Welcome to the CIO Vision Series, where we have with us as our guest Graham Andrews of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Thank you for joining us today and congratulations on being 'highly commended' by the ZDNet Australia CIO of the Year judging panel.
Graham, how large is the PWC IT infrastructure?
Andrews: PriceWaterhouseCoopers is a firm of about 6,000 people here in Australia, (about 130,000 worldwide) and have probably north of about 500 applications in use.
Because it tends to be a knowledge-worker's environment, PWC is a bit unusual in the sense that it's lots of individual people doing very different things. To support their activities requires quite a depth and breadth of technologies -- and most of them are mobile, so we have all the challenges of mobile workers.
Mobile technology -- in particular, wireless technology -- is a fundamental piece of our business. Most of our professionals are somewhat overpaid and well paid. Travelling back to the office to go and pick up a piece of information to file a bill or to do whatever they need to do takes time. So the opportunity has to be presented to these guys to work wherever they are, whenever they are, from whatever device they like -- the traditional three steps of a universal computer.
We tend to use 3G-type technologies and provide full global wireless at as high a speed as we possibly can get. I suppose I'm really after the processing power of a decent PC, combined with full wireless technology, on a global basis. And that's the challenge that we're facing.
Can the iPhone can fill that gap?
Andrews: The iPhone's great. But it's a consumer toy; I think it's more for the consumer market in the short term -- as against the exciting cut-and-thrust of doing a tax return or something like that.
Which technologies really excite you?
Andrews: Technologies rarely really excite me nowadays, to be honest with you.
My job is like being the chief engineer of a Formula One car. What I do nowadays is work out ways to make the whole system go a second per lap faster or maybe we can use two percent less fuel or maybe we can just resource a bit more effectively.
But it tends to be much more incremental. If I go back five, ten, dare I say it, 15 years, those were the times when fundamental business processes were changing: there was a complete migration from 10,000 people adding up numbers to computers coming into play -- or where suddenly you didn't have to work at a desk in a given office, because you could work anywhere in the world, doing whatever you normally do in a day job.
Those sorts of changes are much more substantial, but did happen more than a year ago.
In more recent times, I really think, we're looking at edges -- we're paring back two or three-percent productivity improvement. And, if I can achieve that, that's great. But is it huge, mind-blowing? No, I don't think so, anymore.
I am going to throw a few buzzwords at you, let me know how these technologies have affected your business: Voice over IP.
Andrews: The actual financial benefits of Voice over IP -- depending on the nature of your organisation -- are real. We have a very dynamic organisation, a lot of people coming and going, a lot of people moving round. Being able actually to find people, to be able to reduce our call costs, has delivered real benefits, through Voice over IP.
But it's not for everyone, and one has to be sensible in looking at it. A phone's a phone, let's get real.
Andrews: Sexy. I like virtualisation. Again, the numbers haven't really stacked up until relatively recently. I think the exciting thing about virtualisation is more to do with the mood of the Australian, and indeed the world economy.
Virtualisation means you can throw a lot less hardware on a problem. And the hardware, by definition, starts using power; it uses greenhouse gases; it requires air conditioning; it requires real-estate space.
By putting virtualisation in place, you actually deliver what I would call "green benefits", as against any real financial benefits. Yes, maybe there's some marginal improvements on operating efficiency by running it off fewer boxes; but, frankly, that's offset by the relative cost of those boxes.
Andrews: I think outsourcing is incredibly important. We can't be good at everything and most IT organisations already outsource vast quantities of what they do: they tend to outsource their data communications to the major carriers, and they outsource some of their software development to big companies called "IBM" or "Microsoft".
But the reality is that there are always opportunities to outsource -- and you must keep your eye on the ball: sometimes, it makes sense to outsource; sometimes, it doesn't make sense to outsource.
I think you really must outsource anything that's not too important to you, but keep all the stuff that you feel is strategically critical to your business close to hand.
The other thing, which is rarely or insufficiently considered, is what the effect to clients of any IT is: does outsourcing make life worse or more painful?
I mean we've all seen the sort of "call center in India" analogies. Now, they're not necessarily bad, and they often do work. But that's not really helping you with some major crisis right here in Australia that needs somebody to be there right now.
So you must be careful about what you outsource.
