Clear IT director rises to online challenge

Clear's new IT Director, Graham Walmsley, has a strong online background, but will be focusing on corporate IT systems and customer care, he says.

AS CLEAR MOVES aggressively into the online market, IT director Graham Walmsley identifies his priorities as he steps into his newly created position.

The former general manager of information services at Clear, Walmsley is now responsible for the company's corporate IT systems with a focus on IT strategy and planning, IT systems deve-lopment and IT operations and development. To meet these objectives he is also in the process of establishing an IT directorate.

Walmsley says the company decided to establish the directorate when it looked at the implications of moving online from an IT perspective.

"What impact, for instance, will it have on our customer management systems, with customers being able to have online self-service, billing systems and the implications of real time billing ... we're looking at the impacts in terms of our strategy and the need to bring together an IT directorate to focus specifically on these issues.

"Technology is all pervasive within Clear and there are three broad pools of technology.

"One is network, one is the online service provider which is an ISP and one is the corporate IT systems which is the customer care and so forth," says Walmsley.

"It is the third pool I will be concentrating on — bringing it together as a cohesive whole."

Setting up the right team is the way to achieve these goals, says Walmsley, and he is in "the throes of pulling together a team and working out how best to organise themselves".

"Whatever we're doing at the end of the day we need good people — we have that. We have to get a team dynamic working and have got to be focused. There is a lot more planning and architecting that needs to be done —it's the way you put packages together that's important, possibly even more important than the packages themselves."

Walmsley's appointment follows hot on the heels of the company's development of an IP-based wide area network (WAN) service and the Clear Payment Gateway project, as Clear targets online business. The WAN service is, claims Walmsley, the first of its kind in New Zealand, and among the first globally. It will be launched within the next two months using technology to provide broadband access that enables businesses to easily migrate to high-speed networking.

Payment Gateway is being trialled as an automated credit card clearing facility deve-loped in conjunction with DPS, a New Zealand-based company. Trials have shown the new service cuts a process that sometimes took more than two hours down to around three seconds. These projects highlight Clear's commitment to the online environment and the company has invested "several millions" recently to upgrade its Internet infrastructure, says CEO Tim Cullinane.

While Walmsley denies the recent 100% investment by UK company BT (British Telecom) in Clear has had any direct influence on the decision to create an IT directorate, he is positive about BT's involvement with Clear.

"BT brings strength to bear — you have a large financially sound channel, significant research and product development capability — we can draw on their experience."

Optimistic and excited about the new directorate Walmsley believes his marketing and business background will help him achieve success. "I describe myself as 70% business and 30% IT — although my background is predominantly IT. Getting stand-alone CIO experience — as the general manager and CIO for Diners Club New Zealand — early in one's career also helps significantly in that you can understand the other side of the fence."

At Countrywide Bank — where he was head of marketing — Walmsley was also involved in setting up their Internet banking system. Despite enjoying his business experience in various capacities Walmsley made the move to Clear as he "wanted to get back more into IT, namely because of what was happening in the online world. My wife used to describe herself as an Internet widow".

"I'm genuinely excited about what is happening in the online world. You see industry being redefined because of it. There is such significant change in technology, but the thing that turns me on is not the technology per se.

"It's how you use the technology — so if you have that business background, you bring that to bear. A telecommunications company is sitting at the heart of technology and its fast-changing. Technology is not an add-on to the [telecommunications] business — its an inherent, strategic part of the business."

Clear, he says, has a culture of change which provides an ongoing challenge to those in the industry. Change and excitement are very much a part of Walmsley's character.

While he likes to read and play the guitar "badly" he has taken many diverse career paths as well as bungee-jumped from a helicopter, although he no longer "surf's the Net for recreation".

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