Pressure Points

Pressure Points

While CIOs all have different ways of tackling pressure, they all point to its single source: everywhere

Meeting the Demand

Anywhere, anytime access increases the pressure for PKF's CIO

Mark Carmichael is CIO of PKF Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers and runs a team of 11 staff meeting the IT needs of 500 employees in the NSW and Brisbane offices. "The pressure is rising as we move to more of a mobile infrastructure and anywhere anytime access," he acknowledges. "I've been in IT for 15 or 16 years and here for two-and-a-half and the pressure has risen since I've been here."

In a partnership there are even more opportunities to feel the strain. "We're a partnership with 54 partners and each owns an equal share of the business. You have to answer to them as soon as something goes wrong — a partner will walk in and demand it be fixed. In professional services their computer is everything to them. If something affects them, whether it's a business application or an e-mail glitch, then their world ends and it has to be fixed.

"You're remunerated well enough but there is no acknowledgment of the pressure on IT," Carmichael says.

"How do I cope? Well, I might have a glass or two of red occasionally if I've got a lot on my mind and can't sleep. But I stay fit and keep down the pressure by going to the gym in the middle of the day. As to my staff, I sit on the end of the desk and talk to them. I take them for drinks when I can. I was a technician at one stage and know what they go through."

Carmichael has also implemented technology to support his IT team and help manage the load they face. "We've installed all remote computing technologies — we have systems at home so technicians can dial in and fix generally everything remotely. The other night — 10.30 on Friday — I got a phone call from a partner saying he needed to contact someone in Perth and couldn't send through the e-mails. I had to call on one of the guys to fix that — they work in IT and understand that's part of the job."

With plans soon to offer extranet services with gateways for clients, Carmichael knows that will place further demand on his team for 24x7 support. "But we will build it correctly to reduce any problems."

He remains adamant, though, that he knows when to say no.

"The partners said: 'We want Skype — give it to us now.' I had to front the partners and say: 'No, you're not getting Skype, it's not aligned with our strategy and it's not right for a professional organization.' As long as you have got the information and can back yourself up they can accept that."

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