tracking system for Carotrans, a US offshoot; plus the Secure Track system for Sony in Sydney, which uses the regular scanning of goods so the electrical giant knows where its goods are and can tell if any go missing.

Plested says his IT leader never does anything without fully understanding it first. Drinkwater has written many IT systems over the past 17 years, all simple and user-friendly and not containing “any duds or glitches”.

“He has produced some world-class systems for us. His management ability is outstanding. We could never reward him enough, “ Plested says.

Iain Graham is CIO of Contact Energy, and one of the few CIOs to have actually managed a finance department. In 2002 he was, for a time, acting CFO.

Contact claims its information management team is trying to make IT invisible for its staff. Graham joined the company at its formation in 1996 to establish the IT and business process infrastructure. Graham is credited with helping integrate the people, processes and systems of 11 separate retail operations into one entity and ensuring the linkages to the deregulated electricity market.

In the last 12 months, Contact has introduced a single file system with Microsoft Active Directory, rolled out voice over IP systems, introduced global secure virtual private networks and enhanced wireless technologies, including the adoption of global roaming GPRS.

  • The “CIO of the year” award is sponsored by Symantec.

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