The five minute CIO: Rory Donnelly

17 Feb 2012

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Rory Donnelly, CIO and facilities manager with Nissan Ireland

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Welcome to a new series of exclusive interviews on Siliconrepublic.com, where we learn the thoughts of Ireland’s IT leaders on tech trends and strategy. This week we talk to Rory Donnelly, who is CIO and facilities manager with Nissan Ireland.

Nissan Ireland distributes the full range of Nissan cars, commercial vehicles and forklifts within the Republic of Ireland. It directly employs 50 people and supports a countrywide network of auto dealers.

How big is your organisation – how many users across how many sites?

One site, 50 users, although we host e-mail for 200 others, and our ERP system services about 500 users all over the country.

How would you describe your own approach to IT?

Make the most of the latest available technology to do what we have to, better.

Have you any plans to add to your own skills this year and if so, in what area?

My background is in COBOL, Assembly and C, but I’d like to get to grips with C#. I’d also like to start an MSc or even an MBA, time and family permitting …

How do you stay on top of developments in IT that could help your organisation, and how much time do you spend on this?

A lot! Like everyone in a similar position, I get cold calls from people saying “our product X can save/reduce/increase/etc …” I get a little bit insulted by these calls, as it’s my job to know about these products and services. I look at what we have, see what’s out there, and upgrade/update/migrate so that we can work smarter. My answer to, “are you happy with your (insert anything) system?” is, “yes, otherwise we wouldn’t be using it”.

What IT initiative are you most proud of?

We recently completed our migration from a legacy PBX system to a new UC system – Microsoft Lync. It gives us mobility, presence, availability and lower TCO. We no longer need the Dark Arts that were required for the legacy system.

What has been the hardest challenge since you took your current role?

Coping with downsizing. The turndown in the economy had a severe impact on our industry. Thankfully, some of our previous investments in systems management allowed us to reduce the level of hands-on necessary to service the business. We’re doing more with less.

What’s your opinion of social media: a distraction, or a useful part of your IT toolkit?

A necessary distraction. There is no denying the importance of corporate presence on social networks, but it’s not easy to quantify their value. It’s a case of being there because everyone else is.

Cloud computing: vendor hype or business revolution?

Age has brought me a modicum of cynicism. Every so many years, the tech industry has to re-invent itself. First, we all had to centralise our processing on mainframes, then we had to move it to individual servers, then we had to consolidate the servers into blades, and you can also host all your desktops remotely. Now vendors want us to move it all to the cloud. There’s no doubting that there are tangible benefits for certain companies or types of business processes – we are looking at the cloud and how it can help us in terms of business recovery – but it’s not a solution in itself.

There are many other projects that are more immediate and will provide more benefit to our business before we examine how much more we can move to the cloud. The cloud is still young, and there are concerns over data privacy and security. Only recently, there was another data breach announced in an Irish ISP. While that particular breach may end up in more spam to their customers, I wouldn’t be happy with mission-critical data “out there”.

Bring your own device to work: a logistical nightmare or a trend to be embraced?

It’s good, within reason. If you have a policy that allows certain popular, mainstream devices (eg, iOS and Windows Phone), and you have the infrastructure to support and control them, then it’s not a problem. If you don’t have that infrastructure though, it could be quite costly to get to a position where you can allow BYOD. We have always ensured that we have best-of-breed systems, and they support our IT and business requirements, so we welcome BYOD.