After the smoke and mirrors of Nanoware, it's refreshing to get back to a good, solid corporation like BritBreak. There has been a palace coup in my absence. The IT director has left, and though the official story is that he wanted to spend more time with his family, it is common knowledge that he was sacked. The IT department has been moved under finance, with a new man at the top, Mike Rapton. He's a marketeer with no background in IT, but a huge enthusiasm for properly used technology.
On my first day back, I attended an emergency meeting of the IT department heads. I assumed that the miserable faces around the table were caused by the job going to an external candidate - DP manager Arnold Potter was widely considered heir apparent - but no. The department heads have abandoned their usual power games in the face of a common enemy. It's not so much that Rapton's an outsider (he was previously with an electronics retailer), but that he actually likes technology. IT directors are not supposed to do this. I was delegated to see Rapton and find out his intentions: the department heads don't trust anything he says directly to them.
I found the new director a refreshing change after his predecessor. He plunged straight into his plans, already well formulated in the week he has been in position. My pocket recorder captured his words of wisdom.
"I want to model our approach to IT on Tony Blair's success. I want us to be New IT - not a fusty, bureaucratic bunch of old farts who try to suppress technology, but lively young people who know how to make a change.
I want our customers to feel that we understand technology and what it can do for their business. More than that, I want them to enthuse for what IT can do everywhere in our organisation."
I thought about the sour faces of the department heads. The last time they had felt enthusiastic about technology was when their cars got air conditioning. "It could be an up-hill struggle," I commented.
"Yes," said Rapton, "that's part of the appeal. In the next few months I want IT to put on a new technology fair to show to BritBreak what IT can do now and in the future. I want all the managers to go on PC training courses. In two months I expect them to be handling their own Email and typing. We're going to set up a drop-in PC centre, something like Dixons, but with people who actually know what a PC is. Oh, and all managers will spend half a day a month on the help desk, or in the field, helping users.
Do you think that will be enough for a start?"
"Plenty," I said. I couldn't help smiling on my way to report back to the department heads. This was a briefing I was going to enjoy.
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