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Packaging Success

Nampak (now Contego Packaging Holdings Ltd) has become the latest IT function to meet the National Computing Centre’s Standard for IT Departments, Michael Dean investigates.

The chances are that you handle a product made by Nampak everyday, but you may not realise it. Nampak are one of the world’s largest packaging companies which in Europe consists of three divisions, Plastics, a leader in HDPE drinks bottles, Cartons, technical advanced packaging for the food industry, and Healthcare, cartons, labels and leaflets for the pharmaceutical industry. The company has its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, and operates 25 manufacturing sites in Europe including sites in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands and Ireland with the IT Department based in Milton Keynes.

Headed up by Ian Powis, the IT Department of 20 is responsible for providing IT services to over 800staff across Europe, including a brand new site recently completed in Ballymena Northern Ireland. Nampak have deployed the EFI Radius Vision II ERP solution for supply chain operations, and Oracle JD Edwards Enterprise One for financials. Applications are delivered from a datacentre facility in London using technologies such as MPLS WAN, Citrix and VMWare with a primarily IBM and Dell server infrastructure.

Nampak IT Director Ian Powis receives his certificate from Steve Fox, NCC's MD

Current challenges include deploying new Business Intelligence applications, an upgrade of Vision II and rollout of a new electronic document management system. IT is well regarded within the organisation, “We are efficient and reliable, we don’t get many complaints.” said Ian, “The irony though is that because of the reliability, our contacts with the rest of the organisation are not as frequent or as forthcoming as we’d like them to be. We believe we are doing a good job and are aligned to needs of the business, but wanted to be able to validate this to avoid complacency and stimulate more client engagement.”

Given the scenario, Ian was pleased to discover the National Computing Centre’s IT Department Accreditation Scheme (ITDA) – which provides an independent appraisal of the effectiveness of the IT function and a business improvement programme to help ensure that the IT function is always doing and focusing on the right things.

The assessment scheme which underpins the NCC ITDA examines an IT department’s performance against 110 common controls, enabling the department to compare and understand its own strengths and weaknesses. The ITDA is also an accreditation scheme, so those IT departments who score well are awarded with a recognised accreditation to the NCC Standard. Another feature is an inclusive Customer Perceptions survey which provides unbiased, independent feedback from IT’s stakeholders.

Initially Ian was a little bit sceptical about the ITDA, “Could this assessment deliver the all promised benefits in a short timeframe? Was the ITDA just a way of identifying opportunities to sell follow-on consultancy?”

However, after discussing the ITDA process with the friendly NCC Assessor, Ian came to the conclusion that the scope of the accreditation would be just right for Nampak, the customer feedback would be very useful, and the business process improvement framework would help Nampak ensure that communication channels with the rest of the business would be a two-way street. The ITDA is based on a self-certification process which enables organisations to fit preparation around their own workload.

“We have had some external validation of our processes, but nothing as comprehensive as the ITDA.” said Ian. “Nevertheless, I was confident that our processes were good, appropriate and well documented, and the Customer Perception Survey results would be invaluable so I decided put Nampak to the test”.

Whilst assessment is never going to be easy, the robustness of Nampak’s existing processes proved their worth and made the evidence gathering element of assessment much easier. More of a challenge was the Customer Perceptions Survey which had to be translated into French, German, Dutch and Italian!

When the overall results of the ITDA were moderated by The National Computing Centre, Nampak received a glowing report. The NCC Moderator said, “This is a solid performance and I was particularly pleased to see a very good level of detail to support each and every Line of Enquiry. Nampak have shown evidence of an IT function that engages with the business (even though in some instances this isn’t always fully appreciated), delivers a stable reliable service, responds to changes and issues in a timely manner, has a considered response to risk and continuity and an eye on developments in IT and how they could benefit the organisation as a whole. Such a strong showing across the breadth of activity is pleasing to see and stands out in comparison with others going through the ITDA process.”

“We were obviously pleased with the outcome of the Assessment”, said Ian, “and this is vindication of the excellent work of the IT team. The results of the Customer Perceptions survey were good, but did identify some areas where we could be better. Now that they have a benchmark and framework for continuous improvement (The ITDA Action Plan), we will be more rigorous in engaging with the organisation. We also have the good news to tell them, that Nampak’s IT Department meets the National Computing Centre’s Standard for IT Departments”.

Ian concluded, “The ITDA process was a very useful exercise that gave us valuable insight into our own strengths and weaknesses as well as a benchmark for continual improvement. Given the breadth of benefits, the service represents real value for money.”

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