Profile: Gaining a new perspective on IT services

Tripoint's Ian Woollett talks to ARN

What was your first job?
When I was 16, I set up a window cleaning business with my best friend. We worked the mornings to pay for lunch and a few beers, with just enough left over to pay for petrol to get us home. It helped me gain an early perspective on the importance of cash flow in business!

How did you end up in the IT industry?
When I finished my A levels in the UK I actually didn't want to go to university. I saw an ad for graduate systems analysts with IBM on the kind of salary that seemed a fortune to an 18-year-old. I convinced the HR manager to let me sit the IQ graduate tests, which I passed, and I got the job.

How did you progress to where you are today?
After two years with IBM, I got into what they called the Higher Management Potential Program. I went into sales in London where I became the youngest enterprise salesman in the UK. I was the IBM account executive for Visa International across EMEA. We won the SI contract to build transaction processing facility [TPF]-based credit authorisation and settlement systems on IBM mainframes. I then led the systems engineer and sales team to roll out the solution across Europe. Over the next six years, this role took me to most European countries - it was a pretty unbelievable job. The travel bug hit hard though. I then took a position as the country general manager for GBM, IBM's distributor in Bahrain [in the Middle East], building the business up after the first Gulf War.

It grew from 20 to over 200 staff in a five year period under my leadership, adding networking and ERP consulting businesses that became leaders within the region. I immigrated to Australia in 1996. Over the past 11 years, I have been the CEO of two IT services companies. I was CEO of DMA Australia, growing it into the country's largest privately held IT contracting, recruitment and services company. From 1997-2000, revenue grew from $18 million to $45 million.

In 2000, I established Cost Down Revenue Up (CDRU), a consulting company focused on providing enterprise clients with effective sourcing and ongoing management services for corporate voice, data and IT infrastructure. I exited that company successfully 12 months ago.

What do you like about your current job?
Working with fun and focused people who get things done together. I can leverage my knowledge across the whole IT landscape, from ERP services implementation and support to systems integration and infrastructure build and management.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?
Becoming the youngest country general manager for GBM when I was 30 years old. It was my first big job running a company. The key thing I've learnt is how to build effective teams from sales, operations and what I call IT delivery services.

My job is simply to provide an environment of trust and respect combined with interesting projects. I believe effective leadership is all about getting the results through others and not trying to do everything yourself. That took me a long time to learn.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
The rapid acceleration of mobile technology into nearly every facet of everyday life. You can't seem to get away anymore... and everybody needs some downtime.

What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
While it's not new from a systems integration perspective, the biggest change seems to be the break-up of mega outsourcing agreements and the acceleration of selective sourcing practises. The growing emphasis on smaller specialist services companies who demonstrate a track record of delivering real business results from IT projects, without taking years, will continue. In my 20 years in IT little seems to have changed - only now the big players are trying to deliver to the smaller end of the market, and the smaller players are delivering big.

What is the main focus for your company this year?
We're launching in Singapore shortly and have just won our first multimillion-dollar contract there, so our immediate priority is expanding our services capability and footprint in Asia, a high growth market. In Australia, our strategy is to expand both organically and through acquisitions and build on our strong heritage in applications to cement our outsourcing and managed service businesses.

What do you do when you are not at work?
I am slave to three young children and my adorable wife. I love soccer and all sports and try to play tennis whenever I have any energy left.

Do you like gadgets?
Not really. I do love being wireless though and the advances in this area have really made a difference to the flexibility of my working life.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
A professional soccer player. In fact, I still think there is an opportunity for me in the golden oldies league!

What is your biggest ambition?
To build a niche, Australian-based, IT services company into a regional player that directly competes with the large global - and so-called Tier 1 - SIs, delivers what it promises, and has a happy, lifelong customer base.

And a personal ambition?
To turn back the clock and be 21 again - but failing that it's to watch my kids play any sport in the green and gold for Australia!