What are the biggest challenges for CIOs?
Ensuring the IT strategy is aligned to the business strategy. We need to be absolutely au fait with the business plans. A big part of the job is to be out there engaging with the business managers and users, as well as getting our own team to focus on business outcomes, rather than technology.
The talent and engagement agenda is also a major focus, developing future leaders and providing the opportunities and challenges for all the team to grow and contribute to Fonterra’s success.
What are the traits needed to be a CIO?
First and foremost you need to think of IT as part of business and think in business terms. You need to be able to build strong relationships and be a team player.
There’s no shortage of options and opinions in ICT, so you need to be able to identify good advice and take it, as opposed to the myriad of other advice that’s out there.
Finally, you have to be pretty resilient – there are many challenges that you have take on the chin, and move on.
What is the most difficult aspect of ICT for your company and why?
The most difficult aspect is delivering an end-user experience that is consistent throughout the world. The person working in Mexico doesn’t necessarily experience the same system and service performance as their counterpart in Auckland. We’re busy modernising our IT landscape, getting everything up to being integrated, so we can deliver better end-to-end information flow by putting the right information into the hands of decision makers and improving our customer service.
What projects are you working on right now that excite you the most and why?
We’re modernising our applications by putting the SAP suite through our brands, trade and operations businesses and this excites me because it has a truly transformational impact.
To support our SAP platform and projects we are building an SAP Centre of Excellence that will radically change the way teams work together across Fonterra and derive maximum value from our investment in SAP.
The infrastructure has been largely implemented; those with a technical bent may be interested to know that we’ve recently moved our SAP environment to running on a virtualised Windows platform, which is a big change for us and not for the faint hearted!
How mobile is your workforce and is this a growing issue for you?
A lot of our 16,000-strong workforce is very mobile; in particular our corporate managers, sales and marketing teams and many of our technical people are often on the move.
To meet their needs we’ve adopted a common operating environment, so that our people can call into an office anywhere into the world and connect to the network. In the future, greater use of unified communications and smart mobile devices will complement the strength of our core systems.
In general, what do you think is the most pressing ICT issue at present?
The most pressing challenge is the breadth and depth of talent available to the industry as the ‘big freeze’ of the past few years melts and people are on the move again, just as more big projects are coming on stream.
We are working hard to ensure we have a compelling proposition for the team which demonstrates why Fonterra is the place they can grow and be challenged, and why talented people should be looking to join us.
What role do you think the government should play in ICT?
The New Zealand Government can play an important role by encouraging companies to invest in our country and develop R&D labs here. New Zealand is a great place to try things out and if we can make the country a centre of expertise, we can be a magnet for innovative people, just as Weta has already proved to be.
What is the most exciting thing happening in ICT now?
I’m finding that more and more IT companies are focusing on their customers’ true business agenda and helping them achieve business value, as opposed to just selling them products. That’s a big change for the better.
What will be the next big thing in six months’ time?
At this particular time we are seeing a barrage of new mobile devices and applications that change the way we work, and Apple seems to be leading the charge.
If you could have one ICT item to make your business run smoothly, what would it be?
A machine where you plug in a business strategy and it spits out an IT strategy!
Did you always want to work in IT?
It’s a more a case that I ended up in IT; however, once I made it there, I made a conscious decision to stay. In my early days with BNZ, the company had a policy of moving their staff through every part of the business and that’s how I found my way into IT.
If you didn’t work in IT, what would you be doing?
A racing car driver; I currently race in the Bridgestone Porsche series and absolutely love it!