It is a pleasure here at Computer Weekly to profile the IT departments that have made it on to our shortlist of the Best Places to Work in IT 2003. Through feedback from IT managers and their staff, our aim is to celebrate the best employers of IT professionals and highlight best practice for other IT departments to follow.
This week we profile high achievers in the not-for-profit sector.
Comic Relief employs eight IT staff. John Thompson, information systems manager, said, "Comic Relief is a great place to work because it offers a tremendously different, exciting, flexible, engaging and often hilarious work environment.
"There are plenty of opportunities to learn new skills, to get really involved in all aspects of IT, and to be part of the successful team delivering the famous Red Nose Day and Sport Relief campaigns. Few IT staff would ever experience such a demanding yet rewarding, motivating, or involving role."
Comic Relief was launched from a refugee camp in Sudan in 1985 in response to the famine in Ethiopia. As well as providing emergency aid, the company helps to address the broader needs of poor and disadvantaged people in Africa and the UK.
The Food and Drink Federation
There are several reasons why the Food and Drink Federation is the best place to work: the staff, the location, the friendly atmosphere and the diverse nature of what the company does.
Its small IT team works as a cohesive and efficient machine and has a great team spirit. For a relatively small organisation, the company demands a lot from its IT infrastructure, and keeping it working efficiently is quite a challenge.
One member of the IT team said, "We ensure everyone has safe, secure access to e-mail and the internet, including remote access away from the office. Keeping everything in order and working efficiently is satisfying, and it is always good to see a successful project come to fruition.
"The IT team provides support for all the hardware and software.We work on a three-year rolling technology refresh schedule, so that the infrastructure is always up-to-date."
Ashridge Management College
"Recently we have upgraded our network from 10Mbytes to gigabit," reported one IT team member. "We are standardising and consolidating servers in order to upgrade to a San.
"We have also migrated 80% of our systems to Windows XP and are slowly upgrading to Server 2003. We have given our clients free access to the internet via a cybercafe, where we have Bluetooth printing and webcams. The next project will be a wireless Lan covering our gardens.
"The IT department adopts new technology throughout the year and we are constantly looking at new ways to enhance it. An example of this is our use of virtual classrooms, virtual sessions and e-sharing. We take on many challenges as a team and we try to provide good customer service to the Ashridge employees, students and delegates. We work together and are enthusiastic about getting good feedback."
C2k is a £200m, 10-year, government-funded project to implement and manage an e-learning system for schools in Northern Ireland. It provides the technology infrastructure, software and access to resources to meet the aims of the education technology strategy.
Paddy Maguire, C2k services delivery manager, said, "This project is one of the most challenging IT implementation and management projects in the UK today. We have really strong teams which provide a range of new IT services and products to schools. Teamwork at all levels of the organisation is essential to the success of the project."
Another member of the implementation team said, "C2k expects a lot from its staff, but it is exciting work - you can learn new things almost every day. The jobs are permanent and there are regular career and salary reviews."
"As an environmental charity with a limited budget, we have to make sure we get value for money and justify the cost of our IT projects," said one WWF IT team member.
"We may not be on the cutting-edge of new technology, but we aim to keep up with the technological changes that are most suited to our needs. There is a very relaxed atmosphere and I enjoy coming to work. If you ask any of our 300-plus users, you will find they are all very happy with the service we provide.
"We always try to keep at the forefront of technology, although being a charity can sometimes be a financial hindrance. All technologies are reviewed and discussed before implementation. For example, we have recently installed broadband in our regional offices to give the staff remote access to core systems based on servers at our head office."
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