Redefine Best Practice
With an IT team of just seven, Blockbuster Australia can deliver on IT partly thanks to its partnership with Marconi, and partly because it can fall back on the large US IT department in its parent company in the US when necessary.
IT director Steven Ash says while many bigger IT groups can become bogged down, hand-braking the business by being so big, slow and bureaucratic, smaller more focused teams like his tend to react to what the business wants even though it may not always be the IT best practice way of doing things. "We may have to cut some corners here or there," Ash says, "but at the end of the day I would put my hand on my heart and say 9.5 times out of 10 we get the result the business is looking for."
But Ash says when the new US CIO, a former PriceWaterhouse consultant, wanted to examine ways to give the entire IT group around the world more of a global perspective, one of the issues revolved around definitions of best practice. "A lot of the bigger firms, PriceWaterhouse being one of them, recommend best practice for this, best practice for that," Ash says. "But IT best practice is not always best practice in the real world, or for any particular business.
"For example, IT best practice would say that, based on the amount of users we support, the amount of equipment we've got, we need x amount of people in our IT department to support them. Now that might be IT best practice, but from the revenue of the business, that's not Blockbuster best practice. Blockbuster best practice is best IT support for the amount the business can afford."
Organisations can deliver better by ignoring conventional definitions of best practice in favour of their own, Ash says.
The Power of Common Sense
There is also an argument that smaller IT shops tend to be much more grounded and realistic in their approach to service delivery than their bigger compatriots. The larger the organisation, the more likely common sense can fly out the window, Adams says. For instance in his days with Kendall his team wanted to connect the Kendall network to the Ansett network to simplify communications and gain access to various systems. Ansett refused to facilitate the move unless Kendall adopted Ansett's standard desktop and all other standards throughout the organisation.
Not only would this have ended up tripling the cost of IT delivery to staff, Adams says, he could see no logic to the argument that demanded it. "At that stage Ansett used Lotus Notes. Now whether Lotus Notes is a better system than Exchange is neither here nor there," says Adams. "The fact is that we had an investment in Exchange already and they had an investment in Lotus Notes. Where was the logic in forcing us to rip out our existing implementation?"
The argument raged unresolved for 12 or 18 months until News Limited sold its 50 per cent share of Ansett to Air New Zealand. And as if to underline the nonsense of the original hardline Ansett stance, Air New Zealand was running Exchange and spent the next 12 months converting Ansett to Exchange. Likewise, while Ansett was intent on rolling out a new reservation system relying on IBM technology and PCs as opposed to the existing dumb terminals, it was Kendall that could see this was a bad idea for tiny infrequently-manned regional airports sitting on the edge of small towns where telecommunications were not necessarily up to scratch and the risk of theft much higher with PCs than dumb terminals.
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