I have gone through cycles, over the years, of outsourcing lots of activities and, in reverse, in-sourcing lots of activities, as the mood of the economy changes.
Andrews: I think open source has its place. And, again, I think it suits lots of businesses. One of the problems that organisations such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers has is that they need to maintain a sort of business profile of respectability.
Open source, in some ways, is starting to ruin its own reputation. It's starting to integrate unlicensed software into some of its code. And that, to me, could create problems for businesses in the future.
The other big thing that we all have to face is interoperability; and I tend to favour the mainstream products in a lot of ways, because it does facilitate interoperability.
I think that, over time, open source code, as it gets its greater depth -- in major corporates will become more prevalent and more used.
But we do use open source where it's appropriate and where we find that there are reasonable benefits to doing it.
Andrews: I don't know how many versions of operating systems I go through over the years. Vista's very nice; this is kind of a bit better; it's good; and we probably will, in due course, migrate to it.
It's not something that I would put very high on my priority list for the next 12 months.
How do you secure an organisation like PWC?
Andrews: It's a nightmare.
Some people go for the sort of centralist, structured security function that reviews and tests and verifies everything and so on.
I take a slightly more democratic view. Yes, we do have that sort of group that does provide expertise in the area of security. But I prefer to distil the concept that security is everybody's problem, particularly when they're implementing something or building something or writing some code -- or whatever they're doing.
The core ownership of security is throughout the organisation -- not just within the IT group, but actually in the user community, to call it that, so that they fully appreciate the security risks that are out there and they take the responsibility and realise that they're accountable for maintaining security in our organisation, because it must be everybody.
The idea of just vesting it in some security officer or security group: well, at that stage, you've lost the game. I think you must have it in everything.
It seems you are placing a lot of importance on educating employees?
Andrews: Education is critically important. But it's probably only 60 percent of it.
No matter how hard you try to educate people, you will always get stupid people.
But I hate saying that, because some people will either just, in that moment of panic, let their guard down -- so you actually have to build systems and technologies and processes that minimise the risk.
So just education isn't going to get you there. You must do everything; and you must have the order processes, you must have policy processes, you must have the review process. You must have the education.
But to say that any one element is going to get you there: no, I don't believe so.
What are your key measures for success?
Andrews: I don't know. I don't know. I actually rate CIOs, believe it or not, on the basis of survival.
One of the challenges of the CIOs is that they tend to be in an ever-changing landscape. Right now, our biggest problem seems to be the global search for talent. And to measure a good CIO nowadays would be the ability to attract and retain high talent.
Now, we could go into an awful recession -- or, dare I say it, depression. But that probably isn't going to be as big and as important a thing. A good CIO will respond to the changing economies in workplaces very quickly, and address the needs of the business that they're supporting as quickly as they possibly can.
So I measure CIO's success by predominantly their agility to read the marketplace and the demographies that they're in. And I also really rate CIOs on the basis of their understanding of (a) the business they're in, and (b) the people that they have working for them. And, if they get that right, generally they'll do it right.
All the other traditional metrics I don't care about.
How important are 'Green issues'?
Andrews: It's amazing. It is staggering. I won't name any vendor -- I know you'd love me to -- but a major PC hardware vendor recently submitted an RFP to us for a fleet of laptops.
But one of the interesting things was that the team that was doing the technological evaluation noticed that that submission was on single-sided paper -- as against double-sided printing -- and made a comment.
Now, what was even more exciting was that that major vendor overnight insisted that all its proposals in the future always be printed on double-sided paper.
So it was a side comment -- noticing that, in our organisation, we've moved to double-sided printing and all sorts of other sort of smart paper-consumption-minimisation initiatives -- but they were noticing that other people hadn't.
I feel that green issues are very much understated by a lot of people. I think that, in terms of an organisation, how you respond to this green movement, to call it that, is going to be very important.
I don't know whether you may have noticed: we did quite a big project on our lighting in our Sydney building over here. And that actually got universal -- not just Australian -- press coverage.
So you can get a lot of kudos as an organisation by embracing green stuff. But you can also be penalised quite significantly by not embracing these sorts of things, in terms of whether you will actually be favoured by a selection panel -- even though you may have a good product.
I think you cannot let this one slide.