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For Whom the Road Tolls

For Whom the Road Tolls

It didn't take long for Tizi to realise that the only way Transurban's problems would ever be fixed was if he fixed them himself. "I couldn't do my job," he says. "I couldn't do typical CIO things, because I wasn't able to influence the people you needed to influence to improve the situation."

Much to the nervousness of Transurban's MD and board of directors, Tizi decided to bring the tolling technology back in-house. "What we really decided was that this piece of technology is critical to our business," he says. "We can outsource the Web site and we can outsource the call centre, but do we really want to outsource our fundamental, core application? My decision was no, that we wanted to bring that in-house."

Legal Eagle

From that point onward, Tizi had to step outside his role as CIO and become a de facto legal professional. Since CSC had developed the original system, all the intellectual property (IP) associated with the tolling and transaction applications resided with them. Tizi had to spend months in consultation with lawyers from both sides before he was eventually able to negotiate the release of the intellectual property, including the source code.

Tizi's desire to bring the software in-house was a radical shift in direction - and a hard one to sell to Transurban's board of directors. To get the IP and the source code meant giving up CSC's warranty, the safety net which had up until then allowed Transurban to deflect blame for the system's shortcomings. Apart from the big money involved in the $2.2 billion project, the negotiations were also undertaken in a tense climate of litigation, with Transurban already in the midst of a legal dispute with partner Transfield Obayashi over delays and traffic problems caused by faulty construction (the dispute was eventually settled in November 2001 when Transfield Obayashi agreed to pay Transurban $153.6 million in damages). Hardly surprising, then, that Transurban MD Kim Edwards asked Tizi if he knew what he was doing after the agreement was signed.

"When we gave up the warranty, that was a pretty defining moment in my life," Tizi says, "because at that point if something went wrong we couldn't go to someone else to fix the problem. It was our baby."

Fortunately for Edwards and Transurban Tizi did know what he was doing, and he set about proving it straightaway. First, Tizi established an internal IT group at Transurban to take control of the technology, or "to take control of our future" as he puts it. The next order of business was to stabilise the technology and get it running reliably.

Tizi and his team tuned, enhanced, and upgraded just about everything in sight. The CityLink system was built around software that had first been delivered in 1996. The operating system, the language, and the Oracle databases used by the system were all 1996 versions. Tizi's team brought the software up to the latest version and tuned the applications, and he now claims that the system's headroom has been increased by 100 per cent "without any additional changes to the hardware".

Tizi says these days Edwards and the board express "tons of confidence" in the IT group. "We proved to him [Edwards] that we could do it, because each release has made the package better," he says. Indeed, in the two years since gaining control of the source code, Tizi's IT group at Transurban has expanded from 2 to 72 and has delivered a dozen new releases of the tolling software. "Now if we shut the system down for a weekend because we need to do maintenance, we can recover on Sunday night. In the past it would take us up to 3-4 weeks to recover from even a small outage."

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