AsureQuality's IT overhaul laid bare

AsureQuality's IT overhaul laid bare

Food safety systems get a clean up.

Lynley Lee, ICT manager for AsureQuality

Lynley Lee, ICT manager for AsureQuality

Since she joined AsureQuality in 2003, Lynley Lee immediately began identifying the challenges facing the business from a technological perspective, with a view to refreshing its entire IT environment.

Lee is the ICT manager for AsureQuality, a New Zeland state-owned enterprise responsible for food safety, quality assurance and biosecurity “from farm to fork”.

With 1700 staff spread over 140 locations across NZ and Australia (head office in Auckland), 800 desktops, 300 laptops, 200 thin terminals and 100 handheld devices, AsureQuality relied more and more heavily on its Christchurch data centre and IT services for critical business operations. When Lee arrived at the organisation, she realised it needed a complete IT overhaul.

“They identified that they had a much greater reliance on IT and needed IT to respond much more quickly than it had been,” she told attendees at the 2008 CIO Summit in Sydney this week.

AsureQuality’s workers conduct significant amounts of mobile work; visiting farms, food processing plants, docks and slaughter houses. If any of the stringent regulations before cargo is shipped out of the country aren’t met, the customer needs to know immediately that there is a problem.

“The need for mobile computing to be able to access information anywhere at anytime, and to submit audit reports, is extremely high. We needed to integrate with our customers who demand we provide information back to them.”

There were desktops in the data centre – my absolute number one pet hate in a computer room

Lee and the IT team identified a number of technology challenges, starting with a need for a tighter, more standardized IT framework. Previously, new systems were added ad hoc “so we just had stuff everywhere”, a large proportion of hardware and software was dated or superseded, and security challenges were impacting on business continuity as more and more online and remote business was being done.

“I arrived in 2003 and we had something like 15 single tape units in the data centre, because every time they put in a new system they put in another tape unit to back it up. There were individual UPSs, and there were desktops in the data centre – my absolute number one pet hate in a computer room. So we started a complete rebuilding process.”

Lee realised that the superseded hardware and software, and the ad hoc, clunky data centre impacted adversely on the morale of the IT staff. An overhaul was needed, and the organisation needed to shift its IT to an “enterprise view” where things were done right the first time.

“We needed to be much more agile to support new business initiatives, we needed newer technologies, we needed to understand integration, share information and we really needed to manage the identities that were growing by the minute…We also needed some technology policies; we needed the business to understand what the rules were around IT and we needed to be quite strong about what they were.”

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