Making the relationship work

In an industry where trends, technology and partnerships have life cycles resembling fruit flies, a 10-year relationship carries some weight.

Agriculture Financial Services Corp. (AFSC) and Fujitsu Consulting celebrated their tin/aluminum anniversary recently. And while both companies have changed

significantly since 1993, they agree the relationship is as strong as ever.

Alex Wilkinson is vice-president information technology and administration services at AFSC. The crown corporation manages the hail and crop insurance for the province and administers some disaster programs on behalf of the federal government. He says it has gone through a number of mergers over the years, and it was after a merger that it decided to outsource its entire IT department.

But all that changed when Wilkinson came on board about three years ago, when some of it was brought back in-house.

“”We felt like the management team had a business focus rather than an IT focus,”” Wilkinson says. “”It was a single point of contact. Now we have four or five managers that integrate into the business on a regular basis, which I think gives us a stronger business tie.””

Not that AFSC is the only one that’s changed. When Fujitsu (formerly DMR Consulting) came on board, it brought about eight employees. Now there are upwards of 40.

Wilkinson says the Fujitsu staffers, or baseline group as he calls them, have been more than warm bodies.

“”We’re in a bit of an isolated place in Lacombe, Alta., which is just north of Red Deer (halfway between Calgary and Edmonton). We do have trouble attracting IT folk here.

“”It’s not like we’re in the big city of Edmonton or Calgary,”” he says. “”Fujitsu has done an excellent job at recruiting and drawing staff to live and work here.””

You don’t have to be Dr. Phil to know a partnership can go sour if one party feels they are being taken for granted. Wilkinson says its contract, which is reviewed annually, is a win-win.

“”It’s a good agreement in that it works for both of us and I don’t think we have a sense that one is winning over the other,”” he says. “”It’s important for us to see Fujitsu is being successful so that they can recruit the kind of people we want.””

Like any relationship, it’s had its low points. Wilkinson cites the shortfall of resources during the Y2K preparations and the challenges of managing a remote workgroup. But that is water under the bridge.

“”The on-site staff here are pretty much part of the culture of the corporation, and I think that works very well. We don’t see them as ‘those people.’ They’re part of the team.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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