Why IT is fun again

Sacha Puric may not score any actual goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, but he’s feeling as much team spirit as anyone else on the ice. 

The IT director for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which also owns the Toronto Raptors NBA team, has been busy with a major network overhaul of the Air Canada Centre, which it also owns. This includes a rollout of IP telephony across the organization and a revamp of the way its IT infrastructure handles DNS and DHCP. That was just the warm-up, though.

“A cable is a cable to most people,” he admits. “It’s just not as exciting as when you’re dealing with information.”
Puric is dealing with a lot of information now, as part of a series of projects that will have an impact on the front end of the Maple Leaf Sports operation. This includes the consolidation of all the firm’s financial and non-financial data into a single view for executives, a customer relationship management implementation and a business intelligence strategy. The latter activity has been underway for a year and a half, and Puric says the group is about 80 per cent along the way to where it wants to be.
“We’re developing our approach to BI, and we’ve already been able to see how it’s changing things that are happening within our merchandizing or marketing groups,” he says. “It affects how decisions get made, and how we plan for the future. I like it. It’s fun to be an IT guy again.”


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Inspired by Puric, we asked IT professionals why their jobs are fun again, why they look forward to coming to work in the morning.
Users aren’t clueless
It is truly an exciting time to be involved with enterprise IT, says Pedro Cardoso, director of IT and e-business at Becton, Dickinson and Co.’s Toronto-area offices.
“We’re at a point in time where the pace of technological change, as Raymond Kurzweil has long professed, is truly exponential,” he said.
Unprecedented computing power can be found in the tiniest of consumer devices, networks offer both wired and untethered ubiquitous access almost anywhere a user desires, and business software — such as ERP systems — offer a degree of integration, interoperability and scalability that is truly astounding, Cardoso added.
Because the average employee knows more about technology than ever before, a lot has changed from a service desk perspective. Support calls, for instance, have evolved from simply resetting passwords and removing malware to actual service delivery, he said.
“The types of support calls being handled have a lot more to do with understanding what outcomes customers want and how to utilize the technology they have to make that happen,” he said, adding that things are a whole lot of fun when an employee makes a statement like “I never knew I could do that.”
Cardoso loves this experience and has always enjoyed the fact that his role is demanding. For him, it’s fun to be tasked to take on new assignments, pick up new skills, and directly connect and make an impact on his organization and its staff.
“Realizing there is opportunity all around you, and that you truly are in control of your career, and that you get up each morning, walking into an environment that allows you to do your very best,” he said. “What’s more fun than that?”
Improving others’ jobs
“About a year ago, our academic advisors came to us. They had the problem of degree audits,” said Shawn Marriott, manager of development at Brock University’s Faculty of Business in St. Catharines, Ont.
A couple hundred students want to graduate each year and the advisors had to go through and manually look at every degree in order to determine which students could graduate, he explained.
“They absolutely dreaded it every year,” he said. “It was this three-month long ordeal, very manual, very repetitive, very boring and very error-prone.”
When the advisors approached the IT department to ask if there was anything they could do to help, explained Marriott, IT was a little taken back.
“We looked at them like, ‘Oh my … We can’t believe that this process is manual. Of course we can help,’” he said.
IT sat down with the advisors and developed a system that automated the process so they could just look up whether or not a student could graduate, he said.
The system was also designed to allow the students to perform their own degree audits, see for themselves whether or not they could graduate and figure out what they still needed to take, he said.
The advisors were “ecstatic” when IT first demoed the very first version 1.0, according to Marriott. They were dancing and saying “this is going to save us months of work – you just made our day,” he said.
“It’s that kind of story, when we can have that kind of effect on somebody’s lives where we just make their work suck just a little bit less, that’s the kind of thing I find fun about IT,” said Marriott.
For Scott Elliott, it’s about more than the technology — but the technology’s fun, too.

“The current crop of technologies coming through seems to be really fun and exciting, not just marketing fluff,” said the senior systems network specialist with Christie Digital Systems Inc.

Elliott’s also the lead of the Southwest Ontario VMware User Group, so it’s no surprise that virtualization is at the head of that crop of “fun” technologies. Provisioning models have changed, and the long-held vision of IT as a utility “is no longer a pipe dream … it’s definitely within grasp,” he said.
Elliott foresees a trend toward personalization for the end user; workers would buy their own computers and bill the company, and IT would supply a “slice” of computing and application power through a virtual desktop infrastructure. “It’s happened with cell phones for quite some time,” he said.
And new technologies allowing remote management are putting an end to “stupid” hours for IT, he said.
But perhaps more importantly, IT’s being taken seriously as part of the business, not just a necessary evil.
“IT is not being viewed as one big money pit,” he said. “IT isn’t treated like a second-class citizen.”
While “you still get the snide comments,” many companies see IT as an enabler, Elliott said. And that’s reflected in the fact that there’s a C-suite executive — a chief information officer or chief technology officer — whose primary responsibility is a smooth-running IT operation.
“It’s rare to see a company without a CTO or CIO,” he said, whereas in the past, it was more common for IT to report to a chief financial officer. “It’s becoming more the exception than the norm,” Elliott said.
Proving people wrong
Barclay Rae thinks IT service management (ITSM) can be a bit of a dry subject. He finds little fun in fighting the often uphill battle that is getting organizations to change how they’ve long run their business.
“The fun in it sometimes can be hard to find because a lot of it is dealing with very, very resistant, difficult people who are not interested in having processes and doing things in a structured way,” said the global head of services with U.K.-based ITSM vendor Axios Systems Inc.
But, occasionally, Rae gets a chuckle from proving people wrong. Organizations can be adamant they know their company so well, “yet in five minutes you find out more about their business than they know because they’ve never actually spoken to their business,” he laughed.
While that has got better with time, Rae finds an added element of fun in ITSM nowadays to be the ubiquity of technology with PCs, Internet banking, ATMs, etc.
“Everything is done in real time, so the actual customer experience is right there, and there is so much more of a challenge to make sure the service aspect of that is working,” said Rae.
The real test is making all those devices and interfaces work for the business, said Rae, rather than just trying to get “a few crusty old guys to change the way they work.”

Files from Shane Schick, Rafael Ruffolo, Jennifer Kavur, Dave Webb and Kathleen Lau



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