IS Manager of the Year

Ross Hughson sorted out Y2K issues and re-engineered the New Zealand operations by cutting the number of projects and decreasing management costs by a third in two years.

NZ Information Systems manager for AXA New Zealand, Ross Hughson, cleaned up a mess resulting from a takeover which saw the best IT staff head off to Australia, and consequently became IS Manager of the Year.

The rebranding of the former National Mutual led to the relocation of all senior IT management, leaving behind six satellite operations without senior staff.

AXA executives lacked effective control over projects, says Hughson, and business was performing in an unco-ordinated way.

His first priority was to look at the quantity of projects, which numbered 100 at the time. Hughson also dealt with an aborted merger with an Australian firm, and Y2K issues.

He sorted out these problems and re-engineered the New Zealand operations by cutting the number of projects and decreasing management costs by a third in two years.

The convening judge for this category, Colin Thorpe says: “Excellence is a state of mind more than a goal. It is not something you strive to achieve, it is simply what you are about and what you believe in.”

In this hard fought-out category, Thorpe says all candidates displayed a belief in excellence.

Hughson’s victory is embodied in the final comment he made in his nomination form:

“A significant change management challenge was undertaken in a complex environment that demanded leadership, vision and an ability to deliver quickly.

"Significant business value has been added as a result and the IS team is now strategically re-aligned with the business. From the CEO’s perspective the IS operation is now focused on delivering value and is a key asset as the company now prepares to enter a growth phase in today’s e-world.

"Within AXA NZ, IS and the Business clearly have a 'future together'."

The other finalists were:

  • Wayne O’Halloran, general manager of information services at the New Zealand Dairy group. In a watershed year for the nation’s largest dairy producer, O’Halloran had the task of bringing the company’s largest-ever information systems project to fruition. More than 140 people were involved throughout the programme, which affected over 2000 staff at a dozen regional sites (see Excellence in the use of IT in Enterprise Resource Planning Category. O’Halloran was also involved in introducing e-commerce which included electronic customer ordering of NZDG products, a Web-based milk quality system and an Interactive Voice response system warning farmers of any problems with their milk supply.
  • National IT manager for lawyers Russell McVeagh, Cathy Treacy, implemented a CMS practice management system, widened desktop access and completed the company’s intranet. She replaced computers, upgraded software, relocated all IT services to a new Wellington office and developed a “Legal Compliance Programme”— an interactive electronic product outlining legal requirements for individual clients. Remote access technology was also implemented. Treacy completed 90% of her 1999 tasks, reduced staff turnover, and came under budget by 16%.
  • Tony Darby, director of information services at Auckland Regional Council found an unco-ordinated IT system with differing systems when he arrived there three years ago. He developed a self-management approach in the council IT department, he integrated various IT systems, developed Intranet/Internet within council, developed customer satisfaction surveys, promoted ERP solutions within council and GIS technology within transport planning and school geography classes.

    • Jenny Mortimer, CIO, Saturn Communications
    • Colin Thorpe, IT Manager, Royal NZ Police College
    • Howard Woolston, Principal Consultant, rbz Group

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