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360-degree leadership: John Emerson of Tait Communications

Divina Paredes | Nov. 6, 2014
"IT's not strategic unless it's interacting with clients or it's directly involved in the client delivery experiences, because otherwise, you're just a support system, a cost, an overhead," says the global CIO of Tait Communications.

For John Emerson, global CIO at Tait Communications, his job is all about improving the organisation's performance, with IT as the tool, and working with other senior executives.

Emerson joined Tait in 2013, after more than two decades in CIO roles overseas, mainly in North America.

With headquarters in Christchurch, the iconic New Zealand brand provides integrated, secure, mission-critical communication systems (software, hardware, networks and services). Its main markets include police, fire, oil, gas and transportation utilities.

Emerson spent the first months on the job setting up the foundation for allowing him to maintain a strategic business focus. One of the first things he did was he developed a global information strategy. "It was not an IT strategy, it's about global information and how people use global applications."

Once the strategy was accepted, his job was to support the team to get it implemented. "I've got six managers who've been with me 18 months and they pretty much know now in any situation what I'm going to say, because we talked about things a lot," he says.

"Our helpdesk system is now global. We have service level agreements with each region."

The strategy involves moving a number of software applications to the cloud. "Our policy, due to the limited Internet infrastructure to NZ, is to move all applications to Amazon Web Services that require access beyond NZ.

"It was an issue of global provision," he points out, covering anything that is accessed from overseas, whether by clients, partners, or staff.

"We do keep a private cloud here for R&D and things. So what we do is we test and dev, both for IT and for product services here, and then we provision through Amazon. When you're using Amazon you're also getting access to the Internet through Amazon and that's very powerful."

An example, he says, is Tait's document management system. "I can go to any region -- Brazil, Sydney, Houston or Vienna -- and I can retrieve a document within two seconds. Now if I had to do that with my own network, it would be so much more expensive and so much more complex to run."

Some of the "positive impacts" of cloud services is the reduction by half of the time needed to implement new systems, improvement in infrastructure team delivery and improved security. He says costs for global backup systems were reduced by about 70 per cent and IT capex requirement was reduced by approximately 90 per cent. "Staff are now focused on apps management, not hardware."

Due to their clients across the world, Emerson says he is working across four time zones. "We're conferencing a lot," he states, so a first meeting could start at 4am and there may be one scheduled at 11pm that night. "You just have to organise yourself."


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