Bartering away big iron

Josephine Dunstan, whose IT career began in banking in the 1980s, has watched big iron make way for client-server networks.

Josephine Dunstan, whose IT career began in banking in the 1980s, has watched big iron make way for client-server networks.

On the software side, says the IT manager at Bartercard New Zealand, the major shift has been the development of thin client applications.

“The web has changed everything. Web-based solutions would be the other biggest change.”

Bartercard delivers certain modules of its own proprietary software to some branch offices via Citrix.

“Some of the smaller branches are connected via Citrix. It’s the ease of being able to deliver the desktop apps they require.”

Since Dunstan started out, IT has become more visible within organisations and the role of IT staff has changed considerably.

“Originally IT was very much behind closed doors and very mysterious. That has been totally turned upside down. Now it’s coming from a different perspective, aligning IT strategy with business strategy. Now it’s more of a profession in its own right.”

Dunstan has only been IT manager at Bartercard for a couple of months and already she’s charged with wirelessly-enabling the organisation, implementing voice over IP and building a mirror site for disaster recovery in the next fiscal year.

Dunstan says Bartercard NZ plans to have 30% of transactions done via e-commerce and 20% of its clients trading internationally by June 2005.

The changes in IT planned over the next year will help achieve those goals, she says.

Bartercard’s strategic vision for the coming year is to double its revenue, not through member acquisition, Dunstan says, but by being better business partners to its existing members.

“The strategy will allow Bartercard to plan, align and govern IT delivery and prioritise projects such as VoIP and the planned SAN-to-SAN mirroring for improved business continuity.”

The company, which has been in New Zealand for 10 years and has over 5000 members — 50,000 companies worldwide — allows businesses to pay some business cash expenses with their own products and services. Bartercard NZ is based in Auckland and has 12 branches nationwide. It claims the trading volume between members is more than $15 million a month. The New Zealand franchise is 90% owned by Red Eagle, a business of entrepreneur Tony Falkenstein, probably best known for the Just Water operation.

A recently completed IT project is the transfer of WAN functions to Telecom Advanced Solutions’ Private Office hosted offering.

“We’re coming off ADSL links and internal VPN and Private Office will free us from the problems of maintaining our own inter-office network.”

The introduction of VoIP in the next fiscal year will improve communications between Bartercard NZ’s branches, Dunstan says.

“VoIP is the future, it’s now really coming into its own and it will give great visibility and cost savings.”

Bartercard has 70 account managers and 22 business developers who are often on the road. Making them more mobile, with the aid of wireless technology, is also a priority.

“We’re starting to talk to vendors [about mobility].”

Upgrading the company’s disaster recovery capability to full SAN-to-SAN mirroring is also on the agenda.

“Bartercard already has a fairly comprehensive business continuity plan, with all servers having dual redundant hot-swap power supplies.”

The SAN also has that capability and a generator and redundant online UPS supports the server cluster.

“The next stage is to have a complete mirrored site at another Bartercard location in the greater Auckland-Waikato area, because Bartercard is providing an online 24-hour, seven-day-a-week e-commerce solution to its trading network and has already committed to 99.9% uptime.”

Upgrading from Windows Server 2000 to the 2003 version is a goal for the fiscal year.

Dunstan is assisted by one other inhouse IT staffer, with further support provided by consultancy Think!IT.

Before joining the company Dunstan was IT manager at property services provider DTZ, whose forebear, Knight Frank, she joined in 2000.

At Knight Frank, she led a network upgrade between eight offices that replaced Novell with Windows 2000.

“The logical choice was Windows 2000 technology, which was emerging at the time, and we migrated the old Knight Frank network to the complete Microsoft solution,” says Dunstan, who managed the project, working with systems engineer Srdan Zagorac and contract systems engineer, Krassi Modkov.

All eight LANs, from Auckland in the north to Alexandra in the south, were switched over to Active Directory, Windows 2000 file and print servers, Exchange 2000, IIS intranet and internet servers, ISA proxy and firewall servers. Two of the branches were linked to Auckland via Citrix Metaframe.

The same team subsequently combined Knight Frank and DTZ’s IT platforms when the companies later went through a merger.

Dunstan’s IT experience started at the ANZ bank in the 1980s and she worked with mainframes at Databank and Australian Fertilisers and then progressing to database administrator for Australia Gas Light before returning to New Zealand to rejoin Databank.

After that, she worked for health products company Welleda NZ as sole charge systems and network administrator.

A stint as a contract helpdesk manager at the North Shore City Council followed before she joined Knight Frank.