CSC Australia CIO speaks out

Emily Richmond-Jones discusses CSC's internal IP telephony project, Oracle to SAP migrations, and her vision for women in IT.

IT services giant CSC is well known in Australia, with recent multi-million dollar corporate wins including AMP, OneSteel and Woodside Petroleum.

As CSC Australia chief information officer, Emily Richmond-Jones faces a unique challenge in the need to balance competing interests within a company that is itself a large provider of IT services to others.

Emily Richmond-Jones, CSC Australia CIO

Providing a view from the other side of the vendor fence, Richmond-Jones took some time out recently to speak with ZDNet Australia about CSC's internal IP telephony and Oracle to SAP migrations, as well as her vision for bringing more women into the IT industry.

Q: What are the IT challenges keeping you up at night at the moment?
Richmond-Jones: Information Security is certainly a concern, not only for me but for many senior managers in various industries. A recent US study, Technology Issues for Financial Executives showed that information security was the most pervasive concern for CFO's. The research also shows that approximately 60 percent of companies surveyed do not have a written strategic IT plan. I would not be surprised if the results are similar in Australia.

What, in your opinion, are the key issues currently facing Australian IT directors and CIOs?
Richmond-Jones: As indicated above, even though a company may be aware of an IT problem, the challenge is to help them understand the importance of acting on solving that problem and investing in a solution. Other challenges are keeping pace with the business and being flexible enough to support changing environments and changes in legislature.

What do you think of Microsoft's incoming Windows Vista and Office 07 products -- is CSC keen to adopt them early, or hang back a bit?
Richmond-Jones: We are currently working with Microsoft on these products and are quite excited about them. CSC recently participated in Microsoft's Innovations 2006 road show as the only major systems integrator with accreditation for the Vista customer Technology Adoption Program (TAP). This relationship enables us to develop solutions for our customers in preparation for the move to Vista.

From your own experiences in the last couple of years, do you have any advice to pass on to fellow CIOs?
Richmond-Jones: Listen to the business, learn the industry and always keep in mind what is best for the business, despite technologies that interest you as a CIO.

Are you having trouble finding good staff, and in what areas?
Richmond-Jones: On the contrary -- CSC has career development programs in place to ensure we are not greatly impacted by what many people say is a looming IT skills shortage. A key element of this is the CSC graduate program. Last year we had approximately 1500 applications for a total of 50 positions which is a great indication there is still plenty of interest in IT careers. We look for graduates in engineering, computer science as well as information systems.

It has been reported that recent projects at CSC include a VoIP rollout, an Oracle to SAP migration and an implementation of an invoice management system. How are these projects going and what lessons would you pass on to other IT managers carrying out similar projects?
Richmond-Jones: Our first major VoIP deployment was at our own headquarters at North Ryde. We achieved major cost savings by implementing a VoIP system. Since then the VoIP deployments have successfully rolled on and we continue to do them whenever we have a greenfield site to fit out.

The transition of our North Ryde office from Oracle to SAP for the purpose of aligning to a global system was also a big success. The key in each was to really plan everything and have risk mitigation plans in place. The invoice management system is currently in progress and tracking well. We now have the US Shared Services group watching to see what can be leveraged across the company.

The other main key to success is in communications -- know who the key stakeholders are, engage them early, and throughout the process, don't forget that all system and process changes have an element of organisational change.

What do you find are the specific challenges of working as the CIO of an IT services company as compared to in any other industry?
Richmond-Jones: The main challenge is balancing the competing interests within an organisation. IT is constantly evolving and as part of this growing environment we often need to test new solutions. This is an integral part of the work we do but it carries a fairly high workload.

Q: What do think could be done to bring more women into the IT industry?
Richmond-Jones: I think it's important for women entering the industry to have mentors that can help them during the formative stages of their careers. One of the challenges women face in industries, such as IT, which has much higher male representation, is how to be successful in a "man's world" .

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