CIO Balfour dispensable: Trujillo

Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo said the abrupt resignation of chief information officer Fiona Balfour will "not at all" delay the telco's massive internal IT transformation program. "She's made her choice, and we move on," Trujillo told journalists this morning in response to a question from ZDNet Australia.

Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo said the abrupt resignation of chief information officer Fiona Balfour will "not at all" delay the telco's massive internal IT transformation program.

"She's made her choice, and we move on," Trujillo told journalists this morning in response to a question from ZDNet Australia. "In the case of does it slow us down at all, the answer is: absolutely not."

Balfour left Telstra last week after just 10 months as the company's CIO. She joined Telstra in April last year, after spending 14 years at Qantas.

Trujillo also confirmed reports Balfour's departure was linked to a struggle with the telco's chief operating officer, Greg Winn, over control of some aspects of Telstra's IT function.

"Greg Winn, who's our chief operating officer ... he had to clarify some organisational issues, and to streamline some of the decision-making and accountability for our day to day operations," Trujillo said. "And as a result, this change occurred. And Fiona made her choice."

He said despite Balfour's short tenure, she had contributed to Telstra's cause. "We really are disappointed to see her leave the business," he said. "She is a very competent IT person and CIO ... We wish her the best, because she really did add value while she was in Telstra."

"But as I said before, the machine keeps moving, and we keep delivering."

Winn next to go?
Meanwhile, Winn's contract with Telstra will expire in August but hasn't been renewed. The executive, however, shouldn't have much to worry about: "I have a ball and chain attached to Greg Winn, he is very important to our business," said Trujillo.

"Obviously I have a world of respect for him, because I think he's -- if not the best -- maybe one of the best chief operations officers anywhere in the world."

Trujillo said it was his intent to encourage Winn to stay with the telco, and he was "hopeful" the executive will stay. "Obviously everyone makes personal choices, but as I said, I've got a ball and chain, and I've got a few other tools that I want to use on him," the CEO laughed.

The next major step in Telstra's transformation of its operational and business support (including billing) systems is scheduled to land at the end of this calendar year -- a landmark the telco has labelled "Release One".

Although Trujillo didn't provide more details, he said Telstra was on track to achieve the milestone, as well as Release Two, which was due to be delivered late in 2008.

Telstra expects to accelerate its staff retrenchment program when Release Two is completed, as a number of employees will be released from maintaining legacy systems.

One aspect of the improvements is slated to see staff provided with an integrated desktop that will give a single interface to Telstra's many customer relationship management systems.

Its chief financial officer John Stanhope said the company had spent around AU$230 million on its IT transformation in the six months ending 31 December. It spent a further AU$810 million in that period on its migration to an Internet Protocol-based core network, as well as ADSL and edge upgrades.

Some AU$597 million was spent on its Next G mobile network, and a further AU$108 million on other items of capital expenditure, including related network improvements.

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