Taking the TIMS by the Throat
First up for Colovos was to grip the TIMS system by the throat and squeeze from it whatever was possible because the system was the only game in town - at least for the immediate future. TIMS was going to have to provide the information reports for the business until a better solution could be implemented. Colovos hired the only person on Morgan & Banks's books at that time with TIMS ERP experience and a system administrator to assist with the implementation of the new infrastructure.
Two months after joining, Colovos presented his infrastructure report to the company, which detailed the systems and networks needed at the key locations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gembrook in country Victoria, Townsville in northern Queensland and on its South Australian farm at Nildottie. He and his system administrator went out to each of the locations and installed the networks themselves. They also developed the training manuals in-house, dropping any unnecessary computer jargon and tailoring them precisely to the needs and understanding of individual operators. The two-man team also stayed on at the locations and trained staff until they felt comfortable using the computers.
It was not work for the faint-hearted. During the first 12 months Colovos burned his way through six systems administrators who said that the job was "too hard and left". The seventh stayed and remains on the team still.
Perhaps stinging from their $1 million TIMS project, which if not a white elephant was certainly a white mouse, the Moraitis family kept exceptionally tight reins on Colovos's chequebook. His initial budget was a scant $500,000 for the basic infrastructure of networks, five servers, routers and 60 PCs. "They put a lot of pressure on me in the beginning," he says. "That is the type of business this is and the type of people they are and it was a good approach. It gave them a better insight of what was involved in putting together something of that calibre."
As far as Colovos was concerned, one of the keys was ensuring that the infrastructure was robust - "bullet-proof" in his words. "If you get your infrastructure right then your applications will work properly," he says.
And that was the task Colovos and his team set about doing.
Today the IT landscape at Moraitis is significantly different than it was back in 2001. Moreover, the company has narrowed that yawning IT chasm: existing systems meet current requirements and can scale to meet future needs, although there's still much to be done. The directors' homes now have high-speed ADSL links. The IT team can remotely take control of computers at distant locations, which means for the past six months no one has had to travel to the interstate headquarters in Brisbane and Melbourne to tackle computer matters - a nice bottom-line benefit. This has been supplemented with the installation of a videoconferencing system so that face-to-face buying meetings can be held remotely.
"The benefit of having nothing to start with - no legacy to work with - is that you can do it properly from day one. So, for example, we have a fibre-optic connection, and Windows 2000 servers, which gives us a platform to grow and flexibility," Colovos says. "The downside is that there has been a lot of work on my behalf with limited budgets. We also had to get the people to accept the change."
Because the benefits of the new systems were sold directly to the workers, Colovos has not had to tackle union issues regarding the new work practices. In fact, he says, the "people on the floor wanted this more than the office workers".
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